Tag Archives: Panya Project

People want to engage …

People want to engage with their whole being, head, heart and hands.

If we try to create social and environmental conflict awareness through posters, flyers, web articles, newspapers and movies we engage people in thinking, in using their heads; there is still that element of ‘Me and Them‘, ‘that’s what THEY tell ME‘ or ‘look what THEY do‘. We fail to integrate or engage people’s whole being and make them be a part of what is happening.

This will be important to think of when we want to achieve social change: how can we engage whole people and how can we make them take ownership in the solution, be a part of the solution in progress.

That’s what makes visitors feel at home at the Panya Project so quickly. They are integrated in daily activities from day one; working at the farm, cooking, cleaning, things we all do communally and some things they do at home as well, caring for the most basic needs. At the same time they have the opportunity and the freedom to start something on their own, to bring change and own ideas. They are a part of the community, and they are the community when their whole being is engaged.

Organic Gardens for Thai Freedom House

Please help us in creating beautiful organic gardens for the wonderful Freedom House in Chiang Mai, Thailand. To give funding click here.

Who are we?

We are the Panya community, a sustainable living/education centre north of Chiang Mai city. We’re designing and implementing two gardens for the Thai Freedom House; a non-government, not-for-profit, community language and arts learning center in Chiang Mai dedicated to assisting families and individuals who are refugees from Burma and Indigenous peoples of Thailand.

What are we doing?

Garden one is located in the Free Bird Cafe, where the NGO raises income for their project. The idea is to make the space more beautiful attracting many customers to the cafe, and to organically home grow a selection of the ingredients used in cooking.

Garden Two will be located at the Freedom house school, where displaced people from Myanmar and Thailand come to learn Thai, English and enjoy a supportive, creative community. Our aim is to green the concrete surrondings of the school, reconnecting the students back to nature as many of them are from rural, farming backgrounds and now living in crowded poor conditions in the city. They will  have their own space to plant, watch the plants grow and finally harvest and eat the fruits of their work!

By donating to this project you will be giving marginalised members of society in Thailand a chance to re connect to their growing heritage. You will also help us create beautiful living green community spaces that will act as a refuge to people without real homes of their own.

What do we need?

What we can do depends on the funds we get. If we don’t reach our goal we are still comitted to buying and planting as much as we can with the amount we do have.

We would like to build living trellis’ and pergolas, with climbing spinach and jasmine.. plant high yeilding and easily maintatined chillis, eggplants, lime trees and papayas. Create beautiful herbs gardens to use in cooking, both in the cafe and for the students to take home for their familes… hang baskets of overflowing flowers to bring bright colours of inspiration and to all who come and visit.

When do we need it?

We will be working over the 1st 2nd and 3rd of July… Any funding that we have by then will be used to impelent these gardens at Freedom House.

Please please give what you can to our project, we promise to use your money wisely and keep you updated with our progress!

         Thank You for your Support!

Consensus Decision Making at the Panya Project

The new decision making process that we’re currently using at the Panya Project has shown to be effective and save us a lot of time that used to be spend in useless and tiring conversations. Below is a describtion that serves as a guideline during the process.

We are using hand signals for each of these options, so that so that a quick overview on the groups standpoint is possible.

Consent with people

We’re trying to use consent in all our decision making at the Panya Project. When a proposal is made by the facilitator we make a round to find out people’s feelings and concerns. For the proposal to be accepted a maximum of two group members can stand aside (this is the case in our usual group size of 6 to 10 people; if there are less, 2 seems one to many). Standing aside means that you don’t agree with the decision but you won’t block it either as it seems as if the majority agrees and you want what is best for the community. People who stand aside express their concerns to the group and those who agree with the decision get a chance to express themselves as well – this might change the picture, more people agreeing or standing aside, in a second round. If more than two people stand aside, the decision can’t be made and the proposal has to be reformulated to match the groups needs.

If one person is strongly opposing a decision, he or she can block it. Not in every group that uses the consensus decision making process blocking is an option. Blocking needs to be properly understood and in many amateur groups it isn’t: we’ll block a decision ‘once or twice’ in a lifetime, when we truly believe it will harm the group/community.  If we’re the only person blocking we might ask ourselves a second time what is best for the group as everyone is of different opinion and, if a solution can’t be found, we might even consider leaving the group. However, a block as well as standing aside are options that have to be respected as valid choices; reasonable concerns must be addressed.

Why do we use consent decision making rather than vote?

We want to create win-win situations. Even this little insight is capable of changing the group’s attitude. In a vote decision we’re not trying to find an optimal solution or an optimal formulation of the proposal, we just let the majority chose ‘yes’ or ‘no’, create two sides, separation. In consensus we’re listening to concerns and reservations and try to adjust the proposal to fit everyone’s, and even more important, the group’s needs. A concern is coming up for a reason and a decision taken is strongest and most powerful when concerns are eliminated. The result we mostly go for is however rarely ‘ this is the optimal choice for everyone’, but more often ‘everyone can live with this’ or ‘this is the best for the group’.

Here is a short step-by-step guide for the process:

1. The facilitator gives a proposal to the group and announces a first round show of hands;

2. Handsigns are used to show people’s position:

    • a. two hands up shaking means ‘I fully agree’;
    • b. one hand up shaking means ‘ I agree but have reservations’;
    • c. two hands up with palms facing to the group means ‘i stand aside’, or ‘don’t agree but I can live with it’;
    • d. showing an X with the arms indicates a very severe disagreement and ‘blocks’ the decision from being made.

3a. Everybody agrees, so the proposal is accepted;

3b. Space is created for reservations to be expressed and addressed if necessary and possible. The proposal is either accepted as it is or with adjustments;

3c. Everyone has the right to express his or her concerns, reservations, toughest and feelings. If there is a maximum of two people standing aside the proposal is either accepted as it is or with adjustments. If there are more than two people standing aside, the proposal is not accepted, the group can however adjust the proposal addressing the concerns of the group and start the decision making process again;

3d. A block is stopping the decision from being made. The concerns of that person must be addressed is one way or another.

In this regard, consensus or consent IS NOT unanimity, which leaves groups often in frustration and endless discussions. Consent is building solidarity to take out collective strength and the best of the group.

Building Soil and Catching Energy

“Increasing the humus content of agricultural soil has always been a principle objective of organic agriculture. Changing the management of farmland to use organic or permaculture strategies and techniques can rebuild this storage of carbon, fertility and water to close to those of natural grasslands and forests. It is arguably the greatest single contribution we could make to ensure the future survival of humanity.” – David Holmgren, Permaculture – Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability

The composting method that we use at the Panya Project and that is often used in Permaculture Projects is the 18-day quick composting method afterBerkley. We need a mixture of carbon and nitrogen elements in a ratio of 30 to 1. This is however in concentration, not in biomass, where it’s probably more around 3 to 1, fully depending on your chosen and available ingredients. Water is added to the mixture with a moisture content of 60 percent being optimal. It is an aerobic fermentation process generated through heat. The pile is stacked in lasagne-style, meaning layer for layer altering between carbons – low nitrogen – carbons – high nitrogen – carbons – low nitrogen – and so on.

Carbon is the building block of life and is mostly found in trees. For the compost you can chose most brown organic material like branches and old leaves. For the quick compost it is important that most material is quite small; huge pieces of wood won’t compost in a month or 18 days. The highest nitrogen source is probably pee, then different kinds of manure. Another source of high nitrogen is freshly cut legumes as they are plants that catch nitrogen from the air. A middle and low nitrogen source is all other freshly cut leaves and greens from the garden and the trees. Kitchen waste is, depending on what it contains, mostly on the more or less right carbon-nitrogen ratio of 30 to 1 and can be added in between the layers.

The layers shouldn’t be higher than10 centimetreseach, keeping layers of cow manure thinner. The pile is optimally between 1.5 and2 metrecube, should never be smaller than1 metrecube, as it won’t get hot enough. After 2 to 4 days the pile mostly reaches a temperature of about 60 degrees Celsius. If the pile is after four days still below 45 degrees, you might not have the right moisture or there isn’t enough nitrogen in the lasagne. If the pile gets too hot, meaning more than 65 degrees and often predominantly covered in some white bacteria, it’s defiantly time to turn it. If it keeps heating up like that you might have to put some more carbon material. The pile should be covered to keep it from drying out in hot climates and keep it from getting too wet in wet climates.

After the first four days, the compost should be turned every other day. This keeps it aerated and gives you the possibility to add some materials, mostly water if necessary. You can check the moisture content in pressing the material in between your hands. If the hands become slightly wet, with not more than one drop of water on your palm, it is perfect moisture. The temperature you can feel with your hands, if digging into the pile and it’s too hot to keep your hands in it must be about 60 degrees. You have to dig in because the outside 10 to20 centimetresdon’t heat up and don’t really compost. Therefore, if you want the composting process to finish in optimal time it is important to turn it right; that means that you bring the outside of pile to the inside and the inside to the outside with every turning.

In the Panya Project, we usually have a pile done in about a month. Through this composting method we can keep planting all year through in the same beds always adding fresh healthy soil to the plants.

In permaculture we look for the multiplication of our functions. Doing this with the compost, we see that one output of the compost that we could use is the heat; probably we could cook eggs on top of it. When we had 20 school kids from Bangkok visiting the Panya Project for a week we thought we need more hot water options than our solar collector who holds water for about 4 to 8 showers. So we built them a bucket shower with passiv heating in letting the pipe run through the 60 degree hot compost. See pictures below. For two weeks we managed to have hot water from that pipe, so hot you needed to mix it with cold water.

The Panya Projection

The Panya Project in northernThailand,60 km from Chiang Mai, is a permaculture community consisting of a few long-term members and a changing group of volunteers. It is a field for experimentation for permaculture apprentices and a best practice example for travellers who want are interested in alternative eco-friendly ways of living.

Most of the work here happens in the fields of natural building with cob and adobe bricks, in the vegetable garden rich on diversity and in the huge food forest which is still in the beginning stages of development. Besides that there are courses on permaculture and community aspects as well as visits from international schools.

The long-term members mostly don t live here permanently. They come from all over the world, often with one foot in the project and the other in their country of origin. This makes policy decisions, which theoretically happen on consensus, difficult; the same is true for new designs half implemented by one group, left to another.

Despite these complications, it seems as if the Panya Project has developed a system that manages day-to-day operational decisions and tasks effectively and coordinates volunteers to quickly integrate into the system. A turning wheel where everyone’s name is on is turning every day to distribute the main daily tasks like cooking, dish washing or sweeping and tidying. Other tasks, like checking the waterpump, feeding the chicken or watering the garden are executed by the long-termers; however quickly explained to a short-termer when nessecary. Short-termers are supposed to not stay less than a week, often stay longer though and are thus able to give a tour to new short-termers which takes work load of the long-termers.

The Panya Project stays in one way a little island of strangers in a foreign country (one long-termer is Thai), slowly however developing a connection to the Thai community around and participating in village activities.