Building Self-Reliant Communities

Compiled by Global Indigenous Trust and Cando

In these times of uncertainty, we must look to our own self-reliance once again - going back to the land, back to working with the land and back to our natural values and principles. Investing in our communities is the only “fail safe” measure at this time for it will give us the strength and resilience necessary to weather any storm. It is time to move away from dependency on a system that has never worked for us, towards a system that we have always known to be true.

This means taking simple measures to ensure that our communities and families are self-reliant and able to sustain themselves through challenging times that may be ahead. We strongly encourage all communities to implement measures that provide the minimum self-reliance in these three areas: food, energy, water. These are investments that you can make yourselves. Do not wait for government to provide the solutions or funds.

Making investments into our own food security, energy and water systems over the coming weeks and months, will ensure that our communities are stable through tough times, as our ancestors have always taught us to be. At this time of unpredictable policies and unstable markets, investments and currencies, relying on each other is the only safety measure we can count on.

We have provided in a list of simple, quick and cost effective options below, ranging from very inexpensive to more complex, depending on the financial position of your community. These include ways to get people gardening, pickling, preserving, building root cellars, greenhouses, renewable energy and water filtration systems. Self-empowerment begins with self-reliance.

Implementing these immediate measures is something that every community can begin to do today. 

List of Options

This list of simple solutions and technologies can be implemented quickly and economically.

Before you begin, we encourage you to take a look at what your land is already doing. Where are food sources already growing? Where are the best soils for gardens / food production? Where is the most water retained for water catchment systems? Nature is the best and most efficient engineer and may already be providing many of the solutions for you. Once you have a lay of your land, take a look at these simple systems that can be done immediately to complement natural systems that you may already have.


  • Gardens:

This is the simplest and most cost effective thing that all people can do for food security. Whether you put in a couple community gardens or have families put in their own, there is opportunity to share and exchange food and plant medicines. You can start the seeding inside now so you are ready for the warmer weather. If your soil is too tough or poor quality, you can use straw bales to grow food in without any soil at all. Animal manure is terrific for natural compost that you can get locally.

Here are some simple instructional videos to get you going this season:

Straw bale garden:

No dig garden:

Next level – Food Forests:

Starting a Food Forest Garden:

            Growing potatoes:

            Community Circular Food Systems (zero waste):

Here is a great indigenous organic agriculture documentary “One with Nature” that some communities are already doing:

  • Root cellars:

We all know this from our parents/grandparents. This is a simple way to preserve those great root vegetables all year round. Here are some basic instructions and videos to get you started:


Information on temperatures and types of vegetables:

Very simple solution:

More complex solution:

Prefab to order:

  • Preserving and Canning:

This is simple and easy to have healthy food all year that our ancestors have always done. Here are some simple instructionals to remind us all of these traditional ways:

  • Foraging:

Cattails, dandelion leaves, burdock root, pine needles (high in Vit C), and so much more that nature produces. Here is a great foraging website that sets out what is edible in your territory. Get to know them well and start to ask your Elders about what you can eat locally. This is the most effective way to food security! 

  • Greenhouses:

These range from simple hoop greenhouses that can be built for less than $200, to all year round greenhouses that are a bit more costly.

Hoop greenhouse: This is the simplest greenhouse can build and a small one can be done in a day for under $200. All you need PVC connectors, plastic tubing and plastic sheeting. Then you can either get planters or build wooden planters to elevate the plants from the cold ground. See this simple video:

Basic good design:

Full size with fan:


  1. All-year-round greenhouse: The best simple greenhouses are those that are passive such that they don’t require electricity or gas to heat. The simplest and most effective builds are using polycarbonate external wall and roof, with geothermal drain pipes laid underground that self-regulate heat into the greenhouse from the Earth, and a heat sink on the back wall of the greenhouse. The heat sink can be with either black plastic barrels of water or black plastic siding that retains heat. You may add solar panels on the roof for extra energy storage, which could throw off enough heat to even get some heat back into your house in the winter!

Getting started things to consider:

Getting started with building:

Geothermal drain pipes:

How Earth thermal works for simple greenhouse design:

Heat sinks:

  1. Indoor Microgreens: Microgreen spouts have 90 of the minerals and nutrients we need for our optimal subsistence. These can be readily grown with simple water and glass jars, and scaled up with LED lights. Mumm’s has great quality organic seeds that can be ordered online. Mung beans are the highest in density and nutrients. Added bonus, you can sell these and earn quite a bit of money on these as they are highly nutritious and in demand!

Mumm’s Seeds – organic, non GMO:



  1. Firewood: Get a simple wood chipper from any large hardware store to be able to cut up logs and use for firewood.

  2. Solar panels: There are many companies now that sell solar systems across Canada. You will want to get batteries and inverter to ensure you can store the energy.

  3. Volter: Biofuel is quick and easy solution for turning dead wood into energy. The bonus is that you can also incorporate a forest management plan into your project to mitigate future risk of wildfires. This is a Finnish company that is leading the charge on this tech.
  1. Anvil Crawler: Has a variety of renewable energy solutions and products that can be combined to create hybrid energy solutions that fit your needs. The most interesting is the shipping container which has solar panels on the outside and batteries on the inside, and can store the energy at new levels in the marke Their solar generator, which they refer to as the Anvil Power House, is a modular, mobile unit that can be customized and sized for any of your on or off-grid power needs. These transportable units can be dropped on-site in any location, and can reduce the need for diesel. They can also be tied to the grid for backup power.


  1. Simple rain harvesting:
  2. New Terra: Sustainable, local water treatment
  3. Wastewater Treatment and living systems: