Community Exchange on Health Sovereignty 2022


Rising austerity coupled with the COVID-19 pandemic has made it clear that healthcare systems in many countries are profoundly inequitable, with many people forced to rely on the medical-industrial complex for their health. Communities all over the world have been organising to rebuild and claim sovereignty over their health from the ground up, starting with their relationships with plants. Many herbalists are dreaming of, collaborating in or founding community-based herbal health initiatives that aim for accessibility, affordability, equity, sustainability and resilience in our collective health.

Nikki Darrell of The Plant Medicine School and Emily Caruso, of the Global Environments Network, discussed the importance of community-based herbalism and of democratizing access to herbal medicine and remedies. There are several grassroot, community-based initiatives for health and healing around Europe. There are also numerous small initiatives established and led by individual herbalists in their communities. These examples are inspiring, and we are aware of other herbalists and communities wishing to start their own and other budding projects wishing to learn and grow.

What is this Community Exchange about?

This community exchange (CE) offers a space for mutual learning, sharing of experiences and networking among (trainee and veteran) herbalists and community organisers, with the aim of supporting and growing the regional movement for community-based health empowerment.

This community exchange is organised around a 6-month online interaction starting in March 2022 followed by an in-person event held in Ireland in September 2022. We will gather around 30 grassroots herbalists and community health organisers from all over Europe who are involved in building or hoping to build community-based herbal health initiatives. We expect there to be a great diversity of such initiatives, as each community and locale will have their own version of what ‘community-based herbal health’ means. Therefore, we do not wish to define or limit what a community-based herbal health initiative could include, as long as it is community-based and open to all; involves collaborating with plants and fungi; and is aimed at securing collective health for all.

The overarching aim is to contribute concretely towards reweaving the relationships between humans and their ecosystems and enhancing the health and wellbeing of all beings. The goal is to promote the growth, expansion and connectivity of community-based herbal health initiatives in Europe, and to invite, encourage and support people to deepen their ancestral and embodied connection and communication with the natural world.

Who will join us at the Community Exchange?

Our communities hold a wealth of knowledge, expertise, and insight. We are seeking participants from a diversity of backgrounds, ancestries and knowledge systems who are involved in community-based herbal health and empowerment initiatives, as well as participants who work with their communities to restore human communication and connections with our living planet.

We expect herbalists and community organisers from all over Europe to attend, and currently have individuals based in Denmark, France, Ireland, Italy, Germany, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the UK planning to attend. We are intentionally seeking representatives from a diversity of cultural backgrounds, contexts of work, and types of initiative. In gathering people from diverse backgrounds, we are breaking new ground for herbalism in Europe, one where voices and ideas that are habitually overlooked are given space and celebrated, and where new connections, cross-learning and and ideas are seeded.

What topics will the Community Exchange cover?

The event will cover diverse topics of interest to community-based herbalists and health organisers, including:

  • Remembering our place in nature – Becoming embodied
  • Nature-centred design
  • Communicating with the public: building trust and engaging people
  • Managing disagreements and transforming conflicts into opportunities
  • Building networks across cultural and language barriers
  • Working with diversity in people and plants: cultural, linguistic 
  • Working with different age groups
  • Cultural heritage and relationships with plants

Background & core team

The event is being co-organised by Nikki from TPMS and Emily, Samirah and Nessie from GEN, with the support of a core group of herbal practitioners: Daisy Mae from Ceratonia Herbal Gardens, and Edyta Bodnar from Poland.

TPMS has 12 years of experience in training community and clinical herbalists, running introductory workshops and providing open-source material on its website and the Veriditas Hibernica website. It has a policy of supporting many community initiatives, partnering with community-based initiatives and networking with those of a similar vision. GEN has ten years’ experience organising international events in the environmental sector. Since 2012, we have organised four Community Exchanges, and have found them to be very effective spaces for gathering and offering intensive mutual learning opportunities to practitioners within one global region on specific topics. The Community Exchange we propose on community-based herbal health initiatives will innovate on the existing format but draw on the many years of experience in organizing and facilitating these kinds of events.

Any further information

Please let us know if you have any questions regarding the above information or the event itself by writing to emily@global-diversity.org, or samirah@globalenvironments.org.

Feature image: Little beings on Wild Angelica flower in the meadow, Alex Duffy, The Plant Medicine School

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