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  • Creating Food Gardens In Syrian IDP Camps using Recycled Water

    Summary Working in three IDP camp sites in A’zaz and Jarablus in Northwest Syria, this pilot project tested the viability of creating vegetable gardens to grow food irrigated in part by harvested rainwater and grey water. Growing plots varied in size from home gardens to community gardens in A’zaz and a school garden in Jarablus. The aims included introducing regenerative strategies to improve food security, mental health and community cohesion. The project started with training events including five successful webinars for our INGO sponsors and the production of a grey water booklet by Soils Lebanon to supplement their food growing guide for training the camp residents to successfully build gardens and grow food. The gardens were successfully established with food grown, harvested and eaten. The gardens were highly popular with camp residents, with many more requests for participation than the pilot could facilitate. The pilot provided for a group of 12 children growing at school, 70 householders gardening outside their homes and 25 gardeners in the community gardens. Bi weekly mentoring visits were undertaken by our partners while Re-Alliance conducted monitoring and evaluation and the production of learning materials including an NGO guide to using harvested rain and grey water. Background Research has shown the benefits of gardening to those living in temporary settlements by providing fresh and nutritious food, meaningful activity, a sense of belonging or home, and feelings of well-being, particularly in the wake of trauma. It has also shown how replenishing soils, creating healthy water cycles, planting trees and minimising waste can have an equally positive impact on both human and ecological health. In areas of limited rainfall and high temperatures, nearly all food crops will need additional irrigation water to supplement rainfall. By identifying and promoting simple, low tech options for capturing and re-using grey water and rain water for irrigation, and creating compost from food waste, growing food can become an accessible option for many households. Impact on Planet Creating vegetable gardens in refugee camps builds healthy soils through composting food wastes and sinking and storing water in the ground, improving the ecological health of the area. Plants encourage pollinating insects, a vital part of animal food webs, which add to the local biodiversity. Using grey water to grow food reduces the amount of waste water which has to be processed, reducing carbon emissions and the pollution associated with waste-disposal. Harvesting rain water holds water within the site and can reduce the damage created by run-off which can pour across sites, further degrading soils and damaging ecosystems. Growing plants is beneficial to supporting healthy water cycles by preventing soil erosion and increasing groundwater levels as well as by releasing water into the air through transpiration. As long as growing methods are organic - avoiding pesticide and fertiliser use and creating compost from local waste foods - growing food can be a carbon positive activity, actively reducing climate change by sequestering carbon in healthy soils and plant life. Impact on People Meaningful activity is an essential part of being a happy and healthy person. Work, whether paid or unpaid, can facilitate positive exchanges between people, strengthening communities, giving purpose, satisfaction and learning as well as a means to provide for basic needs. Many IDPs and refugees are not permitted or able to work, which can further erode the sense of identity that the trauma of becoming displaced can cause. In the absence of paid work, food growing projects can provide meaningful activity with tangible benefits. Designing, planting and tending a garden can create a feeling of home and ownership of place, improving mental health by bringing beauty and life into an otherwise barren and impersonal environment. Eating fresh, homegrown food can improve health and nutrition and allow people to create a taste of home by growing favorite foods that they may not otherwise have access to. Growing food can reduce household spending on food and creating compost from food waste and using grey water can further save money by reducing waste disposal costs. If surplus food is grown, it can also be sold or exchanged to supplement incomes. Sinking and storing rain water and using grey water can reduce the prevalence of standing water, often a breeding ground for waterborne and vector borne diseases, thereby creating healthier environments. Sharing knowledge about how to grow food without inputs in unfamiliar environments where the terrain may be different and the space reduced, will maximize yield for minimum cost. In the Syrian context we discovered that grey water reuse for food growing was commonly practiced before displacement so people were especially keen to start growing again and were innovative in their ideas for grey water reuse. Community gardens can strengthen community cohesion and can also be used to bring host and refugee communities together. School gardens were popular with children because they gave an opportunity to learn about the natural world outside the classroom and build skills for saving water and growing food that they could share with their families and continue at home. Regenerative Impact Root causes of mass migration often have links to climate change, water stress and the conflicts that arise from competing for increasingly scarce natural resources. It is a sad irony that refugee and IDP camps often perpetuate the problems of resource depletion and unsustainable practices in a bid to provide the vital services needed to keep people alive. Water is often trucked into camps and wastes pumped and trucked away, trees can be cut down for firewood and the earth cleared and compacted to make way for shelters and roads. It is, however, possible for human activity to improve and nurture the natural world. This often involves a process of turning ‘wastes’ into resources. Growing food using harvested water gives meaningful activity and nutritious food to people, while creating more beautiful green open spaces, reduces the financial and ecological costs of waste disposal and increases the biological health of the area. A regenerative approach uses planning and good design to make the best use of available resources and minimise the need for expensive inputs brought in from outside. Gardens need water and good soil. Capturing and reusing surplus water and turning organic waste into compost can provide a source of both and reduce the need for safe disposal of these. Scalability Our pilot projects showed that there is a high level of interest and engagement from camp residents to grow their own food and with few inputs gardens can be created and fresh food can be grown. Creating home gardens outside shelters is the easiest to achieve because it requires little land, less community co-ordination and simple water harvesting techniques can be undertaken with available resources. However, the volume of food produced is limited by the amount of land available. To grow at a larger scale requires plots of land to be put aside for community gardens or allotments. This is more easily done at the camp construction phase so that it can be placed alongside community buildings which can provide a supply of harvested grey and rainwater. Approaching the host community or local authorities may provide access to more land, and sharing land can help build relationships between communities, but does require coordination and facilitation. Replicability Promoting and advertising demonstration gardens which can be visited by local residents allows people to learn from others and replicate gardens outside their own shelters. This allows organic growth of ideas and ensures gardens continue to be constructed and maintained beyond the length of the project. What's Next for this Project? As part of the project a guide book was produced to encourage other INGOs to implement food growing projects in camps and settlements using harvested rain and grey water. We are actively looking for partners to trial this guide with please get in contact if you would like to participate. Our partner organisation, Syrian Academic Expertise, have produced a series of podcasts in Arabic to promote food growing within refugee and IDP camps and have been accessed by thousands of listeners. We are anticipating that the food growing projects within the existing camps will be continued and expanded, led by our partners Syrian Academic Expertise. Resources Guidelines for NGOs - Food Growing In Camps and Settlements: Collecting, Storing and Using Rainfall and Grey Water Guidelines for Camp and Settlement Residents - Gardening with Grey and Rain Water Presentations for Webinar Series: The Principles and Foundations of a Regenerative Response See the all the recordings of these webinars on our Youtube playlist:

  • Working with community, and making unpredicted benefits visible

    Picture above: The team from Earth4Ever walk with tribal farmers in the Mandakini Forest. “When we started with the project, we were working toward doing 10 micro-Permaculture projects in the same area. But what happened when we got on the ground, we were surprised that not every farmer was jumping out of their seats saying, ‘Yes, make us a food forest!’. So we had to spread out geographically.” Komal Thakur is telling us about how Earth4Ever’s project has changed over time. We’re speaking at a Regenerosity Peer Learning Circle, hosted online in partnership with Re-Alliance. Regenerosity is a collaboration between the Buckminster Fuller Institute and the Lush Spring Prize, aiming to increase the flow of capital in aid of regeneration. Their Peer Learning Circles were co-designed by Re-Alliance, and are spaces where regenerative practitioners working on Regenerosity funded projects can come together and learn from one another’s experiences. Komal continues, “Each space has such different context and factors. It’s taking us a lot more time to design each space. They’re so different. Going from a rice field, to someone who works on a slope, to a third with a stream that floods three or four feet deep in monsoon season.” Often when organisations design their projects, no matter the amount of careful planning and community consultation that goes into it, things change once you get on the ground. It’s not just problems or challenges that can catalyse changes. Permaculture and other regenerative designs seek to create wide, ripple effects of positive outcomes, often having many unprecedented benefits. Instead of setting rigid project milestones and metrics in the project planning stage, how can we stay open to emergent possibilities, and make visible the unseen benefits of working with complexity? While we were talking, Preeti Virkar, an ecologist and participant in the Peer Learning Circles from Navdanya, had been sketching in her notebook. She had heard Komal’s talk of flooding and sloped land, and offered a solution. Sketch above: Preeti recommended a terraced approach to working with sloped land where lots of water falls. Using swales to slow water, and trees and shrubs on the edges of curves to slow, sink and store water. Preeti told us, “We have a lot of rainfall where I’m from. We plant bananas and other trees to help slow the water. You can also check the slope of the land and open up channels to direct the flow of water.” When you make changes to the land, it affects the environment around you, for better or worse. Aparna Bangia from Earth4Ever told us that when the land is mismanaged, it can create challenges for the whole community. Aparna tells us, “If one farmer channels flooding off their own land, it could simply divert flooding elsewhere and to more farms. Or if one farmer sprays harsh chemicals on their crops, it can create soil degradation and biodiversity loss in surrounding farms too.” Contrarily, when farmers start growing organically and stop using chemicals on their land, it can create tension in other farmers who believe it could bring pests or disease to the area. Working at community level, rather than simply engaging with one or two farmers in the community, can create huge benefits and help to avoid wider land mismanagement. Arnima from Tarun Bharat Sangh explained their method. Tarun Bharat Sangh are known for creating large water harvesting structures in dry Rajasthan, transforming whole landscapes to luscious green. “We hold water design meetings. The whole community are invited and involved. We show them how this rainwater harvesting structure will affect their farms, and how each farmer can interact with it.” Regeneration is not just a set of techniques. It invites us to learn from nature’s patterns and traditional wisdom. For many, this can mean challenging and unlearning some of the ways we engage with other people and the land, reshaping ways of thinking. Changes like that seem easier when you bring your community along with you. Regenerative farmers are no longer outliers if the whole community is involved. So how can we create space for transformations needed at community level? Preeti offered an example of how demonstration can create real change. “On one side of the road, there was one farmer growing traditional varieties of cotton, grown organically and in a biodiverse system. On the other side of the road was a farmer growing BT Cotton, with pesticides, and in a monocrop. And when there were adverse and changing weather conditions, the BT Cotton was infested with pests and many of the farmer’s crops failed, but the farmer growing in a biodiverse way had a healthy, abundant harvest.” After seeing these impacts, the farmer who used pesticides was eager to learn more and change practises. It’s a story we hear repeated in many contexts: seeing the tangible effects of regenerative approaches can be transformational. And it’s often not the metrics on a piece of paper that will change minds, but hearing stories from fellow farmers or seeing the abundance of positive effects oneself. What would it look like to create space for this emergence in the way we design our projects, and the way that we report? --- Re-Alliance hosts online learning spaces about Regeneration. We can also work with foundations and organisations to design monitoring and evaluation solutions that integrate regenerative principles. If this is something you are interested in, please email us for a consultation and quote at

  • To all those considering our future, at COP26 and beyond

    This open letter was collaboratively written by the Lush Spring Prize community, at the week of events in October 2021. Art © Rosanna Morris, 2021 “Everybody is saying, ‘we'll do this, we'll do that’. But there's nothing, just words floating in the air. We need not just words, but also actions.” Jimmy Yumbo, young forest defender, Sacha Kuyrana, Ecuador To all those considering our future, at COP26 and beyond, We are writing to you from five different continents as those working to repair the earth’s damaged systems. We ask you - as world leaders, as policy makers, as those concerned for our climate - to take heed of the work of regenerators from so many different movements: Indigenous land defenders, peasant farmers, agroecologists, permaculture practitioners, natural builders, food sovereignty activists, and more. “To take care of our planet, we cannot work in silos, we have to work together.” Aznani, Education for Climate Action for Peace Dominant conversations about climate change have often been reduced to focusing on carbon alone or looking towards high-tech solutions that may not be technologically viable, or may even continue to fuel the crisis further. Yet, the human, ecological and climate crises we face are connected and intersecting - and therefore need holistic solutions. Regeneration invites us to think systemically. It means paradigms and practices that take a whole-systems approach to solving problems; looking at all the intersecting threads of our cultures, and restoring health, wholeness and resilience throughout. As we wait for the COP26 agreements, the rights and wellbeing of all Life, human and non-human, must be at the forefront of our decisions. We ask: what would the future look like if we saw human civilization as part of nature rather than separate from the whole? “It is time to focus on equitable education, sanitation, housing and healthcare in the Global South and the restructuring and redistribution of resources from the Global North based on a national and global economy. One that does not systemically exceed our upper ecological limits nor descend below an unacceptable quality of life.” Guy Ritani, PermaQueer We are asking for a just transition into a world where planetary care, human care, care for wildlife, and equitable distribution and access to resources are central tenets. We know that what this looks like in different contexts will always be unique. Regeneration must therefore also be embedded in the approach, in the process. It must be collaborative, it must come from the voices of people. It must be embedded in the communities from which it emerges. Otherwise, it is colonialism in disguise. “The solutions lie deep in our cultures, in the way we work to connect with our ancestral wisdom.” Simon Mitambo, African Biodiversity Network Practitioners from our intersecting movements have worked on the fringes of society for too long. They’ve been excluded from conversations. They’ve been killed for what we stand up for. We need to give platforms to those who have been historically marginalised or left out of policy conversations. Indigenous and First Nations communities; small holder farmers; communities from the Global South; those affected by climate disaster and conflict; refugees and displaced people; young people. These voices are important to listen to as, in the words of Kenyan Peasants’ League, “no one mourns more than the bereaved;” or of PermaQueer, “The failings of our systems are never more known than by those who they have failed.” Only by listening to such perspectives can true change emerge. There are narratives for a better future, and they’re coming from the margins. When we give space to listen and hear these communities, unique and innovative solutions will emerge. Many of these solutions are already being practiced all around the world. Now is the time to elevate the voices of regenerative practitioners and showcase a better world that is possible. Incredible, innovative solutions already exist, but they need funding, support, and voice. This letter is therefore an invitation to listen to our unique voices and hear what we are saying, the solutions we understand, the strength we are holding - embedded in experience, in culture and in place. Signed by: The Lush Spring Prize Community, including: Re-Alliance Anna Clayton, Ethical Consumer, UK Francesca de la Torre, Ethical Consumer, UK James Atherton, Lush Ltd, UK Maria Anchundia, Sacha Kuyrana, Ecuador Ahmed Sourani, Gaza Urban & Peri-urban Agriculture Platform (GUPAP), Palestine Simon Mitambo, African Biodiversity Network and Society for Alternative Learning and Transformation Eskender Mulugeta, Food Secured Schools Africa, Ethiopia Teodora Borghoff, Timișoara Community Foundation, Romania Lewis Mashingaidze, Fambidzanai, Zimbabwe Norani Abu Bakar, Education for Climate Action for Peace, Malaysia Coral Herencia. Fundación Cuidemos Paraísos. Chile. Guy Ritani & Toad Dell, PermaQueer, Australia Jessie Doyle, Lush Ltd, Ireland, Georgina McAllister, Centre for Agroecology, Water & Resilience, Coventry University. AgroecologyNow! Cidi Otieno David, Kenyan Peasants League Ola Tom Lakere, Youth In Permaculture Prize judge 2021, Permayouth Kitgum, Uganda Jackie Kearney, Re-Alliance Filipa Pimentel, Transition Network Faith Flanigan, Regenerosity & the Buckminster Fuller Institute Anna Andrade, Regenerosity Amanda Joy Ravenhill, Buckminster Fuller Institute Ego Lemos, Permaculture Timor-Leste (Permatil) John Macharia, SCOPE Kenya Monique Wambui, SCOPE Kenya Gideon Mawenge, The Marginalised Mirror, Namibia Kanghi Kayapri, Associação Centro de Cultura Sabuká Kariri Xocó, Brazil Tah Kennette Konsum, Mount Oku Center for Gender and Socioeconomic Empowerment, Cameroon Tomás de Lara, Ciudades+B / Cities Can B, Brazil. Sarah Queblatin, Green Releaf, Philippines Josie Redmonds, Malawi Schools Permaculture Clubs Bianca Elzenbaumer, Comunità Frizzante, Italy Maria Inés Cuj, Instituto Mesoamericano de Permacultura, Guatemala Anne Rammi, Be The Earth Foundation “It is time to have less talk and have more actions toward biodiversity regeneration. The future of the young people is much more important as that of the current generation.” John Macharia, SCOPE Kenya “Gostariamos de pedir que fizéssemos exercícios de humildade, percebendo que a raiz de nossos problemas é a ambição”. "We would like to ask you to do exercises in humility, realising that the root of our problems is ambition" Kanghi Kayapri, Associação Centro de Cultura Sabuká Kariri Xocó, Brazil “What did Africa get from the aid sector? What did we get from all these things sent to us constantly for the past five or six decades? In my view, we did not get much. Not much has changed.” Eskender Mulugeta, Food Secured Schools Africa “In the Amazon here, we have oil exploitation causing so much harm, deforesting big areas of land. My family members are joining forces to not allow oil companies to come in and deforest.” María Anchundia, young forest defender, Sacha Kuyrana, Ecuador "Resguardar social, ecológica y legalmente los principales ecosistemas de la Tierra - Biosfera- es fundamental para garantizar la posibilidad de un mundo sano para nuestras generaciones venideras." “Protecting socially, ecologically and legally the main ecosystems of the Earth - Biosphere - is essential to guarantee the possibility of a healthy world for our future generations.” Fundación Cuidemos Paraísos, Chile “En nuestro país el 85% de la tierra está ocupada por grandes fincas de caña de azúcar y palma aceitera y acceder a tierra por parte de familias productoras es muy difícil. Actualmente personas defensoras están siendo criminalizadas por defender el derecho humano y el agua.” “In our country, 85% of the land is occupied by large sugar cane and oil palm farms and access to land by producer families is very difficult. Defenders are currently being criminalized for defending human rights and water.” Instituto Mesoamericano de Permacultura IMAP - Guatemala “A voice from the global south, I bring along our griefs perpetuated by climate change. I urge you - the leaders gathering at COP26 - to act swiftly...The multiple crises our generation faces today requires understanding from a holistic perspective, that is only if you take us, the victims, seriously!” Ola Tom Lakere, Permayouth Kitgum, Uganda “Indigenous knowledge has been naturally supporting the maintainance of the world climate, in the efforts to roll back the effects through mitigation and in to engage in adaptation, more resources should be allocated to these communities and Indigenous practices at the grassroots level" Tah Kennette Konsum, Mount Oku Center for Gender and Socioeconomic Empowerment ‘We are curing ourselves while curing the earth’ Wafa Hossain The Blue Ribbon Global “When there is no peace among the people, our planet and the environment will be destroyed” Aznani Zakaria, Education for Climate Action for Peace "It is time to honour ancestral and feminine-led knowledge into building resilient solutions based on care, nurturing and community. Women's life experiences in communities all around the globe are intrinsically connected to the environment. They are the ones collecting water, growing food and finding fuel. And also they are the ones whose lives are most impacted when crises arise. It is time that our leaders understand the meaning of environmental justice also from the female perspective." Anne Rammi, Be The Earth Foundation “The global South has been heavily affected by climate change, urgency and innovations are needed in improving adaptability and promoting sustainable use of limited resources by smallholder farmers whilst increasing the carbon sequestration”. Lewis Mashingaidze, Fambidzanai "I ask everyone here today, how would you decorate your home? Would you have your home full of colour, full of life? Or full of darkness? Well, our planet is our home, and we are destroying it. The solutions are there. Sometimes the scale of the crisis can tear you down and leave you feeling helpless. But even the longest essay starts with a single word. There is no moving out of this beautiful home, this perfect home. We've got to bring out the mops, and get this home back in order." Maria Chan - UCSI School (Teens4CAP Participant) "Participar en la regeneración Bio-Cultural de la Tierra es un gran compromiso que debemos asumir con acción prosolutiva, esperanza, convicción y valentía, aplicando Soluciones Basadas en la Naturaleza y recuperando la ciencia y sabiduría antigua." "Participating in the Bio-Cultural regeneration of the Earth is a great commitment that we must assume with prosolutive action, hope, conviction and courage, applying Nature-Based Solutions and recovering ancient science and wisdom." Fundación Cuidemos Paraísos, Chile

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  • | Re-Alliance

    Now accepting applications for small grants, for implementing Regenerative projects in Camps and Settlements . Close

  • Regenerative Design in Humanitarian Response and Development | Re-Alliance

    Supporting the humanitarian and development sectors to implement regenerative change. A Coalition Bringing together field practitioners, policy makers, educators, community leaders and humanitarian and development workers. Sharing skills and experiences to grow the influence and impact of regeneration in the humanitarian and development sectors. About What is Re-Alliance? What is Re-Alliance? Who are the members of the international network? Find out about our origins, and the work we do. Find out more Articles Learnings from the field Read about regeneration in practice from many of our partners around the world. Read More Videos Videos and webinars Hear directly from regenerative practitioners, through our videos, member profiles and webinars. Watch Play Video Share Whole Channel This Video Facebook Twitter Pinterest Tumblr Copy Link Link Copied Now Playing What is Re-Alliance? 02:32 Play Video Now Playing Re-Alliance | Why Regenerative Design? 02:22 Play Video Now Playing Re-Alliance | What is Regeneration? 01:34 Play Video Join our membership As part of our network, whether a grassroots practitioner or a member of an international NGO or Aid organisation, you will have access to dynamic knowledge, a vibrant and active community of experts, and a wealth of opportunities for collaboration. Our membership is open to all. The only requirements are an interest, understanding or expertise in regenerative design, experience in the humanitarian and/or development sectors, and a willingness to comply with our code of conduct and policies. Find out more 6 min Creating Food Gardens In Syrian IDP Camps using Recycled Water Growing Food in Camps & Settlements using grey water and harvested rainwater has multiple benefits; enriching lives and the environment. Sign up for our newsletters For inspiring stories from our network of practitioners around the globe, to learning about how to integrate regenerative design into humanitarian and development contexts, sign up to our newsletter below. Sign up OUR FOCUS • Building a body of successful projects to communicate the effectiveness, authenticity, and value of regenerative work • Providing an environment for mutual learning and support amongst those active in the field • Facilitating the collection, production, and presentation of evidence and stories from the field • Examining the intersection between the humanitarian and development fields, promoting innovative, community-led regenerative principles and practices Creating Food Gardens In Syrian IDP Camps using Recycled Water Working with community, and making unpredicted benefits visible To all those considering our future, at COP26 and beyond See Services

  • Team1

    Team Members Re-Alliance UK/International Re-Alliance is an alliance of over 100 regenerative organisations and practitioners throughout the world. Read More Organisation Location Short bio Read More Green World Campaign Location Short bio Read More Organisation Location Short bio Read More Growing Real Food for Nutrition Location Short bio Read More Green Relief Initiative Philippines DRR beyond Disaster Risk Reduction through Design for Resilience and Regeneration Read More

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