Emergency pedagogy in Palawan

We have shared news of Walter Friedrich Hahn’s work in Palawan Island, the Philippines in an earlier post.

In the past months, Palawan too has been caught in the Super Typhoon Rai, or Typhoon Odette as it is known locally. News reports that emerged in December across the New York Times, Reuters, and other news outlets have trickled away as media outlets switched attention to other world news.

NY Times’ report of Super Typhoon Rai to hit the Philippines with first landfall on 16 December. The storm would proceed in waves for the second half of December.

The United Nations issues a video conference around areas affected by Typhoon Odette, as it’s known in the Philippines.

Walter has issued a few newsletter updates in the intervening months, describing the work of the farm in providing Emergency Pedagogy to affected communities.

Within the framework of, or on the fringes of, emergency pedagogy, there are always opportunities to remedy the situation where someone has been overlooked or neglected in the aid measures of the government or other organizations. Overall, the aid measures are well organized on the basis of the political communities, but it still happens more often than you might think that someone needs extra donations, the further you get into the mountains and off the roads, the more so. Or in the case of the community of Bucana, which was completely drenched in mud and whose residents endured the fear of death because of the opening of the dam: this community is not in the recognized damage area of the typhoon and therefore no help can be expected from the government, the church or international agencies . Here we are on our own with our resources, all measures carried out are financed by us alone. In other places it could be a food subsidy, repairing a roof or helping to rebuild an entire house. Whenever possible, we make sure that the means for self-help are given and, in the best case, that know-how can be imparted through working together.

from the newsletter

Business-as-usual disaster relief

Disaster relief is often couched in terms of humanitarian aid. The United Nations and its subsidiary institutions that have grown with it – UNDP, UNICEF, UNEP, are responsible for this discourse. While humanitarian aid speaks the language of human rights, and is influenced by it, it sits within and legitimises a larger structure of lending. The World Bank is the implementing arm of the International Monetary Fund’s financial structures, and continues to make loans, a big chunk through its Agricultural Developmental Programmes through the 1970s-1980s.

From the World Bank’s visualisation of IBRD Statement of Loans by Country, updated February 15 2022. The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) loans are public and publicly guaranteed debt extended by the World Bank Group. IBRD loans are made to, or guaranteed by, countries that are members of IBRD. IBRD may also make loans to IFC. IBRD lends at market rates. Data are in U.S. dollars calculated using historical rates. This dataset contains the latest available snapshot of the Statement of Loans. Explore the data.

And yes, there’s history here! Where African countries resisted, countries like Chile, Brazil, Ecuador in Latin America; and Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia in Southeast Asia signed on to these programmes in the 1970s and 1980s.

Today, the idea of lending is tied to the idea of “poor” countries needing more capital to “develop”. Yet these structures were set in place by specific, intentional mechanisms in the 1970s, after the US pulled out of the Bretton Woods Agreement in 1974, in order to deal with its domestic economy’s overproduction problem.

The solution? It set off a period of free-floating currencies, and the IMF created Structural Adjustment Programmes that included a portfolio of lending. The first of these countries to receive loans, Ethopia, realised quickly how the demands that came with these loans replicated their earlier experiences with colonial powers: right down to the level of how households should manage their monies.

This is a useful podcast to listen to, on this whole process.

Today, the Philippines is #9 of countries in the world with the highest loans from the World Bank at 27 billion USD in loans. Its total debt at the end of September 2021 was 230 billion USD. Like other national governments that continue to work with debt, the Duterte government has been described as “not afraid of debt” (The Diplomat), focusing on spending its way of it.

A different kind of relief is needed

World Bank loan-based relief – much of which is meant to go directly into humanitarian aid organisations that suck up any loans – creates the “frame” and “solution” to disaster.

None of these programmes are suited to meet the needs of people in the Philippines and other countries, who have watched their economies and cultures devastated by repeated colonisation.

Walter’s biodynamic work in Palawan goes some way towards this, while providing practical aid and emotional trauma relief. Trauma is a big topic, and the way it intersects especially with Global South economies, will be an immensely important part of long-term regeneration of local cultural institutions and lives.

Likewise, there are always opportunities to convey basic concepts of nutrition, medicine, education or agriculture as part of or on the fringes of emergency pedagogical assignments. While the emergency rations of other contributors contain almost exclusively instant noodles with flavor enhancers and white rice, we make sure that we bring whole rice and fresh vegetables and herbs with us, a small part of which can be harvested on our land. Grace teaches how the plants in the area can be meaningfully integrated into healing processes and shows the great effect that compresses and footbaths can have. And with relatively little effort in speaking, concepts such as the open-ended toy can be understood because they become visible during our operations.

At the same time, follow-up projects from these assignments are in the air, be it in education, agriculture or the development of sensible, ecologically justifiable small businesses. The sources of income have been largely destroyed and it takes 15 years for a coconut palm or a cashew tree to grow back to full harvest. Every third house in the country already has a Sari Sari Store (a store with some „basic“ needs), but you won’t be able to survive on trade alone. And for now, hundreds of thousands of people are being fed via feeding programmes. In order to secure life in the long term, sustainable sources of income must be developed.

Pictures are from an emergency educational mission Walter and Grace carried out in January 2022.

Biodynamics in Palawan? Moving beyond black/white categories

At this point, though, I also want to highlight: the use of biodynamic agriculture may seem out of place in Palawan. And yet, how can different groups of practitioners come to develop new structures together, with humility and openness to change, to work together to build egalitarian relationships?

While I wholeheartedly support the food vision, I also think any idea of seeing local people as “childlike”, or some people as more childlike than others, draws on ideas of a hierarchy of human maturation that have been more destructive than supportive. Yet, if we work beyond black/white understandings of goodness/badness, we may come to see beyond the words (translated across a few languages), to how people engage with one another.

To engage more fully with the trauma, healing, and support structures needed in the next decade, including practices to defuse eco-fascism: Heather Luna has an excellent set of workshops, and runs trainings and consultations, at her company Keduzi.

Walter Siegfried Hahn and Grace Zozobrado Hahn share more about emergency pedagogy in their newsletter, and you can learn more about their work at

For orientation on what happens with the donations: an emergency pedagogical intervention costs around 1,000 to 2,000 euros – depending on whether other sponsors contribute to the costs, a complete house 500 to 1,000 euros, a roof or minor damage 100 to 200 euros. We still have plenty of seeds from our own production and otherwise we shall work together with other seed initiatives in the north of the country. We also have 80 water filters worth 20 euros from previous initiatives in stock – if we have to buy more, we have to reckon with 30 to 40 euros each, with which a large family can easily be supplied with drinking water.

If you would like to support their work, they do receive donations, which can be transferred to the following accounts:

Directly to the Philippines via
Account Name Koberwitz 1924 Inc.
Account Number 130-3-13024518-9 with Metropolitan Bank and Trust Co.
Rizal Avenue, Puerto Princesa City, BIC (Swift) MBTCPHMMXXX
Here, it is necessary to state the postal code 5300, my e-mail address and that the addressee is a charity / non-profit company.

If you are in Europe:

Germany: Future Foundation Development at GLS-Treuhand e.V., GLS Gemeinbank eG Bochum
IBAN: DE05 430 609 67 0012 33 00 10, BIC: GENODEM1GLS
Intended use: Koberwitz-Palawan

Switzerland: Acacia-Verein, Basel, Freie Gemeinbank, Basel IBAN: CH93 0839 2000 0040 0800 6, BIC: FRGGCHB1 Project note: Kulturimpuls Philippinen

Partners Soil Companions

Ang Ee Peng – Wah Son

Living a self-sustainable way in a Japanese zen monastery for 3 years, organically farming up to 4 types of rice and more than 20 types of vegetables – Ee Peng comes back to Singapore in 2015 and continues to farm in urban spaces. She has been actively transforming an industrial space in Seletar Aerospace into farming areas  with regenerative farming practices.

What plants do you grow in the area?

Pumpkin, Roselle, Okra, Eggplant, Purple Chilli, Sweet potato leaves, Kangkong, Fame Flower, Ceylon Spinach, Mustard Greens, Pak Choi.. With other herbs

Do you grow on a raised bed or directly in the soil?

Combination of the two

Roughly how large is your site?

About 1600sqm – courtyard area (800 m2); carpark (300 m2); production area (500 m2)

What are the microclimate conditions over time? (how sunny or shady, for how long? How wet and windy is the spot?)

A variety of conditions from full shade to full sun. Windy in all spots. 

What practices do you use with the soil?

Hugelculture. Using pruned tree branches as bottom layer of raised beds, green materials as second layer (uncooked food waste + Coffee grounds), third layer with garden prunings and then last layer with unconditioned clayey soil from original site.

Is there anything else about your site that is worth noting?

Materials from nursery are brought in for most plots only in the initial stages of growing. While some beds were started without compost or topsoil, only the soil originally in ground.

Partners Soil Companions

Marcus Koe – Kembangan

How do we make community gardens a viable source of food supply?

Marcus Koe 

What plants do you grow in the area?

Pioneer trees, Fruit trees, Fruit vegetables, Root vegetables, Herbs, Legumes, Leafy perennials (to ask him what are pioneer trees?)

Do you grow on a raised bed or directly in the soil?

Directly in the soil

Roughly how large is your site?


What are the microclimate conditions over time? (how sunny or shady, for how long? How wet and windy is the spot?)

partial shade, increasing shade overtime as large pruned trees grow back their foliage. (to ask him wind condition, if it is affected by trees)

What practices do you use with the soil?

green mulching, Leaf litter mulching, No till, no chemicals, Some compost additions, occasional pelletised manure, Hugelkultur, Banana circle

Is there anything else about your site that is worth noting?

Site located at bottom of hill, so gets pretty wet in heavy rains. Construction rubble underneath; it’s a rather heavy clay soil. 

Partners Soil Companions

Kiat Lay – Jurong Central Park

A scene from the garden at JCP

What plants do you grow in the area?

sunn hemp, pigeon pea, roselle, okra, sweet potato leaf, peanut, grape tomato, purslane, chilli, fame flower, malabar spinach, lemon grass, mani cai, mugwort, joyweed, Indian borage, brinjal, radish, turmeric, ulam raja, basil, balloon vine, lime tree, cranberry hibiscus, perilla, kang kong, mint, tarragon, moringa, okinawa spinach, aloe vera, tapioca, green chiretta, black face general, curry leaf, laksa leaf, mulberry, kale, Brazilian spinach, long bean, cotton

Do you grow on a raised bed or directly in the soil?

Combination of the two

Roughly how large is your site?

120 sqm

What are the microclimate conditions over time? (how sunny or shady, for how long? How wet and windy is the spot?)

It’s an open area without cover. Most of the area has direct sunlight, about 10% of the area is under tree shade.

What practices do you use with the soil?

The planting beds were initially created with a mixture of clay and compost providee by NParks. Throughout the time, we bury kitchen waste, fruit peels, compost, leaves from pigeon pea and sunn hemp in the soil regularly. We also created a hugelkultur bed where we buried decomposing logs inside.

Is there anything else about your site that is worth noting?

As it’s located in a park and not fenced up, it’s accessible to the public

Partners Soil Companions

Tang HB – Methodist Girls’ School

Human health comes from soil health.

Mr Tang HB

The garden space in Methodist Girls’ School (MGS) was badly damaged a few years ago when their sports complex was built near to it. Construction debris such as broken bricks and rocks was buried in the garden under a thin layer of landscape soil, on which grass was later planted. 

Before growing any crops, my friends and I had to remove as much construction debris from the soil as possible. We also added purchased soil and purchased compost to quickly amend the soil for growing. We used about 3 tons of purchased soil and 600 kg of compost to create the grow areas. We won’t need to buy anymore soil or compost because we are now creating our own soil and compost in the garden using food scraps from the canteen stalls, garden waste, grass clippings and fallen leaves.

The pond in the garden was poorly managed. There was only one species of fish – tilapia. The filtration system was not functioning properly. The water didn’t smell nice and there were string algae floating around. The school management was already planning to give up the pond and fill it up with soil to grow grass. I asked the them to let me try to revive the pond. Luckily, they agreed. Instead of using their artificial filtration system, I planted a diversity of aquatic plants and introduced more than 20 species of fishes. The ecosystem created is working well and the water is clear now. I have recorded 23 species of dragonflies visiting the pond. A few species are breeding in the pond. I can see their exuviae sometimes.

Today, the garden is producing food for both people and animals and is also providing ecological services. Teachers and students come to the garden not only to admire it but also to make observations on ecology. It is now a living classroom for students to learn about food and nature.

What plants do you grow in the area?

Edibles and ornamentals, annuals and perennials

Do you grow on a raised bed or directly in the soil?

Combination of the two

Roughly how large is your site?

About the size of a basketball court. 436 sqm

What are the microclimate conditions over time? (how sunny or shady, for how long? How wet and windy is the spot?)

A mixture of these

What practices do you use with the soil?
  • Mulching – the main practice.
  • Composting using soil in a shaded area.
  • Burying food scraps in soil in grow area.
Is there anything else about your site that is worth noting?

It is a regenerative food garden attracting biodiversity and sequestering carbon.


Newsletter from Palawan, the Philippines

A dear friend and guide of the Soil Regeneration Project runs a space in the island of Palawan, in the Philippines. They wrote us recently with some news, and the message resonated strongly with us, so we’re publishing their newsletter here with their permission.

Read the PDF copy here (with photos!) or below in text (but without photos), if you’d prefer.

Newsletter Spring 2020 – April 28, 2020

“So I see the only chance for man, that he can finally practically heed two insights: that his fate is inextricably linked to that of his fellow human beings in all parts of the world and that he belongs to nature and not to him.” Albert Einstein

Dear friends,

During this time we receive a lot of confirmation for the work that we have been doing here in Palawan, the Philippines and elsewhere in the last ten years and we feel encouraged to continue on this path with all our strength. With seed research and production, with the propagation of regenerative farming, holistic methods of education and healing and through the training of perception with the senses, we make a significant contribution to the healthy development of people and the earth and provide practical solutions to challenges such as those that have now become more and more critical. We would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who reads this newsletter, supports us, has supported us personally, conceptually, financially and in many other ways. Here are some insights into our work in agriculture, health, nutrition and education in the past six months.

Biodynamic Agriculture

In December we were invited to a national conference on organic farming, where big plans for its expansion were made and a great deal of interest in biodynamic farming was shown. We will closely monitor and, where possible, contribute, where the many measures envisaged go towards realization. Experience shows that much more is said than actually done in this country.

A little further we have come with an undertaking right on our doorstep. Through our coffee project, we have been working with one of the four indigenous peoples on the island for almost seven years. For half a year now we have been working to win over a piece of wasteland up to 300 hectares as a commons (for shared use without property rights) for these people and for the bio- dynamic impulse. This wasteland gets burned almost completely annually in the dry season and is therefore also a threat to the adjacent forests, instead of being able to contribute to the food of the population. Extensive consultations with a large number of government agencies were and are necessary, although these are currently limited by the lockdown. A variety of training courses and discussions with the participants have taken place.

The pictures above show the ritual initiation of the initiative by the local chieftain as well as eurythmy guided by Grace. The rituals were included in one of the introductory seminars, here also with guests from the Acacia Waldorf School Santa Rosa and from Switzerland.

Biodynamic Preparations

The preparations are known to play a fundamental role in biodynamic agriculture. In Palawan it is not possible for us to grow the plants required for the compost preparations, but promising tests are being made in a mountainous area in the Philippines. Until we are able to produce them ourselves, we import the raw materials from India. Of course, we do have other raw materials such as quartz and cow dung. The pictures show, from left to right, the production of the cow pat pit preparation during a workshop on January 8, then the harvest on Easter Sunday morning and the storage in clay jars. Stirring a preparation and hanging up yarrow in a deer bladder.


We multiply seeds; we try to adapt overseas seeds from bd origins to the local climate; we try out indigenous, sometimes endemic species for cultivation and consumption; and we also try to breed to a modest extent. We are particularly happy with this lettuce. Lettuce is difficult to grow in the heat of the tropics and it hardly forms heads. This one is well adapted to organic cultivation, forms a large leaf mass, tolerates the heat well and is very tasty and digestible. It will be able to meet the increased demand for salad from local restaurants. In addition, see our seeds on offer at a farmers ́ market.


The primary producers are the poorest, especially in a country like the Philippines. One of the ways in which the farmer can earn more is to process his produce to a higher product level. Since the beginning of our work, we have always presented new plants for cultivation, but also products to be made from them. Here the hibiscus, known as tea or lemonade additive. In this case, we made tasty jams – with some guava from the garden, there is enough pectine in there to make it gel. On the right: bananas laid out and ready for dehydration.

Medicinal Plants

In addition to nutrition, a focus of our work is medicine. In the garden and the farm, we grow a variety of medicinal plants, some of which are available as seeds or seedlings, some as tea and sometimes in other forms. Our first goal is always to provide information about planting, care and use. Besides these, we are engaged in propagation and distribution. From left to right, the Korean ginseng, the insulin plant, a papaya leaf and Tawa Tawa; the latter two are used for dengue fever. Tawa Tawa, an Euphorbia, also has an amazing immediate healing effect in conjunctivitis. It is no coincidence that the two middle pictures show plants wet with dew – for more than ten years we have also been dealing with the almost completely unexplored dew drops.

Signs of the Time

This article of mine gives a little insight into the current situation in the Philippines – even if the situation naturally keeps evolving every day. The following video by Grace shows one of our initiatives in the educational field – it is intended for the poorest families in the Philippines and encourages young children to play with open-ended toys – it has meanwhile been given Indonesian subtitles and made available to parents, kindergartens and children’s homes in Indonesia through a foundation and is available as well on Facebook. In both countries, many poor families do have access to the internet, especially to Facebook.

The Time is Now

A crisis is equivalent to unlimited potential. In a plant, let ́s say, in a grass (we have very large grasses, namely bamboo, which can grow up to two meters a day), there is always a node and an internode: a knot and that between the knots. What is between the knots corresponds to ordinary life: the plant grows this way, especially in length. Humans live this way or the other, they walk their usual paths. Life is in the knot – if you want to multiply a plant, it comes from the knot, not from the in between. What we call a crisis among humans is the equivalent of the knot. Here is life, here is origin. Too much for some, but yes, crisis is life and it provides abundant opportunity. So let’s be thankful for the crisis, thankful for life and let’s make something of it. The time is now.


While many people are not allowed to work during this time, we work harder than ever. The drought that has been going on for a year and a half, the shortage of water, the extraordinary heat, the requests, the unfolding future are demanding of us to work seven days a week. At the same time, we have almost completely lost our revenues as a result of global government measures. The annual budget of our company is approx. 40,000 euros, in order to make ends meet we need 20,000 euros (= fixed costs). Probably some of you have similar challenges. Who has ideas for sustainable funding?

Walter Siegfried Hahn and Grace Zozobrado-Hahn, with the team of Koberwitz 1924 Inc.


can be transferred to the following accounts:

Germany: Zukunftsstiftung Entwicklung at GLS-Treuhand e.V., GLS Gemeinschaftsbank eG Bochum IBAN: DE05 430 609 67 0012 33 00 10, BIC: GENODEM1GLS
Purpose: Koberwitz-Palawan

Switzerland: Acacia-Verein, Basel, Freie Gemeinschaftsbank Bank, Basel IBAN: CH93 0839 2000 0040 0800 6, BIC: FRGGCHB1
Project note: Kulturimpuls Philippines

Or directly to the Philippines, preferably via, because they charge small fees: Account Name Koberwitz 1924 Inc.
Account Number 130-3-13024518-9 at Metropolitan Bank and Trust Co.
Rizal Avenue, Puerto Princesa City, BIC (Swift) MBTCPHMMXXX

(It is not possible for the bank to notify us of the transfer to the client. In the case of a transfer, we ask you to inform us at the same time).

Europe 2021

By the way: We have not given up our plans for a trip to Europe in April May 2021 – we thank you for the invitations we have received so far and look forward to contributing to more events – just drop us an e-mail.