Therapeutic-Permaculture-1-1Imagine a place that people can go to get through their problems and prepare their selves to restart a new life. Imagine that these process includes learning a permacultural way of understanding the reality. That’s what ARCAH’s project is working to reach in a therapeutic community (CT) SP- Brazil.

ARCAH is a Brazilian NGO who’s vision is to be efficient and to offer quality support to social projects and business focused on the reduction and, where possible, eradication of homelessness through programs developed from productive occupational therapy on self-sustainable farms.

According to data from MDS – Ministry of Social Development and Fight against Hunger, it is estimated that, in Brazil, the street population reaches approximately 50,000 persons, which at least 15,000 reside in Sao Paulo’s downtown area. According to 2011 census, approximately 74% of the homeless are addicted to some kind of drug.

Since 2014, Permaculture has become a effective way of think and understand reality in the ARCAH’s project. With a holistic approach based in the community of San Patrignano’s experience, permaculture has been implemented in the everyday challenges of our therapeutic community.

The “permaculture look” is a systemic way of see and understand the world around us. It’s a possibility of reconstruction of the reality in a theoretic and practical way that can help people and places to become more complex, resilient and autonomous.

Therefore, Permaculture is helping to empower people and projects to overcome a reality of less care with other people or the environment to a reality of hope and abundance.

The Alvorada’s case:

Alvorada is a Therapeutic Community (CT) where we have been working the permaculture principles since 2014. It has around 3.000 square meters and can welcome till 60 guests. After a welcome program, our guests are welcome for a program of 2 years in which they will be taken care and will learn a new job to prepare them for a new life in society.

During these period, we have a strict daily schedule in the CT, so they can start to re-learn how to live respecting rules. A set of activities are a part of the schedule, as morning meditation, sports, cooking, planting classes (every Monday night it’s permaculture class), etc…

We believe that establishing a permaculture look is letting a new way of understand life and it’s relations flourish. It’s a way of appropriate a systemic conception of the reality. “To become more resilient in an era of change”.

Therefore, we are not only helping people to get back with their lives into the society, but we are enabling them to be part of the construction of a new society, that really cares about other people and environment.

Every Monday night we have a theoretical class of permaculture that will cover all the principles, methodology and different kinds of techniques. After that, we have the entire week to try to use what we learned on a daily basis or on a new idea in development.

After the firsts months of work we got to change a bit the way we were gardening looking forward a more systemic way in which we would spare energy and avoid extra-work or pollution. In the next pictures we will show what we have done in 2014.

Every week we have a new permaculture class to all the Therapeutic community (CT). As a group we travel around all different kinds of subjects from a permaculture perspective and prepare our designs for the outside work. In the picture we can see Joao Lotufo talking about the importance of ours gardens’ flowers. It was a big surprise for them to realize that plants like lettuce have flowers and to understand how important they are for the life of the garden.

Our garden is guided by agro-ecological principles. It is organic, diverse and seeks to integrate different organisms. We have a rotation of beds for better efficiency along with a chicken tractor. We have a varied and delicious production!

Garden adaptation with inclusion of a agro-ecological concept. Evolution of the first 3 months: re-dimension of beds, organic matter incorporation and inter-cropped plants.

Every week we plant a new diverse bed. That was a big change for the community because allowed us to have fresh organic food every week. In the past we were planting all the bed at once, therefore we had times with too many food and times with none.

The garden’s nursery is a great opportunity to develop the care and responsibility. There we plant the seeds harvested in the garden and others that we are not yet producing.

Including a chicken tractor, the biggest help that we could have to improve even more our design site.

As using intrinsic characteristics of chickens to improve the garden’s management. Our chicken tractor is divided into 3 modules. The first one is covered and is where the perch, water, nest and bay for food are. The other two modules are just screened for grazing along the bed. Tit has the gardens bed size and because it’s divided in three parts, we can easily move it in with just two persons.

Every week the mobile chicken coop move to the next swath, remaining there for 7 days. During this period, the chickens will eat insects and remnant plants, scratching and picking the bed. They also perform a “direct fertilization”. Once they are transferred to the next bed, a new site is planted.

Once the chickens are transferred, the site is cleaned (cut up any roots and stems), fluffed a depth of 30 cm, covered with organic matter and the seedlings and seeds are planted.

Once we changed to a Permaculture garden, a amazing thing happened. The 3 ethical principles of Earth care, People care and fair share became evident. The monotony of a mono-culture poisonous garden changed to a colourful, diverse place. Birds, bees and butterflies just invaded the place, and with them the joy of the families, that on visits days would go for a walk at the garden to take pictures or just to have a nice conversation and at the end of the visit, some families could take a basket of fresh organic salad to their homes.

So, that’s part of our experience. And we hope that it is just the beginning. We are sharing these expecting that our experience could encourage others to use permaculture in what ever they are doing, been more energy efficient and taking care of earth and the ones around us.

By Joao Lotufo | (Source:; March 27, 2015;