Episode 016 – Natalie Topa: Permaculture and Resilience in Refugee Settings by Earth Repair Radio with Andrew Millison

  • Creator: Earth Repair Radio with Andrew Millison
  • Year: 2018
  • Location: US


This episode takes a hard look at the conditions of refugees and how permaculture is being used to improve their lives in a number of situations. Natalie Topa is the Regional Resilience and Livelihoods Coordinator for East Africa and Yemen for the Danish Refugee Council, with 13 years of experience in East Africa and beyond, so she has a very practical and wizened perspective rooted in on-the-ground realities that she works in every day. Natalie has also taken multiple Permaculture Design Courses, and utilizes her deep permaculture knowledge to influence the conditions of refugees and displaced persons in sometimes harsh and brutal environments. This episode hears many stories from the world of humanitarian relief in which Natalie has dedicated herself. Natalie is no-nonsense, and lays out her hard won knowledge and advice for us all in this epic episode.

Natalie’s links:
Danish Refugee Council:
Facebook groups:
Nat and Friends Permaculture and Resilience Design
Nat and Friends: The Permie Kitchen and Home
Nat and Friends: Building Our Natural Dream Homes and Communities
Nat and Friends: Fungi and Mycology
Nat and Friends: Seed Saving and Sovereignty

Natalie Topa Full Biography:
Natalie Topa was born to a Polish immigrant mother and a Ukrainian refugee father who grew up in Rio de Janeiro. Natalie was born in Buffalo, New York and then moved to Denver with her mother at age five. Natalie grew up in Colorado where she completed her Bachelor’s degree in Sociology and Human Services, and a Master’s in Urban and Regional Planning with a focus in Economic Development. She spent five years working in urban planning, community redevelopment, regional environmental planning, Naval-base closure, transit-oriented development, post-disaster recovery and Long-Term Planning (LTR-FEMA), and public-private partnership.

Natalie moved to South Sudan after signing of the 2005 Peace Agreement to work on post-war town planning and reconstruction, and then started to work with displaced populations on community reconstruction, agriculture, health and school facilities, water provision and civic engagement. Since then, Natalie has directed programs in climate change resilience using a systems-based approach that includes local governance, gender empowerment, market systems development, financial inclusion, food security and natural resource management.

Today, Natalie works as the Regional Resilience and Livelihoods Coordinator for East Africa and Yemen for the Danish Refugee Council, bringing principles of permaculture and resilience design to post-disaster recovery as well as root causes of displacement. She has been based in East Africa for 13 years, living in South Sudan and Kenya while working throughout Africa and Southeast Asia.

Natalie has traveled to 60 countries around the world, connecting with cultural and religious contexts and livelihoods strategies from all over. She currently covers a whole regional portfolio including Yemen, Somalia, Djibouti, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Congo and Burundi.

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