Cyprus – A point of attraction for so many conquerors throughout the centuries. A gem many wanted to posses for its strategic placement and the abundance of fossil wealth present on the island. Nevertheless, copper and gold weren’t the only precious commodities in Cyprus in the old times.

DSC_8999There’s a part of our island’s natural history only known by a few: Cyprus used to be covered from top to bottom by a wealth of vegetation. From high up Troodos mountains, all the way down to the coasts, Cyprus used to be covered by trees – lush and diverse forests primarily consisting of Cyprus oak – now known as Syrian oak, since for centuries now it has been extinct from Cyprus.

Why is it that we allowed a couple of centuries of intense deforestation patterns, and now, degenerative agriculture practices, lead our island towards environmental exhaustion?

What happened to that diverse paradise and why is the image we have today for Cyprus, more of a dryland, inevitably heading towards desertification?

Well, these questions and many more that trouble us regarding the future of our land and our wellbeing on it, drove us to design and bring to life, a specialized PDC: A Permaculture Design Course specifically targeted towards achieving dryland resilience and abundance in today’s Cyprus desert conditions.

 

The 11-day course took place at the newly operated ATSAS training center, up on the quite village of Skouriotissa, nearby Eyrychou. The course was attended by fourteen full-time students and several part-time participants, attending the open daily modules on soil, water and trees. With training and expertise ranging all the way from chemical engineers, finance, business and computer consultants to visual artists and music producers, the group was highly diverse and demonstrated yet one more time how diversity can bring stability.

The course was lead by experienced permaculture designer and teacher, Nicolas Netien, the manager of ATSAS organic farm and an organic farmer in Cyprus for the past four years. The teaching was supported by the two rising permaculture teachers, Sofia Matsi and Gabriel Pandelis, who set out on a mission to change Cyprus through Permaculture.

The trio worked collaboratively together, each one, bringing their own special qualities to the curriculum covered and successfully managing to cover all of the PDC’s core subjects. Through this basic course, the participants navigated through an introduction to permaculture principles and ethics, design methods, soil biology, water qualities and harvesting, climate and microclimates, aquacultures, trees, natural buildings and resilient community building, all leading to the final group presentation of the commonly assigned permaculture design of the nearby land of “Exinda – 60” – a village inhabited and operated during the years of full operation of the Skouriotissa mine next door up to the Turkish invasion in 1974. The land now belongs to the Metropolis of Morphou and the students developed and proposed their group designs based on the local resources and limitations they were presented with.

During this course, the group got to visit local resilience projects, including one of the participant’s successful home aquaponics systems in Pyrgos and an artists’ community under development in Limassol. The success of this workshop was directly linked to a local group of farmers and cooks, who for the whole duration of the workshop they have provided for the outmost nourishment of the PDC group, using fresh and local ingredients and products.

These intensive 11 days of constant lectures, practicals, site-visits, observation, research and design, can be intensely exhausting to the participants. Yet, at the same time, a fully rewarding experience. A possibility that arms each and everyone of the PDC’s graduates with all of the necessary knowledge and tools to create the change they dream of – A change they will bring to their own home and immediate environment as well as the communal good.

On building community resilience, with the conclusion of this Cyprus Summer 2016 PDC, a promise was given amongst the group: A special permaculture design will be created and proposed that will refer to the recent destructive Troodos forest fires. An alternative design to the accustomed pine monoculture forestation, practiced in Cyprus these last few decades. This is an exciting opportunity to lead our island closer to its true resilient and diverse polyculture nature with natural rainwater harvesting features and abundance of plant and animal life.

Stay tuned for all the exciting Permaculture projects that are coming up!

 

Sofia Matsi

for Petrera Permaculture Land