Tell us a few things about yourself
My name is Beni Makwela, I am 29 years old, I am from the Democratic Republic of Congo and I am a recognized refugee here in Greece. I was studying Marketing back in my country but had to quit my studies one year before my graduation and flee first to Turkey and from there to Greece.
How did you find out about Ecohub and its garden?
I found out about Ecohub through one member of the project that I met who was volunteering for OHF (One Happy Family) and who had heard about the upcoming Permaculture Design Course and its call for participants. I enrolled with a Cameroonian friend that was frequenting Ecohub. Right after the PDC I started working with Ecohub.
When did you start volunteering for Ecohub?
First I did a 2 months internship at Ecohub, from February to April 2019. Right after the Permaculture Design Course I started helping with various tasks, using several methods, practicing permaculture, exchanging experience, sharing information, helping with the garden management.
Then I continued volunteering for another 5 months period, from May to September 2019. My tasks included participation in specific projects, suggestions for projects, gardening/planting management, using knowledge acquired to teach other people, adults and children, in the school of hope and general learning about herbs. Then I had to leave and go to Athens.
Please tell us, how did volunteering with Ecohub impact your everyday life back then?
It changed my whole outlook for life. Permaculture is a relatively new way of living which is under development and after my studies it was a new discovery, a lot of new things to learn, new information. I didn’t know before its impressive techniques that give guidance about how we, the people, can reverse the bad impact we have on the environment with catastrophic consequences that drive to environmental destruction and climate change. Nor did I know about how the industry impacts all that through the bad management of energies. From a social point of view, it has been crucial and much needed as it was something to occupy my mind with while I was enduring all those legal procedures, go out from the camp of Moria on a daily basis, which was completely detached from the natural environment, with no trees or plants, only buildings and containers which gave stress and problems only.
Please describe some of your most valuable lessons while volunteering with Ecohub.
Meeting with people that love nature and work on earth restoration , learning new concepts that were unknown to me before. The promotion of permaculture and its ethics against the use of chemicals and the impoverishment of the environment. Ecohub gave me a place of learning in a time that was bad for me, full of low self-esteem and loss of hope.
Please describe in a few words your PDC with Rosemary Morrow.
It was enriching. It explained solutions to save the world and introduced the idea of autonomy through food self-sufficiency. It showed me the possibility to produce organic, good quality and healthy food.
What was the most important lesson you acquired? After learning how to design according to the permaculture principles, how do you feel about permaculture? Did the PDC change you in any way or your world views?
Permaculture is spiritual as a process as you extract very old techniques from our ancestors plus new methods and modern technological knowledge. We can mix techniques and find the more suitable through experimenting and by being observant. I discovered that in fact everybody should apply permaculture because the earth is completely devastated by human exploitation and should be restored. We have to focus on more segmented than massive agriculture to lower gas emissions because we will be able to grow things without using big and heavy machines that erode the soil. The negative impact can be reversed, the famine problem could be solved and the primordial response to that is industrial/massive production which is completely wrong. Conservation of the soil would be the target and we must raise awareness to all farmers in order to reach a viable model of agriculture. Europe is in a really bad condition and maybe irreversible. There is no land anymore, there is no soil any more, chemicals are spread everywhere, the air is polluted. We might be able to save areas that are untouched by using the right methods so as not to lose them, like for example, in the African continent where there is still land.
How is your relationship with permaculture now? Are you practising it?
Unfortunately I don’t practice as much as I would like because I live in a very urban area and because the quarantine measures don’t make it easy. I am looking forward to joining relevant projects again soon.
Having now left the island of Lesvos, do you still feel supported by Ecohub?
Ecohub gives me love and the opportunity to always meet nice people and gives me ideas for more eco-friendly practices and the opportunity to have nice constructive discussions with its members. I keep in touch with the team on WhatsApp, exchanging information about techniques and methods, sharing opinions and receiving advice from people around the world who participated in the project.
Do you feel your experience with Ecohub and Permaculture in general has opened new doors/opportunities for you in Greece?
It gave me a very rich experience and in case another opportunity to join a similar project comes up it will be well received. I would be glad to participate but for the moment I do not have the chance to join other similar projects in order to apply permaculture and contribute.
Interview Conducted by Sporos Regeneration Institute, February 2021
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Milies Village, Lesvos, Greece
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