What is InTerraTree?
InTerraTree is a center for possibility. Based in Togo, West Africa, we are showing what is possible when a group of people from all around the world come together over a piece of land to create NEXT CULTURE.
This project has been developed in partnership with locals in Togo over the last several years. The InTerraTree land is located near the city of Kpalime, in the tropical jungles of southern Togo. We encourage you to consider joining one of our cultural immersion and sustainability education programs in Togo to find out what we are really all about. Learn more by clicking here.
The 3-fold Vision for InTerraTree
1.) Showing What is Possible
We are using the land and people where we find ourselves in Togo, West Africa to conduct experiments in what we broadly term “next culture” (see more on this phrase below). We are experimenting with regenerative land management practices, micro-social enterprise, models for positive development, trans-cultural exchange, fusion arts and music, appreciative inquiry surveys, group dynamics, and so much more! This is a permaculture demonstration site open for all to visit and learn from what works well (and what doesn’t). Our mission is to share our findings from these experiments with locals in the community, as well as international visitors who have made the journey to InTerraTree.
At InTerraTree, we see the world today as having two dominant cultures.
> There is the overarching and rapidly spreading modern culture (also known as the industrial, consumer, westernized, or McDonald culture).
> And there is the indigenous or traditional culture(s) that came before all that. We say “culture(s)” because this is not really one culture in the same way that modern culture is the same everywhere you go, but rather, the hallmark of this culture is its incredible diversity.
What we provide at InTerraTree is a place for the two cultures to meet face to face. As a volunteer on one of our immersion trips you will be living in a close community of people from around the world as well as local villagers who have many of their traditional ways of life still in tact.
More than just meeting and walking away, however, at InTerraTree these two cultures meet on a piece of land to create something new together. Hard working hands and creative minds bring visions to life in ways that have never been done before. We are actively creating NEXT CULTURE.
Next culture brings together the best of modern and indigenous culture, showing what is possible through collaboration. We need next culture to enact solutions to humanity’s greatest crises.
Over time, we see this meeting ground as developing into an ecolodge – permanent culture hub that hosts visitors from around the world and also provides income for the surrounding local community.
3.) Sustainability Education for Locals
Far from being a white hippies retreat in Africa, our focus is in integration with the local villagers in Togo. We have located ourselves in this region of the world to learn from the ways of life of the people here and to benefit their community. Our mission is empowerment through education.
Volunteers on our programs work side-by-side with experienced permaculture educators as well as local villagers, bring together a harmony of modern design science and deeply rooted practical knowledge. Bi-lingual (and sometimes tri-lingual) classes in sustainability topics are offered at no cost to locals.
The registration fee for international volunteers, in part, helps to cover the expenses of local participants so that they can participate in a program that they would otherwise never be able to experience. For many of our local community members, the program is even more life changing than for our foreign volunteers.
Please read on to learn what we have done so far to help empower the local community and provide valuable education in sustainable design/build.
After visiting the land for the first time in the winter of 2015, our team of international and local volunteers immediately began exploring possibilities for what this site could become. In good permaculture fashion, however, we took a long-term view and decided to spend most of our winter volunteer trips focused on establishing a good relationship with the surrounding community.
We did detailed community assessment and village mapping, in the spirit of appreciative inquiry. We constructed a composting toilet for the community to use on a plot of land given to us by the chief of the village of Kpime-Seva. On the same piece of land, we turned trash into function and art, while educating village school children. With their many hands and feet we made a cob and plastic bottle bench, with village trash stuffed into the brick-like bottles. Future plans for “The Chief’s Plot” include the construction of a central permaculture demonstration site, which is perfectly situated in a highly visible spot near the heart of the village. Additionally, we taught numerous classes to Togolese villagers, with topics in permaculture, global warming, composting, and much more. These were mostly subjects which the villagers had never come into contact with before – the experience was life-changing for many.
We soon realized the importance of establishing a permanent team of locals to help with planning, executing, and maintaining site work for the times when our programs are not in session. Much important work in this social dimension was accomplished over the winter months – overcoming language and cultural barriers to form a shared vision together.
On the land itself, we mostly observed and enjoyed the beauty of what already exists there. We have only established a working base camp and completed some initial build projects on the site. Finally in March 2015, after much observation and detailed planning, we decided we were ready to experiment water management on the site. So we cleared the upper half of our land for swale and tree planting work, in preparation for a return trip to Togo in June 2015.
What are we going to do next?
The rainy season is a magical time in tropical West Africa. The land literally comes to life – with vibrant green vegetation, birds and butterflies filling the air, and soil turning into a rich black mulch. This is the best possible time to plant, and we are going to take advantage of it. During the June trip we will be learning about edible plants and food forest ecosystems as we plant all over our land! We will also be using this unique season to study water management, how water flows on our land and how we can direct this flow to best meet our needs. As one of the most valuable resources on the planet, this is a critical skill for humanity to learn.
In permaculture, we stress the importance of storing water high on the slope and directing down the land into pools and swales to feed the plants and prevent soil erosion. Despite intense cultivation on the hillsides throughout Togo, these intelligent management practices have yet to catch on. Every year, as soon as the rains hit, soil slides off the hills and into rivers, which quickly become undrinkable. With more and more farms using chemical fertilizers and pesticides on their fields, the problem is worsening dramatically. Simply put, the water is being poisoned.
This June we have an incredible opportunity to show a different possibility. We can show how to implement creative solutions to keep the land and our communities healthy. We have the chance to change the way agriculture is done in Togo.
Beyond work on the land, we will be continuing with our social and positive development mission as well. In every way possible we will be promoting community self-reliance and celebrating local culture to help in maintaining local cultural identity even under mounting pressures of globalization. Participants in our June program will find themselves immersed in the unique culture and nature of region. Learn more about this trip by clicking here.
What is the Root of the name ‘InTerraTree’?
Beyond the obvious connotations of the name InTerraTree;
In – to be surrounded by
Terra – the word for “earth” in Latin, and
Tree – a firmly-rooted life-supporting structure that includes many branches,
the name InTerraTree was derived from the French word “inter-etre,” or interbeing.
Interbeing is the true state of the world, one of interconnectedness and interdependence of all phenomena.
InTerraTree will foster a connected state of being that empowers and encourages all individuals to contribute their unique gifts towards the benefit of our world.
INTERRATREE AIMS TO ADDRESS ROOT CAUSES OF DESTRUCTIVE GLOBALIZATION AND USE AVAILABLE RESOURCES TO BUILD LOCAL RESILIENCY. IT IS BUILT ON THE PREMISE THAT THROUGH CROSS-CULTURAL EXCHANGE OF IDEAS AND VALUES, CREATIVE COLLABORATION, AND SUSTAINABILITY EDUCATION WE CAN CREATE A NEW KIND OF POSITIVE DEVELOPMENT. – NICK JOYCE, FOUNDER