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Communication and Education

By Bobbi, European Solidarity Corps member in the Drylands Department.


Last week, during our weekly “educational activity”, I invited the community to a presentation on the world of community conflicts. To kick things off, I asked my fellow Sunseeders what comes to mind for them when they hear the word “conflict”. Most of their responses were associations with anger, hiding, avoiding, violence. In other words, it’s not exactly something people feel like picking up in their free time. Quite the opposite, a deep fear of conflict is beneath the surface of many individuals of our community. And since community and individuals are inherently intertwined, this fear of conflict influences how we handle disagreements in community.

Because at the source of conflict is usually exactly that, a disagreement. And, according to Seeds for Change´s definition, conflict is what happens when two or more people have seemingly incompatible opinions, values or needs [1]. Given this, I argue that conflict is inevitable. So instead of tiptoeing around it, why not turn it into something we can welcome, something regenerative? How can we transform conflict from a destructive force into a catalyst for growth, both personally and as a community?

To tackle this puzzle, I would like to untangle conflict resilience, conflict resolution and accountability procedures.

First up, conflict resilience is about being pro-active, like weeding your beds so that your veg can grow big and strong. Just because conflict can be a gift, does not mean that conflict is something to seek out. Conflicts tend to grow when they are not dealt with when still small, with high emotional and sometimes even structural consequences for those involved. The art of a healthy conflict culture thus partially lies in prevention: formal and informal practices to address disagreements before they snowball into full-blown battles. Practices which can help us nip conflict in the bud include regularly sharing appreciation for each other, committing to handling frictions when still fresh and having an openness to giving and receiving constructive feedback. This way, differences in opinions, values or needs can be constructively worked through without tensions running high in the relationships. All this work contributes to our conflict resilience, our ability to handle conflicts on an individual and collective level without being thrown out of equilibrium.

But what about those conflicts that escalate nonetheless? That is where conflict resolution comes into play. This way, you do not need to scramble for solutions on the spot, but you can follow the predetermined steps of a conflict resolution procedure. Often when conflicts occur, thinking clearly and calmly is inhibited by difficult emotions taking the foreground, so coming to an agreement, or meeting in the middle, can seem impossible. Conflict resolution can be mediated or non-mediated. Importantly, it focuses on both parties hearing and being heard, underlying needs being put on the table and the relieving of emotional charges. Non-violent communication can be a valuable tool in these settings. These processes work best when people are committed to also doing their inner work; to understand why they might be triggered, what unmet needs they have, to take responsibility for their own emotions and be willing to receive the perspective of the other party.

And then there are times when harm or violence occurs, when trust is seriously shaken and a dialogue is no longer an appropriate response. That is where accountability procedures come in. Unlike the punitive legal system, this response is ideally in line with Transformative Justice principles. Priority lies both in care for the victim and providing learning opportunities for the perpetrator and the community. The accountability procedure seeks to find solutions which prevent recurrence of the harm taken place and usually entails various levels of intervention.

But how do we put all this theory into practice here at Sunseed? A place which welcomes a diversity of people with a high member turnover. Individual practices can be encouraged, but cannot and should not be enforced. Collective activities can be implemented and require a lot of trust. Furthermore, learning how to engage with conflict constructively is not something you learn overnight, but more like learning how to ride a bicycle. At first, it will feel awkward, you will probably fall a few times and scrape your knee. However, after a while, you might even be able to ride hands-free. And maybe, once you can ride hands-free, your (short) stay at Sunseed is already coming to an end again. 

Unfortunately I do not have a magic solution I can present to you about how to become the perfect we-love-to-manage-conflict-community. However, I do have a few ideas that I would like to explore and develop. And, because I believe Sunseed is not the only place struggling with building trust and continuity while continuously rotating its group members, I would like to share these ideas with the wider world of communities, collectives and movements as food for thought. 

Healthy conflict culture can be manifested both on an informal, (inter)personal level, as well as on a more structural level. On the informal level, community members can encourage each other and themselves to hold curiosity to experiences, to invest in relationships, and to embrace a culture of giving and receiving constructive and appreciative feedback. When individuals take responsibility for keeping healthy relationships and helping each other grow, a lot of powerful transformation can already occur.

This individual work ideally goes hand in hand with community practices. These practices can serve as learning spaces for becoming a better community member, as well as designated places for talking about tensions, to lower the threshold for sharing these tensions and invite everyone to participate in these processes. Weekly or monthly rounds of celebrating failings, addressing small tensions, or sharing appreciation are ideas that can be experimented with. Alternatively, you could facilitate spaces where people (one to one or in a small group) can more thoroughly explore feedback for each other, deepen their relationship or talk about community practices for collective growth. Lastly, drafting a collective agreement about conflict and feedback culture, as well as implementing a conflict resolution procedure can help with fostering collective commitment and function as tools for navigating conflict. After all, conflict is easy to talk about when it is far away, but gets a lot more tense once you are in the midst of one.

While I stand by these suggestions, there are a few unanswered questions to have awareness of. A main one for Sunseed is how this process of building trust and establishing conflict culture can take place while people are only staying for a short period of time. Another one is how we can also involve those who are conflict avoidant or perhaps do not see conflict engagement as a priority, though they might very well be actors in conflict.Lastly, how can we balance feedback and conflict engagement with having room to be, breathe, play and work? At what point is there too much conflict and feedback engagement? 

In the end, there is probably not a one size fits all solution for managing conflict in communities. The important starting point is a collective commitment to start unpacking this topic, with all its intricacies. Keeping an open mind and willingness to experiment is vital for this. At Sunseed, we are taking steps in this process now and will probably keep having to re-evaluate (and fail! and celebrate!), as we go on. 

[1] Working with Conflict in our Groups; a guide for grassroots activists – Seeds for Change 

Resource list 

  • Constellating Change training by the School of System Change 
  • Conflict is Inevitable event (Global Grassroots Support network, Alternative Justice, RadHR, Gastivists Collective)
  • Folks at Transformative Governance network 
  • Nonviolent Resistance in the Face of Hostility: Walking towards Conflict with Care for All – Miki Kashtan
  • DPACE Initiative – Foundations for Building Conflict Literacy 
  • Victorian Public Sector Commission – Building onflict resilient workspaces 
  • Loomio Cooperative Handbook 
  • DSFL – AWG Accountability Handbok 
  • Transition Network Conflict Resilience Resources 
  • Effective Collective – Dealing with Conflict
  • EAFB 2020 – Critic and Self Critic: What, Why and How.

Are you interested in joining our community? Do your internship at Sunseed, join us via European Solidarity Corps, check out our vacancies, or come as a volunteer.

Communication and Education, Courses and Events

This year, the Sunseed Community, nestled in the beautiful landscape of Los Molinos del Río Aguas in Almería, was privileged to advance our environmental and educational initiatives, thanks to the support from the EUTeens4Green Program. Our commitment to fostering sustainable living and environmental awareness was enriched through a series of thoughtfully planned activities.

The funding from EUTeens4Green was instrumental in enhancing our core projects, particularly two main events that drew significant attention and participation from the community and beyond. The first, an Art Residency named Germinar-t, brought together performers from across Europe to explore and express the environmental challenges specific to our region. This residency led into the second major event, the Festival del Agua, which has been a cornerstone in our efforts to advocate for water conservation and bring to light the pressing issue of the Ecocide of the Río Aguas. These events were not only about raising awareness but also about bringing people together to share in the experience of community, education, and activism.

In addition to these key projects, we also hosted a one-day visit from students of Almería University. This activity was an integral part of our journey with EUTeens4Green. It offered students a hands-on experience of sustainable living practices and sparked discussions on environmental preservation. This visit underscored the importance of connecting educational institutions with real-world environmental initiatives.

We extend our gratitude to the EUTeens4Green Program for their vital support over the past year. Their contribution has not only facilitated our larger events but has also underscored the value of each step we take towards our mission. The partnership with EUTeens4Green has been a key factor in our achievements, allowing us to reach wider audiences and deepen our community’s engagement with environmental issues.

As we celebrate this journey, we acknowledge the role of every project, big and small, in our ongoing efforts to promote a more sustainable and aware society. We look forward to continuing this work, inspired by the progress we’ve made and the support we’ve received. Here’s to a future where our community and our planet thrive together.


Communication and Education
As a community, we wanted to learn more about the local environmental and labour justice struggle surrounding el mar de plástico (the sea of plastic), referring to the agricultural system in/around Almería which results in a literal sea of greenhouses as far as the eye can see. 

This educational activity consisted of two parts:

Within the first week, we were informing ourselves about the sea of plastic – a local justice struggle on a human and environmental level in the region Almería  where Sunseed is based. The greenhouses in Almería, referred to as el mar de plástico (the sea of plastic), supply between 40-50% of all fruits and vegetables within the EU which equals 3.5 million tonnes of food annually. This comes with several environmental and human rights issues, such as plastic pollution, groundwater depletion, groundwater and soil pollution due to chemical fertilisers and pesticides, and the exploitation of (undocumented) migrant workers due to bad working conditions and low payment, qualifying as a slave labour conditions.

The week after, we went to El Ejido to talk to a representative from the Andalusian Workers Syndicate (SAT) who is supporting migrants in their struggle for humane working conditions. The objective of the syndicate is to stop exploitation of one human by another by trying to at least enforce the workers’ rights that are already there (but unfortunately don’t go far enough). Most greenhouses are close to the Almerían municipality of El Ejido.

Part 1: Info session within Sunseed

To gain a common level of understanding regarding the topic, we watched the following mini documentaries:
> Inside Europe’s BLACK HOLE: Almería  ‘s Sea of Plastic – YouTube
> 🍅 Veggiespiracy 🥦 Plastic Sea Almería   | 40.000 hectares of greenhouses | Louis De Jaeger – YouTube

After that we shared reflections about this topic in smaller groups and brainstormed questions we wanted to ask our contact the following week when going to El Ejido. We came up with questions regarding the following topics:

  • the worker’s situation in the greenhouses;
  • the production system and ownership of the greenhouses;
  • the legal situation surrounding this form of human and environmental exploitation;
  • resistance towards this exploitation;
  • water scarcity due to the industrialised food production in the greenhouses;
  • the role of the Andalusian Workers Syndicate (SAT);
  • the meaning of the greenhouses for Spain;
  • and finally the potential future of the greenhouses.

Part 2: Visiting SAT in El Ejido

Introduction of our SAT contact person
I am a rural (campesino) worker doing a regular job and besides that I also work for this syndicate outside of my working hours. I go as a representative for Almería   to different meetings for immigrant workers, telling what happens in Almería   to the outside world.

I am also part of another group called “Campesino”, that is a collective group of different syndicates that have a lot of meetings and often go to Brussels.  

What do you do within the syndicate?

Generally speaking, confront capitalism. We organise demonstrations and strikes. We try to help workers with their rights. I also work as Treasurer here.

How can you as a person and SAT in general help greenhouse workers?

We listen to the workers’ needs and problems and try to figure out how we can push the needs as a group. We try to find ways to pressure companies and the capitalistic system as a whole.

Generally speaking, what are the needs of the greenhouse workers?

The employers are often not following the law and pay less money than they should. They often do not pay enough, for extra hours and they do not give holidays. There is also sexual harassment happening, mostly towards women. Other problems are that many do not speak Spanish so we also offer Spanish lessons here. 

Have you been taking greenhouse companies to court?

Yes a lot! Thanks to our fight, companies now have to pay extra hours and vacations. There is now more control from the government and inspections are conducted.

What is an example of success that SAT had?

There are a lot of cases where SAT helped workers to receive their payments when employers refused to pay. For instance, there is the case of this worker who only earned 20 euros per day while working 14 hours per day from Monday to Sunday. He heard about the syndicate from a Moroccan friend and then SAT took this case to court and he was awarded 20.000 euros and he’s now in the process of getting that. So that is a success. But it’s also a success that many of the businesses here know about SAT. SAT has the recognition of fighting for the workers and that’s really important. It means the employers know that they can’t just do whatever they want, because they are being watched. Another fight I consider a success was attending a strike that was not organised by SAT but by other bigger syndicates (ía  /envasadoras-manipulado-Almería  -conciliacion-huelga_1_6375400.html). SAT is quite small but when it came to the moment of getting to the streets, SAT was the first to show up there. 

How does SAT get funding?

Monetary aid mostly comes from Brussels, from the left wing parties and organisations. Also the yearly fee we get from workers covers some costs. SAT is one of the smallest syndicates in the area, getting funded by different programs but we still don’t have enough people to do all the work that would need to be done. Applying for more funding, e.g. from the EU, requires a lot of work, as granting institutions demand detailed documentation of SATs work. So this is difficult to achieve when already being understaffed.


Do you have to register as a member to get help from SAT? 

No, we try to help everyone and to listen to their needs. To get legal help though, you have to register so you can get a lawyer from us. 


How do you register as a SAT member?

You can only give your name. You can but do not have to show your passport or legal papers. And then you have to pay the yearly fee of 65 euros – it is the cheapest syndicate I know of.

How many members are registered?

It is hard to say as there are a lot of transient people from Africa that come and go. Many registered but then later we never heard from them again. But I would say about 4.000 people that are registered. Fixed members (affiliates) though I would say over 600 people.

How many greenhouse workers are there in this region at the moment?

It is hard to say as many are not registered, they have no papers and are “illegal” immigrants. Most of them also do not know about their rights. But roughly speaking about 300,000 workers in the province of Almería  . 


What are the demographics of the greenhouse workers?

The workers are mostly men. They’re trying to make a better life for their families who are back home. They’re mainly from Algeria and Morocco. More are beginning to come from Sub-saharan countries now. 


How can the undocumented/”illegal” workers get their needs met/get help?

We give counselling to them and try to legalise their status with an “Arriago” working visa. We try to get them legal papers that show that they live and work permanently in Spain.  After being in Spain for 2-3 years you can apply for a working and resident permit. It is not easy though to get this permit, a series of requirements have to be met. 


Do you have examples of companies using “illegal” workers?

On paper all looks good, but reality tells a different story, many are “illegal”. When we win a trial against companies, they have to admit they have used “illegal” workers. Most of the companies have got used to thinking that they can get away with this as there are so many “illegal” immigrants coming through all the time and it is easy to take advantage of them. 

What is at the root of the exploitation of workers?

The exploitation of workers in this sector is caused by big supermarket chains who put a lot of pressure on the farmers. They just don’t buy the tomatoes for the price the farmers would decide on. And following that a lot of price dumping is happening. The Situation in El Ejido is a structural issue, which needs to be solved somewhere else. El Ejido is just one example of what is created by capitalism. If the workers would get paid more fairly, and if the farmers would invest more in better work and food conditions in general, the prices of the exported products would increase. That would have a direct effect on the prices we pay in the supermarkets. And this could trigger an enormous inflation…

How do greenhouse workers find out about SAT?

Mostly they hear about us through other workers, through word of mouth. We also get recognition with our demonstrations, strikes and movement rallies. Some may also see, hear or read about our victories in trials we won against companies. Some may hear about us in the media and news. 

SAT is also active in St. Isidro, a region in the north of El Ejido characterised by its greenhouses. Here the structure of workers’ rights is better organised. Just the fact that the workers know more about the existence of SAT makes it easier to help and to be active. Also, workers bring a more politically-driven energy and attitude to the table which also makes it easier to get together and achieve progress.

Are the greenhouse inspections you mentioned only for companies that employ workers affiliated with SAT?

No, there are regular inspections of fieldworkers and also other parts of the company, to see if the requirements are met. This is not linked to SAT membership.


Is it the EU or the Spanish government doing the inspections?
The EU itself doesn’t really help, it is the Spanish government. It’s more on a country to country basis. 


Who owns the greenhouses?
They began as small single owner businesses and cooperatives, then big companies got interested. It was better organised before. Bayer, Syngenta and Monsanto control the seeds used now, so it’s Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO). Also foreign companies from the Netherlands, Germany and France are buying land to cultivate now. These big companies also denounce and serve lawsuits to smaller companies if they use non-GMO seeds. They control the laws and own the market. They can make laws which suit them and convince smaller growers they’ll get a better yield with GMOs. The suppliers have a series of requirements they have to meet to sell to supermarkets. They tell them what to do if there’s a plague or the plants get ill. You have to buy their products so you enter into their game and so they make you consume their products for life. If you don’t play their game, you don’t play! 


Is there anyone or any organisation here in the area interested in fighting against GMO? And are they getting any closer at getting their interest met?

There are some groups in Spain like Greenpeace, there might be more. The fact is that as a producer, as a farmer, you need a plague resistant plant in order to make money. Otherwise, your whole crops will die and you’ll get no benefit from that, you’ll lose money. Companies like Bayer, Syngenta and Monsanto are tweaking and engineering this in order to make resistant plants and most of the time you will choose that because it’s a guarantee that you’re not going to lose money. To try to do the old fashioned organic way is just too risky for a farmer betting all his livelihood on getting a good crop. Also not everyone can “afford” to buy ecologically and as farmers have been using pesticides for years, it takes a big cultural shift to change this. The EU demands a certain quality of products but sometimes produce from Morocco slips in which has more chemicals in it and is cheaper. 


Do you think that Spain will eventually get laws that prohibit farmers from using their own seeds so that they will only be able to get seeds from private companies?

What is happening here in Almería  , Andalucia and Spain in general, is the fault of the pressure that is coming from the top of big supermarket chains that are pressing down from the top, demanding cheap food. There are farmers in small villages somewhere in Spain who do have their own seeds and crops, but the problem is that they’re not able to sell to the mass market like supermarket chains. All these stores that are selling according to EU regulations need traceability to the source, so the only way these farmers can sell their stuff is by local farmers markets which are very small scale. Or they already sell to specific restaurants in the area.

What happens with products from the greenhouses that cannot be sold?

The huerta de europa products sometimes get thrown away if they aren’t “perfect”. Sometimes the non-perfect products get pickled. Islamic and feminist groups also help the workers and especially the Islamic groups appeal to the Moroccan workers. SAT’s focus of supporting workers who have already been in Spain for quite some time to get them a permit to “legally” stay, is quite pioneering. The company I work for next to SAT is also taking part in an experiment that allows workers to take produce home if it’s surplus or not fit for sale. 


Who are the foremans in the greenhouses?

The foremans are usually Spanish, occasionally Romanian and they are very difficult to deal with. They abuse their power and lie. They are chivatos and negreros, the right hand men of the company owners and they think they’re above the law. They’re sometimes even worse than their own bosses/greenhouse owners.They are usually the main enemy because they are the ones who are stalling the fights. They are usually the ones who know things first because they’re the ones on the ground. The boss might go around every 3 or 4 hours, but the foremans are the ones working in the fields and sometimes they lie, and I have seen very unfair things happen because they’re friends with the bosses and the bosses will believe them without any proof. They’re traitors. 


How can Sunseed support the syndicate?

It’s basically about being more people for collective actions. When there are events we organise, then it’s good to have more people showing up with banners and making noise. That might do more damage to the business than a single legal action that the greenhouse owners can more easily hide. And if people on the streets can see this collective action then it has a lot of impact but also the fighting is nice. For people who are young, getting involved in these types of actions is very gratifying. Once I was hit by someone at a protest because I was protesting against the exploitation of this worker we already talked about (who was working from Monday to Sunday every week 14 hours per day while earning 20 euros per day). I’m not scared of going to actions like this and I can only laugh at the employer who is doing these horrible things to this worker and trying to scare me off with this act of violence. It’s important to get involved in these actions that have such practical outcomes. Since there are also illegal practices going on close to Sunseed, e.g. illegal wells for olive plantations. Sunseed could also take actions like this and the syndicate will be there to support these actions. 

What is the status quo of environmental movements in Spain/this area?

Movements of fighting for anything in general came way later to Spain than in other countries in Europe like France. And activism is arriving in Spain slowly, but not necessarily in a place like El Ejido, a little town, which is full of racism and sexism and generally also more reactionary. 

What’s the average age of people showing up to actions or demonstrations also regarding climate change?

I am the youngest worker in the syndicate. What could be the reason for that is that young people are less engaged in this topic. Maybe because on the left, there are also some horrible people who don’t change anything for the better and that we might need new associations to get real change. Generally, it seems like the majority of the people here in Almería   are not aware of the climate crises and rather want to make a lot of money. 


Communication and Education
Education interns Kira Börner and Jana Westerhaus write about their educational activity regarding COP28 and the necessity of debt cancellation for the global South[1] as part of our fight for climate justice. 

What is the COP? 
COP stands for Conference of the Parties and includes countries that signed the original UN climate agreement in 1992, also known as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The mission of the COP is to find collective solutions to stop global warming or at least limit temperature rise to a maximum of 2 degrees Celsius. We started our educational activity with a short role play where we teamed up in pairs to investigate the achievements of the past most important COPs. Every duo got to research about one past COP and had to prepare a short pitch of why next year’s COP should take place in their country again.

Important COPs

UNFCC COP and Agenda21 in Rio de Janeiro (1992)
* Setting rights for the whole world for educational development
* First agreement on reducing emissions
* First agreement on protecting biodiversity
* Agreements on sustainable forest principles
* Agreements on fighting desertification

COP3 in Kyoto. (1997) Kyoto-Protocol
* Commitment of industrialized countries and economies in transition to limit and reduce (5,2% according to 1990) greenhouse gases and emissions in accordance with agreed individual targets until 2012. Agreement on flexible mechanisms – Joint-implementation – Clean Development – Emission Trade (ways of emission trades under different conditions)
* It works in terms of supporting more investment in projects abroad. The idea was that both parties would benefit from that. On one hand the receiving country takes advantage of, for example, given technologies and the money they would get for selling their emission rights. On the other hand, the investing country gains rights of emissions. (Mechanisms are concepts to support projects abroad. Through the emission trading, investing countries can count the emissions which have been cut in the receiving countries on their account. The Background: Reducing emissions where it is the cheapest, doesn’t matter where) (2005 the Kyoto-protocol started in its first period until 2012)

COP15 in Copenhagen (2009)
* High expectations on this one. Trying to extend Kyoto, the parties couldn’t agree, voluntary agreements.
* Global north agreed on mobilizing 100 billion dollars from 2020 every year to support the global south. Be aware of language here! Mobilizing!

COP18 in Doha (2012) and Kyoto II
* Tracking of achievements from Kyoto I
* Kyoto got extended until 2020 (US was never part of the agreement, Japan, Canada, New Zealand and Russia quit the agreement (the biggest emitters; with the leftover parties in the agreement responsible for “just” 15% of the global emissions).

COP21 in Paris (2015)
* Kyoto-agreement is ending 2020.
* New climate agreement was arranged (Paris agreement)
* Including the 17 Development goals (Backbone for Paris agreement, common thread for 1,5°C limit)
* First international agreement for global north and global south including supporting each other in achieving the goals.
* Celebrated big in the world, but agreements were non-binding, with no consequences for not achieving…

COP27 Scharm el-Sheikh (Egypt 2022)
* Loss and damage fund was created (refers to the measures that we take to help a country to get back on its feet after being hit by a climate action).
* Stepstone in admitting that the countries that are suffering the most from climate change should get supported by everyone, because everyone and especially the global north has contributed the most to the climate crises.

After the pitches, we dived into the agenda items of this year’s COP28, held in Dubai. The following items are being discussed there: climate change mitigation, adaptation, loss and damage fund, fossil fuel phase out, and how to finance all the previous items. Additionally, we also talked about the controversy of holding the COP28 in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), one of the world’s top 10 oil producing nations that even now wants to increase its oil production. When it comes to the agenda item ‘loss and damage fund’, one has to know that 75% of the money that is supposed to help global South countries to deal with the climate crisis comes in the form of loans instead of grants. Moreover, the amount of money that is supposed to be paid (roughly 100 billion) is not even enough to cover all the costs related to the climate crisis. It’s estimated that by 2030, the global South will need around 350 billion US dollars every year to adapt to the climate crisis. Hence, global South countries have to pay for adapting to a crisis that they did not even cause themselves while global North countries and corporations continue to profit[2]. Due to that, the second half of our info session was about the necessity of debt cancellation for global South countries. 

COP28 discussion at sunseed desert technology education activity interns

What is debt? 
Every past culture had exchange going on, meaning that there is debt and credit: someone owes and someone else is owed. This process is underpinned by a sense of fairness and reciprocity and societies had mechanisms in place that would keep inequalities in check. When inequalities increased, debt forgiveness and redistribution of land were common actions to take; this was known, for example, as Jubilee in the Bible and also within many Jewish communities. At some point wealthy individuals began to demand interest when lending money, an extra amount of money for the service and risk of lending. There are two important differences to understand when it comes to the payment of interest: 1. Simple interest which is payment based on a percentage of the saved or borrowed amount and which stays the same over time. 2.  Compound interest which is not just based on the saved or borrowed amount, but also on the interest already earned so far. It’s “interest on interest” which is why a borrower can end up paying back way more than the initial loan, simply because the interest accumulates over time. 

How is debt linked to colonialism? 
It’s crucial to grasp that debt is all about power. Check out this video and document if you want to learn more about the interlinkages of debt and colonialism. The brief summary of it is that colonising nations benefited tremendously from exploiting peoples and nature in the global South and this exploitative system is still in place. Our global system is still organised along racist, colonial and capitalist lines and debt is just one of many tools used to maintain these structures. Former colonies were forced to compensate former colonisers for the ‘loss of their colonies’ after many global South countries gained independence. Additionally, many global South countries inherited debt accumulated by colonial powers during their time of rule and from dictators propped up by Western governments after the fight for independence. European powers transformed global South economies fit for export to feed the capitalist system in the West with cheap labour and resources. Many global South economies are still organised around this, making them very vulnerable to falling market prices. As stated by Jason Hickel in his book ‘The Divide – A brief guide to global inequalities and its solutions’ (2017), poverty gets created and doesn’t just exist in a vacuum. Hence, we need to understand why certain countries are rich and others are poor.

Oftentimes the dominant narrative is that the debt of global South countries is purely a technical/financial issue or that it would all be due to “corrupt” or “incompetent” governments. But this narrative completely erases the role that colonialism and capitalism had in indepting these countries and how, up to this day, many powerful actors use debt as a means to extract wealth and to exercise control. 

Who are the powerful actors that benefit from this debt system? 
Two of the most important institutions are the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Both were set up in 1944 to create a more stable global economic system after the Second World War. The purpose of the World Bank was to finance the reconstruction and development of war-torn Europe, hence, focusing more on the long-term development of countries. The IMF’s focus was rather on short-term crisis response by having its focus on financing state spending in countries that were experiencing economic turmoil. However, this focus shifted in the 1980s when the West discovered its power as creditors that would enable them to dictate economic policies that wouldn’t threaten their access to cheap labour and resources.

Many newly independent global South countries had presidents that wanted to protect their countries from external exploitative influences and started pursuing their own agendas to build thriving economies. As also mentioned by Hickel[3], during the period from the 1950-1970s, global South countries were flourishing and the divide between rich and poor countries was closing for the first time in history. This undermined profits of Western corporations and geopolitical interests of the global North, which is why the West overthrew and assassinated several democratically elected global South leaders to replace them with dictators, friendly to Western interests. When the price of goods crashed in the 1980s, several global South countries whose economies were still strongly focused on export due to previous times of colonialism, struggled repaying their loans. The West decided to repurpose the IMF as a global debt enforcer: the IMF would ‘support’ the global South in repaying their debt under a series of conditions known as “Structural Adjustment Programmes” (SAPs). SAPs consisted of austerity measures, privatisation and trade liberalisation.

These reforms were sold as enhancing the development of the global South, but they ended up being “the greatest single causes of poverty in the global South, after colonialism” (Hickel, ibid.). The World Bank began to require SAPs as well for all their development loans for global South governments, regardless of whether a country was indebted or not[4]. Lacking enough capital to make their countries prosper after being drained for centuries by colonial powers, many global South governments didn’t have much of a choice but to borrow money from the World Bank and the IMF. Both institutions have been and still are driven by US interests and remain global key decision makers that are dominated by global North powers.

Here a brief list of several ‘fun’ facts about both institutions:
* The voting power in both the World Bank and IMF is based on each member nation’s share of financial ownership and major decisions require a 85% majority vote. Guess who holds 16% of the shares in both institutions and therewith has de facto veto power? Right, the United States.
* Both institutions are headquartered in Washington D.C.
* There is the unspoken agreement that the president of the World Bank is always American whereas the IMF’s president is always European.
* Plus one should assume that the World Bank’s presidents are development experts since that’s supposedly the focus of this institution. But they all have/had links to the US government/army, Wall Street or other multinationals. Extra highlight: except one president, they were also all White men.

Over the last decade, more and more private creditors have entered the scene, such as banks, hedge funds and oil traders. Some of the famous ones are BlackRock, Vanguard and Vulture Funds. Around half of the global South debt is now in the hands of private lenders. So who owes whom? Looking at all these facts, it becomes clear that it is actually the global North that owes a debt to the global South for the exploitation and destruction of people and nature, plus the appropriation of our atmospheric commons by being responsible for most Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions that are causing climate breakdown. But so far the global North continues to ignore its historic responsibility and most climate crisis support comes (again) in the form of loans. Due to that debt cancellation is a crucial step in our fight for climate justice! 

The global South has been calling for a democratisation of the World Bank and the IMF for decades but keeps getting ignored. This video also features a ‘great’ example from just a few days ago, showing how the EU rejects a fair global financial tax regime. 

Debt for Climate 

That’s why we need a global movement, putting pressure on governments, private lenders, corporations and powerful institutions such as the World Bank and the IMF. Debt for Climate is doing exactly that – it’s a global grassroots movement initiated and led by the global South, building power from the bottom-up by uniting workers, Indigenous, feminist, faith, environmental, social and climate justice movements in the global North and South, to cancel the financial debt of the global South in order to enable a self-determined, just transition.

Here are some impressions from their past actions, so check them out:
–> Global Mobilization of Debt for Climate October 2023 – YouTube
–> Debt for Climate on X: “💥Our video from the last global action is out!💥 We continue to grow and are coming together again to step up the game this month! Join us to turn the tables on financial colonialism Feb 27th, and hold the global North accountable for its #ClimateDebt towards the global South!” / X (


[1] The terms global North and global South don’t refer to geographic locations of countries. Rather they encompass the relative power and wealth countries have in the world. Global North countries (such as the UK, US, Canada, Australia, Japan and many European countries) have power and wealth, while global South countries (including many formerly colonised countries in Africa, Latin America, the Middle East and Asia) have less power and wealth on a global scale. 
[2] An article about debt relief in relation to COP28: New push for debt relief to help developing world fund climate action | Climate finance | The Guardian 
[3] From the book The Divide – A brief guide to global inequalities and its solutions by Jason Hickel, 2017, p.22. 
[4] The IMF’s focus was on supposedly helping countries deal with over-indebtedness while the World Bank’s focus should have been to support the global South in their ‘development’.


Communication and Education

Education intern Jana Westerhaus writes about her research into the necessity of decolonial and anti-capitalist education at Sunseed. 

Why do we talk about decolonial and anti-capitalist education in Sunseed?

The Sunseed project was originally founded as a charity project from the UK. From the 1980s until the 2000s, the project intended to research appropriate technologies for life in semi-arid regions, and to then ‘export’ this knowledge to African countries such as Tanzania. When browsing through Sunseed’s archive and old newspaper articles, the featured discourse of that time is how ‘nice’ it had been of the mostly British volunteers to ‘sacrifice’ their comfortable way of living to a) come to Los Molinos to experiment with alternative forms of living in semi–arid regions; and to b) do ‘good’ for what was then called ‘Third World Countries’[1]. When starting my research about Sunseed’s history (building upon the work that has been done by previous Sunseeders to investigate the project’s coloniality), I couldn’t help but see White Saviourism[2] scream all over these newspaper articles. After several unsuccessful attempts to ‘export’ Sunseed knowledge to global South countries, the focus of the project shifted to its current vision of discovering how to live a healthy and ecologically responsible life working in harmony with nature, rather than continuing colonial continuities with its action by trying to ‘save’ people in the global South without even understanding the local context.

So why did I want to investigate Sunseed’s history and focus more on decolonial and anti-capitalist education during my time here if the focus of the project has shifted?

The reason for that is that even though officially times of colonisation are in the past, in reality, we are still reproducing colonial dependencies today. The global North is still appropriating people and nature in the global South to fuel economic growth, rather than meeting human needs and respecting planetary boundaries. Today’s climate and biodiversity crisis are just a continuation of colonial and capitalist appropriation. Global North countries are for instance responsible for 92% of overshoot emissions, meaning they are responsible for 92% of the damages caused by the climate crisis while only representing 19% of the global population[3].

To be able to better understand the multiple crises that we are currently living in, I recently gave an introductory workshop regarding the importance of decolonial and anti-capitalist education. Throughout history, many voices have been silenced and/or not been listened to, while at the same time, uncomfortable aspects of Western history are oftentimes deliberately downplayed or ignored. Our current economic system that relies on exploiting people and nature for profit is largely still unquestioned even though climate collapse is becoming more noticeable. The famous quote ‘It is easier to imagine the end of the world than to imagine the end of capitalism’ seems to be more accurate than ever. 

Colonialism, referred to as belonging to a prior epoch in which European powers took control over countries and peoples in Africa, Asia and Latin America, encompasses much more than that. Ruling over land and people in the global South was based on a European worldview in which they placed themselves above other people, e.g. through racial hierarchies or “levels of civilization” which they themselves invented. This has resulted in great destruction, expulsions and genocide. Colonised peoples have resisted conquerors on all continents, yet to this day, colonialism continues to have repercussions on politics, society, interpersonal relationships, and individuals. 

To reflect on colonial narratives that we received throughout our lives, especially also within our countries’ respective educational systems, and to feature at least a minor fraction of voices that have been silenced for way too long, we did a game of quotes designed by glokal e.V. , a Berlin-based association for critical educational work and consulting. We tried to plot quotes from oftentimes silenced actors stemming from different time periods on a timeline. Thereby, realising how many stories have not been featured or downplayed within Western education and how patterns of coloniality are still present today even though a certain quote is already decades or even centuries old.

During our discussion and round of reflection, we realised how different these narratives are depending on whether someone grew up in the global North or South. One community member stressed that this marginalisation, oppression and exploitation wasn’t surprising or new for them since they are from a global South country that has been heavily influenced by outside Western interests, both during the colonial era but also during times of imperialism that followed thereafter and are still continuing to this day. Emphasising the need for building alliances and solidarity between global North and South inhabitants to unite forces in the struggle for an environmentally and socially just world, free from continued capitalist and colonial exploitation. If you’d like to play the game yourself, you can go to this page:

What’s next?
For my remaining time here at Sunseed, I’m planning on hosting a workshop regarding transformative initiatives, worldviews and practices different from capitalism which can also broadly be defined as a peoples’ pluriverse. Recognising the diversity of practices and views of people in regards to planetary wellbeing (including human wellbeing and reconciling with the fact that humans aren’t a separate part of nature). By respecting and nurturing the interconnectedness of all lives, these worldviews can serve as a powerful and inspiring source  of hope for creating and pushing for a world beyond capitalism and neocolonial appropriation.

In addition to that, together with another education intern, I will host two sessions regarding the sea of plastic – a local justice struggle, both on an environmental and human level. The greenhouses in Almeria, referred to as the sea of plastic, supply between 40-50% of all fruits and vegetables within the EU. This comes with several environmental and human rights issues, such as plastic pollution, groundwater depletion, groundwater and soil pollution due to chemical fertilisers and pesticides, and the exploitation of (undocumented) migrant workers due to bad working conditions and low payment, qualifying as a slave labour type condition. We will host one workshop to educate each other on the topic before going to visit a representative of the Andalusian Workers Syndicate the following week who is supporting migrants in their struggle for humane working conditions.  

[1] I’m not using the term ‘Third World Countries’ since this term stems from the Cold War era that was used to refer to former colonies that were seen as ‘underdeveloped’. Instead I’m using the terms global North and global South that focus on the hegemony of historical and present power of certain nations along political, economic, and social lines.

[2] I’m using the following definition of White Saviourism: symptoms of racism and white supremacy which places those in a position of privilege into the role of saviour over those who have been historically oppressed and exploited.

[3] From the book Less is More – How degrowth will save the world by Jason Hickel, 2021, p.115.


German version

Warum sprechen wir über dekoloniale und antikapitalistische Bildung in Sunseed?

Das Sunseed-Projekt wurde ursprünglich als Wohltätigkeitsprojekt aus Großbritannien gegründet. Von den 1980er bis in die 2000er Jahre zielte das Projekt darauf ab, geeignete Technologien für das Leben in semiariden Regionen zu erforschen und dieses Wissen dann in afrikanische Länder wie Tansania zu „exportieren“. Wenn man das Archiv von Sunseed und alte Zeitungsartikel durchstöbert, ist das Hauptnarrativ dieser Zeit die Frage, wie „nett“ es von den überwiegend britischen Freiwilligen gewesen ist, ihre komfortable Lebensweise zu „aufzugeben“, um a) nach Los Molinos zu kommen, um mit alternativen Lebensformen in semi-ariden Regionen zu experimentieren; und b) „Gutes“ zu tun, für „Länder der Dritten Welt“[1] wie sie damals hießen. Als ich mit meiner Recherche über die Geschichte von Sunseed begann (aufbauend auf der Arbeit früherer Sunseeder die die Kolonialität des Projekts erforscht haben), konnte ich nicht anders, als von all diesen Zeitungsartikeln Weißes Rettertum[2] (auf Englisch White Saviourism) schreien zu sehen. Nach mehreren erfolglosen Versuchen, Sunseed-Wissen in Länder des globalen Südens zu „exportieren“, verlagerte sich der Schwerpunkt des Projekts auf seine aktuelle Vision, herauszufinden, wie man ein gesundes und ökologisch verantwortungsvolles Leben im Einklang mit der Natur führen kann, anstatt mit seinem Handeln koloniale Kontinuitäten fortzusetzen, indem man versucht, die Menschen im globalen Süden zu „retten“, ohne den lokalen Kontext überhaupt zu verstehen.


Warum also wollte ich die Geschichte von Sunseed untersuchen und mich während meiner Zeit hier mehr auf dekoloniale und antikapitalistische Bildung konzentrieren, wenn sich der Schwerpunkt des Projekts doch geändert hat?

Der Grund dafür liegt darin, dass die Zeiten der Kolonialisierung zwar offiziell der Vergangenheit angehören, wir aber in Wirklichkeit auch heute noch koloniale Abhängigkeiten reproduzieren. Der globale Norden profitiert noch immer von der Ausbeutung von Menschen und Natur des globalen Südens, um das Wirtschaftswachstum voranzutreiben, anstatt menschliche Bedürfnisse zu befriedigen und planetare Grenzen zu respektieren. Die heutige Klima- und Biodiversitätskrise sind nur eine Fortsetzung der kolonialen und kapitalistischen Aneignung. Die Länder des globalen Nordens sind beispielsweise für 92% der überschüßigen Emissionen verantwortlich, was bedeutet, dass sie für 92% der durch die Klimakrise verursachten Schäden verantwortlich sind, während sie nur 19% der Weltbevölkerung repräsentieren[3].

Um die vielfältigen Krisen, in denen wir derzeit leben, besser verstehen zu können, habe ich kürzlich einen Einführungsworkshop zur Bedeutung dekolonialer und antikapitalistischer Bildung gegeben. Im Laufe der Geschichte wurden viele Stimmen zum Schweigen gebracht und/oder ihnen wurde kein Gehör geschenkt, während gleichzeitig unangenehme Aspekte der westlichen Geschichte oft absichtlich heruntergespielt oder ignoriert wurden und werden. Unser derzeitiges Wirtschaftssystem, das auf der Ausbeutung von Menschen und Natur aus Profitgründen basiert, ist weitgehend immer noch unhinterfragt, auch wenn der Klimakollaps immer deutlicher spürbar wird. Das berühmte Zitat „Es ist einfacher, sich das Ende der Welt vorzustellen als das Ende des Kapitalismus“ scheint zutreffender denn je zu sein.

Kolonialismus wird meistens einer früheren Epoche zugeschrieben, in der europäische Mächte die Kontrolle über Länder und Völker in Afrika, Asien und Lateinamerika übernahmen, aber der Begriff umfasst viel mehr als das. Die Herrschaft über Land und Menschen im globalen Süden basierte auf einer europäischen Weltanschauung, in der sie sich über andere Menschen stellten, z.B. durch Rassenhierarchien oder „Zivilisationsebenen“, die sie selbst erfunden haben. Die Folge waren große Zerstörungen, Vertreibungen und Völkermord. Kolonisierte Völker haben den Eroberern auf allen Kontinenten Widerstand geleistet, doch bis heute hat der Kolonialismus Auswirkungen auf Politik, Gesellschaft, zwischenmenschliche Beziehungen und Einzelpersonen.

Um über kolonial geprägte Diskurse nachzudenken, die wir im Laufe unseres Lebens gelernt haben, insbesondere auch in den jeweiligen Bildungssystemen unserer Länder, und um zumindest einen kleinen Teil der Stimmen hervorzuheben, die viel zu lange zum Schweigen gebracht wurden, haben wir ein von glokal e.V. entworfenes Zitatspiel gemacht. Glokal e.V. ist ein in Berlin ansässiger Verein für kritische Bildungsarbeit und Beratung. Wir haben versucht, Zitate von oftmals marginalisierten Personen aus verschiedenen Zeiträumen auf einer Zeitleiste darzustellen. Dabei wurde uns bewusst, wie viele Geschichten in der westlichen Bildung nicht thematisiert und/oder heruntergespielt wurden und wie Muster der Kolonialität auch heute noch vorhanden sind, obwohl manch ein Zitat bereits Jahrzehnte oder sogar Jahrhunderte alt war.
Während unserer Diskussion und Reflexionsrunde wurde uns klar, wie unterschiedlich diese geschichtlichen Erzählungen sind, je nachdem, ob jemand im globalen Norden oder Süden aufgewachsen ist. Ein Sunseeder betonte, dass diese Marginalisierung, Unterdrückung und Ausbeutung für diese Person weder überraschend noch neu sei, da sie aus einem Land des globalen Südens stamme, das sowohl während der Kolonialzeit als auch in den darauffolgenden Zeiten des Imperialismus stark von externen westlichen Interessen beeinflusst wurde und noch stets wird. Dies unterstreicht die Notwendigkeit, Bündnisse und Solidarität zwischen den Bewohnern des globalen Nordens und Südens aufzubauen, um die Kräfte im Kampf für eine ökologische und sozial gerechte Welt zu vereinen, frei von fortgesetzter kapitalistischer und kolonialer Ausbeutung. Wenn du das Spiel selbst spielen möchtest, dann kannst du diese Seite besuchen: 


Wie geht’s weiter?

Für meine verbleibende Zeit hier in Sunseed plane ich, einen Workshop über transformative Initiativen, Weltanschauungen und Praktiken zu veranstalten, die sich vom Kapitalismus unterscheiden. Dies wird oftmals auch als Pluriversum der Völker bezeichnet, welches die Anerkennung der Vielfalt der Praktiken und Ansichten der Menschen im Bezug auf das Wohlergehen des Planeten beinhaltet (einschließlich des menschlichen Wohlergehens und der Anerkennung der Tatsache, dass der Mensch kein separater Teil der Natur ist). Indem sie die Verbindung alles Lebens respektieren und fördern, können diese Weltanschauungen als kraftvolle und inspirierende Quelle der Hoffnung für die Schaffung und Förderung einer Welt jenseits von Kapitalismus und neokolonialer Aneignung dienen.

Darüber hinaus werde ich zusammen mit einer anderen Praktikantin im Bildungsbereich von Sunseed zwei Workshops zum Thema “Plastikmeer” veranstalten – ein lokaler Kampf um Gerechtigkeit, sowohl in Bezug auf die Umwelt als auch auf den Menschen. Die Gewächshäuser in Almeria, auch bekannt als das Plastikmeer, liefern zwischen 40 und 50% aller Obst- und Gemüsesorten in der EU. Damit verbunden sind mehrere Umwelt- und Menschenrechtsprobleme, wie z. B. enorme Mengen an Plastikmüll, Grundwasserknappheit, Grundwasser- und Bodenverschmutzung durch chemische Düngemittel und Pestizide sowie die Ausbeutung von (undokumentierten) Migranten, welche unter schlechten Arbeitsbedingungen und geringer Bezahlung leiden, sodass dieser Zustant auch als Sklavenarbeit definiert werden kann. Wir werden einen Workshop veranstalten, um innerhalb Sunseed über die Problematik und Komplexität dieses Themas aufzuklären, bevor wir in der folgenden Woche einen Vertreter des andalusischen Arbeitersyndikats besuchen, der Migranten in ihrem Kampf für menschenwürdige Arbeitsbedingungen unterstützt.


[1] Ich verwende nicht den Begriff „Länder der Dritten Welt“, da dieser Begriff aus der Zeit des Kalten Krieges stammt und sich auf ehemalige Kolonien bezog, die als „unterentwickelt“ galten. Stattdessen verwende ich die Begriffe „Globaler Norden“ und „Globaler Süden“, die sich auf die Hegemonie der historischen und gegenwärtigen Macht bestimmter Nationen entlang politischer, wirtschaftlicher und sozialer Grenzen konzentrieren.

[2] Ich verwende die folgende Definition von White Saviourism: Symptome von Rassismus und weißer Vorherrschaft, die diejenigen in einer privilegierten Position in die Rolle des Retters gegenüber denen versetzt, die in der Vergangenheit unterdrückt und ausgebeutet wurden.

[3] Aus dem Buch Weniger ist mehr – Wie Degrowth die Welt retten wird von Jason Hickel, 2021, S.115 (Englische Version).



Communication and Education

Last October we hosted Circle Permaculture’s, permaculture design course(PDC). I was lucky enough to be a participant in the course. The course was two weeks long and gave a thorough introduction to permaculture. Throughout the two weeks we learnt the twelve Holmgren principles of permaculture. These are twelve guiding principles to creating a strong permaculture design.

As we were learning these principles, I couldn’t help think about how I could apply them to situations outside of permaculture. So, I have picked my top 5 of the Holmgren principles and will explain how they can be applied to life in general.

1. Observe & Interact

In permaculture it is important to first observe the area you will be working on. This step can last from a few days to a few years. We observe an area to understand the natural patterns and flow. It is imperative we take this time before making any big changes to ensure we are working in the most effective way. We must also interact to learn how an area/environment reacts.

The majority of us live such fast paced lives that we barely have time for this observation and interaction phase. A lot of us will jump straight into action without taking the time to step back and observe how a system works. We are bombarded with information and stimulus so we are compelled to act quickly without taking time to understand our actions.

Let’s slow down and observe and appreciate our surroundings. Let’s slow down and interact with others, in real life, not through technology.

2. Obtain a yield

To obtain a yield in permaculture this means designing a system that produces something that can be used. This is most commonly thought of as food but can also be many other things such as shade, protection, balance etc. Effective permaculture will produce the most yeild from an area using resources in the most efficient way. It is up to us the designers to understand the needs of an environment. We can then use this knowledge to optimise the rewards.

In life, we can work to obtain these rewards. The rewards can be either intrinsic or extrinsic, these rewards need not be strictly financial. Perhaps the reward is making a customers day a bit better or making your coworker’s day a little bit easier.

Whatever the reward, we should strive to obtain a yield from as many situations as possible. Rewards are not solely positive, sometimes we get the greatest yield from a negative outcome.

3. Self regulate & accept feedback

In any situation it is important to accept feedback and especially in permaculture. We must adapt to this feedback by self regulation. This may be as simple as not planting a bush because we have seen the affect it has on other areas, or it might be complex like removing a tree that further down the line will become invasive and take over the area.

Self-regulation or self-control allows us to be accountable and it empowers us. It is a life long skill to practice and is aplicable to almost all areas of life. Feedback should be seen as a gift, it helps us see things we may not have seen before. This new vision helps us improve our ability to perform.

We need to practice the skill of self regulation and accepting feedback. This will help us become life long learners and improve exponentially over time.

4. Integrate rather than segregate

Modern agriculture is built on segregation. Just take a drive in the countryside and you will see monocrop fields as far as the eye can see. We have isolated certain crops and need to artificially add what nature provides in an integrated environment.

By integrating and creating diverse environments we can become more sustainable and resilient , as well as more productive and efficient.

This principle translates perfectly in how we should all live in harmony with each other by integrating everyone into our communities and valuing diversity.

5. Use small and slow solutions

It is very easy to speed through decisions, sometimes we need to slow down and think about what we have to do. It is also very tempting to jump right into a big challenge, sometimes it is best to start off small and build to that big challenge.

Permaculture uses small and slow solutions because they are easier to manage than bigger solutions and they allow for the use of local resources leading to more sustainable outcomes. While this may not always be feasible, sometimes we need big and fast solutions to solve some of society’s greatest problems.

I hope you enjoyed my top 5 principles. I also hope you have learnt something about permaculture and how you can apply Holmgrens principles to your own life.


Communication and Education

Something inspiring and powerful is being born. We are building another world with our hands and we are transforming ourselves in the whole process. Education, communication, networking and solidarity are vital elements for our transition to a better state of living, in harmony with nature, ourselves and other fellow humans.

The Contact Making Seminar (CMS) for the setting up of the Sustainability Transition Network (SUSTRANET) was realized on 7-15 September 2017 at Vlachia, Evia, Greece. The networking event was organized at the premises of Stagones ( by iliosporoi network (coordinator) and hosted in total 33 youth workers and trainers from seven different counties (Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Latvia, Belgium), representing at least 10 organizations.

The CMS had as a primary focus to gather organizations involved in sustainability transition with the core objective to exchange experiences and best practices and set the basis for the establishment of a network of cooperation. In parallel, local trainers organized a thorough programme of learning activities to build the capacity of participants on project development and EU funding issues, as well as, on non-
formal education/ experiential learning methods.

During the course of 8 days, participants jointly carried out a programme of mixed activities (info sessions and presentations, debates, participatory seminars, practical workshops, simulation exercises, energizers, team building exercises, outdoor and social engagement activities) that enhanced their skills and competencies and allowed them to experience a multicultural simulation of living in an ecological
community. Project partners realized a mapping of their capacity and expertise and with the active involvement of their youth workers they will form a pool of trainers on sustainability transition that will transfer the acquired knowledge to other European regions and localities.

The CMS gave project partners the opportunity to engage participants in an intensive and participatory learning process that enabled them to get actively involved in a non-formal educational process for training of sustainability trainers and multipliers at local/ national levels. At the same time gave them necessary knowledge and tools to develop and manage projects, to develop networks of collaboration and undertake deliberative decision making.

Youth workers were able to develop skills and competencies on inter-cultural training for sustainability, including but not limited to: team work, leadership, self-awareness, analytical and creative thinking, visioning and participatory planning, project management and conflict resolution, monitoring and evaluation. In the long run these will contribute to their personal and socio-educational development and
will improve their employment prospects.

The project was carried out as a follow up to the successful implementation of SUSTRARES that was flagged as a best practice by the Greek National Agency.

SUSTRARES (Sustainability, Transition and Resilience) was a 10-day intensive training course for youth workers that focused on self-sufficiency, community building and sustainability transition issues through mostly practical workshops. SUSTRANET CMS focused more on team deliberation and building of concrete project ideas and proposals.

The main deliverables of the SUSTRANET CMS project include a dissemination poster for publicizing the network and attracting new members, a website (, a short aftermath video (, a networking reflection stories video (, and a training report (soon to be published). The main outcome of the project was that participants
as a final exercise they split into two groups and developed two concrete proposals to be submitted in the Erasmus+ programme. One of them is a Youth Worker Mobility on Zero Waste and the second is a Strategic Partnership for the establishment of sustainability transition hubs and an international pool of trainers.

The future is now, the present is ours. We learn how to become self-sufficient and aware, skilled with all the necessary competencies to create our own frugal abundance by developing and implementing a new paradigm and a new imperative of an emancipatory transition to sustainability.

Project partners and SUSTRANET founding organizations:
Iliosporoi Network (Coordinator, Greece), La Fabbrica Del Sole Onlus (FDS) (Italy), Gaia (Portugal), Arci Chieti (Italy), SEYN (Belgium), Agronauten (Germany), Ecobytes (Germany), The Latvial Permaculture Association (Latvia), The School Of The Earth ‘Nea Guinea’ (Greece), Sunseed Desert Technology (Spain). Funded by the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union.


Communication and Education

On Saturday the 25th of March a group of 55 students from the University of Almeria came to visit Sunseed in order to learn about our project and the environment that surrounds us. This was possible thanks to the “Arbol de las Piruletas” which is a non-profit association that develops activities aimed at promoting awareness for the conservation of the Environment and that can luckily participate this year in the Project Ecocampus Almeria as Technical Secretary. This is an initiative of the Consejeria de Medio Ambiente y Ordenaciòn del Territorio and the University of Almeria, founded by the European Union (80%). The students were from two different university courses: Environmental Science and Education.

After their arrival they had a Sunseed general tour in order to have a deeper understanding of this reality and our structures and goals. In each departments the respective coordinators gave a general explanation about their work and about the activities they can offer to volunteers. After a delicious Sunseed lunch prepared with local products, the Drylands coordinator guided the walk to the Nacimiento, the spring of Rio Aguas, the important river that many villages (including ours) rely on for the supply of water which is in serious danger.

The walk was an opportunity to speak about the Ecocide (the death of an eco-system) going on in this area and that this is the exact cause of why the river and all the villages that rely on this flow to survive are in so much danger. Because of an intensive agricultural activity due to olive plantations between Tabernas and Sorbas, the river is being overexploited by over 300% and the water flow is reducing quickly. It was measured by Professor Maria Calaforra of Almeria University and the reduction has gone down from 17 litres per second (in April 2015) to 10,4 litres per second (in july 2015). This will cause, firstly, a lack of water in some tracts of the bed of the river and so many species are now risking extinction because of the entrapment, as they won’t have vital space to move.

On the human side of the issue, many people have the opportunity to live in this area thanks to the water they can take from the river. The human consumption has always been respectful and sustainable so that, even in the driest periods, the water is still flowing. Due to this overexploitation, caused by the intensive olive plantations, the future of many people and the rare species in this area are at risk. The water here is fossil, which means that it has been locked underground for thousands of years and is not easily renewable, instead has a very small recharge from the rainy water, which in the area is very limited.

We were all very happy we could share this information with the students of the University of Almeria as they shared much interest about this issue and also about the whole Sunseed project. We hope more and more people will be aware of this situation and will come together to stop this abuse.

You can read more (in spanish) about the visit in two local newspapers: La Voz de Almería and Ideal.


Communication and Education, Courses and Events

Last week a group of 68 geography students from the Liverpool John Moores University spent an afternoon with us at Sunseed. They had the chance to visit the place where we live and to see how our community is living sustainably.

They walked the path that runs along our irrigation line and met the people who are working to restore it after the storm, allowing them to understand how important it is for the existence of our village. They also saw how the ram pump works: this system provides the whole village with running water without using any energy apart from gravity.

The students also shared a nice tea break with us and visited our gardens and the arboretum, a nursery where local plants are grown to repopulate the dry slopes around us. Here is where we investigate the interactions between the local flora and different species of fungus that can help it to face adverse climatic conditions. Other aspects they had the chance to discover were our waste water system and our solar panels.

Most of the visitors were impressed by the fact that such a lively community is able to live off-grid in this impressive and hard landscape. For us this was a grat opportunity to get all the team and volunteers together to welcome them and to share the valuable learnings we have here.

Sunseed, as an educational center, welcomes visits from schools, universities and individuals interested in learning from our experience of more than 30 years living sustainably in a semi-arid region. If you are interested in our activities, please contact us!


Communication and Education

In this workshop we explored the Nature around us which we are a part of, marvelling at the wonders of Gaïa, and reconnected to our own Human Nature, our instincts and raw emotions. Members of the off-grid, self-sustainable learning centre, Sunseed, came together in our peaceful meditation garden, and through a series of activities, we remembered Nature.

We first interacted with the space through an unguided observation, where we tried to refrain from making any judgements, letting Nature speak to us freely.

We moved into learning some basic bushcraft skills, such as walking delicately and silently, feeling the earth with our feet. We discovered the depth of sounds with the ‘deer-ears’ technique, and finally explored how wide our peripheral vision could be.

We became more aware of our presence, and of our environment.

Once we had remembered these powers of ours, we partnered up, one person leading the other that had closed eyes. As the viewer found an interesting element, they would orient the blind and tap them to open their eyes – suddenly revealing the singled out element chosen for them.

Remember Nature workshop 2

These few seconds created strong sensory moments, revealing minute patterns and details previously overlooked.

Finally, sitting back to back with each other, we sang in harmonies, letting air flow in and out of our lungs, connecting with each other and our environment.

Remember Nature workshop 3

We left feeling relaxed and refreshed, noticing we had connected with our environment, ourselves, and each other.

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