How Permaculture is Rebuilding Italy after the Earthquake

Lorenzo Costa
Friday, 28th October 2016

In 2016, Italy was hit by 2 earthquakes. Permaculture has been vital in rebuilding the affected communities, their homes, businesses and lives, creating resilient systems against future disasters.

This is an article I write as an indirect contribution to a project I value and feel strongly.

On the 24th August 2016, the central Appennine Regions of Italy were struck by a devastating earthquake, the epicenter was between the towns of Norcia and Amatrice. There were 298 dead and over 30,000 displaced.

The region affected by the earthquake is a mountainous area, with countless small hamlets and isolated houses. There are many small farms, producing vegetables, cheese and meat that have been severely hit by the event.

The situation in front of the associations that launched the project was this: vast area, a considerable number of material damages to structures (houses, stables and barns), small productive realities that have had in many cases its selling markets wiped out, and incoming winter, we’re speaking of an altitude that goes from 650 to 1000 meters, so cold winters.

The project is one of a kind, for the first time in Italy a group of different associations has put together an emergency grassroots response of this dimension. The project was launched by Reseda Charity association, the Italian Institute of Permaculture (IIP) and Transition Italy. But more associations are stepping up and contributing directly.

What was the idea at the base of this project? Put in to practice what permaculture teaches to us, starting from its ethics and principles, and out of the bureaucratic governments channels assist directly the small farms that needed help immediately. The State doesn’t understand the fact that many don’t want to leave their farms even if the structures are severely damaged because the animals would be abandoned to themselves. The standard State response is to move everyone to basecamps far from their homes, leaving all that is deemed as unnecessary: vegetable gardens, orchards and animals are in this category.

The first impact with the consequences of the earthquake were seen, and imprinted in the eyes, by the first volunteers from Reseda that were the 24th of August in Amatrice. I sensed the emotional distress in Roberto Salustri from Reseda the days after he came back from Amatrice.

The project from then evolved quickly, and IIP, with coordinator Pietro Zucchetti, got on board immediately, along with Transition Italy. The different expertise of every person involved: architects, engineers, farmers, any expertise, under the umbrella of permaculture ethics and principles, has been put to work. This is the strength of the idea, bringing together different practical knowledge to help those in need.

For now the project has been organized with missions on the field every weekend from the 24th of September, with some volunteers that stay on the field permanently. The steps have been: first to map out the people that needed immediate help, prioritizing the needs in a scale of emergency. Then passing to action.

Rebuilding temporary stables, sheds for the animal feed, installing photovoltaic panels and distributing hay and feed for the animals, have been the first direct actions. The incoming winter poses the emergency of helping the animals that are in danger of dying from cold or hunger.

While I’m writing this article, the latest mission is distributing: 24 big round strawbales, a 100 kilos of grain, 900 kilos of maize, a small inverter, and 15 meters of corrugated sheets, directly donated or bought through donations that people from every part of Italy are sending in.

A parallel phase has been to help the farmers sell their produce. Last week a van full of potatoes, beans, some honey and corn headed to Rome. All the products are going to be sold and help the producers earn some money, since losing their local markets.

Another path that Transition Italy is following is to help volunteers and those living the emergency cope with the distress and manage reconstruction. Transition Italy is organizing a course on emergency management from the 18-22nd of November (more info here: The course expenses for those coming from the area of the earthquake will be covered by the project Amatrice 2.0.

The overall aim of the project is to help people restore their lives, and take permaculture design directly to practice. The normal emergency intervention the State organizes is to divide communities into small camps dispersed and far from their houses. Instead the project has the idea to keep communities close, helping them directly in place. The first intervention will be to help people live through the incoming winter, and then rebuild. Reconstructing the small communities with resilience, with an improvement to the local food production system, rebuilding the farms sustainably, and installing solar panel systems to the isolated hamlets bringing direct energy to the population.

This is a long journey but we can’t practice permaculture and not be ready to intervene.

What do we need to sustain this project:

Direct volunteering - to participate contact: [email protected] – Tel. +39069364170

Donations to Reseda Onlus, referring to Project Amatrice 2.0, IBAN: IT87J0895138900000000101153 – SWIFT ICRA IT RRQF 0

The partners of the project are:

RESEDA onlus, ecocooperativa solidale

Istituto Italiano Permacultura

Transition Town

Permacultura & Transizione online magazine

Tecnologie per l’autonomia

Prof. Andrea Micangeli – Università “La Sapienza di Roma”

Associazione Postribù Onlus

The web page of the project:

The Facebook group: 

We will try to translate in English some of the articles on the web page to help information and understanding.

“If ants agree on acting together they can move an elephant” (proverb from Burkina faso), this is what the project “Amatrice 2.0 the sun after the storm” is telling us.

Useful links on disaster relief

Building resilience after earthquakes

How permaculture is proving a vital tool in disaster relief

How permaculture can respond to the refugee crisis