About seven years ago, in cooperation with the province of Isabela and Antwerp in Belgium, Cabiokid Foundation managed the Sustainable Technologies and Entrepreneurial Permaculture program (STEP). After six years, the program moved into a higher gear and became Higher Opportunities for Permaculture (HOP) program. From STEP to HOP, the reason being that the basic foundation for permaculture was laid, and that it was now up to the members of the different participating cooperatives to kick in some real life changes. The search was on for concrete livelihood activities that would bank on the presence of the unique eco-system (view STEP-HOP website here). The HOP team under the management and support of the Philippine Permaculture Association (PPA,) moved to the coaching and awareness raising of the surrounding environment. The program focuses on biodiversity as the key to sustainable development. When interacting with the members of the different cooperatives, we realized that to become successful we needed to find the burning flame of change.
It’s truly a pleasure to initiate permaculture projects that are carried out by people who are out to help themselves. These are rare finds and most of our encounters became disappointed as people either gave up or turned their eyes to the cash economy. Within the HOP team, work is fast paced and moves light, yet fast. The team makes it a point to include fun in its work ethic so as to ensure timely results. It is a pleasure to sweat and drag during such encounters, because the results are always rewarding. In case of the HOP program, it pays off to have good funders who understand the challenges and who are patient enough when things seem to slow down or when people are not ready to face certain challenges. Within the HOP team there are occasions that we need to re-establish efforts so as to give people sufficient time to hop aboard.
Everything will evolve around passion. It’s the key in the universe and for the program to make things happen. It is also the key to sustain the ideas we put forward and lastly, it is the sole convincing power needed to bring others into the realm.
In this way the HOP team carefully selects members based on their merit and capacity to showcase leading by example. Throughout the program we have been looking for those people who have done great things or are on the verge of changing the local fabric. These are the people who are driven by their passion to make a difference—even when this is not linked to permaculture per se.
Passion opens up the mind and allows information to flow smoothly and quick. Permaculture projects always tend to be complex and multilayered. So any permaculture project should be gentle with its workers and colleagues. Give people ample time to get familiar with the load of work and share the insights of permaculture so they to will feel lighter in their tasks. Permaculture is about exploring your own creativity and about questioning everything in the surrounding environment. It is about putting people in the middle of their eco-system and then looking for the opportunities that abound. The Philippines is a special case as it is endowed with so many unique resources, which can be explored and manipulated to form a wealth of products.
Based on these concepts, the HOP program selected an important part of the work to focus on the local ecology. We will study riparian protection zones along the rivers flowing from the Sierra Madre and the team will also consider the Sierra Madre as a main source of bio-diversity. The program hopes to install appreciation and pride in the people for the richness of their province.
When valuing the ecosystem, people will find it much easier to connect and protect, to make and trade. Pandan, bamboo and different kinds of woods and plants are so abundant in the Philippines that they almost stare you in the eye and scream to be used. Often we lose the capacity to see the green grass in front of us and we always compare with what others have.
A second program will focus on the not for profit programs of the different cooperative sites chosen over the past years. These sites will be beacons of hope in permaculture designing.
A third component of HOP focuses on the trade and economics of scale. When things are being collected, moulded and transformed based on a deep knowledge of the eco-system, then an organic highway is in the making. The kind of highway where people share produce, learn to improve their skills, and protect the natural world as their source of income.
In a fourth component of the program we are challenging the main educational institutions to shape up and do research that really benefits people. It is this small effort to retool teachers and make them receptive to the beauty of working with nature. In a similar way, the HOP program closely cooperates with the provincial board to improve their legislation and to make sure that it will improve the wellbeing of the small entrepreneurs.
As a closing remark it is also useful to state that the program is also working on the team and make sure that there will be an effort to create stronger support among the permaculture workers while looking for a way to crack the code for a new society.