Our Company Love Grows SAS has been constituted as a foundation for us to work from. We chose to be based in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountains in Colombia, as it has an important role to play in the health of the whole planet, both culturally important as the home of many indigenous peoples and environmentally important with endemic species of fauna and flora. The mountains act as a vital capture of water and in parts where deforestation has occurred rivers have notably dried up. Trees act as buffer zones and help stabilise climatic events.
The economy of the region is poor with no real industry so people have used the resources of the forests to live from. In order to create a sustainable future for the region it is important to understand and identify some of the problems and change these into solutions. As is the Permaculture way, the problem is the solution. I would envisage using local people with local knowledge to build sustainable systems in agroforestry and conservation leading to sustainable wood sources, profitable organic farming and eco-tourism. These activities would bring much needed money to local people, protect knowledge that local people have and give the region stability in protecting its natural resources and beauty.
Through education people can make informed choices, if they are dictated to or simply told what they are doing is wrong then they feel isolated and resistant. Any long term solution has to give reason to the local people. In my view what we need to design as Permaculture designers is a system that can convert land that has been deforested and degraded into productive agroforestry and set aside land for conservation, making sure there are wildlife corridors throughout the region. A system that can be duplicated by people everywhere in the region.
Identify the species of plants that; are important in colonising the land and improving the soils, that act as pioneer species and help create tree canopy, identify species of economic importance, identify species of importance for conservation. Design a system for succession planning utilising space, layering and timing. Design systems to help with water retention during wet months for storage during dry months. Systems of swales and dams.
On a political level forming groups to defend the rights of the local inhabitants and reach sources of funding for projects both locally and internationally.
Form farm co-operatives to share costs of transport and other work that can be better organised for the benefit of the community and the individual.
The farm will act as a place to train and empower locals and international groups, a place to experiment different systems to effectively test methods that will be then developed on a larger scale.
As outsiders not from the region we must unlock local knowledge and experience to help develop a plan that is effective, respected and welcomed by the local peoples, again rather than dictate what we see as the needs and solutions, empower groups within the community to find the solutions knowing their needs and desires. People will defend what they love; they love their families and feel the need to provide; whatever the cost to the local environment. If systems can be developed and funding found that local people can be gainfully employed in building sustainable systems, that will feed their families, then they will love those systems and long term solutions and local knowledge will be retained and increased.