Josh Potgieter and Imraan Samuels run a grassroots organisation called Guerilla House: a shared learning platform for the experimentation and pursuit of urban household regeneration. Using permaculture as their framework, they offer an informal yet impactful training space where practical sustainability skills are explored, interconnectivity is deepened, and regeneration is actively engaged as a collective.
This month the innovative duo will be hosting a permaculture workshop at Equilibrium Festival where they plan to educate and uplift attendees through their passion for conservation and regenerative technologies. We decided to reach out to the founders of Guerilla House ahead of EQ festival to find out more about the uplifting work they do.
MCBN: We are excited to chat with the innovative duo behind the local startup Guerilla House, Joshua Potgieter and Imraan Samuels. For those of our readers who aren’t quite sure – tell us, what is Guerilla house and permaculture?
Guerilla House is an organisation started in 2016. We are a shared learning platform for the experimentation and pursuit of regenerative technologies and regenerative worldviews. Our framework is permaculture. Our context is urban. And our purpose is to make permaculture training affordable and accessible. We started with our two-day Permaculture workshop and now we are running about 6 different active workshops on a rotational basis. We also offer design and consultancy for the implementation of low-tech, high producing gardens. We install household greywater systems and can help with any ‘greening’ concerns or questions. Our vision is to use our passion for cultivating minds and communities overflowing with abundance, one person at a time, one home at a time, we envision a world where every single being has the opportunity and resources to express themselves fully, without fear, expectation, or lack.
The definition of permaculture has evolved so much over the years. It comes from the need to change our agricultural methods into practices that work with earth and not against. Philosophically, It is also about creating a permanent culture was we have the answers needed for all the sociological, ecological and economic problems we are facing. It encompasses a variety of science’s and traditional practices to achieve this harmony. We see permaculture as a design science. Using the core ethics of earth care, people care and surplus share.
MCBN: Were there any socio/ecological/economic issues that either of you personally faced or your communities faced that motivated you to seek a sustainable solution?
Yes, there were, which a big part why Guerilla House started. We both could not afford a tertiary education and when we completed our Permaculture course together we saw that there was such a need for not just education that was accessible but also affordable. We also saw the disconnection on how as a species we are treating ourselves and this earth. I guess we just felt obligated to do something about it. Transparency is very important to us and that’s why we also give participants the option to view the breakdown costs of our workshops to see how we came to the price per ticket. We like to challenge the controlling notions of economy. Our biggest obstacle was how to create community and a career for ourselves at the same time.
MCBN: We read that you met each other through a permaculture design course in 2014 – how did each of you first discover the practice of permaculture which inevitably led you to meet later on?
Josh: I grew up part of my life in Johannesburg and Cape Town. From a young age, I was always extremely fascinated with nature. After leaving school I was plagued with the question, what next. I was confused, I couldn’t afford to go to a university and nothing offered what I wanted. After feeling so lost I decided to start a small vegetable garden soon becoming obsessed with growing plants, especially for food and medicine. After watching a documentary called The Edible City, I knew I wanted to change the urban scene, I wanted to change the definition of food security. Soon after embarking on this journey a friend told me about something called Permaculture. That following year in 2014 I completed the Applied Permaculture Training and the 5-month permaculture intensive internship at SEED. After that, I was lucky enough to manage permaculture farms. I worked in a plant nursery for about a year while still implementing systems in my home and then spent my evenings’ researching. I was working 3 jobs when Guerrilla House first started but had to take the jump into the deep end by just focusing on Guerrilla House. I have never looked back since. I have a deep passion for plant propagation, working with plant medicines, growing mushrooms, culturing fermentations and wild food foraging. I am deeply grateful that my parents taught us to always follow what we believe in.
Imraan: After having to leave school in grade 11 due to financial issues, I had to assist with living expenses so my brother got me a job at a legal transcription firm. This paid well for someone with no matric, and I continued on in this industry for the next 4 years (though hated working for a corporate company from the outset).
Two years into this job-life stint I started re-igniting my interest in sustainability and came across permaculture. It was then that I took a few courses, the first one being at Soil for Life in Constantia, and then later that year I enrolled and received a bursary for a 3 week internationally accredited permaculture course at SEED, based in Mitchells Plain. This is where I met Josh, and we were friends from day 1. Immediately after this, we both took a 5-month internship with the same organisation and thereafter took 2 facilitation courses with our teacher who taught us at SEED. So apart from this, most of my learning has been through Google and Youtube, and now through our shared learning platform in the form of weekly workshops.
MCBN: Tell us more about how the idea and name for Guerilla House came about and about that special Garden Party you held back 2015.
The name Guerilla House points to our underlying ethos for what we’re aiming to achieve. The term ‘guerilla’, as defined by Google, “refers to actions or activities performed in an impromptu way, often without authorization”, and is often used in reference to groups or factions who engage in fighting against larger, commonly oppressive forces. While in some cases guerilla groups are people with ill-informed and destructive ideologies (eg ISIS), in most cases guerillas represents to us groups of people who are simply fighting for their right to live the abundant lives they deserve (as per the historic Spanish resistance against Napoleon), and this is what this term means to us. House refers to the place people spend the majority of their time: their home. One permaculture technique (called zoning) is to distribute and apply your energy according to where your time is spent, so if most of your time is spent in your home, why not apply most of your energy there and make it your hub of regeneration, rather than spending most of your time trying to change systems outside your control, such as politics or external organisations for example (this does have its place however). So ‘guerilla houses’ all over the place are literally what we’re aiming to achieve – household hubs of regeneration wherever a human inhabits the earth. We believe that this is where the most potential for positive change can be found.
The garden party was held in 2015 for Imraan’s Birthday. Over 20 friends and family members combined their skills and created a 60m2 food garden. Replacing lawn for food while having fun. This garden thrives to this day and Imraan is still enjoying the fruits from that labour. Both our gardens have been implemented through our workshop module. From food growing to greywater systems. After the garden party saw the power of community and connection, the impact it had on everyone feeling fueled and positive, connected and empowered. We started to see that change is possible. We saw that it wasn’t about the number of seeds you sow but how each seed was sown.
MCBN: You offer a variety of interactive workshops, and even make your own soap, cleaning products, washing powder and lotions, tell us more about a few of the workshops you offer and what else they entail?
We started with our two-day Permaculture workshop and from there grew and have taught about 11 different workshops. At the moment we are running about six active workshops on a regular rotational basis. All our workshops are participatory workshops and you will always take products home that you’ve made on the day. Some of our active workshops are; Intro To Permaculture, this is our only two- day workshop where we cover permaculture in the urban context, focusing on the different ethics, principles and framework of permaculture. On the second day, we implement a garden based on the techniques and design framework learnt. Low Tech Shrooms which focuses low tech methods to grow edible mushroom species. Make It Ferment focuses on different fermentation techniques and the importance of gut health. Keep It Clean is the soap making workshop. Grow Your Own Medicine is our herbalism workshop where we make different healing remedies and products. We also have a greywater workshop, rainwater harvesting, ferrocement tank building, plant propagation and a couple of others that we can mould to the client or organisation that requests them. For example, we just hosted an Indigenous Fauna Flora Workshop at Wynberg Girls High School. We are always adding to the list of workshops which always keeps us growing and learning.
MCBN: We know you both love everything about what you do but if you had to choose, which workshop do you enjoying giving the most and why?
We enjoy each workshop equally. Every workshop is different. We are always meeting new people, each person becomes apart of the Guerilla family. Maybe it’s not which workshop but what part of the workshop that brings us the most joy. For each workshop we do a communal lunch, food sharing is probably one of our favourite aspects. It’s the moment we get to see everyone share and show off their culinary skills. Definitely the most delicious part. But if we had two choose one workshop it would be the Intro To Permaculture workshop, this is our flagship workshop and always find such a deep bond is created from the two-day experience.
MCBN: To date, you’ve taught over 1000 people through your workshops – what has been your most memorable experience thus far working together?
Each workshop has so many memorable moments but something that always brings us laughter is that fact that we are always struggling to remember participants names. Especially the embarrassing moment of introducing yourself to someone who has already been on one of our workshops. We actually have an ice-breaker game to help everyone (mainly us) remember each others name. I guess we are both are very grateful we met each other and are able to embark on this journey together.
MCBN: You’ll be hosting a permaculture workshop this month at Cape Town’s brand new wellness event, Equilibrium Festival. What can festival attendees look forward to learning and discovering at the Guerilla House workshop?
We will be talking about what permaculture means to us. Why we have chosen the urban space for the work we do. And our experiences we have had in forming Guerilla House, including our personal journeys in getting where we are today.
MCBN: And lastly, describe a Guerilla House workshop experience in three words.
Anything is possible.
For more information on Guerilla House, visit their website and follow them on Facebook and Instagram and be sure to catch them in action during their permaculture workshop at Equilibrium Festival 2019 – tickets available right here.