Episode 66- An Interview with Permaculture Teacher Rosemary Morrow

Rosemary Teaches Permaculture in War-torn Afghanistan

Not long ago, Rosemary traveled to Kabul in war-torn Afghanistan at a time when most people wanted to flee that area – especially Westerners. Why would a person do such a thing? Well, Rosemary Morrow has dedicated her life to getting information to people who are very poor or can’t get the information otherwise. By information she means Permaculture knowledge – the tools to dramatically improve the lives of her students no matter where they are. This could mean being a prisoner, a refugee living in a camp or someone trying to stay alive in an area deeply effected by a natural disaster. Dealing with the aftermath of wars has been part of her work, also to help refugees and even people in the middle of a war zone.

refugee kids in KabulRosemary had been contacted by a group of young Afghanis who were tired of war and wanted to learn Permaculture to be able to change their environment and their lives. Rosemary agreed to teach them via Skype. But the internet connection in Kabul was so poor that they were hardly ever able to connect. So, Rosemary packed her bags and off she went to the middle of a war zone to meet and teach the Afghan Peace Volunteers.

All of the members – it turned out to be 68 – have only known war all their lives. They are 14 to 28 years old and Afghanistan has suffered war for the past 40 years. There is no security of any kind to be had. Massive civilian criminality, kidnappings and a constant military presence are facts of live. So is the loss of family members and friends.  The food supply is scanty.  Water and electricity supplies break down often and there are not enough hospitals, doctors and supplies to deal with the havoc bombs and guns create.

The Goals and Vision of the Afghan Peace Volunteers

The Afghan Peace Volunteers, this group of motivated and courageous young people, have been living this negativity all their lives. Still, they found the strength in them to come together and work for a brighter future.  Their vision reaches far beyond their individual lives and even their country – it includes the whole World. Here are the goals of the Afghan Peace Volunteers:

1.  World Peace

2. Practice Non Violence

3. Green the World

While Afghanistan is home to different tribes, ethnicities and languages, this group decided:

“Let’s work together. Let’s not recognize ethnic lines. Let’s work for peace.”

How The Group Works

Everyone in the group is running a project. Some help homeless find shelter, others find surplus food and distribute it to the hungry, some teach illiterate adults and children how to read, and they are planting food gardens, most notably, a peace park at the very place where the Taliban destroyed the Buddhist statues. If you are not familiar with Bamiyan you might find this wikipedia entry helpful. Rosemary suggested to include many fruit trees into the plantings of the peace park. Here is a short article on the garden. An Australian paper wrote this story about Rosemary and the group which might interest you as well. You can connect with the Afghan Peace Volunteers via Facebook.

Gardens and First Aid

Rosemary taught the full permaculture design course to the Afghan Peace Volunteers. Then, they developed action steps tailored to their situation which included planting gardens. Rosemary said that it is of high importance to get food growing in all the courtyards in the city. Pumpkins, beans and potatoes are on the list of staples to plant right away. Worrying about protein can come later, when the base needs are covered. Also, securing a water supply is crucial, as is learning basic First Aid.

The importance of teaching and helping to provide first aid materials became clear to Rosemary early on in her work. No matter if she was helping people to overcome the repercussions of war like in Vietnam, Cambodia or Uganda or the aftermath of a natural disaster like in Haiti, being able to deal with the daily emergencies is essential. Small injuries can become serious if not taken care of. To be able to administer First Aid in an emergency gives the members of a group a feeling of power and often can make the difference between life or death.

About Rosemary Morrow

Rosemary Morrow, also knows as Rowe to her friends and colleagues, started out with an education in Agricultural Science. She studied in Sydney, Paris and London. While working in Africa, she realized that agricultural science is not relevant to people who are hungry or are trying to raise food in an area struck by a drought. Soil amendments just don’t matter if you are trying to find food – any food.

About the same time, she found Permaculture and from that time has dedicated her life to help people effected by the man-made and nature-made disasters. She has worked in war ravaged countries such as Vietnam, Cambodia, Uganda, Ethiopia, Afghanistan and East Timur. In the interview, Rosemary mentioned her work in the Solomon Islands which are in serious trouble due to climate change. Lately, she has spend time in countries with severe droughts like Portugal, Italy and Spain. As a matter of fact, I was able to interview Rosemary the first time with a group of local Permaculture teachers and students while she was in Mallorca, Spain. Click here for the interview Episode 57 

Rosemary is the Co-Founder of the Blue Mountain Permaculture Institute in Australia. The Institute Motto is to honor the indigenous people who have been on the land before them and to refugees both locally and globally.  There, she teaches Permaculture design courses and other classes. As a matter of fact, Rowe is fully aware that one person can only do so much. For the highest impact, she is concentrating her efforts towards teaching the teachers. Actually, she personally encourages many of her students to take on one of the refugee or war repair projects which have been brought to her attention.

Rosemary and a friend

Another way of spreading the knowledge of Permaculture, Rosemary has authored several books. You can buy all the books directly from the Institute. They are also available from Amazon and I am including the links to her books in this post. If you are buying her book from Amazon through our links, we will get a small percentage and you are supporting our podcast and blog that way. Thank you if you choose to go that route.

Earth User’s Guide to Permaculture

Earth User’s Guide to Teaching Permaculture

She also has written books on seed saving. One is very simple with lots of graphics.  She is looking for people to translate that book into all languages spoken on earth. If you feel inclined to help with this project, please contact Rosemary at the institute.

How We Can Help Refugees

Rosemary has said that at one point, we all were refugees – not necessarily we in our lifetime, but we as people have moved from place to place for all of history. The force to initiate the migration could have been natural disasters, an ice age, war or a search for freedom. So, in many ways, there is no they and us, but just an “we are all together in this.” A strong argument why all of us need to help refugees.

Right now, we live at a time in which millions of people are displaced and many find themselves in refugee camps for years and years and years. Most of these camps are overcrowded, the living conditions are poor, and people have nothing to do but to wait for another day.

Enter Rosemary’s vision to help refugees. Why not create eco-villages for refugees instead and transform the camps we now have. An eco village is designed so that inhabitants participate not only in the building but also in the day to day operations. Activities would include growing and cooking food, setting up schools and other teaching facilities, creating micro businesses and more.


[clickToTweet tweet=”Why not create eco-villages for refugees and transform the camps we now have. #refugee #ecovillage #podcast” quote=”Why not create eco-villages for refugees instead and transform the camps we now have. An eco village is designed so that inhabitants participate not only in the building but also in the day to day operations.” theme=”style4″]


Rosemary has been in conversation around this topic with Gen – The Global Ecovillage Network and had also just heard from World Vision .World Vision could be a huge help for getting this idea into practice. Making yourself familiar with both organizations; giving your input; ask them to help refugees by building refugee eco villages; and if you can, financial support to this vision would be of great help.

In our interview, Rosemary also mentioned Mass as a possible ally. Imagine buildings designed for health and well being instead of tents and trailers housing the millions of displaced people. i would want to live in a building like that and this surely would help refugees to regain hope and dignity.

Michael Murphy is presenting in his Ted Talk that Architecture can heal. One way is to honor the needs of the local population and use them to participate in the building process.

Maybe you want to help refugees who live in your town or close by. In the US, there are many Volunteer organizations which are tasked by the Government to work with refugees once they have entered the country. Most of them are in great need of volunteers and are more than happy for any amount of time you can give them.

Beyond that, we all can practice what Rosemary calls “being cultural appropriate.” By that, she means to let go of the assumption that our way of thinking and doing is the only way. Instead, we recognize that it is one way of many. When encountering a person of a different cultural back ground or if we go to another country, it is best to stay in the background and observe. People will tell us what is appropriate to their culture by actions and guidance.

Of course, another way to help refugees is to study Permaculture and become that person going to the place of crisis and helping in any way possible. Or to support those who are doing it in any way we can.

[clickToTweet tweet=”Another way to help refugees is to study Permaculture and become that person going to a place of crisis and helping. ” quote=”Another way to help refugees is to study Permaculture and become that person going to a place of crisis and helping. Or to support those who are doing it in any way we can.” theme=”style4″]

Please spread the word about Rosemary’s work by sharing this post and podcast. She said in her interview that publicity is her week point and one of her hopes is that mainstream media will one day be reporting the permaculture perspective on all topics. Permaculture can be practiced in many different venues and maybe becoming a journalist or movie maker will be your way. In the meantime, we all can use our social media skills to support Rosemary’s work.

This is how you can reach Rosemary Morrow:

The Institute


Our previous Interview in Mallorca, Spain.

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8 comments on “How we Can Help Refugees & People in War-Torn Areas

  1. I’ve been loving your blog and subscribed! This is such a great podcast!!!

    • Marianne West Nov 27, 2016

      Tiffany, thank you so much. Glad you like the podcast!

  2. What an absolutely lovely interview. Off to share!

    • Marianne West Nov 28, 2016

      Thank you so much Mandi!! I love for many people to find out about Rosemary’s work.

  3. Wow such a good job Rosemary is doing. May she be blessed abundantly

    • Marianne West Nov 28, 2016

      I agree, Buheri! Many blessings to her. She is a remarkable woman.

  4. Bless you and all people who do something to help refugees. Some can actively help them, but others can write about their experiences which will draw the attention of others who can again help more directly.

    • Marianne West Nov 28, 2016

      So true, Nina. Writing about this issue and possible solutions really helps to spread the word and get those inspired who can do hands on work.