Behind the PERMIND Training Guide there are two stories: the story of an anecdote that turned into a symptom and the story of a life project that leads to the Association for the Development of Permaculture (ADP), entity responsible for the development of this Permaculture guide.
Let’s start with the anecdote. The 10th of November 2016 the ADP received an express e-mail with the subject “Proposal of collaboration with Foundation INTRAS”. The e-mail was signed by Laura Martínez Domínguez, from the Projects Department of the Foundation INTRAS, and it said:
I am Laura Martínez, projects manager of Foundation INTRAS. I left a message on your voicemail but I thought it would be interesting if you had the information in writing as well so you knew the reason for my call.
We are a non-profit body with the aim to improve the life quality of people suffering from severe and long-term mental illness. We have been working since 1994 and we have centers in several provinces of Castile and Leon (Toro, Zamora, Valladolid, Peñafiel, Benavente and a supervised flats network and community social support teams in other provinces of the region). We count on a projects department, which I am part of, which mission it is to search funding for our activities (we are a private foundation) and facilitate overall new activities for our users (targeting their recovery and full integration). We search this funding mostly in Europe through our involvement in many European projects. That is exactly why we contact you.
We are preparing a project proposal for an Erasmus+ call based on permaculture in order to write a training guide in order to train persons with mental health issues in this field. We have seen that your Association for the Development of Permaculture applies permaculture as therapy and we are interested in your experience and we want to suggest a partnership in this European project along with us. We have recently been able to launch an ecological horticulture line made possible due to another European project too: the HORGANIC project. We would like to go even further and get to know the permaculture world and see if it could represent an added value for our work with persons with mental illnesses. We also work along with the agricultural engineering school INEA and its urban vegetable gardens project. I hope you find our proposal interesting and I look forward to your response.
With kind regards,
Laura Martínez Domínguez – Projects Department of Foundation INTRAS
Five months later on March 27th 2017, the PERMIND project proposal was presented in the Key Action 2 Framework – Strategic Partnership for Adult Education (KA2014) of the Erasmus+ program, with the type Innovation Development. A project composed of five partners: the mentioned Foundation INTRAS as main partner, the Slovenian SENT (Slovenian Association for Mental Health), the Greek Society of Social Psychiatry & Mental Health, the Swedish Changemaker and the Association for the Development of Permaculture.
Four months later on July25th, the project was approved. The kick-off meeting took place on the 25th and 26th of October the same year in the ADP headquarter, Finca El Mato Tinto, Tacoronte, Tenerife. A day prior to the meeting, we asked Laura Martínez something that had been left out: How did INTRAS find out about ADP? Laura, agricultural engineer graduate, told us she heard about Permaculture at some point during her university training. After having worked on her ecological horticulture project as a therapeutic tool for INTRAS, she wanted to learn more about the mental health recovery potential of Permaculture. When she was searching information, she googled “mental health permaculture” and immediately found results about the ADP. From that point on, she got into contact with the association.
That’s the anecdote story. An anecdote that ends up becoming a symptom, a signal of something already happening: the act of Permaculture being applied to mental health recovery, a process we will share in this training guide starting from the ADP experience.
We move on to the second story: a story of a life project that leaded to the foundation of the ADP. A story that intends to serve as a visiting card of the ADP training experience and as a transfer of knowledge represented by the PERMIND Training Guide. The story is presented with some hints of this training activity.
Since 2002 the ADP has remained active in a big training activity in the Finca El Mato Tinto working in different fields: the first experience was all about mental health therapy and pre-labour and labour integration training of the Special Employment Center Finca El Mato Permacultura (CEE-FEMP). This will be addressed in the Didactic Unit I of this guide for its relevance for persons with mental health illness.
Since then until now –August 2019– many training activities have been carried out in elementary school, high school, professional and university training, extended training activities of public administration, and farmer-to-farmer and farmer-expert projects where Permaculture is shown as an observation activity of the natural ecosystems dynamics. This observation helps to design production systems that meet human needs without any environmental degradation.
When it comes to systematize and develop the PERMIND Training Guide, we have relied on four training activities developed in the Finca El Mato Tinto during the last 17 years.
– The mentioned Special Employment Center Finca El Mato Permacultura (2002-2013), a social company focused in pre-labour and labour integration through Permaculture-based mental health therapy (Figure Int.1).
Figure Int.1 – Informative CEE-FEMP and ADP poster
-The “That’s how we do it in the garden” project (2011 until now, 2019). A project made along with the Tacoronte City Hall Education Council, where the ADP and its headquarter, the Finca El Mato Tinto (FEMT), are located, and in which the University of La Laguna has collaborated as well. The academic management of the project has been carried out by Juan Castro de Paz, ADP collaborator and university lecturer. The project intends to enhance the school vegetable gardens of every Educational Center of the council through 3 main activities: 1) A training course in the farm for the teachers responsible of the school vegetable garden; 2) A students group visit with the teachers from each educational center to the FEMT, where they follow scheduled activities related to Permaculture (visit to the farm, seeding and planting activities, invertebrates and microorganisms observation with a bifocal lens, the natural purification system of wastewater, interaction with farm animals, etc.) (Figure Int.2); and 3) A monitoring and advice in situ of the ADP staff in the school vegetable gardens.
The monitoring and advice purpose is to check the development level of the Permaculture techniques applied in the school vegetable gardens, to advice about their implementation, to solve the doubts of the teachers responsible of the school vegetable gardens, and to meet the demands needed for the project improvement. The 2018-2019 academic course is its 8th edition.
Figure Int.2 – Images of various activities of the “That’s how we do it in the garden” project
This experience of permacultural knowledge transfer and replicability has been very useful for ADP as a partner in order to meet the PERMIND objectives. It is also an opportunity to spread the PERMIND project since the students and teachers are informed about it during the visits to the farm (Figure Int.3). It is a strategic social group that can make PERMIND visible in their families.
Figure Int.3 – Images of pupils and teachers from the CEIP San Juan Perales (left) and Ernesto Castro Fariña (right) with ADP collaborators after explaining the PERMIND objectives in the “That’s how we do it in the garden” project activities framework (March 2018)
– Five interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary courses of the University of La Laguna (2012-2016), competitive university courses that used the FEMT as a learning classroom.The management of these courses has been carried out by Juan Sánchez García, ADP collaborator and university lecturer. The public targeted by the courses can be anyone, academic or not, who is interested in the subject (Figure Int.4).
Figure Int.4 – Images of a poster and various activities of interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary courses of the University of La Laguna in the FEMT.
As an indication, the titles of the 5 courses:
- First observe and then reflect in the wake of perception: creation of proximity in the university-society relationship (CIULL2012).
- The setting of limits: a new cultural awareness (CIULL2013).
- Transition initiatives and research oriented to and with the community (CIULL2014).
- Cultivating soil, food and health (CIULL2015)
- Permaculture as an opportunity for transdisciplinary dialogue (CTULL2016).
These training activities had a high acceptance rate as the positive anonymous students survey shows about each course. These courses were composed of a great variety of students from various professional and social frameworks and ages.
An indicator of this training activity acceptance, and therefore as a training potential of the ADP and its FEMT, is shown by the answers given by the students on the last course edition to the question How would you evaluate the role of the Finca El Mato Tinto as the courses implementation place?
- Important and essential supporter of a true training with authentic trainers.
- It is a key place for inspiration, such a luxury that we have here in the island. An ideal campus for transdisciplinarity.
- It is the perfect space to learn. Everyone has to visit it and do some course here, no matter what you are dedicated to. “Everything is linked and integrated”
– LASOS project (2014-2016 stage). “CEE Finca El Mato Permacultura” project is declared good practice by the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN – HABITAT) in the 2012 edition (Figure Int.5). It is a program that promotes villages and cities to become socially and environmentally sustainable.
Figure Int.5 – Images of the CEE-FEMP designation as a good practice by HABITAT
As a result of such qualification, island public administrations identified the ADP and its farm as a referral laboratory and center of the LASOS project (Agroecological Laboratory for Sustainability). This is an innovative project that was developed during a workshop in the Finca El Mato Tinto by farmers, researchers and technicians from various areas of the Tenerife Island Town Halls and other public and private entities with the aim to promote, to enhance and to develop agroecology and collaboration networks (Figure Int. 6).
Figure Int.6 – Images of the LASOS project logo and the “ground connection” and co-creation of the project
The Finca El Mato Tinto, headquarter of the ADP, was taken as the referral experience, as the pilot case and inspiration source for the development of the project due to its aims of designing and recovering sustainable agroecological and social activities. An ADP declared of public interest.
The project has been a place where experiences and information are exchanged through the knowhow and the resources of the ADP: training in situ activities, agricultural advisory services, research, dissemination… in order to learn in a shared and cross-sectional way about real cases and to set the action guidelines with the largest range.
The visualization workshops arisen from the “ground connection” with Permaculture were described as the core element in the addressed activities structure of the project (Figure Int. 7).
Figure Int. 7 – Images of one of the LASOS project visualization workshops
These workshops were held through what we call the “ground connection” methodology, which we will talk about in the chapter “Methodology of the PERMIND Training Guide”.