Designing Resilient Communities and Landscapes: The 13th IPC in India

This past week, I was one of about 1200 people from 63 countries who gathered in Hyderabad, India, for the 13th International Permaculture Convergence.

Permaculture is a system of ecological design that seeks to create human settlements that have the stability, productivity, and resilience of a natural ecosystem. It’s rooted in the observation of natural ecosystems and seeks to find ways to meet critical human needs — food, water, shelter, energy etc. — in a way that’s not only sustainable, but regenerative and restorative.

So the goals of permaculture are actually very much aligned with those of Project Grounded (and it’s not an accident that both myself and Sam, the team at Project Grounded, are trained in permaculture design).

At a time when most of the news we hear seem to be bad news, it was incredibly uplifting to be surrounded by 1200 people all motivated to work to turn the tides on this little planet of ours. To manage landscapes and communities in a way that also recharges ground water, improves food security, builds healthy soil, mitigates drought and flood, protects biodiversity, and makes for happier, more equitable, more resilient communities.

And this is not just theory; it’s happening. Over the course of the week, permaculture practitioners from all over the world presented on the impressive projects and solutions they’re working on in their communities. Here are some of the ones I got to learn about:

  • Teaching permaculture at refugee camps in Kabul, Kurdistan, and Syria to improve food security
  • Restoring an old sand quarry into a productive landscape in Barbados
  • Applying permaculture to help with nuclear contamination in post-Fukushima Japan
  • How leading beyond-sustainable cosmetics brand, LUSH, empowers its producers to transition to permaculture and regenerative land management
  • Community drought solutions through active and passive water harvesting
  • Restoring channelized creeks and culverts into beautiful, productive, flood-mitigating landscapes in Sonoma County, California
  • and my own presentation on “A Climate-Beneficial Wardrobe: Regenerative Fiber Farming,” which led to some wonderful conversations throughout the week!

After two days of the conference in the city, about 500 of us traveled to Polam Farm in the rural area outside of Hyderabad for an additional 5 days of workshops, demonstrations, and discussions. We all slept in tents and the sessions took place in thatched-roof buildings next to vegetable gardens. The organizers had done an incredible job ensuring that this was a minimal-waste, minimal-impact event: much of the food was harvested on-site, all food waste was composted, all toilets were composting toilets, the water from the outdoor showers drained into a fruit tree orchard. All the signs were biodegradable, not plastic as is the norm — mostly woven palm-leaf mats. It’s really possible to organize an event, even at this scale, with minimal waste!

One of the highlights of the week was learning about traditional village skills: pottery, blacksmithing, basket-weaving, herbal medicine, seed saving, cow milking, spinning cotton by hand… Truly wonderful examples of a “grounded” life!

Finally, one really exciting development for me personally was getting involved in the Climate Change group of the newly forming Permaculture CoLab. CoLab will be building on the momentum from the Convergence event and act as a hub for all of us to exchange information and move the most effective solutions forward in the next few years.

I don’t think I’m the only participant returning home with many new friends now in my network and with re-ignited inspiration, resolve, and motivation. Thank you IPC India!

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