Permaculture Works in Chile

Together with the Ecovillage Movement

Chile has always been a hotbed of revolution, starting from the Mapuche resisting Spanish occupation for some 400 years. Today we see a young generation with fire in their bellies and dreams of a sustainable future, waking from decades of repression, a generation taking on the powers that be in subversive acts of peace, love and a solutions-based response. Permaculture and ecovillages are two practices that they are taking into the future, says Grifen Hope.

The Permaculture community of Chile was born in the 1980’s as a means of simply improving the quality of life for Chileans living under a 'shock therapy' political regime. During the 1990’s, there was a seeming lull in permaculture practice, and then in the early 2000’s, somewhat of a renaissance with Chileans and ex-pats from around America emerging from an era of oppression, and looking for new models and metaphors of change. In 2008 a new generation of permaculture thinkers and 'doers' set out to create a Chileno Permaculture Institute. We have come a long way since.

The Chileno Permaculture Institute is not an institute of any one big name, but a collective enterprise of mutual benefit for win-win-win solutions. This has not been particularly easy, in fact it has been wrought with conflict, and even attacks from inside Chile’s green networks. However we have resisted and prevailed.

In the last five years, Permaculture in Chile has undergone a metamorphosis, emerging as a highly connected complex community, busily and quietly empowering thousands of people in almost every region of the country, and inspiring many hundreds more around the South American continent.

With the best wishes of founding patron David Holmgren, the support of the Permaculture Research Institute, Gaia University and the Transition Network we have moulded the permaculture framework and made it our own, a locally adapted regenerative design science, an 'un-discipline', where design is the way to co-create the world through conversation - a ubiquitous human activity transforming culture and leading to change in our lived-in worlds. 

A Learning Network
With more than five hundred certified permaculture activists, the word, and the learning community of people who embody it, are well known in Chile. Increasingly, municipal government, community groups, schools, families and businesses are looking for our training, expertise and support.
In March of this year the Instituto Chileno de Permacultura (IChPc) formalised itself as a legal association, a national professional body representing the bioregional networks of the Atacama, Maipo, Aconcagua, O’Higgins, Maule, Bio Bio, Araucanía, Los Ríos y Los lagos catchments. 

Bearing Fruits
Collectively we have stimulated a natural construction movement that has built many healthy low cost homes around the country following the earthquake of 2010. Through our own work with seeds, a heritage variety seed bank with more than 300 local varieties now exists, with a rapidly growing free seed movement. Among hundreds of small urban gardens and large farm systems we are producing locally grown food for hundreds of families. 

As our professionalism increases, so does the viability of a career pathway here, and now a number of workers co-operatives have formed. One, Los Juncos, at this very moment is implementing Chiles first indigenous 'keyline' design. 

This year sees the IChP formalizing its relationships with the Ecovillage movement for us to provide consultancy and education services to local governments as they test out forms of participatory democracy again. We are being contracted by universities around the country to provide permaculture training as part of formal university curricula. And this is just the tip of the iceberg!

Key Factors
Since its launch in 2008, the Chileno Permaculture Diploma system has operated as a project and professional incubator, empowering more than one hundred people to improve their professional permaculture practice. The system has woven a network of learning that continues to subtly lift the level of permaculture design practice in Chile. 

This has led to an explosion in the number and quality of local centres providing training events in all fields of permaculture. A quick search on Google will reveal many of them. These centres operate as a living university, a community of teachers and learners seeking resilient lifestyles, connecting their communities, researching, innovating and consulting in sustainable living. 

We have stirred an informal education system that now offers hundreds of courses and workshops throughout the year, and now, with Gaia U Latina, are offering accredited diploma bachelor and master’s degrees in Regenerative Design.

Common Sense
Permaculture strikes a chord with Chilenos, not as something new, but as a re-organisation of something we all sense, a re-awakening common sense that has been all but lost; a reminder that we are ultimately responsible for making the world we live in.

Chile has always been a hotbed of revolution, with the Mapuche resisting Spanish occupation for some 400 years. Neither is it a mistake that Maturana, Varela, Altieri, Maxneef, and Razeto - who have all in some small part indirectly contributed some of the basic ideas to the permaculture framework - are from Chile.

These, and many other leaders, have set a platform for our youth. With a fire in their bellies and dreams of a sustainable future, waking from decades of repression, a generation here is taking on the powers that be in subversive acts of peace, love and a solutions based response.

We look forward to many more years as Permaculture Chile matures and settles into the long road towards Chile 2021.

More information Javiera Carrión [email protected]

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17.06.2013