My Permaculture Journey

Felister Orangi did her internship with PRI Kenya end of 2016 and now works full time as their Education Programme Coordinator. Read her story below:

Growing up, I realized how in unison events, people and basically everything move in an intricate flow, an organic flow that leads everything to this very moment in existence. It is so interconnected, which is so fascinating- that it’s hard to separate one of its elements from another.  It is very hard to pinpoint exactly where a story begins because of this interconnectedness. That’s the same way I can’t pinpoint the point at which my permaculture story began. While staying in an organic farm for a year, I realized how everything comes down to the energy flow emitted by the elements of nature and how that energy is received and used by other elements.

When I first learned about PRI Kenya in September 2016 after moving back home from Turkey with no plan set in motion yet of where I was going to go really, it became very apparent to me that after stepping in and out of PRI’s office, my life was going to take a positive turn and it really did!! This is when I first came across permaculture – this holistic approach and model they were using to enhance farmers and people’s lives and theirs too, really! Here were a passionate team educating people about this fascinating, organized system of knowledge-  that can be applied in every single part of life which then guides you through becoming aware of patterns of nature and how to live as an individual, not as a separate entity, but as part of the whole system. Wow, Permaculture!

Taking time to observe patterns allows you to design with a holistic mindset leading to life-saving and wealth-creating solutions like bringing fertility back into the degrading soil of the earth and restoring our parched rivers, lakes and streams. Permaculture has not been something I discovered as to its existence, it just came to me as every moment in life occurs, beyond organically! What I like most about permaculture is that is it an ethics-based design method that can be applied to all aspects of our lives and our society.

I ended up taking my internship at PRI Kenya thereafter my first visit which was an incredible opportunity they offered! I tried to integrate permaculture into my life very quickly after joining, but it is not until I took my Permaculture Design Certification course (PDC) in April this year, when I was really able to understand what potential permaculture really does have. This particular PDC is an urban permaculture based course that takes six weekends, to cater for those in the city and those who don’t have enough time to take a continuous 10 day PDC. I thank PRI Kenya for giving me a full scholarship to attend the course. I now strongly believe that it’s the way for everyone to go, in order to create the big changes of all the big problems we have in the world in the simplest ways – resonating with Bill Mollison who said that, “Though the problems of the world are increasingly complex, the solutions remain embarrassingly simple.” Taking my PDC actually helped me feel less helpless in the current times of the increasingly terrifying news of pollution, disaster and war, and helped me lean towards working to empower myself and others to restructure our society. The PDC taught me a lot! At the time when I was taking it, I thought I understood everything, but when I started practicing it, is when I understood that I have a whole lot more to learn. It’s when I understood that a PDC is the first step in an important life-long journey to see the world in a completely new way and dare to redesign it to support the coexistence of our species and the planet. Of course, the lead facilitator, Helene Maremma emphasized on how one really awakens practice. I am really thankful to Helene, who inspired me to see that the land is a canvas for creativity.

What I love most about the PDC is that, it gives you an easy-to-digest understanding and solutions of how to go beyond sustainability to literally regenerate the planet’s resources. These solutions can be implemented at any scale, from your daily life habits, to a city balcony to a massive farm aiming to feed the masses a nutrient-diverse diet rather than pure maize and beans. Teaching to step away from mono cultures but really dive in to diverse polyculture systems! This has been my main learning at PRI Kenya through the work we do with farmers all over. Talk about Rongo Coffee, where they are growing the coffee in a food forest system –that is diverse and nutrient-rich food, income generation and land regeneration right there! It only inspires you more when you hear life changing stories of the farmers on the ground, like the farmer who recently bought two cows from her coffee cherries sales last season! The cows are not only more income for her, they are a way to produce more manure for her land and of course building livelihoods.

The six week PDC truly changed my life! After every session, I would call my mother, who lives in rural Kisii, with new ideas on how we could make life there more sustainable, regenerative and easier. We are both looking forward to creating a herb spiral near her kitchen and some raised beds as she is getting older and cannot bend over the gardens as she used to. More so, taking my PDC has really aided me in my job as the Education Programme Coordinator at PRI Kenya. Before the PDC, it was being able to inform people about our upcoming courses, now it is a way for me to bring to people to a body of knowledge that people will not only love, but that will extend to the love for the earth, for the people and getting a fair share out of the wonderful world we live in. My job now feels like a gift to people, a gift that will never stop giving. Now, according to me, that’s an ultimate way to live and it only gets better when the people in the organization you are working with, are supportive of you and help you learn more and grow – that’s what PRI Kenya is for me. While taking the six week PDC and organizing it would at some time, felt overwhelming but at the same time, was a real force to my own growth. Being a student and organizer at the same time can be quite empowering seeing events through the different lenses, connecting with people, getting constructive feedback and really just growing from there.

I am incredibly thankful to Bill Mollison and everyone else who has impacted creating better sustainable livelihoods for the earth, for the people and a just distribution of resources. Everyone who believes in the saying by visionary Bill himself, “The greatest change we need to make is from consumption to production, even if on a small scale, in our own gardens. If only 10% of us do this, there is enough for everyone. Hence the futility of revolutionaries who have no gardens, who depend on the very system they attack, and who produce words and bullets, not food and shelter.” 

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