By Sofia Matsi
Permaculture Design Course graduate & Movement of Life Cyprus coordinator

These past 3 weeks, something powerful has been taking place in Cyprus: A dynamic group of eco-conscious and resilience driven people, current residents of Cyprus, took part and successfully completed the first Permaculture Design Course (PDC) ever organized on the island – A 90 hour course which travelled all across Cyprus: from Xylophagou, to Limassol, Klirou, Eyrychou and Paphos.

The lead instructor of this PDC was the international permaculture teacher, designer and mentor, Peter Cow, from the UK.  Coordinating teacher of this course as well as instructor via distance on specialized sectors such as “Forest Gardens” and “Sociocracy,” was the experienced permaculture teacher, Rakesh Rootsman Rak. During the 3-week course, the environmental engineer and well-established permaculture designer currently residing in Cyprus, Nicolas Netien, served as a guest teacher, covering the subject of soil and water management. Assisting the facilitation of this workshop was the permaculture design course graduate, Sofia Matsi.

This unique travelling PDC, was hosted in three different venues starting off at the warm flatlands of Xylophagou and Phil Ogden’s marvelous wooden house. Then the workshop travelled to a quiet hill off to Limassol city, in the village of Paramytha and Katerina Constantinou’s developing permaculture land – Koukoulaki – and self-built house using natural building techniques. The last part of this workshop was hosted by Anasa Community Wellness Center in Paphos and Annellie Roux, one of the administrators of this wonderful community work.

In the duration of this course three free “Introduction to Permaculture” lectures were organized in each of the hosting cities and were open to the general public.

As part of the practical training of this PDC, the participants got to visit a number of already established and developing eco-projects such as Daniel Demetriou’s aquaponic farms in Ammochostos. Another venue visited, was Sofia Matsi’s land in Kalo Chorio area Nicosia – Petrera Permaculture Land. Part of the site visits was also Nicolas Netien’s permaculture facilities in Petra, near Evrychou, and his projects in collaboration with Atsas Organic Farms. A last visit and communal work was realized in Anasa Community Wellness Center gardens in Paphos, a project ran and co-facilitated by Annellie Roux.

The course covered a great deal of subjects starting off with some basic introductory talks on “What is Permaculture & What are its Ethics and Principles”. An introduction to permaculture design was then given by going through resources and limiting factors, systems can have as well as zone and sectors analysis of projects. A lot of chance was given to the participants to play around with short design exercises, emphasizing on site observation, survey and mapping.

An important part of this course was its emphasis on soil improvement techniques, where through composting, mulching, mycorrhizal fungi and other techniques, soil life can be enriched and plant and tree health can be promoted to suburb levels. A great attention was also given throughout the entire course on dryland strategies and how can permaculture design course graduates can later on work with Cyprus’ severe scarcity of water and grow thriving vegetable gardens and fruit forests. The participants got to familiarize themselves with key water harvesting and management tools such as swales, damn, ponds and gabions, both through repeated analysis through lectures as well as practicals. As part of growing resilience an introduction to designing and creating a sustainable and regenerative fruit forests was also included in this course’s busy curriculum.

Information was also given to the participants on existing communities and eco-villages all across the world and a lot of work was done to cover essential communication tools such as non-violent communication and sociocracy, techniques that can constructively be used to the advantage of setting up a healthy community project as well as building beneficial relationships on the personal level.

Towards the end of this course, more and more emphasis was given on the significance of Survey-Assess-Decision & Implementation cycle. Some basic design tools were covered such as site analysis, mapping, zone and sector analysis, and function & serving systems design. This resulted to a conclusive final project where participants worked in groups and designed a piece of land that was given to them. A main goal of this final design exercise was firstly to comply with their client’s needs and wishes but at the same time respect nature’s patterns and observed local landscape and create a project that in the long run would be both resilient and regenerative.

Learning through this workshop was a versatile process: Participants got a wealth of information through lectures, evening slide shows and movie projections, constant interaction and collaborative group projects, games, practical hands-on sessions and site visits. Creativity and abundance of diversity were basic ingredients in the classroom for this PDC.

Organizing this PDC course in Cyprus served a very vital role in training and bringing together some of the most dedicated individuals living locally, and who are looking to bring a meaningful change both to their lives as well as to this country’s optimistic future. Based on the common vision that the participants agreed on  prior to departing this course, many constructive collaborations and powerful permaculture projects are about to happen, contributing all together to the island’s resilient and regenerative transformation in the years to come.

You can find out more information about this project by clicking on the event’s page and you can stay connected with this group’s upcoming activities by following our Movement of Life Cyprus Facebook page or by signing up in our blog page.