IDDS Amazon is using a collaborative ecological design process established in permaculture to engage with partner in a way that embodies regenerative principles and ethics, and reflects the symbiotic and mutually supportive relationships we observe in nature.

One of the needs expressed by APOBV and a goal articulated early was the establishment of a food forest on the association grounds, to nourish visitors and community members in a way that is in line with the surrounding ecosystem.

The workshop began on Friday the 18th on the sunny Saturday morning that followed. We started the process by introducing each other and exploring our connection to the forest. We made a list of the things the forest provides us. Having the forest all around meant that as facilitators all we had to do was to kick off the process of applying the knowledge immediately within reach. Understanding basics of how polycultures works and our immediate goals for the weekend, we dedicated time to observe the landscape using the scale of permanence. We shared our observations and spent the rest of the day putting together as to how to meet the needs we had identified under the constraints our observations had made us aware of.

Through our long engagement with the community and previous iterations of understanding needs and articulating goals, as well as studying the site we drafted a way to adapt the crop rows they had been working with into permanent raised beds. We finalized a horseshoe design concept that would give the association flexibility in raising and stewarding the beds. We made estimates for them to consider how much of their garden to transition into this style of permanent bed and at what time. Lines of trees running east to west will connect the garden to the forest between every two rows of horseshoe beds. Patterned after keyhole beds and hosting a polyculture of at least five species, the association can potentially nourish a 60 person summit with local, fresh food to the extent that they can transition over the next few months.

We ended the weekend workshop by sharing insights on ecological succession and life in the soil, as well as a feedback session before the folks that joined us from the city of Belem left us to catch their boat.

Over the next five days following we provided a Food Forest Practicum for folks of the association and surrounding community, as well as a couple folks from Belem who decided to extend their stay, to apply the basic concepts we had been learning to address different needs in the edible ecosystem surrounding the association.

We built a compost pile for local cycling of nutrients. There is an abundance of organic waste from several jungle products such as Açaí and Andiroba, which are now being used to mulch beds and create compost and are no longer a “waste problem.”

We also demonstrated the establishment of flower petal beds and polycultures around the bases of trees with exposed roots from the erosion of the sandy soils. An hour or two later, excited participants had already installed another bunch of these petal beds under the nearby trees and a network of well defined paths was emerging before our eyes.

Our Food Forest Workshop and Practicum yielded a great amount of learning for everyone involved, to engage in a collaborative way that reflects the mutually beneficial relationships we see in nature, to constantly integrate the feedback we are getting from the landscape and each other, following ecological design process to actively pursue ideals of healthy land and people, and we are finding great joy in the new relationships we are building.