A series of Eco-villages in the making

Declan Kennedy, founding director of Global Ecovillage Network (GEN) reflects on his visit to Djanbung Gardens and Jarlanbah

Djanbung Gardens Permaculture Centre near Nimbin is a living example of celebrating abundance. It demonstrates caring for the earth and for people both in its original design and its ways of integrating design into its everyday implementation. Sharing with others through its shop and through its parallel non-profit educational organization: ERDA is a joy to see and experience.

The guided tours are inspiring, informative and highly educational, as Robyn Francis weaves her way through what at first seems to be a haphazard scheme. It is then that the visitor sees the necessity of site analysis and observation before design and the way relative placement has been put into practice. The permaculture principles of Multiple Elements for Each Function and Multiple Functions for Each Element are evident at every turn.

Using biological resources both for building and for mimicking natural succession encourages beneficial relationship between building and plants, people and plants – and people and buildings. These relationships maximize the whole. They are augmented by many example of appropriate technology which are so numerous on the site that they cannot be listed here,

It is obvious that each element is placed to support its neighbor, as Robyn explains, and that this can reduce external inputs as well as reducing work. But the real experience is the beauty of the place, with its high variety of trees, schrubs, vegetables, fruits and mulches. Animals such as geece and chickens are in small areas near the plants that feed them. Ponds flow from one to the other as part of the aqua-culture design that brings new light as one steps through the various patches and sun-traps. These ponds also give the beholder a marvelous example of edge effect , of recycling energies and nutrients and, of course, are a part of the overall water management on the site.

This edible landscape which was designed by Robyn Francis in 1994 is based on the principle of Permaculture but goes far beyond that – introducing elements that create a truly beautiful and spiritual
atmosphere where she can celebrate her favorite Celtic rituals with her friends and students.

Robyn teaches many Permaculture design courses each year both in these gardens and in other places in Australia and abroad. She has one emphasis that also supports one of her main hobbies – herbs and
spices supporting her gourmet cooking. These feasts can be experienced by her family and friends but also by guests as she runs a café, runs spezial events and banquets on request and preserves organic conserves for sale in the small shop. A more direct link between producer and consumer is hardly possible to find.

Her place is fifteen minutes walk from the town of Nimbin, sandwitched between this now well-known alternative lifestyle and the already implemented 33 acres Jarlanbah Community that borders her
property to the south – which she, by the way, designed in 1992. People started to move on to their permaculture plots, houses and gardens in 1994. 43 residential lots are grouped much closer together
than is usual in this region and this density allows thereby more social interaction between community residents and a huge area for communal uses and for wildlife, as well.

These neighbors did not only have the example of Djanbung Gardens – but could take advantage of Robyn’s ability to match the present legal standards to highly visionary social systems that are being
slowly experimented with by many other intentional communities. Robyn has stayed in close connection to the Global Eco-village Network, of which I am the founding Chairman. These two projects: Djanbung
Gardens and Jarlanbah Community, will be connected up by two further new eco-village developments adjacent and opposite Djanbung Gardens – which when finished may be quite a unique example of a marriage between the old and the new eco-settlement – and making of the transition to a Permaculture Town.

 

 

Declan Kennedy

Germany