The team at Murujan Permaculture Design has been working hard behind the scenes in 2015 and among the highlights was a visit by none other than Geoff Lawton to Malaysia. Geoff Lawton of the Permaculture Research Institute of Australia is one of the leading Permaculture Consultants and Trainers in the world. His visit was the beginning of what hopes to be a very important project for Malaysia in terms of Permaculture Design and its application in the wet tropics. In this article I will introduce the project and share the experience of seeing Geoff in action during his two-day consultation.
Taman Pertanian Kuantan consists of over 230 acres of park that was established in the early 1980’s to serve the people of Kuantan. It was once a delightful park that many families and residents of Kuantan would frequent for fishing, fruit picking, picnics and general recreation. Over the years due to inadequate internal maintenance and external factors such as the impact from development nearby have been so detrimental to the park that it is now largely ignored. In many ways it is a microcosm of Malaysia, sharing the positive as well as the negative realities in terms of ecology.
The park has various features that correlate with the larger Malaysian region. There are fruit orchards, a thin section of natural jungle, infrastructure and buildings that are difficult to maintain in the wet tropics. Many of the design features imitate the designs implemented in temperate climates and therein lies one of the main difficulties. In order to work with nature, the design must respect the climate where the design will be implemented. The hope is to redevelop the site into a productive and pleasant place for local Kuantan residents and families, national and international tourists to visit and enjoy. Using Permaculture Design we hope to achieve three main goals which are very relevant to Malaysia; to address food security, to address deforestation, and to educate visitors about traditional production techniques and culture in a positive solution-oriented way.
Features of the site would thus ideally include extensive agro-forestry, aquaculture as well as a demonstration site or sites, teaching features & recreational facilities for the public to enjoy the true benefits of experiencing nature.
While waiting at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport for Geoff to arrive; I kept wondering one thing: Would he be wearing the hat? Much to my delight, he exited the arrival gates with a wide smile and donning the signature hat. We left the airport immediately and began the 3 hour drive to Kuantan. The car ride was full of animated and lively discussion and set the stage for an amazing learning experience to come over the next two days of the site visit.
We started out bright and early the next morning and visited the site for the first time. We first were welcomed by heads of various government departments that were somehow involved in the management of the park and land matters in the state of Pahang generally. After their introduction and explanation of the current state of the park and what could be done, we all toured the site.
One of the things that immediately struck me while accompanying Geoff as he observed the site was how he saw design features instantly. It was like he was re-drawing the site in his mind in real time. Over the course of the two days we explored much of the site and also some of the surrounding areas and he was able to make assessments and suggestions easily based on his wealth of experience.
Geoff’s initial assessment was promising. The site already had decent amount of infrastructure and a variety of features that could be enhanced to turn the park into a world-class attraction. It would require time and effort but was very feasible and encouraging.
Among the major issues were that the water bodies had built up a considerable amount of silt due to surrounding development and earthworks would be needed to prevent the silt from building up again, but once the corrective earthworks were done the site would have a manageable water situation once again.
Aside from the corrective measures that were needed, we also discussed potential ways to make the site productive and interesting and how to create a park that was both productive and incorporated recreational features that would make the site alive again.
Geoff developed a rough map overlay design of the site in no time at all and presented it to the various stakeholders and representatives of the local government and park authority. They were receptive to the suggestions and the overall take-away was very positive.
Among the thoughts that occurred to me during the visit, was pondering over who exactly Geoff Lawton is. I was trying to put my finger on what makes him so special when there are many The obvious things come to mind; he is photogenic, charismatic, intelligent and a downright friendly guy, but what most people may not think about is the time he has invested towards Permaculture. He is an individual who has invested over 25 years of his life towards the intense understanding and application of Permaculture Design. The only thing we all really possess is time and it is limited. We can use our time to perpetuate and continue the conventional way of doing things or we can invest our time towards transitioning to a better way of living in harmony with our planet.
Perhaps we all have the potential to be Geoff Lawton but are we willing to dedicate as much as he has?
We have confidence in the commitment to carry this large project forward over multiple years that will be necessary. Murujan Permaculture Design plans to conduct a number of Permaculture courses in 2016 at the site itself as well as organizing an internship program.
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