Feun Foo Permaculture&Rewildingis creating a self-sustaining Food Jungle for modern-day foragers.
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You are all the small plants that keep the soil from washing away. You hold together anything, and without you the earth would look like a lifeless desert. Among you are the pioneers (commonly called weeds) that improve the soil; decomposing and slowly building a layer of nutritious topsoil, you prepare it for all the other plants yet to come.
One dollar might be not much when looked at as an individual act. But it means the world to us, and one dollar are roughly 35 Baht – the price of one kilo of rice, one bag of cow dung, or one 1 m-long roof tile made from nipa palm. They say ‘little strokes fell big oaks’, and it is true - even though that’s the opposite of what we’re doing.
You are the grass. You are an important part of the ecosystem, your roots hold the soil together, and your leaves shield it from heavy rain. There is many of you, and together you form a green ocean of simple beauty. Often underestimated, yet valuable and vital, the grass invites a great number of animals to help improve the landbase.
Two dollars more or, in this case, less might make no significant difference on your monthly paycheck – but to us it is a huge boost, both morally and financially.
You are the herb. Though sometimes almost indistinguishable from the grass, you stand out a little more. You have a special significance since your benefits and uses are manifold and you heal the ones that in turn help to keep you safe.
Three dollars are quite healthy for us in a financial way, which in turn enables us to help our landbase becoming healthier. While costing you less than one gallon of fuel per month, your financial choice will actively help improving the environment in a twofold way: you use one gallon of gasoline less, and we plant more trees and help them grow to fix even more CO2.
Who we are
We are a small permaculture project in the foothills of the Cardamom Mountains in eastern Thailand that works on rewilding (re-naturalizing) a fruit orchard and bamboo plantation (all in all 1.3 ha) and slowly transforming it into a food jungle. We started here in Chanthaburi Province in November 2018 after living and gardening in the South of Thailand for several years (where we transformed a 0.5 ha oil palm monoculture into a decent little permaculture farm).
Our land is right next to a Nature Reserve on the side of a mountain - the highest settlement around. It has been completely chemical-free for over 15 years, and has year-round access to fresh water from a pond in the jungle.
Dave (27) is a German who came to Thailand as a volunteer on an organic farm in 2014. He worked a regular job for one year before deciding that the high levels of alienation, the stress and the listlessness among many of his European peers are not compatible with his expectations for a good life - so he decided to move to the tropics and provide himself with what he needs all by himself. After five years in the South, he and his wife Karn decided to start their own project in the mountains of Chanthaburi province.
Karn (26) is from the rural area of the Northeast of the country, she holds a bachelor's degree in Business English and worked for half a year for a hotel and then a real estate agency in Phuket before she decided that the normal life in the city isn't as wholesome and regarding as the simple life in Nature. She has a lot of experience with the simple life and enjoys it a lot - it is like reliving childhood memories for her. She has impressive knowledge of uses and benefits of all kinds of plants, makes herbal remedies from the plants in our garden, is an expert in foraging, and makes the most incredible jungle food.
Feun Foo (ฟื้นฟู; pronounced 'fern foo') is Thai and means ‘restore’, 'rehabilitate' or ‘revive’, and that’s how we see ourselves:
We restore Nature to original beauty by converting an orchard and adjacent bamboo monoculture into a food jungle, and by reforesting parts of the neighboring Nature Reserve. We revive an ancient, long forgotten way of life, so that it may lead us into a better, not only sustainable, but regenerative future.
We provide one of many paths to live a happy and healthy life in harmony with Nature.
Our mission is to become fully autonomous and develop a regenerative way of living. We do that mainly through practicing Permaculture, but include elements of Rewilding, Deep Ecology, and Primitivist Philosophy, Practice, and Spirituality.
We believe human beings are an inseparable part of Nature, one species in an enormous interconnected web of living beings that depend on and benefit from each other.
Our focus is on creating the most diverse habitat possible, being a functioning part of the ecosystem we inhabit, and proving that it is not only possible but desirable for modern humans to return into Nature's open arms.
We offer anyone who is interested the opportunity to stay with us on our farm or to be a volunteer and take permaculture introduction courses that include tropical horticulture, building soil, growing and taking care of vegetables and trees, primitive skills, sustainable building methods, basic Traditional Thai Herbal Medicine and many other topics.
Our goal is to assist Mother Nature in growing a small patch of self-sustaining jungle with a high density of species useful for humans (food, fuel, fiber, medicine, timber, thatch, cloth, dye, glue, lacquer, arrow/fish poison, etc.) that provides subsistence for a small band of people all year round. We do this through planting jungle giants (dipterocarps, keystone trees, ironwoods) alongside a large variety of fruit trees, thereby increasing overall biodiversity, and eventually living under a closed, multi-storey canopy
We hope that one day the Hornbills will nest in our garden and the elephants and monkeys become regular visitors.
Additional information is found on our website at feunfoo.org; more pictures of our beautiful garden are occasionally uploaded to Instagram.
The Problem: Climate Breakdown
Without a doubt, climate breakdown is the biggest challenge for our generation and, in fact, humanity as a species. We modern humans and our civilization have created the conditions that will end the stable climate of the so-called Holocene, increasing likelihood and severity of extreme weather events like droughts, storms, and floods, creating hundreds of millions of climate refugees, leading to severe food shortages in part of the world, the disintegration of nation states, and ultimately the collapse of global civilization itself. Vast amounts of carbon that used to be safely stored in underground deposits (as fossilized hydrocarbons like coal, oil, or gas), in plants and in soils has been forcibly extracted and spewed into the atmosphere, where a good part gets absorbed by the ocean, leading to acidification and the possible collapse of entire oceanic ecosystems (coral reefs are among the first victims).
This culture's insatiable hunger for more and more machines and high-tech toys is creating vast toxic moonscapes with refuse from the mining and processing of rare earth minerals (REMs) needed to build the electrical components of everyday gadgets.
We have to put an end to the culture that is devouring the planet, and the sooner we do this, the better the chances for us and every other living being we share the biosphere with.
Leading thinkers and the vast majority of scholars have concluded that radical change needs to happen right now - it might already be too late and irreversible tipping points have been breached. (For instance, just maintaining the existing energy infrastructure will emit enough CO2 to breach emmision targets. Air travel is projected to double in the next 20 years)
The response (not the solution - there is none anymore): Permaculture; Rewilding; Back to the Land!Permaculture is "the conscious design and maintenance of agriculturally productive ecosystems, which have the diversity, stability and resilience of natural ecosystems." It is a method of working with Nature (instead of against her), and seeing Wild Nature as a source of inspiration, a role model, the ultimate caretaker, and a creative force.
Permacultural methods build topsoil (and therefore increase Soil Carbon Content) and grows a variety of perennial plants on those soils that hold the ground together with their roots, preventing runoff and erosion. Through techniques such as no-till farming, and adding compost and biochar (from charred biomass and garden refuse) to the soil we can actively help to store vast amounts of carbon over the long term.
Permaculture creates forests, and trees store atmospheric CO2 in their bodies - basically that's all a tree does over his entire lifespan, and after death much of that stored carbon is absorbed by and stored in the soil food web.
Permaculture leads to resilient and beautiful communities independent from international trade and travel, therefore decreasing emissions from airplanes, container ships, etc.
In contrast, industrial agriculture destroys biodiversity through monocultures and pesticides, erodes topsoil through tilling and herbicides, stores no carbon since annuals are planted and the soil is ripped open several times a year so that soil carbon oxidizes and escapes, and depends heavily on fossil fuels and other non-renewable resources (to build the machines they use and produce fertilizer and highly toxic agrochemicals) which will soon get very sparse - there should be no need to further explain why this cannot be sustainable and has to be stopped.
Rewilding (in terms of ecological restoration but also regarding personal development) is all about resisting the urge to control Nature and allowing her to find her own way. In terms of how we interact with our environment it means restoring wilderness and letting Nature do what Nature does best - for billions of years already. It means seeing ourselves not on top of some made-up pyramid or ladder (like Aristotle's ludicrous and arrogant - but persistent - idea of the "scala naturae") but as part of an interconnected web consisting of all species and all elements, who all have the same value.
Rewilding not only the ecosystem we inhabit but also ourselves is crucial. This means letting go of the domestication imposed on us by ourselves and society, the "civilized" ways of thinking and acting: the reductionist, scientific view on life is replaced by a holistic and spiritual one. The Nature-as-machine metaphor that the dominant culture loves so much is replaced with a Gaia-like view of Nature as an organism, a living being. Other living beings are not seen as hollow shells that follow automated algorithms, but as persons with a spirit/soul just like ourselves, who have thoughts, wishes, dreams, ambitions, hopes and the same emotions that we feel: happiness, love, kindness, compassion, gratitude, serenity, as well as anger, sadness, frustration, desperateness, fear, and hate.
It means accepting smallness, and finding comfort and solace in the bigger picture. Revering and honoring all life. Accepting death as a necessary part of life, the seamless and constant conversion of matter and energy that characterizes the entire universe. Not being ashamed of anything that's natural. It means complete freedom within Nature's limits.
All this is nothing new. For our entire 3-million-year history as a species this was how humans lived and thought, and how indigenous people today continue to see and interact with the world around them. "Re-wilding" for us modern humans means re-connecting, re-learning, re-membering, re-versing, re-viving, re-storing, rehabilitating, and re-turning.
To have any hope for the future, we have to return to the land in large numbers. The land is calling for us, it needs us. We have to understand and accept Nature's Own Free Will and act accordingly. If you inhabit an ecosystem where Nature, if left undisturbed, would create forests, than that's what you should do. We all have ancestors who once had rich forest-based cultures, and now it is up to us to revive this intimate connection with the land. We have to re-learn to live in, with, from, and for the forest.
The Back-to-the-Land movement of the 60's and 70's was a great idea, but sadly not large and persistent enough, and not very successful in some cases. One reason was that the situation back then was much less severe in terms of future insecurity and climate instability. Further, sometimes the mindset of those returning to the land was still infected with harmful civilized ideas, anthropocentrical thoughts of dominion and domestication, and a lack of appreciation for the primitive.
Returning to the land was actually quite common in the recent past, and a perfectly normal response to famines, epidemics, war, and conscription, as well as during and after the collapse of previous civilizations. What civilized His-story calls "Dark Ages" might have been times where people had more leisure, no obligation to pay taxes to city-based elites and warlords, and where personal freedom, autonomy, and Nature-based cultures flourished.
"Primitive Permaculture" - Back to the Roots!
We are in the process of developing what we have named Primitive Permaculture, which is rooted in permaculture principles and techniques, but takes a more radical approach to topics like design (which is up to Nature whenever possible), advanced technogy (which should be limited to an absolute minimum, as in our case: no electricity, one phone, one computer, two motorbikes - and NO power tools like chainsaws, drills, etc., or mechanical garden tools such as tractors, electrical water pumps, etc.), culture (which should be inspired by and reinforce a connection with the immediate land base) and an organic material culture (plastic, metal, concrete, etc should be replaced with locally sourced resources whenever possible). Primitive Permaculture is inspired by indigenous horticultural and hunter-gatherer societies from all over the world. We plant cassava and bananas as staple food, as do the Yanomami, the Huaorani, the Kayapo, the Tsimane, and the Zo'é of the Amazon rainforest.
The Kenyah of Malaysia are taking care of up to 125 tree species per hectare (!) in their forest orchards, and that's the direction we're taking, too. (click here for a full list of tree species in our garden)
Further, Primitive Permaculture includes a large focus on plant species that have no direct value to humans (apart from obvious ornamental value) but increase wildlife populations of other mammals, as well as various birds, pollinators and other insects, and reptiles through creating habitat and food sources.
We are also experimenting with a biochar/humanure/crushed seashell mixture to create our own version of 'Terra Preta del Indio', the only kind of soil known to regenerate itself without additional inputs. (read more about Primitive Permaculture here)
The Feun Foo Forest Restoration Project
We also plan on healing the larger ecosystem that we inhabit. Part of the Rattan Vine Mountain Nature Reserve (ขสป.คลองเครือหวาย) was devastated by a forest fire almost 15 years ago, and has ever since been overgrown by running bamboo. Only the largest trees were left standing, and bamboo was the quickest to colonize the empty niche. We love and appreciate bamboo, but forests with a high diversity of trees create, naturally, more diverse ecosystems.
This is why we want to work together with the Forest Rangers on a Forest Restoration Project. The first step will be to request permission and allocate a small sample patch on which we remove part of the bamboo and replace it with native forest trees from the Ranger's nursery. Our own piece of land (3.2 hectares) serves as an example for the methods we will use. (More on the Feun Foo Forest Restoration Project here)
About SustainabilityBecause of the environmental destruction agricultural and, later, industrial societies caused during the last 8,000 years, we don’t think sustainability is enough – we have to heal, to restore our environment, our actions have to be increasingly regenerative. We are trying to create a regenerative lifestyle and culture that heals the Earth - as opposed to the high-tech consumerist lifestyle in industrialized nations.
The lifestyle in so-called "developed nations" is far from sustainable. We like and appreciate many features of civilization, but that doesn't change the fact that civilized life is a very destructive and wasteful way to live. The Earth might be able to support some people living in a destructive and wasteful way, but she definitely can't support all 7.5 billion of us living like that. If the world population continues to grow while everybody strives for a westernized industrial standard of living, all the problems we have right now are going to get even worse. Industrial agriculture devastates the planet, deforestation and topsoil erosion are among the biggest problems that we create with monoculture farming. There is no "one right way" for people to live, but we believe that some ways are inherently wrong. Compulsively destroying your landbase - gaining monetary (read: imaginary) profit from destroying the soil that grows your food, spoiling the water you drink and polluting the air you breathe is one of them. What is needed are not only alternative ways of living, but a lively culture of opposition to civilization, inspired by the many indigenous cultures around the world that haven't yet been exterminated by progress and development.
All this might seem overwhelming and even depressing to some, since it is still not clear what the individual can do. Common approaches are to get a solar panel, recycle, take shorter showers, buy local food, ride a bicycle, use metal straws, eat less meat, and to grow some veggies in your backyard, but nothing seems to be quite enough to really make a change. Especially people in "developed" countries who live in big cities and work a regular job often want to help but don’t really know how. This is where we step in. Since we both made it out of society and came out happy and healthy on the other side, we consult and assist others who are willing to do the same. We inform and educate through our website and publications on medium.com to contribute to humans getting back on track towards a regenerative future and a liveable environment for generations to come.
We can't "go back to the stone age" since time obviously moves in one direction only, but we can strive to become what John Zerzan has called the "Future Primitive".
What you can do
There are, in fact, many things you can do: you could start your own permaculture project and heal your landbase – or, in the meantime, while you do the planning, you could support little permaculture farms and similar projects that sprout up all over the world. All of those projects do their best to heal Nature, plant trees, supply their immediate surroundings with surplus organic food, and – most importantly – are an example for others.
All of those projects show that a different lifestyle is not only possible, but actually quite pleasant.
They show that there is an alternative to techno-industrial consumer-capitalism, that there are many ways to live that are sustainable, if not even regenerative – exactly what we need in this time of global crisis.
Creating an alternative is rewarding and deeply fulfilling - yet most projects often lack financial means (especially in the beginning phase), because they are not oriented toward making profit (making more than you need) but toward being sustainable (making just enough for you and the people around you). This causes a lot of people who try to do the right thing to worry, and discourages others from trying it themselves.
This is why we say that if you want to help making a change but don’t really have the time or the opportunity, you can still help projects that do what you would like to support. It would advance and encourage projects like ours a lot if people who support our cause but can't yet or don't want to do this radical step themselves donate a tiny part of their income towards healing the ecosystems we all depend on for our very lives.
With trust in large organizations like WWF (which supports and finances the forcible removal of indigenous communities from their forest homes in India) or Greenpeace (which is thoroughly technocratic and pro-business) declining, there are a lot of people out there doing real work to heal their local landbase.
And they could need your direct support.
Our goals for the future include (but are not limited to):
- Full autonomy as soon as possible
- Canopy closure in 5 to 10 years
- Helping to create an ecosystem almost indistinguishable from climax rainforest, with several layers of trees, vines, palms, bushes, herbs, grasses, rhizomes, mushrooms, epiphytes, etc.
- Increasing wildlife populations, birds, bees, spiders, bats, rodents, primates (and, if somehow possible, hornbills nesting here in 20-30 years, when the first trees will be large enough)
- Mastering archery to be able to hunt
- Increasing knowledge about herbalism and massage
- Making instruments from bamboo
- Learning the language of the birds
- Weaving baskets and mats
- Having fruit all year long and as much honey as we want
- Sharing seeds, seedlings and cuttings with like-minded peers
- Making all this knowledge available in several languages to anyone who's interested
- Creating "climate awareness" and reverence for Nature and all she does for us through translating English texts (studies, articles, books) into Thai
- Assisting and aiding people who want to return to the land
Patreon is an excellent way to support little permaculture projects like ours. Rather than giving a one-time boost (like regular crowdfunding), it allows steady support - which is often desperately needed. Since we have no ultimate goal to work toward and our project has no end point, steady support helps us in the most efficient way.
What we do with the moneyWe still have to cover the few ‘civilized’ necessities that we need to stay connected with the world and provide guests and volunteers with basic services such as picking them up from the bus station.
A part of your donations will pour into acquiring biomass (namely cowshit) to feed our army of worms - the most diligent members of our multispecies community - who convert manure into extremely potent, organic vermicompost.
Since we are still not fully self-sufficient, we also have to buy some additional food for us and the visitors of our community.
More things we’d like to do with your help is repairing and maintaining our buildings, buying new fruit trees and rare bananas, and expand our free distribution literature and our farm library about sustainability and permaculture.
We would like to share our knowledge and skills with as many people as possible. Right now the volunteers still have to pay a small fee (since we’re not yet self-sufficient) but for every patron we can reduce this fee, so that a broader audience can afford to receive a permacultural education and the experience of how a different lifestyle would look and feel like – people who would like to volunteer often don’t have that much money themselves.
We don’t need a lot of money, even a small donation is enough to make a big difference for us and the people around us.
And, last but not least: Thank you!If you made it to this point, we thank you for taking interest in our project and our efforts to make a difference.
If you choose to support us, we will express our gratitude personally and in written form. We know that a few dollars might not look like much, but to us every single dollar counts, and we promise to make sure the money finds a good use for a good cause.