Permaculture project at Sotogrande International School
What did you do once you knew?
It’s 3.23 in the morning and I’m awake…
because my great great grandchildren won’t let me sleep
My great great grandchildren ask me in dreams,
What did you do while the planet was plundered?
What did you do when the earth was unravelling?
Surely you did something?…
When the seasons started failing?
Surely you did something?
As the mammals, reptiles and birds were all dying?
Surely you did something?
(Excerpts from Hieroglyphic Stairway, a poem by Drew Dillinger)
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 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.
In a nutshell, permaculture seeks to mimic natural ecosystems to produce food whilst regenerating, as opposed to degenerating the natural world.
Not your stereotypical farmers!
With not a flat cap or tractor in sight, Jacob Evans, head of farm at Danyadara 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 techniques and practices. Explaining permacultures core principles to a group of 60 students to a soundtrack of hip hop beats and glorious high definition videos it is perhaps surprising to find 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. In doing so, the Danyadara project is demonstrating that desertification in Andalucia can be reversed using such techniques, providing plentiful and delicious food, increasing biodiversity and having a lot of fun in the process.
Inspired by this example, and salivating at the thought of munching on school grown fruit, vegetables and salad, students set to work in beginning the design for the school’s own permaculture project. Working in mixed groups from across MYP and PYP year groups, the student’s impressive depth of abilities became apparent as they volunteered ways in which they hoped to contribute. Green fingered horticulturalists set about choosing the ingredients that they hoped to include in their school grown, end of term lunch. Scientists collected soil samples in the pouring rain in order to test PH values and nutrient levels 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.
Whilst the challenge now is to see such visions put into action, 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.
In response to their great, great grand children’s questions, the challenge now is for the students to realise their vision and be able to say, “we really did something”.
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.