This journey started on a small rooftop in Kathmandu, Nepal, with a view on the jaw-dropping and marvelous Boudhanath Stupa, a memorial place Buddhist people worldwide. Early in the morning, we all gathered on this rooftop to take part in the Permaculture Design Course (PDC) and Introduction into Biodynamic farming which was held by Woven Earth (WE). From December 5th to 22nd, 2017, we twenty participants from many different countries, including Australia, Canada, Israel, Nepal, the Netherlands, Singapore, Switzerland, the UK, and the US were together to learn and experience permaculture and biodynamic farming.
The course took place at the Land of the Medicine Buddha, the first biodynamic farm in Nepal. Located in the beautiful Marshyangdi river in Gorkha district of Nepal, the farm was founded by Peter Effenberger, from Germany, who has been utilizing Biodynamic Farming methods for social and ecological impacts for more than thirty years. This is also the headquarters of Peter’s organization, One World, and his sustainable trade company, Nepali Gardens. To reach the farm, we gathered in Kathmandu and took a private bus to the closest village, Satrasaya. Thanks to Brandon Bodhi Denton and Wade Burlefrom Woven Earth who organized everything perfectly, that long journey was a beautiful experience for us.
A major theme of the first days of the course was us all getting to know each other. Our two yoga teachers, Mollie and Annalise, traded off teaching yoga every morning so all the participants could actively start the day with a calm and relaxed mind, ready to learn. The course included a total of ninety hours, practical and theoretical, which exceeds the international standard of the seventy-two hour Permaculture Design Course (PDC). In our case, we got lucky to learn about Biodynamic Farming as well Thanks to the great environment and our caring and experienced facilitators, we had a great time getting to know all of the fundamentals of permaculture and biodynamic farming.
“WE created a wonderful and strong family bond that just got stronger and stronger each day!”
The first days of the course mostly covered the theoretical background about the basics and philosophies of Permaculture and Biodynamic Farming. At that point, we were already interacting in the classroom more as a group instead of the traditional lecturer and audience format. We discussed and shared our knowledge of permaculture and were given space to share our previous experiences. We already were getting our hands in the soil on the first day. We learned a lot about organic gardening, soil & compost, ecology, agroforestry, design-methodology, water management, and much more.During those eighteen days, I felt very engaged with the class as, Brandon and Wade, always motivated us to participate actively by asking questions, sharing our knowledge or even just telling a story related to the topic. They were also always mixing in games and icebreakers to bring us all together and refresh our energy again. Through this continuous active learning and excitement, WE created a wonderful family bond that just got stronger and stronger each day!
Because the course was very open and flexible, people offered something they wanted to share or pass on to others, such as ancient Chinese Medicine treatments for people with aching muscles, Yoga Nidra, Acroyoga, and painting colorful murals on the farmhouse together with two professional Nepalese Thangka artists (Passang Dhondup and Sherab Nyingpo). The course became this great vessel for sharing our skills, connections, and knowledge. Other classes included agro-foresty, patterns in nature, aquaculture, climate, landscape drawing and other design techniques. We got to have practical insight into the subjects of natural building, natural pest management, soil-building, animal husbandry, urban permaculture, appropriate technology, social design and activism and much more. Along with certain theoretical topics, we engaged in related practical activities. For me, the compost making was especially fun and super interesting to see the organic material breaking down in the days after we built it.
Later in the course, we also had classes from 3 very inspiring Nepali teachers. Rishi Adhikari, a Nepali permaculture teacher taught us about Urban Permaculture, caring or animals, and led some practical activities such as making organic bio-pesticide. He also gave us valuable insights into Nepal including the soil conditions, the agriculture in general as well as some of the problems that farmers in Nepal face. Another local facilitator was Kiran Amatya. He taught us more about agroforestry in Nepal and biodynamic preparations. Then we were honored to be visited by Pramod Parajuli. Pramod is an inspiring Nepalese scholar and practitioner, who has spent most of his life in the US, teaching in various Universities but came back to Nepal to rebuild the country with Permaculture. His inspiring talks included “Nepali Nature-Culture: before there was Permaculture” (a fireside story in the evening) and “Learning Gardens: learning to garden and gardening to learn”. Having Nepali participants, sponsored by Woven Earth’s scholarship, as well as Nepali facilitators was a great help for the whole group since they could share their experience and the knowledge of their parents or grandparents who, in most cases, are/were farmers in Nepal. This helped the non-Nepali participants who were new to the country understand the culture, nature, and climate so much better than the average tourist.
In the middle of the course, we got a day off and decided to go to Bandipur. Bandipur is a small New ari village not too far from the farm with an amazing view of the Himalayan mountains. The trip to Bandipur was so meaningful to me and made us even closer. The second half of the course was as fun, informative, intensive, and beautiful as the first. Other practical experiences during the program included building earthworks, making CPP Biodynamic preparations, planting core crops, practicing various methods of plant propagations, design exercises and making earth bricks as well as testing and comparing different soil types. After lunch each day, many would make use of the sunny weather and jump into the refreshingriver, go fora walk, read books or just catch a tan by the riverside. In the evenings we often made a fire, sat together, shared stories or sang songs in English, Nepali, Tibetan, and other languages. On some nights we watched movies about permaculture or similar topics. It was inspiring to see how people all over the world were already applying Permaculture to create beautiful and efficient systems.
Towards the end of the course we actually made a permaculture design of our own to demonstrate and strong and the knowledge we gained. We worked together, in groups of three or four, on our final projects intermittently for three days. Each group had a different piece of land which were proposed by certain students, where we had to use all the materials and the area as efficient and sustainable as possible. On the last day of the course, each group presented their project. The outcome was great! It was an important experience to implement all the knowledge we gained of the last weeks into one piece of work. At last, all twenty participants completed and received the Permaculture Design Course Certificate. The last evening consisted of a great farewell party for everyone with a lot of dancing, just as the Nepalese people like it!
After a very emotional but beautiful closing circle the next day, it was time to say goodbye. Goodbye, not only to the people of the course but also to our great volunteers, the local staff that cooked, cleaned and cared for us and of course the wonderful farm itself. The course ended on December 22nd and we all went different directions afterward. But we also knew that this time with woven earth left a mark in each one of us and that we want to spread, share and apply this gained knowledge about permaculture. “This is just the beginning of the learning journey”, we were told by Brandon Bodhi. And with these words and some hope to meet everyone again someday, we departed. We have all remained close, continued to stay in touch and many have crossed paths since that day.
Special thanks from Woven Earth to:
Peter Effenberger for providing us the opportunity for this experience and co-organizing it
Helen Bell for co-organizing and overseeing logistics of food, accommodation, etc.
Ollie & Betina for all the hard work leading up to the course and during, cooking, organizing supplies, etc.
Kalpana and Tikaram for cooking and caring for us every day
Ritha, Urmila, and all other Nepali staff that helped with so many necessary tasks
Passang Dhondup and Sherab Ningpo for their amazing skill and guidance in painting murals and drawing
All of the participants of the 2017 Woven Earth/ One World Permaculture & Biodynamic Course for making it possible: Ladina, Philip, Fern, Helen, Oren, Navraj, Passang, Kumari, Rejina, Desiree, Liyun, Rajeev,
And special thanks to the Author of this blog, Ladina Buess