By Liliana Usvat
While the governments and owners of waste lands cut forests as if there is no tomorrow, the private society has a waste network of projects planting forests and recovering the nature from destruction.
The amount of such projects is impressive.
Zimbabwe has 60 schools designed using permaculture, with a national team working within the schools’ curriculum development unit. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has produced a report on using permaculture in refugee situations after successful use in camps in Southern Africa and Republic of Macedonia. The Biofarming approach applied in Ethiopia has very similar features and can be considered permaculture. It is mainly promoted by the non-governmental organisation BEA, based in Addis Ababa.
A permaculture project has been developed in [[Jordan]] by the Permaculture Research Institute headquartered in Australia and run by Geoff Lawton. The project is located in the desert land near the Dead Sea.
Geoff Lawton’s Zaytuna Farm next to The Channon in northern NSW, Australia, is a 66-acre medium-farm scale example of permaculture implementation. It is the home base for the Permaculture Research Institute. Begun in 2001, the site is off-grid, and has multiple food forest systems, animal systems, kitchen garden and main crop areas, a large network of water-harvesting earthworks for passive hydration of the site, composting toilets, rocket stove powered showers, straw bale natural buildings.
The Indonesian Development of Education and Permaculture assisted in disaster relief in Aceh, Indonesia after the 2004 Tsunami.They have also developed Wastewater Gardens, a small-scale sewage treatment systems similar to Reedbeds.
Jiwa Damai (meaning Peace of Soul), based in Mambal, close to Ubud in Central Bali, Indonesia is a retreat centre and organicpermaculture garden, designed in accordance with nature.
A consortium of NGOs including Lom Orng Ockendenis doing a post-flood livelihood and infrastructure regeneration project, in the country’s northwest, which includes permaculture principles, and the establishment of a permaculture demonstration farm in Battambang Province which serves as a community farm and education site and includes a native tree nursery and biogas system providing clean cooking fuel and lighting.
The Himalayan Permaculture Centre (HPC) is a grass roots non-government organisation (NGO) set up by trained and motivated farmers from Surkhet district (Mid-Western Nepal) in 2010 to implement sustainable rural development programs in Nepal.
Austria has multiple permaculture project including the arguably most famous – The Krameterhof, created by Sepp Holzer, simultaneously being the oldest, deliberately designed permaculture project currently existing. Holzer has been farming his land since 1962. The Krameterhof has been one of Austrias project featured in the Expo 2000.
- Jardin des fraternités ouvrières (Mouscron), is a small but intensive 30 year old fruit forest. It accepts visitors, offers lessons, and features a shop where (rare) seeds can be purchased.
- Ferme Arc-en-Ciel (Wellin), is a small producer around 1ha cultivated.
It accepts visitor (but you must call for a rendez-vous first) offers vegetables baskets to consom’acteur groups.
The Balkan Ecology Project (BalkEP) is devoted to the design and exploration of ecologically-sound human habitats. Balkep is a permaculture inspired project and serves as a demonstration site for local residents, communities and visitors from abroad. Projects are aimed to develop thoughtful approaches to food, shelter, community and commerce, while preserving the unique biological diversity associated with the Balkan region. Volunteers and interns are welcome and a variety of courses and events are available throughout the year.
Two acres of land at Ayia Skepi Therapeutic Centre in Filani village, a drug rehabilitation centre about 25 km from Nicosia, are being developed by Emily Markides, Julia Yelton, Charles Yelton and the residents of the detoxification centre.
Permaculture Canada, website that lists many practitioners and related to Permaculture courses and projects in Canada
The Permaculture Project GTA – a permaculture hub based in Toronto; a weblog oriented to permaculture in the Greater Toronto Area
1/4 Acre Cold Climate Permaculture Site – Ness Creek Forest Garden
- Spiral Ridge Permaculture Gardens, Summertown, Tn
- Cedar House Inn/Permaculture Lifestyles Permaculture Demonstration Project, North Georgia
- The Edible Plant Project implements and promotes elements of permaculture through a nonprofit nursery and workshops inGainesville, FL (home of University of Florida).
- Georgia Permaculture Institute, Central Georgia
The Instituto Mesoamericano de Permacultura (IMAP)[ was founded in 2000 by a group of Mayan farmers and professionals in San Lucas Toliman, Guatemala. It is a not-for-profit community organization focused on the development of self-sufficient communities through the responsible management of natural resources, using permaculture techniques and ancestral and traditional knowledge.
Cuba has in the past 18 years transformed its food production using low-input, or organic agriculture and, to some degree, permaculture. Havana produces up to 50% of its food requirements within the city limits, much of it organic and produced by people in their homes, gardens and in municipal spaces
Project Bona Fide is a 43-acre (17 ha) site on the twin volcano island of Ometepe, Nicaragua which has been in development for nearly a decade. Infrastructural systems contain natural buildings built with local materials, terraced and medicinal plant gardens, an extensive nursery, seed bank, developing fruit and nut orchards, food forests, water-catchment, drip irrigation and ferro-cement technologies, renewable energy systems, and composting toilets.
IPEC – Ecocentro at the Instituto de Permacultura e Ecovilas do Cerrado – the Institute of Permaculture and Ecovillage of the Cerrado
IPCP – Instituto de Permacultura Cerrado-Pantanal (Permaculture Institute of Cerrado-Pantanal), Campo Grande, MS. Specializing in interactive teaching of Permaculture and direct work with Indigenous communities within the Cerrado biome.
The Permaculture community in Chile is relatively new. Its development has been driven largely by a small group of dedicated Permacultors building a learning community. The community has rapidly expanded in the last two years following a tour by David Holmgren in 2007, the work of Eluwn the delivery of Permaculture Design Certificate courses by El Manzano, and the formation of the Instituto de Permacultura en Chile. The broad network can be found at http://www.permacultura.cl where specific links can be found to the leading organisations.
The Term Permaculture
The term “permaculture” was first coined by Mollison and Holmgren in Australia in 1970 as a contraction of the words permanent + agriculture. This linguistic innovation reflected the initial concern for creating an alternative agricultural system that would be sustainable over the long term and that would be comprised largely of perennial species, much like a forest system.
From the very early conception of the permaculture vision, Mollison and Holmgren proposed three foundational ethical principles for the movement:
Care of earth, care of people, share the surplus
Some of the key permaculture design principles and strategies include:
- Protracted and thoughtful observation rather than protracted and thoughtless labour.Developing a thorough understanding of the design site including its history, topography, functioning ecology, soil conditions, sunlight patterns, movement of water, human engagement in the space, wildlife patterns, etc. is a critical step in preparing to make any changes. Sometimes this is referred to as “sector analysis.” If the site is not properly understood, a variety of errors in the design can occur.
- Start small. Make the least change for the greatest effect.The best permaculture designs begin small and are scaled-up after positive affirmation or feedback from the design system itself is received. In practical terms, we need to learn our lessons and make our mistakes on a small scale rather than a large one. This saves time, effort and money. Sometimes a simple intervention or change or will provide greater results than a larger, more expensive one.
- Obtain a yield. The yields of a system are theoretically unlimited.In technical terms, a “yield” is any product of the created system that can meet a human or non-human need. Some yields will need to be invested back into the system (i.e. biomass into soil) while others can be enjoyed by the people who are engaged with it. Examples of potential material yields from a system include food, water, energy, medicine, fibre, building materials, bio-diversity, soil, bio-mass, etc. while non-material yields may include beauty, learning, wisdom, solitude, recreation, community, income, etc. The nature of nature is that it becomes increasingly productive over time (i.e. cleared land eventually yields a forest), and the yields of a well designed system will eventually generate a surplus.
- Stacking Functions #1 – All elements in the design should serve multiple functions.All things in nature do more than one thing- they are imbedded in a myriad of relationships performing a variety of services for the life community in which they reside. So too does each element in a permaculture design play multiple roles and offer multiple yields. A well chosen and placed tree can provide food, shade, cooling, bio-mass, beauty, building materials, a structure for other plants to climb, habitat for many species, recreation and many other functions. A fence can be made of plants that provide privacy, food, habitat, beauty, and bio-mass. A water cistern can also store heat for a greenhouse or function as a structure as part of a building.
- Stacking Functions # 2 – All functions in the system should be served by multiple elements.This principle is essentially one of planning redundancy into the system so there is less fragility and more reslience. We may have a variety of strategies to meet the water needs of the system including household grey water use, roof-top catchment, high soil organic matter, landscape contours such as swales or ponds, in addition to the conventional water sources available to us. In order to support the key element of food production we may employ a variety of food growing models including annual vegetable beds, edible perennials, edible forest gardens, mushroom cultivation and small livestock such as bees, rabbits or chickens. In short, don’t put all your eggs in one basket!
- Stacking Functions # 3 – Stack elements in vertical and horizontal space as well as in time.Particularly in smaller urban lots, we want to be able to grow as much as possible in a vertical plane to maximize the amount of bio-mass we can generate and the food and other yields we can create within the system. This might include multi-layered growing areas, espaliered fruit trees, wall mounted systems, and green roofs. Similarly, we will design the space along temporal lines, ensuring that the annual vegetables are planted in succession or that perennial systems are evolving towards a state of succession in which they are at maximum productivity, and that there are younger plants prepared to replace older ones. Edible Forest Gardens are a good example of permaculture systems that are stacked in both space and time.
- Maximize diversity. Diverse elements with diverse functional relationships create resiliency.Most natural systems are highly diverse and they derive their resilience through the multiplicity of synergistic relationships occurring among diverse species. WE can observe this same dynamic in human communities. Where there are people of diverse points of view, skills, resources and interests, and when these people are able to form effective partnerships with each other, we create resilient and highly functional communities. Designing diverse elements and relationships into a landscape takes a great deal of knowledge, patience and effort and it is not an exact science. Some of this is experimental and we will never achieve the level of elegance and efficiency embodied in nature’s own designs, though this is the goal we are striving towards.
- Catch and store energy. Cycle resources through the system.Energy is constantly flowing through our universe, flowing through all matter and through all living things including ourselves. A permaculture design seeks to catch as much energy as possible (through plants, thermal mass, and perhaps simple technologies such as cold frames, solar greenhouses, and more complex technologies such as photovoltaic panels) and to recirculate it through the system as many times as possible before it finally flows outward. We can think of the energy of the sun becoming embodied in a tree. The leaves of the tree can feed a cow or a goat, the manure can be processed through a bio-gas digester, the slurry from the digester can be used in creating worm compost, the excess worms can feed fish, the worm compost can be used to grow plants, etc., etc. With each transaction, some of the original energy captured in the leaves of the tree is cycled yet again. Energy animates the system and over time, as the system matures, it will be capable of catching and cycling more and more energy.
- Use local, on-site resources and biological resources.From repurposing and reusing materials like broken concrete, tires or bricks to growing our own fertilizers (special plants that build soil fertility such as legumes and other “dynamic accumulators”), to using living systems such as “rock and reed beds” to treat household grey water, our goal is to bring in as few outside resources into the system as possible. Most systems will require some outside in-puts in the initial phases but this should decrease over time. In urban areas, there is an overabundance of “waste materials” that we can capture and use in our system.
- Produce no waste. Pollution is an unused resource.Waste is a uniquely human phenomenon. In natural systems, the output of one organism becomes food for another organism. A permaculture design seeks to connect yields from one element in the system to the needs of other elements in the system. Minimally, all of the organic material generated on site can be easily absorbed back into the system to feed the soil and ultimately the plants, animals and ourselves. Some permaculture designs will consider safe and appropriate ways to utilize human wastes (urine, feces, hair, etc) rather than using a limited and valuable resource such as potable water to flush them “away”.
- Relative location. Create functional relationships between diverse elements in the design. Integrate, don’t segregate.This is the heart of the permaculture design process. Rather than a bunch of disparate elements that have no functional relationship with each other, we want to chose and locate all elements so that they are performing meaningful services to each other. In this regard we must consider all of the key elements of water, soil, energy, plants, animals, fungi, appropriate technologies and people in the equation. For example we have a randomly placed a greenhouse, a chicken coop, a tree, a garden, and a pond on our property in which case they provide few services for eachother. However we can situate these elements so they compliment one another: the tree can cool the house, shade the greenhouse, provide forage for the chickens and biomass for the garden; the greenhouse can help heat the house, clean household grey water and deliver it to the pond; the chickens can weed the garden and keep down the slugs in a moveable pen (“chicken tractor”); the pond can be a source of nutrient and irrigation for the garden and beauty for the people in the house; etc., etc.
- Law of Return: Whatever we take, we must return. Do not export more biomass (carbon) than can be fixed within the solar budget.In order to ensure that a system can thrive, we must be sure the needs internal to the system itself are being met. If we harvest out all of the bio-mass all of the time, the soil will loose its complex microbial life and eventually its fertility. Natural systems build up carbon over time where as human systems remove carbon from the soil and from biomass resulting in excess carbon in the atmosphere.
- Maximize edge.“Edge”, in ecological terms, is the dynamic place where two different eco-systems meet, i.e. a meadow and a forest, mountains and ocean, prairies and foothills. These “edges” tend to have the most ecological diversity and the most productivity. It is no surprise that most early human settlements occurred along “edges” as the availability of resources if very high in these zones. Our designs can mimic these ecological edges with both increased productivity, bio-diversity and aesthetic interest. Furthermore, permaculture designs can create “social edges” – places where dynamic human interactions can occur. This may be a front yard edible forest garden that attracts the questions, and arouses the curiosity of neighbours and opens the door to collaborative possibilities.
- “The problem is the solution.”Very often we encounter a “problem” in our landscape or our community as an entirely negative phenomena. Permaculture would have us reframe this conception, suggesting that within the heart of the “problem” itself, if well understood, lies an opportunity or even a little bit of gold. An old tree stump that continues to sucker up can be considered a “bio-mass” factory for the compost pile; that area that is always wet or tends to flood might be begging for a pond; our cranky old neighbour might be sitting on a wealth of experience, wisdom, or energy that we just haven’t yet figured out how to tap into.
- Plan for decreasing intervention over time – “the designer becomes the recliner”.Bill Mollison was fond of saying that “work can be considered a failure of design.” While all systems do require some work, good designs will require less as they are following nature’s rules rather than our own impositions. Any landscape will constantly try to revert back to what its natural state was. By designing a system that mimics that “natural” state while also providing yields that we need, we are taking much of the work out of the equation. Indeed, our greatest role in the system may become harvesting those yields and admiring the beauty and the bio-diversity that is around us.
- Permaculture a great Tasmanian export (blogs.abc.net.au)
- Permaculture: An Introduction to Natural Farming (steppepirate.wordpress.com)
- High desert permaculture 15 years later. (dilloncruz72.wordpress.com)
- Edible Forest Gardening Workshop (cvillerealestate.wordpress.com)
- Tom’s Journey into Permaculture (permaculturesunshinecoast.org)
- Permaculture Teacher Training March 21-30, 2014! (flxpermaculture.net)
- Six weeks, Permaculture plans, and Readers Involved (boehrig.wordpress.com)
- Permaculture Series – Permaculture is Neither Gardening nor Farming (villagesurrey.wordpress.com)