How Permaculture Can Respond to the Refugee Crisis

IPC Refugee Working Group
Friday, 25th September 2015

At the International Permaculture Convergence in England in September 2015 an international group of experienced permaculture practitioners led by Rosemary Morrow met over a four day period to discuss the refugee crisis. They explored in depth how the permaculture movement and communities could respond in practical and positive ways.

“The world’s refugee crisis is merely a symptom of a more profound problem: the world’s tendency to ignore the human tragedies that produce refugees.” 

- The Conversation, September 16, 2015 4.46am BST Ahrarol J. Ingram, ANU

Permaculturists are especially well placed to welcome and support refugees because of our principles and knowledge over a wide range of fields and disciplines… and we are everywhere. We understand the civil and environmental conditions that force citizens to leave their homes. We believe that we have some solutions for these and are willing to be active.

The following is both a strategy and a plan for a workshop that can be run in your community. It is immensely empowering for all participants. It is easy. Take each heading and ask participants to put down their thoughts and knowledge - very concretely, specifying people and places they know of. Take these ideas as a guide not as a rule. 

You will have an excellent plan at the end of the process. Work out who will do what. Ensure people opt in where they feel they really have something to offer and want to contribute.

Our goal: Plans of Action 

To come up with a document which can be used by any permaculturists anywhere in the world as a basis for developing their own plans of action. 

They can then make it their own with local information and what is supplied here can be deleted or added to. 

We combined all the groups suggestions to achieve this. 

What we did 

Participants from many countries and all continents came together to workshop a document that can be used as a skeleton or framework for engaging with refugees in many situations. 

We divided into groups according to general patterns such as Africa, Europe, Australasia, and the Americas. Each group worked and reported separately. 

Then Engaging with Refugees was also a topic for the Next Big Step session as the convergence for all participants.

‘No one leaves home’ writes Kenyan born Somali poet Warsan Shire, ‘unless home is the mouth of a shark’. ‘No one puts their children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land’.

Building Understanding 

Who are our refugee friends? 

We drew up profiles of the people likely to come to our countries and regions. 

• countries 

• languages 

• skills 

• occupations 

• ages 

• customs 

Basic attitudes and understanding 

• Refugees always leave home involuntarily. It is frightening and uncertain 

• Refugees are immensely grateful for homes, support and friendship 

• Building relationships are key to our approaches 

We took two main questions: 

• How can we prepare? 

• How can we support them through the stages of movement and resettlement? 

How can we prepare? 

We divided the needs and possible overtures we could make fitted the following situations. 

Emergency: On the Road in very makeshift camps 

Arrival in camps 

Recovery: Long term camps and internment 

Housing in communities 

Return home: Safety, support and preparation 

How can we support them through the stages of movement and resettlement? 

We made lists of possible activities and actions to fit these situations. 

The lists are guides only and not prescriptive.

A. EMERGENCY PREPARATION in your locality 

Accept and Listen 

• Links with churches and faith groups and all other organisations 

• Manage zenophobia 

• Locate people already resident from that country already resident. 

• Find secure and safe places – if people are entering the community 

• Identify and prepare to access immediate needs 

• Events and activities: theatre and music, schools, plan to skills of refugees 

• Awareness to the wider community 

- Let people know in advance the realities of the situation 

• Construction materials 

• Upskill key people first aid, language, water purification etc 

• Communication and leadership 

Partner recognition – groups 

• Team building 

• Put up welcoming signs on every permaculture project 

• Ask your permaculture association what they’d like to do 

• Ask LGA Mayors to declare a ‘refugee friendly' LGA. 

• Learn some language – at least greetings 

• Disaster planning 

• Overview heirarchy of needs 

• Water, alternatives to bottled 

• Shelter and food 

• Find out where refugees are/will be housed 

• Communication 

• Find translators 

• Observe and interact 

• Combine efforts 


Visit when they stop 

• Ask what’s needed 

• Offer realistic assessment of what is ahead of them 

• Help with translations 

• Offer simple drinks, medications 

• Offer phonecalls, updates, weather reports 

• Make purchases and meet necessities 

• Offer quietness and calm 

C. ON ARRIVAL: TRANSITION PHASE in camps or communities 

Assist with basics and meet specific needs 

Create trust, learning and restorative opportunities 

• Tea, cake, chocolate 

• Registration

• Lost and found and connecting

• Accommodation

• Activate water, food, energy, communication, health plans

• Occupy through your teams for local and refugee populations

• and give tasks for work groups

• Meet cultural needs

• Sort immediate needs for health, hygiene, death, training and communications

• Translations

• Help with communication back to homes and family

• Celebrate

• Longer term develop learning about everything and skills for work

• Run short courses such as AVP and cultural expectations


All camps to be productive, learning and restorative centres

Adapt all camp activities if released into communities


• Courses in camps

• Make connexions before people take off from camps 

• Buy land 

• Melanesia – buying land in Fiji

• See potential

• Refugee Support Associations

• All projects to be refugee friendly

• Bike repair etc.

• Integrate all refugees into local groups eg music, arts, trades, professional 

• Invite people to your home


• Support in designing and retrofitting housing

• Assist NGOs with outputs and inputs

• Ask what they need – identify elements

• People care

• Clowns

• Sharing food

• Language and pc training.

• Involve permaculture graduates

• Build friendships


• Offer books, food, addresses, small gifts

• Possibly go with them

• Help them design a life that is better than it was physically and mentally - permaculture

• Stay connected

Conference group worked with these questions

• How do we become more effective in working with refugees?

• What do we need to do?

How to be more effective in working with refugees?

• Connect with refugee networks at home and in other countries

• Get involved through shared living or activities

• Be positive and get the message out

• Alternatives to Violence and provide protection

• Learn refugee human rights and share them

What do we need to do?

• Teach/foster skills/knowledge to generate income

• Engage and work with refugees

• Permaculture training

• Make a letterhead for a group support (the government doesn’t know how big you are)

• Put the message out ‘we are refugee friendly’

• Be visible and develop posters

• Connect with others who want to help

• Invite refugees to your homes and projects

Rosemary Morrow is one of the Grandmothers of the Permaculture Movement. She has focussed her work in Afghanistan, Uganda, East Timor, Solomon Islands, Vietnam and other places where disease, war and climatic disasters have created people of greatest need. Her unique perspective on permaculture for refugees is explored in this short video filmed during her Teacher Training at Applewood Permaculture Centre in the UK in the summer of 2015.

video : Dana Wilson 

envoy : Delvin Solkinson

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Angel211 |
Wed, 04/10/2017 - 17:59
Permaculture magazine is working so well and raise voice for the refugees. It is good to know that this magazine is working for the poor people with and try to do help for the refugees. The condition of the refugees is not good and need help.
Angel211 |
Wed, 18/10/2017 - 11:22
There are lots of people who leave their country for the different purpose and need help and want shelter. The problem of the refugee increases day by day because there is no country to help and understand the problem of the refugee but this website is the best option. Overall, this is very article to understand the problem of the refugee.