At a time when mankind is facing what is arguably an unprecedented challenge in its relationship with nature, it is easy to feel overwhelmed, helpless and unempowered. Yet there are those who are taking courageous steps towards improving the situation. On Friday 13th April, Sotogrande students, in collaboration with the Danyadara permaculture project, began an inspiring journey. It seems that saving the world might just be fun.
Permaculture seeks to mimic natural ecosystems to produce food in a sustainable and self-sufficient manner. Jacob Evans, head of the Danyadara farm and his colleague, Jon Valdivia, are not your stereotypical farmers. At 27 years of age, Jacob has already travelled extensively in Spain and Latin America developing a phenomenal knowledge of permaculture. Explaining the core principles of the field to a group of 60 students, with a hip-hop soundtrack and glorious high definition videos in the background, it might come as a surprise to some that agriculture is the new cool.
Throwing your jeans to the worms in compost baths, enjoying outdoor showers (the water from which feeds vegetable plots) and growing an edible food forest are just some of the ways in which Jacob and Jon explained that food can be produced using ‘closed loop systems’, whereby waste is reduced by using resources in circular systems. The Danyadara project is also demonstrating how the desertification in Andalucia can be reversed using such techniques, providing plentiful and delicious food and increasing biodiversity.
Inspired by this example and the thought of munching on school grown fruit and vegetables, students jumped to work and began designing the school’s own permaculture project. Working in mixed groups from across MYP and PYP year groups, the students’ impressive range of abilities became apparent. Green-fingered horticulturalists set about choosing the ingredients that they hoped to include in their school-grown, end of term lunch. Young scientists collected soil samples in the pouring rain in order to test PH values and nutrient levels, in order to monitor the regenerative impact of permaculture techniques on the fertility of the school’s soil.
Technology and construction enthusiasts began designing outdoor showers (to include shower heads produced using 3D printers and recycled plastic bottles) and collection of plastic bottles was underway in order to construct a recycled plastic greenhouse.
The challenge now is to see these enthusiastic visions put into sustained action. The Danyadara and the energy of the students involved demonstrated that experiential learning, knowledge drawn from across the curriculum and a willingness to collaborate and contribute can help to design more sustainable futures.
More details of the inspiring work of the Danyadara project can be found at www.danyadara.com and the Suryalila retreat centre (www.suryalila.com)
If you would like to be involved in making the Sotogrande permaculture project a reality then please contact David Green at firstname.lastname@example.org.