Before planning to travel to work on a site, Principle 0 invites us to review our intentions and to honor that every place already comes with existing ecological knowledge or practices. We must explore instead how one can complement and enable the local approach as the main design frame for a permaculture intervention.
© Gumay Tenda
Local indigenous leaders from Kalinga present their site plan facilitated by Green Releaf facilitator, and co-founder of Sarayo Forests, Drei Castillo
Engaging through Inclusive Ecosystem Leadership Acknowledgement is not enough. Indigenous peoples protect 80% of the world’s biodiversity, but are only 5% of the world’s population. They are some of the most climate vulnerable people on Earth and this means that as we depend on them greatly, their vulnerability is our vulnerability. We must engage with them and local wisdom bearers who hold key tacit knowledge and practices that protect and restore their ecosystems, having lived in their places over time, and across generations. Inviting them to lead and design the solutions that impact our shared habitats will prove to be a more regenerative, and not just a sustainable, approach.
Inspired by the many gifts permaculture brings, many practitioners and teachers venture out into indigenous territories, the Global South, and into vulnerable, ‘developing’ or ‘underdeveloped’ nations, with intentions to share their practice. While this is a noble cause, it may create more harm than good. I reflect on this for myself as well, as I am not indigenous, but my organization is often invited to share our work in indigenous territories, whether to address climate vulnerability or to support the restoration of indigenous food systems. Over time, we realized the best way to approach this is to partner with local organizations and support them to enable the solutions with the local indigenous group. This saves time and resources for travel, and fosters long-term commitment.
Before planning to travel to work on a site, Principle 0 invites us to review our intentions and to honor that every place already comes with existing ecological knowledge or practices. We must explore instead how one can complement and enable the local approach as the main design frame for a permaculture intervention. If we must be there, we might consider ensuring that our presence will truly empower the locals to lead (and not the opposite!). Some effective inclusive collaborations can come in the form of exchanges in learnings, the showcasing of best practices from their part of the world, and ways to highlight the local partnered programs to the international movement. One movement that does this well is Re-Alliance,4 a network of regenerative practitioners in humanitarian aid and development.