Damanhur Permaculture School

Sogno Vigna Rossa

I. Olio Caldo Center

Damanhur has focused on many aspects of creating a community for aligning spiritual and social connection of people living together in harmony with one another and with the earth. It has created the Game of Life, the School of Meditation, The Social Body, and the Tecnarcato for Internal refinement to support its purpose of being a sustainable, healthy learning community. In 1985 the Olio Caldo Project was initiated, for the purpose of addressing the areas of providing the food, material and energy needs for the citizens of Damanhur. With the constraints of time - given the commitment to the four main Bodies - and the economic pressures on Damanhurians to earn their expenses in today's economic landscape, the Olio Caldo Project has become relegated to a small number of individuals. The  Project addresses aspects of self sustainability, and the Nucleos and farms do have food production activities. However, it appears the challenge of 1985 to significantly decrease the dependence on importing food and goods from outside the Damanhurian economy is still a work in progress.

We are interested in sharing our skills and knowledge and energies to create a Center to teach what we might call “permaculture”, but could equally well be called “Olio Caldo”. Permaculture is a design methodology for developing integrated systems for permanent human communities living in harmony together and with the earth. Our idea is to create a school which might eventually have a two-year Diploma learning program for people from Italy, countries world-wide, or Damanhur who want to learn about all the domains needed for humans to live sustainably on the earth. These areas might be illustrated by the Permaculture Flower of permaculture co-founder, David Holmgren.

Some areas , including Well-being, Culture, and Community might be taught through experiences such as those used in the New Life Program. Other areas, including Stewardship, Built Environment, Business and Economics and Appropriate Technologies might be taught by our own teachers, visiting teachers, or Damanhurians with areas of expertise to share. Arrangements might also be made for students to participate in Damanhurian programs such as the Meditation School and other Damanhurian courses of study.

The Diploma at the end of the two year program could be awarded to students who create worthy Business Plans for developing new entrepreneurial ventures – at Damanhur or elsewhere. The goal of the program is to develop new community-based businesses, ready for implementation in the location of the student's choice. The new businesses might include areas of food production (vegetables, mushrooms, animal protein, grains, fruit, wine, value-added foods, etc.); nursery plants or seeds, herbals, medicinals, manufacturing businesses in local tool and open-source tractor production, appropriate technology manufactured goods, cloth and clothing cottage industries from locally grown fiber sources, and more. To gain competencies - in addition to classes - students could work in pairs and groups on design and implementation projects helping Damanhurian nucleos. Placements would be negotiated to address mutual needs of the nucleos and students. Additional Center campuses might also be added over time, as well.

Graduates could choose to stay in Damanhur with their new businesses, to enter the citizenship program. Damanhurian youth might also be attracted to the program. The new jobs “incubated” through the school could be an attractive feature in the current stagnant global economy. The school would also be providing a labor force in exchange for the learning, which could be a benefit to the nucleos. The nucleos would also be offered the opportunity for consultations to improve their food production, ecological, water, waste recycling, earthworks and energy systems. Several Damanhurians are sharing their thoughts on these ideas, including members of the Olio Caldo Project, agriculturists from several nucleos, agroforestry practitioners, citizens interested in seeing more local food production, and leaders of Damanhur's Eco-village Design Education program.

The Center would have a business plan for its own financial self-sufficiency. It would develop a number of onsite businesses. For example it might create a perennial edible nursery for propagating and selling the best regionally-adapted fruit trees, shrubs, vines and perennial vegetables. It could expand on the current Olio Caldo seed trialing and saving and production business. It might provide landscape design and installation services for Damanhurians and area residents, in addition to pruning, vineyard maintenance, and other horticultural services.

Another major business component of the Center could be a diverse offering of Permaculture Workshops, classes, and agro-tourism site tours. It might offer the International Permaculture Design Certification (PDC) course throughout the year – a 72- hour, 2-week curriculum. With Damanhur's renown reputation as an active member of the Global Ecovillage Network and a successful spiritual community, one of the major challenges of permaculture courses could be addressed: attracting paying participants to fill classes. It seems likely that people interested in learning permaculture would be attracted from around the world for a Damanhur training, and might also stay to participate in Damanhur's current learning and personal development programs. There could be synergy between the existing Damanhur offerings and those of a new permaculture Center – each providing more business for the other. The teachers and students at the Center would aid in facilitating the trainings, incorporating these into the School learning process.

Vigna Rossa

In searching for an affordable and appropriate location on which to develop our dream of an Olio Caldo Center, we sought the help of our friend, Pooka. We visited several houses, ending with the deteriorated house known as Vigna Rossa, on the road to Tijal. Some in our group fell in love with it at first sight; others pointed out a variety of practical concerns.

The benefits of the choice of Vigna Rossa seem to include:

  1. The purchase price is affordable for our current budgets. Our hope is that purchasing residences will help to facilitate one of our challenges – being able to stay for periods longer than 3 months, in order to work and continue to learn at Damanhur.

  2. The location is a walk from the heart of Damanhur.

  3. The land has long been a missing piece of the region occupied by Cornucopia and Tijal.

  4. The land is a potential “permaculture paradise”, with diverse topographical changes in elevation, streams capable of supporting aquaculture ponds and micro-hydro electric generators, ancient terraces particularly suitable for the diverse hand-worked perennial food forest production systems for which permaculture is renown and tracts suitable for research and implementation of agroforestry methodologies.

  5. The two regional nucleos are both equally rich in permaculture-potential, and also lacking in the labor force needed to turn their terraces into the Cornucopia that is their potential.

  6. The building appears to be structurally suitable (dependent upon engineering inspection, of course) for a variety of potential natural building applications – including strawbale or light straw clay insulation on the outside of the massive thermal sink walls, rocket mass stove heating systems with the abundant wood harvest, and a variety of roof systems. Such massive wall structures contain large amounts of embodied energy – an asset for natural building technologies, although a detriment to conventional builders who tend to prefer all new building construction.

Our concerns include:

  1. The industrial site nearby, with its potential for generating pollution and disruptive activities.

  2. The potential of a major road being put through the property, leading to the temples.

  3. Expenses and unknowns which might create obstacles to bringing our dreams to fruition.

Our thoughts about a purchase plan might be something like the following:

  1. We create a joint-ownership cooperative. It might have 100 shares, that are divided among the initial purchasing owners. For example we might have three of us and the entity of Damanhur, each putting in 25% of the purchase costs and each receiving 25% of the 100 shares. Our desire is to involve Damanhur if it is interested, so as to involve it as a stakeholder in our project, which would help us to make sure that everything we do fulfills mutually negotiated needs between us and Damanhur. Of course we would want to make sure such a purchase plan would still provide the benefit of house ownership to those of us who desire it for helping achieve Italian residency status.

  2. We would want to have a way for individuals to share ownership by purchasing shares from the existing owners. For example, we might agree to have a new member join, and each of us sell shares at a new mutually agreed-upon price. We might have put considerable labor and financial investment into Vigna Rossa by that time, so the share price would be higher than at the original purchase. Similarly, if members were to choose to leave, there would be a mechanism for selling their shares at a new agreed-upon price.

  3. Of course we would have to figure out a plan for all potential scenarios, addressing issues such as determining residency in the house, relationship to business activities at the Center, agreements for taking on responsibilities for the Center, what to do if members were to attain Citizen A status, and mechanisms for changing the nature of the house to become a nucleo of Damanhur.

  4. We would also want to consider other scenario contingencies, for example if the industrial plant or a new temple road were to interfere with our plan for restoring the house to the state it once was in to become a permanent Center and nucleo. If we had invested quantities of financial and labor capital at that point, it would be an unfortunate loss for us. If, however, we had created a seasonal Center, capable of sustaining onsite workshops and warm-weather living, it might become a low-cost investment which could be a pilot for creating another Center located elsewhere in the region of Damanhur. In that case, the purchase would have benefited Damanhur's interest in creating a better access to the temples, and our interest in manifesting our dream, while not wasting our financial and energy resources.

At this point these ideas are only a dream. We invite others at Damanhur, and the King Guides to consider this dream, give us constructive feedback and explore ways in which we might share a mutual dream. We know we are very new to Damanhur, and have a lot to learn about this strange and wonderful place. We capture our dreams here - not to write them in stone - but rather to tell a story from which to begin a conversation to discover if there is are aspects of this story which makes sense. We have a lot of important questions to answer before we want to get involved in this challenging project, including our list of stated concerns. We consider this a starting point, and feel no attachments to any part of this story. It might be that the idea is valid, but Vigna Rossa is not the best place to begin. We are open to all ideas. So let the conversation begin.