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The Pillars of Permaculture and Sustainable Living

Written by Natalia Robert-Nunez, 2014 Guatemala: Extreme.

As an integral part of our Guatemala: Extreme program, the group dedicated three days to the building of a community garden on the site of the OG Hub, which is situated on the shores of the mystical Lago de Atitlan. We had just arrived after 4 days of hiking, but were ready and invigorated to get some work done. The garden, once completed, will serve as a space to encourage local famillies to produce and consume their own fruits and vegetables, which they would otherwise not have access to, or have to sell to turn a profit.

The OG Hub
Our group visited the Institute of Mesoamerican Permaculture (IMAP) outside of a lakeside town called Santiago. IMAP was established to reconnect Guatemalans with their native practices of growing sustainable agriculture that works with the strengths of the land and crops to achieve maximum efficiency with minimal labour and resources.

Photo by: Jackson Darland

Photo by: Jackson Darland

IMAP and the principles of permaculture teach that the three pillars of agriculture are people, land, and equal distribution of surplus. In this way, the group learned that permaculture and agriculture are, as indicated by their name, innately rooted in the culture of a people, and therefore have heavy implications as to how people live their life. For example, an equal distribution of surplus could apply to water, land, or time in a field or your own life. You could choose to allot free time to reading a book or watching TV, depending on your end goal. The same is true for your crops, depending on your desired yield.

As the group listened, we came to realize that these philosophies applied to many other practices: the redirection of energy from the sun was used to kill bacteria in dry toilets and also harnessed to create efficient cooking ovens. This was simple once the areas that needed to be heated in each device were insulated with aluminum or painted black. We also took part in the gathering and breakdown of wood to be put in a charcoal oven, which will be used by scientists to create pure charcoal. This product can then be used to continue their project of creating biofilters that are built into the streams of the mountains above Lago de Atitlan to filter water from contaminants and garbage. More than that, IMAP also runs a seed bank to continue the growth of native Guatemalan plants.

The organization works with the community, professionals, and organizations from around the world, like OG, to make sustainable living more accessible to everyone. We’re humbled to have been a part of that!

2014 Guatemala: Extreme

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