Acting as a central information and resource hub to educate and support eco-focused farmers all over the globe, the International Permaculture Education Network (IPEN) dreams of facilitating a more sustainable way of life for its members and collectively enhancing our planet’s prospects. It’s this generosity of spirit and focus on freedom of information that saw IPEN scoop £20,000 in funding, as a 2018 Lush Spring Prize Young Projects Award winner, gifted to especially inspiring projects of between one and five years.
Although the group has big plans for big change, IPEN is still in its infancy, born out of an idea that emerged at the 12th International Permaculture Convergence (IPC) in London, 2015, when experienced permaculture tutors from across the world considered the question of how to increase the coherence and effectiveness of permaculture education globally.
Members of the UK Permaculture Association then turned the idea into the IPEN project. The following year, IPEN completed the first international survey of permaculture teachers to identify priority areas for action. In 2017 it secured seed funding, launched webpages to make resources more widely available, supported courses for development workers to emerge, aided working groups, and created new networks. By 2019 IPEN aims to become an independent organisation in its own right.
Permaculture is the design science of practical farming techniques that work with nature rather than against it. Its ethics are earth care, people care and fair share.
Preaching the benefits of working with nature, not against it, Steve Charter, joint IPEN coordinator, says the main agenda of the organisation is to support, enhance, and accelerate the development of permaculture education and teachers, rather than seeking to regulate or manage them.
IPEN’s support is global, but according to Steve it concentrates its activities on areas where it can make the greatest improvements to peoples’ lives, communities and local environments and where lifestyles have the greatest impact on climate and resources.
“The main beneficiaries of IPEN’s activities will be learners, educators and permaculture pioneers, particularly those whose main language is not English,” Steve explains. “The intention is that tutors and students will benefit from better access to a wider range of higher quality learning materials and local examples; a common pool of key resources and assets for teaching and learning. Where permaculture is less established, pioneers will benefit from better support and examples of how people have succeeded elsewhere.”
The growth of permaculture has steadily increased over last 30 years, particularly in the last decade, and although there are exceptions this has been predominantly witnessed in English speaking countries, primarily in the developed world.
“There is a need for a lot of translation work to be done,” Steve continues. “Both into different languages and for a range of different cultural situations.”
Steve’s says winning the Young Projects Award will go a long way to helping the group achieve that aim, as well as completing objectives planned for the next two years.
“We will address priorities in permaculture education, such as new core courses, teaching training and diploma systems where they do not exist already. We also plan to create a website that gives easier access to resources, and to improve collaboration and networking between educators.”
What’s more, Steve says approximately 50% of the funds will be used to support demonstration permaculture projects, which he hopes will benefit thousands in the short term, and potentially millions in the long term.
To stay up to date with IPEN’s progress visit www.permaculture.org.uk/ipen
The Lush Spring Prize, hosted by Lush and co-operative Ethical Consumer Research Association, offers a £200,000 prize fund and other support activities, to help projects around the world that are working towards environmental and social regeneration.
Regeneration illustrations by David McMillan.