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Meet the course participants:
PDC 2011 - Marda, Palestine

In this article I'd like you to meet the course participants of the 2011 PDC in Marda village, Palestine. Find out their stories, why they were drawn to Palestine, and what their future plans are now that they've done the course. Enjoy!

PDC Palestine group

All images © Christopher List Photography

Permaculture Teachers:

Klaudia Van Gool

Klaudia van gool

Dutch-born and UK-based Klaudia van Gool first came across permaculture around 20 years ago when she accidentally picked up the Permaculture Designer's Manual, by Bill Mollison, in the library.

Originally a housewife, she was always interested in the environment and thought the book had great pictures.

Already becoming a keen gardener, she started applying some of these ideas and so her love of permaculture was born, and as they say, the rest is history!


Once her kids were old enough, she did a permaculture course in 2005 and was immediately enthused.

Klaudia van Gool, Palestine

" I did every course I could find, soon realising that I'd love to teach and then did my diploma and further training", she said.

Klaudia Van Gool teaching PDC

"The story of how I came to teach in Palestine can be traced back to my first year of teaching when I taught a course with Albert Bates (from the farm in Tenessee). Murad knows Albert and is associated with him through the Global Village Institute.

When Geoff, who was originally supposed to teach the course, couldn't make it, he asked Rhamis to stand in for him, while Murad asked Albert to recommend another teacher. Albert suggested me, and the irony is that Rhamis and I live less than half an hour away from each other!"

Rhamis Kent

Originally from new York, Rhamis is from Long Island and went to college at the University of Delaware to study a Bachelors of Mechanical Engineering.

Rhamis Kent teaching

Rhamis takes the permaculture principle of diversity seriously - his background includes working for Dean Kamen, an inventor who created the Segway (a two-wheeled, self-balancing battery electric vehicle); working in product development in California, in the aerospace industry, and he even taught high-school students for a couple of years. He also worked on a tugboat for six months!

Rhamis Kent in Palestine

Quite by chance Rhamis met a student at Berkley university who worked for Geoff Lawton. After she had shown him some of what permaculture had done, he was really interested and went to meet Geoff in 2008. This meeting led to Rhamis going to Zaytuna Farm, New South Wales to study with Geoff for three months.

"No matter how cliched it sounds - it was a lifechanging experience. I had the opportunity to do some consultancy work while at the farm that was much more interesting and closer to my passion than anything I'd done in my engineering career.

One of these jobs was peer-reviewing the documents from the Masdar City project in Abu Dhabi - touted as the most ambitious green, sustainable development project in the world. I saw that there is a niche in the consultancy market for development work that wasn't being filled".

Rhamis Kent making no-dig bed

"Teaching came about naturally - there is a great exhange between you and students, everyone brings something to table, and you are always enriched as a result.

Ultimately getting into design work and seeing this get more mainstream is my goal and reflects what permaculture is trying to do - to have a meaningful impact in changing things in the world that need to be changed, in a practical, concrete way".


Rhamis Kent plays football

Muna Dajani

Vivacious, passionate and like most Palestinians, political, Muna grew up in Jerusalem and studied civil engineering. After that she decided to take more of an environmental path, studying Environmental Sciences at the Arava Institute in Israel.

Muna Dajani in Palestine

She also received a scholarship to study International Development and the environment in the UK. While back in her home country looking for a job, Muna heard about the course in Marda from friends who'd went last year and found it on Facebook.

Muna Dajani in Palestine

"In Palestine, there are lots of resources we can't access or control, which is a huge problem because, with 15% of our GDP coming from agriculture, we are very dependant on farming as a way of living.

It's been getting worse since the occupation - farmers are being forced to work inside Israel, and moving off their land because it has become difficult to make a profit from farming.

Permaculture is the best way to raise awareness of the importance of agriculture, not the type in existence today, but the organic and sustainable way.

I've learnt so much from the course, it changes the way you think and what you're used to, but best of all - thethe tools are very practical and can be easily implemented into your life, whether you live in the city or on a farm".

Ahmed Shaheen /Abu Ali (son of Ali)

Ahmed Shaheen, Palestine

The nature-loving, kind and warm-hearted Ahmed, otherwise known as Abu Ali (son of Ali), is a Palestinian who works as a database administrator in Saudi. Ahmed lives in Bethlehem, and is originally from Hebron. While visiting Palestine, Ahmed saw an ad in the local newspaper and contacted Murad.

Ahmed shaheen, Palestine

"I knew of permaculture for a long time, though not by its name (which is new to me). I like to work with nature, to plant flowers, and food. Palestinian people, by their nature, are farmers.

Permaculture is a way to teach them to farm in a more sustainable way, giving them more tools and techniques.

I specifically enjoyed learning about reusing waste materials - there is a lot of waste coming from cities which can be used in buildings".

"When I retire I want to start my own farm to provide a sustainable lifestyle and fulfill my passion to plant and love nature".

Eeva Elliot

Eva Elliot, Palestine

Fungi-loving, bright and curious Eeva is Finnish, lived for a few years in South Africa and currently lives in Germany. Currently studying a pHd in Linguistics, doing experimental work with deaf people, Eva heard about Marda through some friends and found it on Facebook.

I've always been interested in sanity. It's been on the back of my mind to do a perma course and learn something about sustainable development and the politics of Palestine has always fascinated me.

Eva Elliot, Marda

The course has been mind-blowing. Moments that stand out are our excursion to to Jerusalem on Good Friday, learning about the structure of the soil, micro-organisms, organic matter, the whole cycle of growth and decay, and of course fungi!

Iba Farrah

Iba Farrah

Warm, intelligent and dedicated, Iba is a Palestinian who lives in Jerusalem is currently doing her pHd in Public Health, studying a disease that is prevalent in the region, particularly in rural areas.

She also works as a part-time researcher at Bethlehem University, researching plants, environment, bio-control, nematodes and other sujects related to the environment.

She found out about the course in the newspaper and, having wanted to do it a long time ago, signed up.

"Permaculture is sorely needed in Palestine. Here we live in very trying conditions because of the political situation; Palestinians are not able to access their own resources".

"If you have a little land you can use it very efficiently, very safely and in an eco-friendly manner.

This is knowledge that can help a lot of people.

You are then not dependent on anyone else to provide food, you can grow it yourself in even the worst conditions, with minimal resources and minimal need for movement".

Iba Farrah

"My favourite thing on the course was the design aspect. I'd been sketching out a design for some land but the course has changed everything for me - it now looks completely different! I hope to buy some land in the West Bank and put everything I've learnt on the course into practice".

Fatos Olloni

Fatos Olloni

Always keen for a laugh, wannabee German rapper, helpful and uber-friendly Fatos was born in Kosovo, where he didn't have access to a formal education after the age of 14 because of the war.

He worked doing a variety of things, mostly manual work, including as a bicycle mechanic, at a generator repair shop.

Fatos then spent four years living in Germany and Sweden after the war in Kosovo, and is currently living in Jerusalem, looking after is 2-year old son while his wife works for the United Nations there.

He would like to be involved in volunteer work in the West Bank, having seen the bad effects of the occupation on daily life.

Fatos tells us how he became interested in permaculture.

"Growing up in Kosovo, I lived in a small city/large town, but our family had tobacco and variety of vegetable fields which used to make extra money. As a young boy I spent a long time in the fields during harvest and came to learn about some basics of planting, harvesting, and protecting the plants from disease".

Fatos Olloni

"For the last 3-4 years I have wanted to learn more about agriculture in general, and I have spent time working as a painter/decorator in London. I wanted to find a way to combine these different interests.

Two years ago, my wife and I stayed with friends in southern Spain who had just finished a permaculture course, and all the elements she talked about - building design, agriculture, farming - were what I had been looking for. I knew that I would start doing some permaculture courses once I had a chance, but we were moving countries a lot.

It wasn't until we moved to Jerusalem that we found a course that was convenient in terms of where we were living, but also was contributing to a worthwhile ongoing community project. I was very excited to see a permaculture course offered there that also tried to give rights to people suffering due to the Occupation".

Fatos Olloni, Palestine

"Our plan as a family is to buy land on the coast in Albania, and build a small guest house - about 12 cabins, all based on permaculture principles. My wife wants to run the hotel and restaurant, and I would deal with the building work and the agriculture, with the idea of being about 80% self-sufficient.

"There is a very small permaculture association in Albania, and the country, with it's beautiful coastline, is perfect for this type of project which is sympathetic to the area. We plan to use the guest house as an example for the local communities to follow and to be involved in.

We want to be able to offer informal trainings to help communities in the area become more sustainable; and to include a number of community-based projects".

Fatos Olloni with wheelbarrow

"We will definitely do this at some point in the next few years, but for now I need to learn more about permaculture in practice, and get experience with alternative building methods, and simultaneously start saving money.

I know that I will definitely be working in some way or another based on the principles of permaculture, whether it is a volunteer work in a refugee camp wherever my wife's work takes us, or building our own dream business".

Christopher List

A Namibian-born photographer currently living in Dubai, and incidentally my husband, Chris and I watched a documentary about a conventional farmer who started converting her farm to permaculture and so, the seed was planted!

"Palestine appealed to me because it was a country in conflict - it reminded me of South Africa during apartheid - I wanted to see with my own eyes what was really happening.

Learning how to make a no-dig bed and the subsequent practical was my favourite experience, because of its simplicity - it doesn't require much effort and revitalises and replenishes the soil. Of course, the location was also amazing - being in the heart of Palestine at the time of the Occupation and helping out in whatever way I could".

Christopher List, Murad Alkhufash and Ahmed

"I plan on documenting and visiting as many permaculture projects as I can, learning everything I can to minimise my footprint, and helping others learn to become self-sustainable".

Melissa Andrews

Melissa Andrews

"Freelance writer, 2nd time PDC particpant, and volunteer at Marda, I came to Palestine because the country intrigued me".

"The course taught me a lot, I loved learning about foraging, forest gardening, how to minimise waste. It's so intuitively right, such common-sense learning that I truly believe anyone can benefit from permaculture, anywhere in the world".

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