Earlier this month I was fortunate enough to take part in a PDC (Permaculture Design Course) at Gaia Kosovo. Permaculture is an ethical system for living in harmony and balance with the earth and with each other. The ethics of permaculture are Earth Care, People Care and Fair Share. There is also a set of principles that demonstrate how to carry out these ethics. For example, using biological resources instead of man-made ones both cares for the earth and helps us to share resources fairly, as it leads to less consumption.
Before I attended the course, I had heard a lot about permaculture and even worked in several gardens that claimed to be based on permaculture principles, but I still didn’t know exactly what permaculture was. The PDC showed me that permaculture is a lot more than a set of gardening guidelines or ideas; instead, it’s a system that we can apply to every area of our lives.
There is a growing awareness about the field of Social Permaculture, which includes valuable principles such as integrating rather than segregating, as establishing healthy relationships strengthens systems. We can also apply the concept of zones to social permaculture. Zone 0 represents you, zone 1 is your family (birth or chosen), and so on until we get to zone 5, which represents the world.
The PDC also contained a lot of practical, hands-on activities. My favorite activity was learning how to measure contour lines using a simple A-frame. Water always flows at a 90-degree angle to contour lines, so knowing where they are on your land can show you where to build swales, which catch and retain water. We also built a hot compost pile and got to try out some different natural building techniques.
Gaia Kosovo was an ideal place to hold the course. The residents there have a lot of experience with natural building and it was the perfect place to see concepts like thermal mass and passive heating put into practice. The residents and volunteers at Gaia Kosovo also cooked us a bounty of delicious food, and mealtimes were a highlight of everyone’s day.
There are several permaculture concepts that are easily applicable both in the garden and across our lives. One of these concepts is the idea of zones. In permaculture, zones are used to delineate different areas of a property. Zone 0 is the area that is closest to you (i.e. your house), zone 1 is an area that you visit multiple times per day and is a good place for intensive gardening. Zone 2 is an area that you visit maybe once or twice a day and is a good place to keep animals or grow vegetables. Finally, we reach zone 5, which is a wild zone that we never visit.
Our facilitators on the course were Mihail Kossev and Annelies Buggenhout. Having good teachers can make or break a course, and having Misho and Annelies as our trainers was the main reason that the course was so interesting and meaningful. Not only were they both very knowledgeable, but they used a variety of interactive and alternative teaching techniques that really helped to demonstrate the different concepts. They also helped us to bond as a group and kept us laughing!
At the end of the course, we worked in small groups to create a permaculture design for different plots of land at Gaia Kosovo. This was an invaluable experience as we got to actively experience the different steps of the process, from the initial observation period and client interview, to mapping out the different zones, sectors and flows and integrating the different elements and concepts that we learned about throughout the course. Of course, we stopped short of actually implementing our designs, although not everyone wanted to!
I’m very grateful that I got to participate in the course. I think that taking a PDC is a meaningful experience for everyone, regardless of whether or not you have land or feel ready to start gardening. You can apply the principles and concepts of permacultures everywhere; after all, you’re only limited by your imagination.
30 Nov 2021
Pictures taken by Kim-Lien Nguyen, Anca Bilciurescu and Ayşe Özgü Ötünç.
Permaculture as a Path to Peace 2.0 is Erasmus+ supported project coordinated by GAIA Kosovo. It includes several activities, such as PDC Training course and Permaculture Teachers Training. The next PDC will take place in May and the Teachers Training is planned for June 2022. Stay tuned for the news.