Your address will show here +12 34 56 78
Courses and Events, Drylands Management, Organic Gardening

Greening the desert, regenerating ourselves

With Sunseed Desert Technology

Learn about Permaculture and how to design sustainable communities and regenerative ecosystems  in the desert!


More and more people are starting to realize that living in a more sustainable way is the best next move they can make going forward. Permaculture is a way to obtain practical skills to achieve this goal, as well as teaching us how to communicate in a non-violent way. Some people have found that a Permaculture Design Course represents a pivotal moment in their life, and marks a transition towards a healthier relationship both with ourselves and everyone and everything that surrounds us. 


Los Molinos del Río Aguas, Almería, Southern Spain  – an off-grid village, located in the “last oasis” of Southern Spain.   


October 4th – 20th, 2024




€580 until July (early bird discount) or €630 from July until end of September (includes 3 meals per day + supper on the arrival day and breakfast on departure day), as well as 90+ hours of permaculture classes (theory and practical). Classes will be given by several passionate permaculturists, 3 main facilitators plus invited experts, who will be sharing their years of experience obtained in different parts of the world. Participants also receive a certificate that they have completed a recognised PDC at the end of the course.

Book now

Register your interest by filling in the inscription form

Important note: Places can only be reserved once a EUR 200 non-refundable deposit has been made.

Course location

Ecovillage “Los Molinos del Río Aguas” Sorbas, Almería

Los Molinos del Río Aguas is an ancient Andalusian village with a rich historical background tied to the abundance of water and the presence of numerous mills for producing flour and olive oil. Nestled in Europe’s “last oasis” and protected by the Natura 2000 network as well as being designated a natural park, the Los Molinos del Río Aguas valley forms part of a Karst landscape reserve, characterized by gypsum rocks. This unique ecosystem is home to various endemic species of flora and fauna.

All the houses in the village are self-sustaining: water is sourced from an ancient irrigation system and pumped into the houses using a hydraulic ram pump, while electricity is generated through solar panels. This setup offers a serene and responsible lifestyle independent of government utilities. Once nearly abandoned by the locals, the village is now home to a cosmopolitan group of approximately 30 residents, with a steady flow of volunteers and visitors enriching its vibrant community throughout the year. 

There are several hiking trails along the river, and natural swimming pools for bathing. The valley lies 30 km from the coastal natural reserve, Cabo de Gata, known for its stunning, pristine beaches. The nearest city, Almeria, is 60 km away.

Sunseed Desert Technology

Sunseed is a non-formal education project, housed in Los Molinos del Río Aguas. The project has over 35 years of experience researching, learning, and experimenting with the regeneration of ecosystems, including research into the symbiotic relationships between mycorrhizal fungi and plant roots – fundamental to soil restoration.

Over the years, Sunseed has gradually evolved into an experiential education centre with visitors and volunteers working to support the ongoing tasks of the project, whilst simultaneously learning how to live in a low-impact way. Sunseed grows much of its food in the community kitchen garden, and they are currently in the process of establishing a food forest.

Course Description 

Permaculture aims to create systems that create harmonious connections between humans and the planet. The Australians Bill Mollison and David Holmgren coined the term in the 70’s, a combination of the words “permanent” and “agriculture. Permaculture ethics, principles, and design techniques were first used to develop sustainable agricultural systems as an alternative to the growth of agro-industry and the consumer economy. From these beginnings, the concept of Permaculture has expanded and diversified to cover nearly all types of human-based systems.

Permaculture design courses (PDCs) have been developed as an introduction to this way of thinking and teach the tools and techniques needed for participants to design their sustainable systems. These courses are taught through both theory and practice and weave in both ancestral knowledge and recent discoveries.  At Sunseed we showcase many examples of Permaculture in practice.

In this two-week PDC, we use the basic curriculum as set out by the UK Permaculture Association and supported by the Southeastern Spanish Permaculture Network (REPESEI).

The course will take place in a real context, in which the participants have the opportunity to gain first-hand knowledge of how, at Los Molinos, we harvest water, regenerate soil, plant trees and grow vegetables in a desert environment following Permaculture principles. During the course, we will also address aspects of social Permaculture, where we will focus on self-care, community living, equitable participation, and effective decision-making models. 

Course content

We will follow the course curriculum as set out by the UK Permaculture Association and supported by the Southeastern Spanish Permaculture Network (REPESEI).

In addition to the theory, we will do many practical exercises in order to learn by doing, as well as a group final design. This will be done by participants using a Permaculture design framework, as well as all the theoretical knowledge gained during the course, and the knowledge and experience each person brings.  

Main subjects covered:

  1. A short history of Permaculture, ethics and principles (Mollison y Holmgren)
  2. The design process itself: survey – analysis – design – implementation – maintenance – evaluation – tweaking.
  3. Designing for climate emergency: food independence, communities
  4. Soil structure and the soil ecosystem: fertility, sampling and analysis, management, regeneration (especially in arid environments). 
  5. Water: the water cycle, water availability, capture and storage, retention in the landscape.
  6. Plants/trees:  basic botany, the ecology of a forest, forest management, types of forests.
  7. Sustainable farming systems, including regenerative agriculture, natural farming, and syntropic agriculture
  8. Wellbeing and self-care: symbiotic nutrition, integrative medicine
  9. Natural building 
  10. Appropriate technology
  11. Social Permaculture: social and organizational structures, group facilitation, participatory decision making, transition economics.


  1. Reading the landscape + observation techniques; forest bathing
  2. Basic mapping: aspect, scale, how to mark out contour lines, trilateralization
  3. Contour line measuring
  4. Water retention systems
  5. Soil analysis 
  6. Soil regeneration techniques
  7. Regenerative agriculture systems
  8. Natural building 
  9. Design time

Who we are

Frances Osborn (teacher)

Frances is an ecologist with a degree in Environmental Sciences from Southampton University, UK, and a PhD in Insect Ecology from the Simón Bolívar University, Venezuela. In 2014, after 10 years working as a research scientist at the Eastern University, Venezuela, she returned to Europe where she did her first PDC in Brighton, UK. She has been studying and practicing permaculture ever since, and graduated with a Diploma in Applied Permaculture in March 2021. She has been teaching PDCs since 2019 at different venues, including Proyecto Rucula in Murcia and the Suryalila Yoga Retreat in Cadiz.  Frances has extensive experience in garden and agricultural systems, gained from her many volunteering placements, including two years at the first Ecosystem Restoration Camp in the dry highlands to the northeast of the Murcia region in southern Spain. She is currently helping to restore an old stone cottage near Calasparra, Murcia  using natural building techniques. Frances is currently secretary for Urban Street Forest, an association based in Holland and Spain that seeks to reforest degraded drylands, and is an active member of the Permaculture Network in south-eastern Spain. Frances has made volunteering her main lifestyle choice, a path which has led her to minimize her costs rather than maximize her income, and gives her the freedom to take up opportunities as they appear. Travel plays an important role in her life and the bicycle is her preferred mode of transport, as this enables her to slow down, appreciate the scenery, and enjoy the journey. 

Luis Simada (teacher)

Luis is a permaculture advisor, designer and teacher and also network facilitator. He is trained as a designer, group facilitator, permaculture teacher, fermenter and project coordinator. He also participates and actively contributes in different social, activist and alternative movements like the Iberian Southeast Permaculture Network (REPESEI), La Espiral del Sureste Ibérico, the Iberia Ecovillage Network (RIE), and the Cauac Editorial Nativa or Social Permaculture Movements. He is coordinating the Ecosystem Restoration Department at Sunseed. He has also been teaching different courses about Symbiotic Nutrition, Regenerative and Natural Agriculture or Appropriate Technologies. Luis  really appreciates discovering new ways to create resilience and communities, that’s why he is also Simada, traveling around Iberia supporting and designing alternative projects while continue to learn from each one of them. He loves listening, expressing his emotions, creating new ferments and healthy recipes, doing experiments, designing social solutions, playing, wild nature, ancient trees, ancestral traditions and live music.

Juanma Pinar (teacher)

Juanma is an Andalusian biologist mostly focused on botany and agro-ecology (University of Seville, SP) with a Masters in winemaking & viti-vinicole environment (University of Bordeaux, FR). After a few years of working/traveling around the world in diverse kinds of vineyards and making different styles of wines, he started to worry about the big impact this huge industry has on the environment (such as waste of water, death of soils, harmful pesticides, elitist markets, and so on) so he came back home and deeply started to melt into permaculture philosophy. 

He obtained his PDC in early 2020 in “Centro Extremeño de Permacultura La Caraba” (Cáceres), and a following “introduction to bioconstruction” course in Alcañiz (Erasmus+, Teruel), plus a certificate of “nature activities instructor -educational and social potential-” from Andalucía GDR (Development Rural Group). Then he started to collaborate with a community garden integrated in a natural park in his town (Ecohuerto Los Toruños, Cadiz) and joined climate justice movements such as Extinction Rebellion and “Ecologistas en Acción”. In parallel he was working as environmental educator for different local enterprises (Ecoherencia, Caucenatura) mostly centered on agro-ecology, nature hiking and other active learning services for public schools. 

At the moment he is leading the gardens’ team in Sunseed, which includes work such as: fixing and redesigning the irrigation systems, restoring poor soils with -animal/green manure, compost and mulching- refreshing the old seedbank, replacing losts with new plants adapted to drought, researching on edible and medicinal wild-plants-based preparations, improving associations/rotations of crops, and a long etcetera of learn-by-doing processes.

Marco De Angelis (assistant teacher)

My journey began in Rome, where I was born 33 years ago with a deep love for nature. Growing up, I pursued my passion by studying Forestry Sciences and Nature Conservation, which took me on exchanges to Slovenia, Portugal, and Germany, broadening my understanding of sustainable resource management.

Completing my studies with a doctoral program in wood technologies and composite materials at the University of Hamburg, I discovered the potential of recycled materials for social housing, leading to collaborations with Ethiopia and South Africa.

Feeling a stronger connection to nature, I moved to Spain, settling in Los Molinos de Rio Aguas, an off-grid village. Here, I immersed myself in local projects and started cultivating food in our garden, finding fulfillment in sustainable living.

Now, I’m thrilled to share my journey and passion for permaculture in this course, eager to learn and collaborate for a more sustainable future.

Ricardo Riquelme (invited expert)

Ricardo is a permaculture designer, farmer specialized in successional agroforestry systems, efficient water management, biological pest control and zero tillage. Creator of the permaculture project  “Mano Verde”, based in El Bosque (Pilar de la Horadada, Alicante) where they cultivate and regenerate the environment based on syntrophic agriculture. Apart from offering seasonal products, they recover old seeds, offer consulting and design of farms and also training for farmers and individuals.

Mónica Adán

Mónica Adán is office coordinator at Sunseed Project, managing the administration, education and communication departments. She also collaborates in the Yes to Sustainability network where she is in charge of the administration and management of European youth projects and has gained experience in planning, writing, coordinating and executing grant projects. She has visited numerous ecovillages and ecoprojects all over Europe to learn more about the different living alternatives that can be created. She collaborates with projects that can help young people to discover their passions and empower them by developing their own projects.

Ashley Sheets

Ashley Sheets is a degrowth and environmental labour activist who works as project manager and sustainable living coordinator for Proyecto Sunseed, a non-formal education project. Her work is centred on environmental stewardship and social change, working to make more sustainable forms of living accessible and intersectional in the day to day. Her background is in degrowth, political ecology and environmental justice, and specifically focuses on the intersections where environmental movements and labour activism meet. She also collaborates with the International Degrowth Network, the Feminisms and Degrowth Alliance, and is a founding member of the Working Class Climate Alliance.

Our certifying Association

REPESEI, the Southeastern Spanish Permaculture Network.

Towards the end of the 1980s the seeds of the REPESEI (Red de Permacultura del Sureste Ibérico) were sown by a small group of locals and travelers. 

This small group organized gatherings, workshops and courses, during which ideas of alternative ways of understanding life began to germinate and grow, answering the questions and needs of the individuals and groups that attended them.

In 1996, Rosa Mejuto along with a women’s group, and inspired by Permaculture Movements and Natural Agriculture, founded the REPESEI.  The number of gatherings and Permaculture Projects increased, from which a network started to spread – and is still growing.

Since then there have been a large diversity of workshops and courses given and promoted by the network, among which we can highlight those by Jairo Restrepo (Columbia) and Nacho Simón (Mexico), that have taught us new ways to care for life in the soil under our feet, improving its fertility, and harmonizing the relationships between it and the plants we cultivate. Many of us now make our own bio-preparations. 

Furthermore, there have been many Permaculture gatherings held at many sites from Alicante to Málaga. Currently there are 4 gatherings yearly in Winter, Spring, Summer and Autumn, as well as a mutual support network (TAM – Tragozando Apoyo Mutuo) that support projects throughout south-eastern Spain. 


October 4th to 20th, 2024

You should arrive on Friday, October 4th in the afternoon / evening. Classes will start on Saturday, October 5th in the morning.

The course will end with the design presentations on Saturday, October 19th and an evening celebration. Participants should leave on Sunday, October 20th before 1:00 pm.  There will be one free day mid-course. Classes will start daily at 9:00 am after breakfast and end at 8:00 pm before supper. We always start the day with a morning circle to check in with each other, and inform about the day’s programme and any logistics


The cost for the PDC will be EUR 580 until July (early bird discount) or €630 from July until end of September + accommodation costs and includes:

  • Teaching (theory and practice)  by a diverse group of passionate permaculturists all of whom bring their own knowledge and experience in the different permaculture fields (or Permaculture Petals).
  • An officially recognised certificate at the end of the course. 
  • All meals and non-alcoholic beverages
  • We provide warm and cold showers and there is room to do collective laundry.
  • At Los Molinos there is lots of space to be on your own or to walk through the beautiful valley and ravine. 
  • Telephone coverage and Wifi 

Food and Beverages

All food and (non alcoholic) drinks will be provided during the whole course. We serve vegan/vegetarian food at Sunseed, but please talk to us about special wishes for food or allergies.

Coffee, herbal teas, and drinking water will be available throughout the course. You can also bring private snacks and treats for your well-being with you.

Accommodation (separate cost)

There is a choice of a mixed dorm (sleeps 6), triple, or double rooms (limited availability). All rooms with shared bathroom. There are also some spots available for tents. Please contact Juanma (contact details below) for details.

Booking and cancellations: Register your interest by filling in the inscription form here:

Important note: Places can only be reserved once a EUR 200 non-refundable deposit has been made.

What if my plans change: A full refund minus the deposit can be made up to one month (September 4th) before the start of the course. This will be reduced to a 50% refund (minus the deposit) two weeks (September 20th) before the start of the course, and a 25% refund (minus the deposit) two days (October 2nd) before the start of the course. This applies to the cost of the course only.

How to get here

Los Molinos del Río Aguas is a small village located in Sorbas, in the southeast of Spain, 45 minutes by car from Almería, the closest city.

Since Sorbas is a small town, we will organize a pick-up in order to let you all arrive safely at the placement. Therefore, the best connection will be to get to Almería bus station, and from there take the public transport to Sorbas. We will pick you up there and take you to Los Molinos.

If your idea is to fly to Spain, the nearest airport is Almería Airport (LEI). You can usually fly cheaper, though, if you go to Málaga Airport (AGP) or Alicante (ALC)

  • From Málaga Airport to Almería, take a bus to Almería. The journey takes approximately 3 hours and 30 minutes and costs 22 EURO (one way).: Check bus timetables AGP-Almería here!
  • From Almería Estación Autobús. There are several buses per day to Sorbas. The schedule varies depending on the day:
    • – Mondays to Fridays: 8:30, 11:00, and 15:30.
    • – Saturdays: 11:00.
    • – Sundays: 8:30 and 11:00.

  • From Alicante to Almería you can take a bus to Murcia which has daily direct connections, and from there take a transfer to Vera.  Then from Vera, there is the connection to Sorbas by bus. Check here the bus timetables Vera-Sorbas.

Make sure to check the bus timetables and availability in advance, especially for connections from Málaga and Alicante.

Please note that activities will start on Saturday, the 5th of October at 8:30 am, so please organize yourself in order to be able to arrive on Friday evening.  

Activities will end on the evening of Saturday, the 19th of October, so you can plan your trip back to your country starting from Sunday morning (20/10/2024).

Book now

Register your interest by filling in the inscription form 

Contact details

Juanma Pinar: +34 605 125 477


Organic Gardening, Volunteer Stories

Jessi joined Sunseed as an intern in the Organic Gardens team in the autumn of 2023. Here she shares a reflection on her time here in Los Molinos as part of the Sunseed community.


Hi, my name is Jessi, I’m 24 and studying environmental protection at the University of Applied Sciences Bingen, in Germany. Aspects of preserving our environment have become an integral part, not only of my education, but also of my everyday life. For me, sustainability is a very personal topic that always inspires me to reflect and think further. Especially when travelling and hiking, my curiosity leads me to get to know flora and fauna. This always motivates me to discover new approaches to thinking about environmental protection. That’s why I did an internship in the off-grid project called “Sunseed Desert Technology” in a Spanish arid zone near Almeria, where sustainability in all its facets is exemplified. Living here gives me the opportunity to grow beyond myself, try out new things, act sustainably and to actively engage in organic gardening. This internship also inspires me immensely to dedicate my future path to environmental issues.

organic gardens internship jessi story 2023
I liked my internship abroad very much and I felt very comfortable here. You can quickly reach your limits, especially in a constantly changing community of 10-22 people of different countries. In the beginning, it took me some time to figure out how to balance community life and taking enough time for myself. But eventually, I found a good combination and became more mindful regarding what my body and mind need each day. I am melancholic to leave this place because I have gained many valuable experiences at Sunseed.

internship in organic gardens sunseed ecovillage
If you would like to find out how you can join Sunseed as an intern, please send an email to Our departments include drylands management/ecosystem restoration, eco-maintenance, appropriate technologies, sustainable living, education and communication – we’d love to welcome you to our ever-changing community!

gardens internship at sunseed desert technology


Drylands Management, Organic Gardening, Sunseed News, Volunteer Stories

The first rains of the season have been and gone… and they have left their mark on the land here. Our beautiful poza looks different from last week, because the water swept through the valley, knocking caña aside and carrying with it the dust and soil from the surrounding hills. The hills themselves look so much cleaner, the plants have definable and separate colours, rather than all being coated in the fine dust, early mornings are sweet with soft dew, and even the air feels fresher.

Before and After the Storm


We knew the rains were coming days before they arrived, though the amount of precipitation was often in question: We were told to expect 40mm to fall on Thursday, three hours later that had gone up to 100mm and 200mm on Friday but over the next day the prediction dropped to 40mm over 4 days, only to shoot back up to 100mm in 3 hours. The weather warnings for the area were Violet. So, understandably, we doubted the truth of the forecast once or twice. How could so much rain be coming when we were enjoying such glorious sunshine? Still, precautions were taken and we spent a morning preparing Sunseed for the likelihood of a heavy rain. Gabriel, our organic gardens coordinator led a team in sand bag collecting. They lugged the heavy bags from the gardens to the main street of the village where they built banks to protect the road from the floods of water. Tanks were positioned to collect the rain, so that we could make the most of the precious water, and where necessary buckets were placed to catch the leaks in the roofs.

The next day we watched as the rain clouds gathered at the edges of the valley, laden with their blessing of much needed water they drew nearer and nearer. Most people had found inside jobs to do during the day to avoid getting wet, and we sat around the house, trying to use as little electricity as possible. The clouds meant that the solar system wasn’t working at full capacity and once it dropped down to 90% we could not charge any devices, despite this the atmosphere around the main house was one of excitement.

Waiting for the storm

And then the rains came. They hammered, heavy and hard into the dry earth, the first few drops sending little flurries of dust into the air, until everything was soaked. It was only minutes before the main street of the village had become a river, flowing over our bare feet where we stood soaking in the water, just like the plants.

Soaking up the rain

In the evening the storm picked up. Lightning flashed across the sky, illuminating towering cloud formations and thunder rolled through our valley. We stood huddled in the doorway of one of the buildings, watching the water run down the main street. We laughted as we tried to avoid the rain, splashing through the streams and puddles and even pausing to dance under the torrent. That night, warm and dry once more, the rain beat a comforting rhythm against the roofs and, after a summer of heat, blankets were pulled from cupboards and onto beds.

On Friday in the pouring rain Gabriel, Tom, and our neighbour Dave Dene fixed the floodgates of the acequia with yeso, which sets underwater. So now all that we needed to do was clear the new mud from the acequia. Luckily, Saturday was the communal acequia maintenance day and we were joined by our neighbours to clear the acequia. We were up to our knees in the water channels scooping mud into buckets with our hands. Squeezing between caña and under hanging brambles we cleared the areas of the acequia that were worst affected by the rain and the silt that it had carried with it.

Cleaning the acequia

Once finished we trouped, muddy and tired, back to Sunseed’s main building. But, because the acequia wasn’t running yet, the village ram pump wasn’t working, and we had very limited water for washing. Using water collected from the rains we washed the mud from hands and faces and then settled in to enjoy our Saturday.

Later on, when the river was once again crossable, our drylands team went to find out what the rains had done to all of the hard work that has been poured into the area. We all wanted to know whether the walls had held or if the force of the water had knocked them away. To our delight, when the team came back, they had photos of the walls not only standing strong and proud, but having worked fantastically to slow and even stop the water. Areas of the drylands were all puddles and mud from the soil and water which had been stopped before it could flow away. It was cause for celebration and the main house was filled with our smiles of joy and relief.


The heavy rains have gone now, but the season is turning from summer gently into autumn. Since the storm we have had small showers of rain, the ground is still damp enough that we haven’t had to water the gardens for the last few days, giving us an unexpected luxury of time. But it’s not only the weather that is different, the landscape has changed. The poza is now far more open and elongated, as most of the caña were swept away or flattened, it gives us a view further down the river that is more open. Sweetcorn that we have been nurturing and growing through summer was knocked down by the power of the storm. The ram pump is not yet up and running, but our wonderful maintenance team are working hard to get it operating. By now the turtles have returned to Rio Aguas and the silt is settling out of the river. The trees, plants and people are all refreshed and rejuvenated by the downpour.

The land love the rain

Drylands Management, Organic Gardening

If you are interested in seeds conservation and wild plants, this post is probably for you.

An essential part of our drylands department is the regeneration of the local vegetation, through the collection and reproduction of wild seeds. We have a small but precious seed bank where we store seeds harvested in the area, so that we can sow them in the following planting season. I have been looking out for initiatives, companies or seed banks that could give us valuable inputs.

Last week we finally managed to reach Cordoba and meet Candido Galvez from Semillas Silvestres (Wild Seeds), a pretty unique company. Candido Galvez started ”Semillas Silvestres” 25 years ago, with the goal of producing native seeds and improving seed technology. Him and his 7 people team are working on the reproduction of trees, shrubs and mainly herbaceous species.

A crucial point is understanding what do they intend as native seeds. Native here is synonym of autochthonous.  ”Semillas Silvestres” doesn’t work with forestry species, neither with endangered species. They look mainly for neglected species, species with an unknown use (until now), but that are beneficial for biodiversity and the sustainability of agroecological systems.

Why conserving and reproducing wild seeds?

Candido and his team are hunting for the most interesting native species which could serve purposes of ecological restoration, landscaping, or agroecosystem sustainability. They have participated in multiple international and European research projects, lately focusing on the use of native species for soil erosion control in olive plantations (such as CUVrEN Olivar).

In order to select relevant species, ”Semillas Silvestres” uses a matrix, which matches the native species traits and the needs of the crops they will be working with, or the needs of the growers, depending on the situations. Some traits are extremely important, such as seed replicability: are the seeds I want to work with easy to reproduce? At what cost? Germination rates also need to be taken into account. I need to pick species which can be easily germinated, or again, easily enough, and at an acceptable cost. Also, can I actually conserve my seeds for longer periods? Some seeds, if dried, do not survive (recalcitrantseeds, as opposed to orthodox). This makes their conservation impossible. Finally, seeds with very low dormancy are also avoided. A dormant seed is like a ‘sleeping’ seed, waiting for favorable environmental conditions to sprout. Seeds with very low dormancy can be a very big problem for farmers as their germination cannot be controlled.

A seed journey

The seeds you buy from ”Semillas Silvestres” have actually not been collected in the wild. Candido and his team do not want to harvest everything from nature. This is because they want to protect the wild population, be more efficient in their production, and be able to implement technologies that couldn’t be used otherwise.

So they only collect the ‘parents’ seeds in the wild. In the harvesting process there is a clear difference between native seeds and commercial food crops. With native seeds there’s no such thing as selection, as the goal is almost the opposite: provide as much variety as possible. There are protocols followed in order to minimize the seeds selection, and to ensure that the sample collected represent the widest variety of characteristics of each species. The ideal situation would be a representation of all the variability that takes place in wilderness, in order to ensure larger success for the native species when grown in different contexts. For example when planting wild seeds for ground cover, the needs of each olive plantation are different: soils, rainfall, climate. That’s why genetic variety is an essential component.

The ‘parents’ seeds are reproduced in the plots of ”Semillas Silvestres” for a few years, until they have enough seeds to bring their product to the market. These plots are called Seed Production Areas (SPAs), a concept spreading all over the world, with the goal of sustaining the natural production of wild seeds, so that we can rely on a higher supply of these precious species, without actually affecting their natural environment. In the SPAs more efficient technologies of seed harvesting can be applied, to ensure larger production. Interestingly enough, seeds grown here are not organically certified, as an organic production is not cost-effective.

The harvested seeds are then dried and cleaned. Humidity is the first cause of viability loss, that’s why the drying process is one of the most important. We then move into the quality control room. Here viability, germination and purity of seed samples are evaluated. Viability basically tells us whether a seed is alive or not. A seed can be dormant but still viable, so still capable of germinating under the right conditions. This is why viability is in this case more important than germination rate.

Our journey ends in the storage rooms, with a pleasant smell of dry grass. Boxes and crates full of seeds ready to be shipped out fill up the walls. A great tip from Candido: as a general rule for basic seeds conservation, he advises us to always check temperature and humidity. Their sum should not be higher than 60. If you want to conserve your seeds properly, keep your moisture levels down, that’s easier and more cost effective than lowering temperature.

If you want to find more information about wild seeds conservation, give a look at the European Native Seeds Conservation Network (ENSCONET) website, where you can find harvesting and conservation manuals.

And now, back to our seedbank!


Organic Gardening, Volunteer Stories

I had been here for little under a month when I was granted the great pleasure of having a small part of Paradise under my care. Diego III, is a small 12sqm vegetable plot in Sunseed; managed by the Organic Gardens team. It currently comprises of beds fruiting aubergines, potatoes, and buckwheat as well as the odd pumpkin, now glumly dying off for the winter.

Read MoreContinue Reading

Organic Gardening

From the 1st to the 14th of May Sunseed hosted a Permaculture Design Course (PDC) with George and Wallace from Circle Permaculture, and we’re preparing a new one in September. If you want to know how it was, here Margriet and Lesha share their stories:

“George’s song could be heard at least 10 times a day during the Permaculture Design Course (PDC). Day one was one of introduction: we got to know the group and our lovely teachers George and Wallace of Circle Permaculture. After a slow start, we really got up to full speed from the second day on and got an enormous amount of information about soil and social structures, from compost to rain harvesting systems, etc. In combination with the old school classes on the chalkboard, we had the opportunity to approach and process the information that was given in an active way. The group went out to play ‘permaculture charades’ in a cave. We had workshops with the Sunseed staff: hot compost and mapping with Jon, sociocracy with Armelle, we made preserves and had an edible plant walk with Lizzy and last but not least we had a great fun cob building/mud wrestling with Lucas. Even in the evenings, seminars were held by Sunseeders and there were some outdoor screenings of documentaries.

During the second week of the PDC, we started working in teams to make a design for ‘the Mediterranean garden’, a patch of land where the dome, our classroom, is constructed. With all our new permaculture tools that George and Wally handed us, client interviews to fully understand what was expected from our design and a lot of enthusiasm, my team, the spice garden girls, started designing a:

‘Beautiful multi-functional space tucked away from the heart of Sunseed, with an emphasis on education, providing a study/working/relaxation space for Sunseeders’.

On Saturday, the final day all the design work that was done through permaculture principles were presented to the overexcited Sunseed family, who wanted to implement everything, asap! To conclude an inspiring, motivating course, that put us all on edge, there was the best show in the world: The No Talent Show!
Looking back on these two packed weeks of PDC at Sunseed, I am very tired and foremost happy with all the information we got and I feel the thirst to learn more about Permaculture!”


Organic Gardening

Hello everyone! My name is Jon Davison and I am the new Organic Gardens Coordinator here at Sunseed. I arrived here at the end of September, and what an adventure it’s been already! I have already seen a few volunteers come and go, and, rather unfortunately, a coordinator as well (We miss you Fran!). But that’s just a part of life, everything is subject to change. These past couple weeks have been challenging, exhausting, exciting, inspiring and, above all, extremely rewarding. I have received an incredibly warm and enthusiastic welcome for which I am grateful.

Some initial thoughts from the last couple weeks;

We are so lucky to be here, I mean we are in the middle of the desert and yet we have our own little oasis, with a river to swim in and an ancient water channel, which dates back to Moorish times, that provides irrigation for the entire village! As soon as you leave our little paradise, even to the other side of the river, the temperature rises 5 degrees or more. Without this microclimate due to the river, which has been carefully extended and enlarged by the residents over the years, growing crops would be nigh impossible.


The “Seret Posa”, one of many hidden swimming holes that dot our river valley.


Los Molinos del Rio Aguas, looking east from Isabella’s (one of the sunseed buildings) during a sunset.

Anyway, lets talk a bit about whats happening in the gardens, shall we?

For those of you who don’t know, the gardens of Sunseed consist of 12 terraces, in a variety of shapes and sizes, spread along the southern side of the hills of Los Molinos del Rio Aguas. Due to unfortunate but unavoidable circumstances, over the last few months the gardens have received little to no attention, hence such a wonderful welcome :). They had become overgrown with weeds, the veggies had been chocked out and many trees were suffering from lack of water. Needless to say, I got cracking as soon as I could.


Long term volunteers Leesha and Vijan, along with short term volunteer Rosie, working hard on my first day of work. They were as excited as me to see some progress in the gardens.

So far, with the help of volunteers and my assistant Pauline, we have managed to clear and prepare the majority of Diego 1, which is one of the largest and most central terraces, as well as create a small herb patch for Lizzy (Sustainable Living). What does clear and prepare mean? Well to start with we removed what organic matter we could from the surface of the soil. Usually any organic matter should be kept on to shade the soil and keep it cool, reducing evaporation from the sun while at the same time slowly breaking down and feeding the life in the soil and reducing the amount of weeds (talk about multi functional!) . We took this off and piled it up to put back later, so we could turn the soil over and reshape the beds. The soil had become compacted, dry and full of weeds. By doing this we simultaneously loosened the soil and added air, allowing for better water penetration, and mixing in the weeds, exposing their roots to the unforgiving sun. At this point, I would like to add that, generally speaking, you should try to avoid messing too much with your soil as the interference can end up destroying the structure, texture and fertility of it. However, in the long run, flipping it about once or twice to mix in some manure and reduce compaction is in your best interest. Just don’t make a habit of it!

Once this was done, we let it dry in the sun for a few days in hopes of killing the weeds and reducing the amount of hand weeding. However, my plans were thwarted by a rather intense rainstorm and we had to weed it by hand eventually anyway. Once weeded, and the compost bays full to bursting, we turned in some manure left over from last winters Hot Bed. We watered it using the Acequia (the ancient water channel) and a series of channels and sand bags to divert the flow into the appropriate patch. We did this to ensure that the channels were in working order, and other than a few paths that need a leveling out a bit, it was!

Next comes the best part… Seeding! Even Kostas, our Education Coordinator, managed to get some fresh air and help.

Now, after a couple weeks of hard work, with beets, a variety of oriental and normal Brassica’s, spinach, carrots, beans, peas and turnips freshly seeded, swiss chard, celery, rocket, radish and lettuce next in line, only half of Diego 1 is prepared and planted…. wait wasn’t that supposed to be an encouraging sentence? 🙂

With some luck, and a lot of sweat, we should manage to get Diego 1 up and running and start on Diego 2 (another, but far smaller, garden cultivated by Sunseed) next week.

I think that’s all for now. I’ll let you know soon if we ever make it to Diego 2 🙂


Diego 2 in it’s current state, before any clearing or work has been done.


Organic Gardening, Tutorial

At Sunseed I realized how many resources are wasted everyday when you just throw your kitchen waste away.

When I came here, I did not know anything about compost or how you can fertilize the soil you want to use for planting.

I was very impressed by the ‘compost lasagne’ system we have in Sunseed. It makes our gardens much more sustainable, because we have everything we need for the process. In addition, we can control what we put in our soil and incidentally it saves us money because we do not have to buy manure.


The concept we have is very easy:
The lasagne consists of several boxes. In each is compost in different stages.

We take care of our compost every Wednesday. First we turn the old layers around with pitchforks, so that the compost gets enough oxygen. Than we put a thin layer of paper and cardboard above. Afterwards we add our kitchen waste, put a small amount of earth on the top and water it. All these layers are important to get the right balance of nutrition in our compost. To keep the humidity even when it is very hot, we cover everything with dried material which works perfectly.

At Sunseed we need a lot of manure and therefore we need a fast decomposition process. When you want to try to produce your own compost at home, you just need to move your deposited kitchen waste sometimes and after about a year you have perfect compost. You cannot do anything wrong with the process, it might just take more time.

Our Garden Coordinator Josu explained how you can find out if the compost is ready. You can use it when it holds in shape after you have squeezed it but crumbles again when you move it in your hands.

I love to see how the circle closes, while parts of our food which cannot be used in the kitchen turn back into very fertile soil again.


Learn more

During my research I found an amazing project in Jordan describing their way of composting.

If you want to prepare compost in a small garden, you can have a look at this website.

And if you live in a flat without garden, you don’t have to go without compost. Ways for composting inside are shown here and here.

Happy composting!


Organic Gardening, Sustainable Living

We are very lucky this year at Sunseed! We have an agreement with the Olive oil company called “Oro del Desierto”. We help them to collect olives and in exchange we receive a part of their olive oil production. Oro del Desierto practices ecological agriculture without using any chemicals. They use techniques that preserve the soil structure and fertility. They have actually won many awards that prove that they make one of the best ecological olive oils in the world !

For some years now at Sunseed we have been making similar agreements with local proprietors of almond and olive plantations. It is an important tradition that we want to keep at Sunseed for promoting ecological agricultural practices.


Between 5 and 8 people from the Sunseed team go to collect almonds or olives. Then we split the total quantity with the owners. We have very nice almonds and we also make our own almond milk, which avoids us buying milk and saves a lot of packaging (tetra packs which are difficult to recycle). We even use the shells as biomass to cook on our gasifier! With the olives, we make oil and also marinade some for eating.

Sunseed Almond picking 4013

Almonds and olives are very important resources in the south of Spain. Olive oil from Spain is famous all over the world. These two trees are very well adapted to the arid climate and do not need a lot of watering. Nevertheless, given the avarice of modern markets, which only focus on high yields and ignore all other factors, the amount of intensive, or even so called “super-intensive” plantations have increased exponentially. This type of cultivation requires the use of a lot of chemicals, leaves the soil bare, which creates erosion and also uses a lot of water over exploiting the aquifers and rivers, causing them to dry up. In our village we are directly affected and more broadly speaking all over Spain desertification is increasing principally due to these kind of practices (for more information see: ecocide los molinos del rio aguas).

Sunseed Almond picking 4011
Sunseed Almond picking 4010
Sunseed Almond picking 4022

Organic Gardening

The Agro-biodiversity is in serious danger and here at Sunseed we have begun to collaborate with different networks of exchange/recovery of traditional local horticultural varieties.

Kokopelli is one of the most important associations at European level and we have the honor to grow some of their pure seeds. Thanks to initiatives like this, we have the possibility to recover flavours, which we nearly lost and fight against the monopoly of the large seed houses.

Collaborating with these networks and cultivating these varieties (non-hybrid commercial, or transgenic) is a form of activism, which is essential to achieve food sovereignty.

Thank you Kokopelli for sharing these living treasures!

Kokopelli 1


La agrobiodiversidad esta en serio peligro, y en Sunseed hemos comenzado a colaborar con distintas redes de intercambio/recuperación de variedades hortícolas locales tradicionales.
Kokopelli es una de las asociaciones mas importantes a nivel europeo y tenemos el honor de cultivar algunas de sus semillas puras. Gracias a iniciativas como esta tenemos la posibilidad de recuperar sabores en riesgo de desaparición y luchar contra el monopolio de las grandes casas semilleras.
Colaborar con estas redes y cultivar estas variedades (no híbridas comerciales, ni transgénicas) es una forma de activismo fundamental para lograr la soberanía alimentaria.
Gracias Kokopelli por compartir estos tesoros vivos!