I am so happy to introduce you to Sarah Queblatin - the co-founder of Green Releaf in the Phillipines in this episode of Sense-making in a Changing World. Sarah and I met as part of Re-Alliance - a global permaculture humanitarian initiative, we are both permaculture teachers, Global Ecovillage Network Ambassadors and members of Permaculture for Refugees.
We also have a connection because she is one of the key leaders of a brand new program for youth run by the Global Ecovillage Network Oceania and Asia - which my daughter, Permayouth co-founder, took part in just recently called ReGEN Nations. This is the kind of enabling collaborative ecosystem she designs - others include Re:Source Regeneration Labs with Green Releaf, and the 4 Returns Labs with Commonland.
We also share our activism roots in peace and both work towards whole systems change through education.
Sarah is passionate about transforming the narrative of Disaster Risk Reduction or DRR, into that of Designing for Resilience and Regeneration for communities affected by disasters, displacement, and unsustainable development.
Her passion project, Living Story Landscapes, weaves traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) and permaculture using the arts and culture in designing places of remembrance, resilience, and regeneration in climate and conflict vulnerable communities. Sarah is also an artist, using creativity as a pathway for personal and collective transformation. You can learn more about her work via www.soilsoulstory.com
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Welcome to the Sense-making in a Changing World Podcast, where we explore the kind of thinking we need to navigate a positive way forward. I’m your host Morag Gamble.. Permaculture Educator, and Global Ambassador, Filmmaker, Eco villager, Food Forester, Mother, Practivist and all-around lover of thinking, communicating and acting regeneratively. For a long time it's been clear to me that to shift trajectory to a thriving one planet way of life we first need to shift our thinking, the way we perceive ourselves in relation to nature, self, and community is the core. So this is true now more than ever. And even the way change is changing, is changing. Unprecedented changes are happening all around us at a rapid pace. So how do we make sense of this? To know which way to turn, to know what action to focus on? So our efforts are worthwhile and nourishing and are working towards resilience, and reconnection. What better way to make sense than to join together with others in open generative conversation.Morag:
In this podcast, I'll share conversations with my friends and colleagues, people who inspire and challenge me in their ways of thinking, connecting and acting. These wonderful people are thinkers, doers, activists, scholars, writers, leaders, farmers, educators, people whose work informs permaculture and spark the imagination of what a post-COVID, climate-resilient, socially just future could look like. Their ideas and projects help us to make sense in this changing world to compost and digest the ideas and to nurture the fertile ground for new ideas, connections and actions. Together we'll open up conversations in the world of permaculture design, regenerative thinking community action, earth repair, eco-literacy, and much more. I can't wait to share these conversations with you.Morag Gamble:
Over the last three decades of personally making sense of the multiple crises we face I always returned to the practical and positive world of permaculture with its ethics of earth care, people care and fair share. I've seen firsthand how adaptable and responsive it can be in all contexts from urban to rural, from refugee camps to suburbs. It helps people make sense of what's happening around them and to learn accessible design tools, to shape their habitat positively and to contribute to cultural and ecological regeneration. This is why I've created the Permaculture Educators Program to help thousands of people to become permaculture teachers everywhere through an interactive online dual certificate of permaculture design and teaching. We sponsor global Permayouth programs, women's self help groups in the global South and teens in refugee camps. So anyway, this podcast is sponsored by the Permaculture Education Institute and our Permaculture Educators Program. If you'd like to find more about permaculture, I've created a four-part permaculture video series to explain what permaculture is and also how you can make it your livelihood as well as your way of life. We'd love to invite you to join a wonderfully inspiring, friendly and supportive global learning community. So I welcome you to share each of these conversations, and I'd also like to suggest you create a local conversation circle to explore the ideas shared in each show and discuss together how this makes sense in your local community and environment. I'd like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which I meet and speak with you today. The Gubbi Gubbi people and pay my respects to their elders past, present, and emerging.Morag:
I'm so happy to introduce you to Sarah Queblatin from Green Releaf in the Philippines in this episode of Sense-making in a Changing World. Sarah and I met as part of Re-Alliance, a global permaculture humanitarian initiative, and we're both permaculture teachers, global ecovillage network ambassadors and members of permaculture for refugees. We also have a connection because she's one of the key leaders of a brand new program for youth run by the Global Ecovillage Network Oceania & Asia, which my daughter, Permayouth co-founder took part in just recently. We also share our activism roots in peace and both work towards a whole systems change through education. Sarah is passionate about transforming the narrative of disaster disaster risk reduction or DRR into that of designing for resilience and regeneration for communities affected by disasters, displacement and unsustainable development. Her passion project live in story landscapes . We used together traditional ecological knowledge and permaculture using arts and culture and designing places of resilience, regeneration in climate and conflict, vulnerable community. I hope you enjoy this conversation.Morag Gamble:
Hi everyone. It's my great pleasure today to welcome to the show Sarah Queblatin who I've recently met, and it's this many connections that we we've sort of found ourselves in. Not only is she a permaculture educator in many different ways. She's also part of the Re-Alliance network, which is a basically a permaculture humanitarian organization working mostly with refugees and internally displaced peoples. She's also part of the ecovillage network and has been running a training program for youth, which my daughter has been involved in for the last number of months. And so it's a delight to have you on the show, Sarah and I really wanted to explore the many of the different ways, innovative ways that you're working with permaculture , particularly in addressing emergency relief and crisis and working towards regeneration and peace, which is kind of a big focus of yours. But maybe we could start right back with where did you come across permaculture? L ike what was the door that opened for you for permaculture a nd what continues to fuel your flame to do this kind of work?Sarah Queblatin:
Yeah. Hi, Morag. Thank you again for the invitation. As I was sharing with you, it's a delight to be here. It's actually an honor because I've been following your podcast during the pandemic. It's been a nourishing ritual to listen to the podcast every Sunday. And so thanks again. And I want to just share that because I know that others might also feel the same way about the podcast. How this started for me actually was it's funny because when you were asking the question to the image came to my mind was this permaculture magazine I came across at a secondhand book shop years ago. I was probably still in university . It was about natural paints. Art led me to.. I was really wanting to be an artist, but of course, you know, in my world if you want to be an artist , sometimes it's only often for the privileged people because you have to work more. For me I really wanted to use my creativity. And then because there are so many social issues in the Philippines. So like how can I marry my creativity and working with social change? And so that issue with the arts and natural paints was my first permaculture magazine. And then I read about, wow, this is interesting because I've also been interested in working with environment and environmental healing and working . Used to do coastal cleanups prior to that as a young leader as a student. Then later on, I would actually realize it is actually a practice like working with the gardens and healing. And it was when I was working for different fields. I was working in cultural heritage, worked for museum, worked for peace-building and interfaith dialogue, different inter-tribal dialogues. And then I ended up in humanitarian assistance. Primarily because working with art therapy or expressive arts practices because I guess my way of marrying the creativity and into social change was how do we use art to heal others? And so I trained for that. And then I was invited to design some psychosocial modules for a community that was affected by like mass flooding in the south of the Philippines, like overnight, like flash floods just, happening. And it was devastating really. Like people in mud and everything. For me that was such a turning point. My experience I use it for peace building work. I've worked with inter- tribal , have chanced upon being able to support the peace process in the Philippines between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and have created like spaces where you're sort of mutual and working with tribal elders degrade those spaces. So I guess what I'm saying is that from peacebuilding work using the arts, I was able to kind of be drawn to the humanitarian work, to use the arts as well, to heal after disasters. And it gave me this very inspiring drive to like, okay, we can do this. And it is also so massive to see so much devastation and you start thinking how do I weave all my experiences in environmental education, cultural heritage peaces in ways that could heal something that is broken. And many of these places when they're devastated, there's a lot of brokenness , right . But what I also saw, many of the solutions we have have also been broken themselves. They're fragmented. Like if there's a cluster for food. There's a cluster for livelihood. There's a cluster for housing and everything. But they are of course a part of like an integrated design, but there are also, they're primarily also working independently. And I thought about how can we address brokenness without the same broken system, because the way to heal is really coming from fullness to recover and restore our wholeness . This is where we bring in work, resilience, helping people remember their resilience and capacity to heal and recover. At least from the psychological perspective. When you had experienced loss and damage, our goal is to help them remember that we have something inside us to help bring them, to help us find o ur w holeness. So from that personal healing, psychological backgrounds, I tried to look at it in from a systems thinking lens. And how do we look at a whole systems approach. Back then I didn't know about systems thinking. I just, for me, i t w as just like, I could see the pieces are not together and how can we bring them together? How can we meet them together?Sarah:
I guess as an artist the way I see the world is maybe just to see the big picture and also how to use to help us imagine something that is not there. Also a time where my mum was diagnosed with cancer. It was such an important turning point in my life that it was.. Here I am working with healing in communities and others and there's this crisis also for myself. So that was also when I had to look deep within, you know, where's healing. Where's the source of healing really, and what is true healing? How can we move from healing to wholeness and how can we find a resilience and also go beyond resilience and go towards regeneration. So that was a time that I was led to my own self healing and went to actually live in an ecovillage cause they used to aspire to learn from ecovillage design education years prior, but never. And it's like, Oh, this is where I now integrate my permaculture and ecovillage design interest. Back then I started a volunteer initiative called Green Releaf. It was not a nonprofit. It was actually just, you know, how can we restore , address crisis in the country , disasters and emergencies in the country without the same reason that caused the disasters in the first place. Again, back then, I didn't know about s ystems thinking. S o i t's just common sense. I was standing in front, in a huge row of thousands or hundreds of volunteers packing relief goods f or another disaster. And i t's like, wow, these are all plastic, these are all canned goods. [ i naudible]. So I wonder how can we design a better way of addressing this disaster? Green Releaf back then was still very young. I gathered people together as.. how can we r ethink this? I didn't even know about circular design before. I had no idea about permaculture. It's just common sense. And me back then going through this personal crisis myself. So I had to work just t o work i n integrity of this work, to find my own healing and wholeness. So I moved to an ecovillage. Then I tried to look at how do you actually live it as well as in a way that the ho listic approach that I w a s seeking. How can we liv e it ou rselves in our own way at the same time how can we bring this in communities that are, you know, broken, in di s aster. S o it took me a w h i le to kind of work with that from self to community. And it's always like you al ways go back and forth with the self and community. So it's a relationship I'm often like looking at. And then there's also the planetary relationship, of course, where from the bigger perspective, f r om the global lens. W h ere my country comes from, it' s li k e we have like our own 20 typhoons, we have a v o lcanic eruptions, we have war, we ha v e fl o oding, we have droughts and everything. It' s li ke, this is how can we use this holistic approach. We have so many things to face. And so years later I would establish Green Releaf. It was really a j o urney of finding our voice, finding our calling to do this work. Then through the years also where permaculture has played role with the systemic lens that I have been wondering about. It he lped me see the pri nciples an d tha t it does make sense. And then eventually, also trying to loo k in to, because I've also worked with indigenous peoples before. Like in the peace pacts, working with cultural heritage or work in the museum and also working for a film festival that hon ored in digenous values and their work and the ir pl ight with environmental restoration. So where I saw as well that permaculture is really also a lot of the indigenous wor ld vi e ws an d knowing. So how to kind of also recognize that as part of the original permaculture. So wh e n we I est ablished Green Rel eaf it is really where we brought it all together. The personal work, the healing work in co mmunities from the psychological level. And working with communities, for the resilience in terms of food security and possibly livelihood, if that's possible in a pla ce. T hen it all went down to the garden as the, kind of the container of these things. And so where in communities that are affected. The first thing people need of course, is food security. Looking back to the story of the packaging and so much of the packaging tha t we are packing, how can we work with food instead, and that, how can we no u rish their inner systems, and then at the same time, be able to have that available, be i ng more self-sustaining rather than always dependent on aid. As prior to becoming a non profit, w e also volunteered with other per maculturist in another typ hoon, a nd then really use d th at as a first response, like an emergency garden. And while the garden is being prepared, it t ak e s two , three months to harvest something. And we work with the loc al farms so that they cou ld be the source of nourishing food and seeds for this garden. And so, th a t kind of like was the initial basis. And in the garden it's also a space for waste management, becau se once you segregate waste, you have composting immediately separate the waste from the non-biodegradable. And we've seen like IDPs or in te rnal refugees see that actually they can compost and it doesn't smell. And they have immediately segregated the waste and the plastics, they can sell the b ott l es they can sell. And so that's also a space for waste management. But what also nourishes me where I feel like I can still use my creativity and t he p roc esses that the garden also becomes a space for healing. And it's like using place making as t he garden as refuge for people who need that space to heal from the war from confl ict. So when a community that displaced people that we've been working with it's from an islamic city that was sieged by an ISIS affiliated group. They were resettled in one place. And then they really shared how much the garden is in a way for healing for them. And then at the same time, how can it be as a so urce of income? There's livelihood there. The IDPs from Marawi that was displaced by the ISIS siege there we wanted to use the garden as well, apart from food, for healing and waste manag ements. It was also a source of possible livelihoods. So we helpe d trai n them with herbal medicines. I mean, making soaps, and we didn't get to continue because COVID happe ned and we weren't going to link them to a spa, a holistic spa. We wa nt ed to source this [herbal] medicinal stuff, but spas also got affected by COVID but the idea is like how permaculture kind of helped us bring all these together. So my inquiry before, how can we bring food livelihood and healing altogether doesn't have to be separate. It's became like, that became a canvas or th at cont ainer to bring them all together.Sarah Queblatin:
Then the ecovillage approach as well.To actually live it myself and also to engage the idea that we can create a different way of living. We have that power to actually design the way we want to live in a better way. And it has been a meaningful journey for me. And I've been involved with the Global Ecovillage Network and have worked with the UN coordination for GEN and and join GEN help bring their story and work for the last for conference of parties, 21 to 24. And it was such an empowering experience because it helped me have the confidence that yes, these low-carbon, zero waste lifestyles that have been modeled by different ecovillages around the world are actually the solutions we are looking at today. And you can see circular economy now being mainstream . You can see renewable energy being mainstream, social enterprise, that these are been things that, people in the movement, people like you and people like many of the permaculture teachers have been living on their own or working at small scale. And so for me from the local going to the global perspective that I've been weaving together . Yeah very inspiring for m to be able to experience and share that with others. So yeah.Morag:
So many things that I want to pick. Every time you got to another point, I was going to pick up on that . So I've written down lots of notes here . So maybe we'll kind of like, sort of start from the latter parts of what you just said and work my way back through some of those comments, because what a story. I mean, that's quite extraordinary really. And the way that you're talking about how permaculture has really given you a platform to be able to, there's kind of like a bowl that all of the bits of the soup can be held within it. It helps to weave the broadened narrative together, I think in terms of creating, you know, every generative approach from all different perspectives, but I wanted to start asking you a little bit more about the relationship between United Nations work and the work of permaculture and ecovillage network. So I'm also an ambassador of the Ecovillage network as well. And part of our work within permaculture too, is to try and find ways, well, actually, let me start that again. We're currently having lots of conversations, people like Rosemary Morrow and myself, and Eunice , May East about the relationship between the SDGs and permaculture and how it is that we can start to not only deepen the conversations with the United Nations about the role that permaculture can play to embed the SDGs everywhere, but also that people practicing permaculture can understand that the SDGs are also a platform to reach many more people. So your experience and sharing these stories of what projects like the Global Ecovillage Network, how do you feel that voice is heard within the UN and how do you feel that maybe we can be amplifying that more and building a closer relationship between this work cause May East from Gaia Education she said she sees that the SDGs are the framework, but things like permaculture and ecovillages are the pathways. So it's how you can reach all of those. And that it also with the SDGs, the sustainable development goals. Sorry, I'm using SDGs and I'm realizing people might not know. So SDGs - sustainable development goals. 17 core sustainable development goals that the UN has said is the way forward towards sustainable society or regenerative culture as we're talking. So the SDGs often get pulled apart. We'll do this one or we'll do this one. And this project we'll make this one. Whereas I think a little bit like what you're saying with permaculture holds all the threads of the work that you've done. And same for me too. The permaculture also is kind of can hold all of those different SDGs together and provide holistic response. So my question really coming back around to that is what's your experience in the United nations conversations? Have you seen how receptive are people to concepts like permaculture and ecovillages a nd how do you think we can amplify those conversations more?Sarah:
Wow. Yeah. This is a really good question. First, I'd like to thank people who really have the confidence to prepare a lot of these conversations in that platform. And for me, I was coming from my country vulnerable [inaudible] And for me, I was more coming from that perspective first person, foremost and always. So much talk and there's so much plans, but then how can we really meet the grassroots and how can we really see how they deal with this. If this is going to happen again how are they gonna recover again? And that's always a question we get asked, like when we're in the field, it's like, this is going to happen again. And then the projections show this going to happen again, it's going to be much stronger, more intense. So for me from that lens seeing the different agreements and pathways and goals , from a systems thinking lens where we permaculture practitioners, I'm not, I don't see myself as an expert , but permaculture practitioners and educators, there's a lot about being able to adapt our solutions to meet a context or a design. So, yeah, I see that I agree with you, like where you're saying that it's the pathways to get there. This is where our solutions are. And for me, it's also about trying to adapt to the language and being able to try and see where both worlds can meet. So meeting the goals are one of them that it can be. And showing proof of concept, that this is actually SDG. And I think where the movements, I guess, that we would say the regenerative, the regenerative approach, where ecovillage , permaculture and many other solutions can fall in they offer the perspective where we go beyond sustainable to regenerative, right ? And it can be regenerative development and goals, but the word development as well in a way flawed itself, coming from the global South, the word development it's the history of development. We have to unpack that as well. And we learned that of course, as well in the EDE design education links, how we've designed developments in general. How do we restore the connection to a more nature-based , deep ecology approach where the indicators to design have been separate from that, and the indicators have often been more focused on monetary GDP related , goals. So where we have showcased and showed that it's doable, being able to highlight the stories underground and be able to use well for me also to use that voice, to be able to give attention to what's being done underground. I think that was important because where we are there in those spaces our role is to amplify and show that this works and that they'd be able to have a seat at the table. I mean, of course we're still civil society. We don't know where we stand in general or influence, but I know COSIA's done really good work to kind of bring in our initiatives with governments and its always been a good pathway because I think there's also this perspective that the movement is separate. We're always like trying to design our own communities, our own way and everything, but we also want to be able to work together with the different sectors government and businesses and other civil society groups. So I think where the movement or the work comes in is to help adapt to the context and be able to use that. I don't know exactly what to share because there's so much evidence already and proof of concept that we were able to share that it is, it is doable. It is also adaptive enough because because of climate change, there's so much changes. So the design itself is how to adapt to these changes and to show that it's scalable. Right now we have to scale as much because there's so much carbon to capture there's so much internal migration displacement , global refugees situations, we have to scale fast. But to scale meaningfully as well. This is where I think the regenerative movement always wants to highlight. We have to go beyond sustainable work, it has to be long-term hollistic. There's also the emphasis of leap scaling where you're deepening relationships, changing the paradigm, the culture of change in general, because yeah, like I said, the word development has its historical issues. And now we're seeing a lot of it mainstream. Now you have the well-being economy, you have governments like New Zealand or Iceland. They're trying to really shift in your votes, [inaudible] the way we measure.Morag Gamble:
Aren't those metrics always so fraught because they direct where support for projects though . They direct where policies are made there so the metrics completely need to change. I totally agree with you. And I also want to sort of ask you to maybe expand a little bit on what you're talking about with development and rethinking, particularly from your perspective of working with the indigenous communities of your country and looking at the impact that unsustainable development has had on them and now climate change and how maybe something like the permaculture movement and the e covillage movement can be supporting and working with those communities to amplify their voice. Like where do you see that i n? Where do you see t he sort of edge there?Sarah:
Yeah. I'm trying to recall an experience where I actually asked this question with an indigenous woman andfor them development is different the way we see it. I guess there's also this article I remember now from Charles Eisenstein about how we reframe development. I'm trying to remember the title but how we measure and experience change or progress , i t's really, depending on the context of the place and how their world view is, and that's really important. And then also where we come as development workers or c hange m akers like some humility or ultimately humility because they have so much to teach us. And o ne story I always carry with me w hen I was joining the climate talks is that t here a re so much energy we make to fly, to talk, to make plans and targets and agreements but in the past I've worked with shamans and I mean, I've had the privilege to work with them. I didn't plan. So we just accidentally, beautifully, accidentally, chance to listen to them, to their stories and being able to support ways to bring their stories in t he mainstream. I've seen them ask for the sky to to stop raining and for the sun to come out. And for me, how much energy w e create to make the sun shine or stop the rain compared to how they would c ome from a very deep state of reverence and respect a nd prayer. That is the edge that I've worked with where I've seen that and I'm also in a room full of ministers or change makers and leaders and I see like, Oh, this is my senator from my country she's speaking. And then, but there's also like this elder that people wouldn't know by name, but t hey just need a sky to open up for the sun i n the middle of the storm. I don't exactly how to answer your question, but just to be able to be in both worlds, I guess for me, I'm not saying one is perfect. I'm just saying, it's like, how do we weave this world where we c an have the rational sort of agreements are needed and s hape and need to have all these proof of an evidence of metrics, but there's also t hese relational work that we have to remember, o ur connection to the earth. And now it's also being m ainstreamed. You have science saying, you have to reconnect with nature. B iomimicry is there as well as a w ay to kind of bring those together. And so I think our work is in a regenerative way of being and doing is to help weave that and to help people remember that because it's not something new, it's something that we just need to reclaim and remember.Morag:
Those words that you mentioned right at the start of your conversation earlier was around that, about remembering and imagining and possibly re-imagining and sort of deepening into that relational process. So from a really practical sense, I wonder how have you seen permaculture being of value to possibly give strength to the indigenous voice and to actually help to remember for some people, or to give value to those approaches. You've talked about traditional ecological culture. This kind of cultural heritage and the depth of culture that you have in community, that where the permaculture is able to strengthen that. It's not sort of saying what can permaculture do to help them? It's like, how can permaculture be informed by that? Or how can permaculture be in support of those communities? So have you seen some kind of examples of that happening, or have a perspective on how permaculture can learn, the global permaculture community can learn from indigenous cultures in your part of the world?Sarah:
Yeah. There's so much. I think for many of the people who practice permaculture in their countries who are working with the first nations. And yeah, one story I always remember about how a systems view of working where permaculture is one of the ways to do that is that using the metaphor of the tree and where the tree, you know, the deeper the roots have more resilience to the changes that happen outside with the strong winds and everything. And for me, that's where working with indigenous knowledge and wisdom can come in. This became important to me because we were working with women affected by Typhoon Haiyan and we engaged them with a university to kind of help us look into where they could restore their ecosystems and protect them for further disasters. One of their questions to the professor was like if you want us to plan trees , cause we were looking at the livelihood program for restoring their ecosystem, and it's a way for them to make a living as well. If we were to plant trees, we're worried because after the typhoon all the trees have damaged everything. And so the answer to that was of course in permaculture, it's the right zoning where you plant, what kinds of species you've plant, the most indigenous or local species to plant because it's more resilient, it knows the ecosystem. Then you have to plant with deep roots. And it made me recall how much.. we have a lot of knowing already that has been passed on over time. That is something that we have forgotten and we have to reclaim to withstand the disasters that are happening. That root metaphor with systems, it's going deep to the local knowledge and ecological experience. So what is the history of this land? What are the species in this land, what were the local biodiversity of this place . So like this passion project, I'm doing, it's called Living Story Landscapes. How do we help support the community to document their own biodiversity . The edible, medicinal food so that they could continue growing that because indigenous communities in the Philippines, some of them are already like converting a lot of their land to GMO corn where we are working with. We were invited to an indigenous community after a disaster. And we thought it was just really working with, you know, just permaculture. How do we show them to use this demonstration site in an agricultural school to help them look into addressing the future disasters. And , we found out this village has been actually converting all their, a lot of their forests, their coffee, old mature coffee trees into GMO corn and they're spraying glyphosate everywhere. It's also sad because these are indigenous peoples themselves so who have this deep knowing in origin. They still have their granaries where they store rice , they still have rituals, their harvest. So we're working with this. Of course, there's the economic need that was the driver for that conversion, but how do we help support the remembering of what you already know and what you've so much to share with us?Morag:
I wonder there , what are the forces at play that are making them go towards that? Are there subsidies in place? Is that the agricultural policy of the country? What is the push that's actually shifting them in that direction? Definitely economic driver and also of course, the external factors where agro-industrial plants, the private sector or working with the government also I don't want not disclose the names, but it's very heartbreaking to see that , because these are, of course for an a gro- industrial orientation, you have the corn for feeeds or livestock, and this it i s n ot corn for eating. It's really fo r f eeds but you have all these villages.. We heard from one government agency that there's a village ef fected b y the water. They're having kidney problems. Bwecause of the economic drive, it could also be unsustainable development targets. So prior to this they were really ai ming f or a massive coffee program for this place. They built roads, there ar e m illions of funds, loans from the government. But because there was a failure in social engagements, there was competition in prices, prices dropped and our pr ice b ecame challenges. There was competition an d a ll these things. And eventually the industry kind of degraded ov er t i me. I don't know what the right term for - industry's fa iling, I guess. So people started shifting to more easy income and someone introduced th ese c orn, t he roundup, the spitfire, these chemicals that are damaging the ec osystems. But what we're trying to work here is how do we help them remember and give value to that? Because even us we're not indigenous we've played a role in that wh o h ave pr omoted t hat kind of commercialization because we do i n our consumption, make that demand for thatthe livestock to be fed in a ll these things. So it's also our role to look at that. But working with their indigenous knowledge, working with their culture and traditions, helping document that, and now what we're trying to do is help model th is p l ace t o help work with the governments, t he provincial coffee council of the province to help look into agro-ecology and agroforestry in indigenous trees, in farms where coffee can have more value. So they want the whole.. .to participate in that. So t o help and also engage. I don't like the word empower because we a r e t rying to say th at t he power is outside in e m powering i ndigenous peoples, but being able to support them in the right, enabling conditions that their leadership would shine and their representation in the table with th e g o vernments. Is th ere s ort of being working on that so that th ey t hemselves have input on these design plans? So.. I don't know if I answered it . No, no, you did it, you did as well. And I wanted to ask as well, how long has it been, you sort of mapped a bit of a, a story of there being sort of the GMO seeds. And before that there was, like big investment to have export of coffee. What was before that? And when was that point where things started to really shift and that big investment started to disrupt possibly traditional patterns and traditional ways of growing? Like how long are we talking here?Sarah:
I remember , I think it was the 60s because this is where also a lot of the former dictators called for agricultural drive for development in the country that started. Many of the practices of course also inherited from American way of agriculture. We adopted a lot of these . I think in these communities, however they've been having their own traditional way of growing food. And I guess over time where development wanted to tap because this place is growing a lot of coffee. It was the first coffee-processing village of that province. And it also kind of one of the contributors to the brand, the taste of that coffee. And so many, I guess, development solutions were invested in that. But because of the design, the development approach. There was also like government when government partner was sharing that, you know, I think we failed supporting the organizing of the community cooperatives because a lot of the breakdown also came from there, a lot of mistrust. So much money was for poured in to these cooperatives and they didn't have skills to manage such money. We had so much mistrust the project also failed because the solutions tha like how a regenerative approach would be about is working with conflict, working with regenerative leadership, how people can build trust within their sector, across sectors, in governments , in businesses, and how do we design together? So in the same village, we've been like prototyping, how do we create a five-year ecovillage regenerative development plan, but we did it one year. Often people plan fast. Sometimes development people are just coming from pulling numbers or pulling targets from just, Oh, I researched this and this but when you're like really listening to the community and you're meeting them where they are. And also trying to create this space where their voices are heard and then bringing their right government agencies, our partners to meet with them and did, they c ould listen to each other and t hey can plan together. So we came up with this five-year plan. We have an a greement with t he local city government and agency partners. And now we're preparing to meet to work with regenerative businesses. Because there is a market for them, but we put the r egenerative b usinesses last because it's hard to find regenerative businesses. Second is we didn't want the business economic matters to be the main driver at the start, because that was the first thing that failed them in d ifferent s pace. And so we had to create trust first and build it.Morag:
So what does the ecovillage concept look like in the Philippines? You've mentioned a couple of different ecovillages, one that you're living in and then also talking about the ecovillage concept as a regenerative design plan that people engage with to transform to be part of that transition process from unsustainable development to a new way forward. So how are people responding to this concept of ecovillages and what are the different, how would you, how would you characterize ecovillages in your country?Sarah:
Yeah, it's very tricky to use ecovillage here because the popular ecovillage perspective is often the ecotourism, you know, you have this natural homes and because we're tourist destination. So people like use ecovillage as that, like bamboo homes it's an eco village, it's an eco resort or so. We also working to reframe that to use the word regenerative development in general or regenerative solutions because it's broad enough. People don't understand permaculture in general as a mainstream concept, but we're trying to capture the idea that there's already existing practices in a place that have their own regenarative solutions. The core of as we know in the core of ecovillage designs it's a process of designing together. So it's more of being able to create the way to design together and enable that whether it's working with starting with empathic listening and learning the skills to do that, and being able to kind of highlight also what's already being done in the place and being able to support the different sectors as well, so that they could, at some point meet and dialogue together, it's an ongoing process.Morag:
And I'm wondering too, whether, Oh, sorry to interrupt. I was just going to ask you that there's part of what you were talking about earlier too, was going into places that had been devastated by typhoons or by massive flooding and mudslides, but part of the building back of those communities. There's different stages of that. So there's the crisis relief right? At the very beginning. And that being kind of immediate b y how do you even get started with that, but then there's this longer-term process. So are you getting much traction really when you're working with say governments, or people who a re supporting this building back to take on this regenerative approach, how has that, how are you finding that?Sarah:
So one thing that I've discovered last year is that what we're doing is we're called the informal aid sector. And so we're not like the red cross, we're not, you know? And so that actually more sense to me. And where I stand what we've been modeling, it's a bit challenging to scale in the humanitarian context. Here locally, we're small, we're a bit small. I think it's only starting. Many of the people are like people like Re-aliance, amazing group there. [ inaudible] And it's just really amazing that it's already starting to mainstream. So for us, we're still like taking it slow here locally. But what we saw be able to find our niche as informal aid is that apart from, of course the garden gardens in disaster areas are in the refugee camps or evacuation centers or settlements is that recognizing that there's so much already informal aid being done, but using a systems thinking approach is helping bring them together so that they could cross pollinate and learn from each other and have more collective impact together. So last year we learned this because we were still like in the last year for prototyping of the garden relief . And there was this volcanic eruption. We were like, we can't go to this place. We're going to run a PDC. We actually were preparing to run a PDC together with our partners, grassroots leaders who are the displaced and indigenous people affected by typhoon. So we couldn't go to that place. But what we realize is like using, regenerative design, we use theory, you used our local way of also Filipino way of bayanihan, our spirit of collaboration in the country. We brought like the breastfeeding groups together, the mental health groups, the community kitchens. We have organic farmers. We created a space where we could like listen to each other and look at their ideas and then look into how do we work together rather than separate. And so, like, what if the waste management person can work with the food community kitchen. It can be a livelihood after people are about to get back to their place or how can the breastfeeding groups be able to work with the mental health groups because mothers, and then how can the mappers, the open street map that who joined us work with, how do we map where the initiatives are? Because apparently a lot of the aid ends up in many of the places that are concentrated, but there are other places that don't receive aid . So what I realized is that our role is that is to use our permaculture skills, design skills, the work of enabling, designing , helping people remember their capacity to lead and then being able to have the confidence to lead together with others and have more collective impact better impact if they were together rather than if they were working separately. So for me, that's how currently we're designing locally because we're still small. We couldn't do like bigger work in the system. We did work with humanitarian organizations underground. We w ork with CRS and food program in the displaced resettlement, but it was always having to align with t heir programs, more like food security alone and so after that's done, they leave. We didn't have so much freedom to go further into other collaborations? No, but that's only o ur mandates so we can't go beyond. So this was also our dilemma. And so we t ry to, where can we best contribute this way? So now we're now preparing to scale that methodology so that when another disaster hits so many of the responders so much aid r eliever, actually, I guess, immune t o aid because it's always like, Oh, another eruption, another typhoon. So how do we b ring that d eep scaling as well, where we build relationships across the people helping. And so right now, while last year after the volcanic eruption, COVID h appened so we couldn't continue the volcanic eruption action plans. But w hen COVID happened, people started exchanging ideas too and started to kind of cross-pollinate organically even i f w ithout a workshop or anything. So I think this is also i n the work of the regeneration. We create the place, we designed the container, we designed t he system, but it just naturally, [ i naudible] like the way living systems work.Morag:
It sounds so amazing. And it's the way forward, isn't it. It's building that resilience and the ability for it to keep self-replicating. It's not getting bigger and bigger and bigger when you're talking about scaling, it's really about, replicating so that it's contextualized here and here, and i t's sort of the network is scaled, but the projects stay c ontextualized. And I wonder, l ike, where d o you, where are you finding support for this kind of work? Do you have a relationship with the government or an agency, or is it community support? How do you, how do you get this started? Because I know many people who are listening, thinking, this is brilliant. This is exactly what we need in our community to help address the multiple c risis that we're facing and help to create a shift of perception and greater levels of integration and community driven programs. How do you make it work?Sarah:
Yeah, I think good question. It makes me reflect too . Well of course it was also very meaningful to have support. We have like Lush is very generous to have given us funding to start organization, that also help enable us. There's also building trust , across partners, civil society, movements. I think social media helps a lot when you're like, just really being able to tell your story and people are like I wanna help, I'm going to join. Being able to learn to ask for help, which is something that I need to learn. I continue to learn and unlearn. It's really just being able to ask for help because we can't do this alone. And this was also a learning last year the regenerative aid with the volcanic eruption because we can't be there all the time. We can't do all disaster response. This is, I think this is, we will burn out if it were , we were always like hopping around from one place to another. And that we were not also strong enough. We are a small organization. But what we had was the skills to network the way and the skills to bring people together, to design together and using those skills, being able to know our strength is also key and to know, okay, this is where we need help. And this is where you come in and this is where we can work together. Keeping the vision alive. And the purpose alive is also important because I guess if that's the driver of the you know how to bring people together it needs to be constantly fueled and constantly nourished and nurturing . So yeah ..Morag:
With the work that I do too with ethos and the work with Re-Aliance, it is a lot like you're saying, it's about sharing the story. It's about sharing story through various networks and building collaborations with different organizations. And we start to look out for each other and build that trust and relationship because we realized that we're all kind of working in the same direction. And it's interesting, it's a different approach, isn't it? And it's very much a relational approach. It's very much about trust building and it's just phenomenal what you're able to do. And I love this informal aid sector and it's sort of permaculture, kind of eco humanitarianism, or I don't know what the words are for. This is kind of a whole new world, but it's, you know, sadly it's the kind of skills that we're needing more and more and more. And I wonder if people wanted to find out more about what you do and how you do it. Do you have like a website that people can go to, to find out this information or some videos that show into some of the work that you do? How can people find out more about your work, Sarah?Sarah:
Yeah, we have a website. We changed the word relief into leaf with a leaf, like from the plants . And it was never meant to be an organization. So we didn't really think , I didn't really take it seriously back then. And now people think we're a weed growing organization So yeah it's greenreleaf.org. Also I am trying to define my own voice because of course when you create an organization, you find also you kind of attach your identity to that. I'm also like needing to go back to my creative path and working with ecotherapy and healing. And so I'm also creating a platform called Soil Soul Story, but I'm hoping to launch it at some point, but it's also where .. I no longer live in an ecovillage but my mom left me this land that I work on and it has been my own grief work and also healing work for myself. So I'm also like preparing to do some to remember my creative path , I'm working with healing and giving to the earth and the ecology practice. Doing work that reconnects and in working with indigenous wisdom that I've learned over time and hope to kind of give back to them, the elders that I have been learning from. So this is something that I'm happy to share at some point Soil Soul Story. I don't have a platform yet for that but I am ready to launch.Morag:
Well I'll put down the links below, so whatever you send me in terms of links, we'll make sure we put them down below. And if you have any maybe photographs too , of some of your work, we could include that in a blog. So people can kind of see what, what are these first response gardens look like, or, you know, some of the work that you're doing that would be just fantastic. Thank you so much for joining me today, Sarah. There is so much more, I want to ask you, but I kind of feel maybe we need to do a part two, because like I said before, what you're doing is something that the world needs so much now, and I'm so delighted to be, to have had the chance to chat with you here and also to be in constant contact with you through through ReGEN and through Re-Alliance and being part of this global network of people who are really looking for t he regenerative way forward and remembering, but also like y ou're saying healing. I think there's a lot of.. there's so much trauma in the world and planetary trauma, personal trauma, and that healing work is really possibly one of the biggest challenges and biggest tasks that we have is personal and planetary healing for w ellbeing. So thank you again, S arah. It's lovely to have you on the show. Thanks Morag. And again, it's not only my work and when you say my work is this and that , but it's a lot of people behind this work , a lot of teachers and people I learn from . And so I wanna acknowledge it as well. Thank you for doing that, yes. Alright. Take care. So that's all for today. Thanks so much for joining us. Head on over to my YouTube channel, the link's below, and then you'll be able to watch this conversation, but also make sure that you subscribe because that way we notified of all new films that come out and also you'll get notified of all the new, all the new interviews and conversations that come out. So thanks again for joining us, have a great week and I'll see you next time.