DIG and volunteer for permaculture access

In July 2017 the Australian Volunteers for International Development program provided 20 Disability Initiative Grants (DIG) for NGOs in ten countries across the Indo-Pacific region. Australian volunteers are working in far flung places to promote equal opportunity, capacity building and collaboration on disability-inclusive development.

One of the four projects funded by DIG across Indonesia went to Yayasan IDEP Selaras Alam. IDEP attracted this Australian Government support to build an assisted access path to the permaculture demonstration site at Kemenuh in Sukawati, Bali.

People come to IDEP Foundation from all over the world to learn about permaculture and how we can live in harmony with nature. Even though IDEP has an 18 year history serving Indonesia, this demonstration site is relatively new, a little over a year. Already IDEP have built an organic seed production garden, a training centre, a composting area, a nursery and seed dryer facility and an office. The topography of IDEP’s HQ is sloping eastward to the edge of the cliff on the Petanu River in Kemenuh, Sukawati, with morning sunshine drenching the garden bordered by grass fields. From time to time, during rainy seasons the access tracks to the garden become muddy and difficult to navigate. The purpose of the garden is to demonstrate the principles of permaculture for all people who want to learn.  

For some permaculture students from Cahaya Mutiara Foundation (CMF) who visited in 2016  the lesson was worthwhile but not easy. Cahaya Mutiara Foundation is a disabled people’s organisation established by and for people with disabilities. They foster and build resilience by collaborating, accepting each other and striving to rise above circumstances to inspire others. IDEP was inspired by the CMF participants and their abilities, despite them having multiple challenges.

(participants from CMF at IDEP in 2016 with Komang Sri Mahayuni, IDEP Foundation’s Program Coordinator)

To access the permaculture training in 2016 CMF friends from CMF needed to be carried from the parking lot to the education centre - leaving their chairs behind, others got their wheels stuck in the mud and couldn’t easily move around to explore the nursery, garden plots and composters. IDEP wanted to provide the training in a way that promotes dignity for these people who seek to inspire others with their independence everywhere they go.

The obvious physical barriers to accessing the garden were fairly obvious and easily overcome with help from others but we all agreed it is not the best situation. A better solution would be to clear the mud track and make a smooth pathway. Building the path also presented a barrier of finding the money. Creating disability access has always been a part of the 10 year garden development plan but progress is incremental, relying on generous donors and income from IDEPs social enterprise Seed Bank.

When the opportunity to apply for funding was promoted by the Australian Government, the current AVID volunteer, Paula worked with IDEP to plan and build the path together.

(Paula Dickson, Australian Volunteer, standing on the new path built by IDEP through the help of a Disability Initiative Grant)

Learning with IDEP at the permaculture site gave CMF participants skills and knowledge that they needed to plan an organic garden of their own at their site in Tampaksiring in 2017.

IDEP staff popped in to see our friends at CMF, arriving just before lunch on a sunny Thursday morning. An awe-inspiring crew of 8 people, independently and collectively working in their own permaculture garden. During the visit Paula chatted with Stefan, another Australian Volunteer who is based at CMF. Stefan explained that the CMF ‘family’ are very proud of the work they have done to establish their garden, not only has it given them new skills, it has also reduced the cost of their meal programs, using vegetables in the kitchen, saving some of their products especially for the seeds to make the garden sustainable. Stefan is currently helping CMF build a waste-water system to reduce their water consumption and increase the supply for their garden.

(Australian Volunteer Stefan, building the waste-water system at Cahaya Mutiara Foundation)

As a friend of Yayasan IDEP, CMF inspire us and we continue to learn from each other. Work on the assisted access path continues at the IDEP site with a planned opening in October 2017 to coincide with the next permaculture training course.

To get involved, connect with IDEP on facebook or twitter or come get your hands dirty any Friday morning at community garden day.