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By Maria Paez

William Velasquez, a dedicated researcher and student of the natural world, shared a glimpse of his impactful work with us. He has devoted his life to learning and supporting communities, including indigenous groups affected by malnutrition. Currently, he is pioneering family, community and urban agriculture projects in Colombia through the Centre for Human and Natural PermAgriculture, located in the municipality of Carolina del Príncipe in Antioquia, a beacon of sustainability and education.

The Centre provides alternative ways to do organic farming and guides individuals and families on the journey of designing and implementing productive systems. “Observing’, a permaculture principle adapted to the local context and named as  LECTURALEZA is promoted as the main tool in this journey. This coined term merges “Lectura” and “Naturaleza”, which means ‘Reading Nature’.

William Velasquez - Bioagricultura - Colombia

At the Centre, William not only practises sustainable farming but also educates and promotes agricultural practices rooted in the ethics of permaculture. Known among peers as a nature expert and permaculturist, William views himself as a perpetual learner, always observing and admiring the natural world.

His journey is unique, marked by diverse experiences and learnings. William has travelled to various countries, studying both traditional agricultural methods taught in universities and the principles of permaculture. Despite his extensive knowledge, he firmly believes that true wisdom comes from nature itself. As William eloquently puts it, "Nature is a universal book to read at any time. It is no coincidence that trees and books have leaves."

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The message of a more Human and Natural PermAgriculture is beginning to resonate with the new generations in Carolina del Príncipe. In today's world, where many products are tainted with pesticides, growing and harvesting our own food has never been more crucial. It is not only a more economical and healthier practice but also ensures that we know exactly how our food is grown. 

William advocates for everyone to have a green space for growing food and describes  community and family gardens as spaces where life multiplies.  He demonstrates that steps towards self-sufficiency are possible even in limited spaces using buckets, baskets, pots, or any container that can serve as a planter. Lettuce, basil, spinach, and cabbages can thrive in a single container, and even a wall can be transformed into an edible garden. A one-litre bottle can hold up to seven seedlings or herbs, significantly benefiting the family economy. 

William has successfully partnered with the local government to promote family bioagriculture and urban agriculture (video available in Spanish here). Through workshops, community meetings, visits to his centre and educational programmes, the local community is learning to grow their own food at home, becoming more involved in sustainable practices. The youngest members of the community are particularly enthusiastic and are embracing these concepts, which they then share and replicate with their families and friends.

Take a look at one of the stories from families who have created circular allotments without using machinery or fertilisers here (video available in Spanish). They also share how living in nature and growing food have improved their lives, becoming an excellent environment to teach kids about food, work and life. 

Looking to the future, William dreams of extending his teachings to communities in Africa and those who are most affected by climate change, aiming to transform arid areas into edible forests. These could provide highly nutritious food and address environmental and social issues.  “A farmer, a rural, urban, or peri-urban community, with good heirloom seeds, proper soil management and a productive system similar to natural forests; result in a greater supply of diverse, high-quality food throughout the year. This benefits both self-consumption and the transformation and commercialisation of produce in any corner of the planet”.  His vision is a testament to hope and dedication, inspiring many to reconnect with nature and cultivate a more sustainable future.

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