The word permaculture comes from permanent agriculture.
Permaculture strives for agriculture that is ecologically sound
and sustainable in the long term: this means that it should be
non-polluting, economically and socially viable, and provide for
its own needs. Permaculture uses the inherent, or natural,
qualities of plants and animals, combined with the natural
characteristics of landscapes and structures, to produce a life-
supporting system for city and country, using the smallest area
possible. Permaculture is essentially a way of achieving
efficient and sustainable food production.
* Care of the earth - means care of all living and non-living
things: soil, plants, animals, atmosphere, water. It implies
activities that do not harm, but rehabilitate the earth, promote
active conservation and the frugal use of resources.
* Care of people - means that basic needs such as food, shelter,
education, and satisfying employment are taken care of.
* Contribution of surplus time, money and energy to achieve
earth and people care - means that after we have taken care of
our basic needs and designed our systems to the best of our
ability, we help others to do the same.
SOME PERMACULTURE PRINCIPLES
Put things in the right place!
Permaculture deals with plants, animals, buildings, and
infrastructures such as the supply of water, energy and
communications. However, permaculture is not about these elements
themselves, but rather about the relationships we can create
between them by the way we place them in the landscape.
Planning and design are crucial to permaculture. For example,
dams and water tanks should be placed above the house and garden
so that gravity, rather than a pump, is used to direct flow. Home
windbreaks should be placed so that they protect the home from
wind, but do not shade it from winter sun. The garden should be
between the house and the chicken pen, so that garden refuse
(good chicken food) is collected on the way to the pen, and
chicken manure is easily shovelled over the garden.
Each element has many functions.
A dam, for example, can supply water for irrigation and stock,
be a fire control, and provide a home for fish and waterfowl. If
you choose and position the trees to be planted around the
homestead carefully, they can fulfil many functions, e.g. a
windbreak, kindling for firewood, nectar and pollen for bees,
nitrogen for the soil (leguminous trees), seeds for poultry.
Basic needs (e.g. water, food, energy, fire protection) should
be supported by many elements. Thus a house with a solar hot
water system should also have a back-up such as a wood burning
Make things easy for yourself.
Areas that are visited often, such as the chicken pen and the
vegetable garden, should be positioned close to the house. The
orchard, stock pens, and sheds, which are not visited so
frequently can be placed further from the house.
Use plants and animals.
Plants and animals can save you energy and do work for you.
Chickens, pigs and goats can be `animal tractors'. When enclosed
in a weed infested area, they will destroy all vegetation, while
turning and manuring the soil. Plants can play an important role
in pest control. Marigolds and daisies attract insects which feed
on garden pests. Ponds attract insect-eating frogs. Garlic and
onion tend to repel many insects. Trees and vines, cleverly
placed, can provide shade, windbreaks and firebreaks.
Make sure that nutrients do not leave the farm or garden, but are
cycled through it. Turn kitchen wastes and animal manure into
compost, and leaves and dry grass can be raked around plants to
form a mulch.
South Africa is a dry country, and water is often a limiting
resource. Make the most of the water you have by slowing down its
flow and spreading it out. This will reduce soil erosion, and
give the water a good chance of sinking into the soil where it
is available for plants. Swales (similar to contour banks, but
higher) are very useful for creating mini dams and allowing water
to penetrate the ground.
Small-scale, intensive systems.
Cultivate the smallest possible area, and make it as productive
as possible - plan for small-scale, energy efficient intensive
systems, rather than large-scale, energy consuming extensive
systems. Use handtools (handmower, pruning shears, wheelbarrow)
on a small site, rather than large harvesters and transport
Include many different animals and grow a large variety of
plants. However, it is not enough to simply have a range of
plants and animals on your farm or in your garden - planning must
take account of their functional connections, or the way in which
they work together.
The advantages of farming with a range of plants and animals
include: meeting the nutritional needs of the people living off
the farm or garden, a wider range of saleable goods, and reduced
Everything works both ways.
Every resource can be seen as either an advantage or
disadvantage, depending how it is used. A prevailing wind coming
off the sea may be a disadvantage for growing crops. However, if
it is used to power a wind-generator, it can be an advantage.
Using information, not money.
Rather than relying on money, permaculture relies on information
and creativity to increase yields. In addition to making the most
of the physical resources in a garden, or on a farm, permaculture
requires that we make the most of our ability to find useful
information, and adapt it to suit our needs.
PERMACULTURE: A PRACTICAL GUIDE FOR A SUSTAINABLE FUTURE.
B. Mollison. Island Press, Washington, 1990.
INTRODUCTION TO PERMACULTURE.
B. Mollison. Tagari, Australia, 1991.
GROWING VEGETABLES IN SOUTH AFRICA.
C. Hemy. Macmillan, Johannesburg, 1984.
All books available from Russel Friedman Books, PO Box 73,
Halfway House 1685. Tel. 011-70022300/1.
Permaculture Association of South Africa.
National Secretariat, PO Box 68929, Bryanston, 2021. Tel. 011-648
8819. Regional centres nationwide.
Centre for Low Input Agricultural Research and Development
(CLIARD). P/Bag X101, Kwa Dlangezwa, 3886. Tel. 0351-93911.
Institute of Natural Resources.
PO Box 375, Pietermaritzburg, 3200. Tel. 0331-68317
Biodynamic Agricultural Association of South Africa.
PO Box 61, Camperdown, 3720. Tel. 0331-68317 (w) or 0325-51501
(h). Ask for Raymond Auerbach.
Farmers Support Group.
University of Natal, PO Box 375, Pietermaritzburg, 3200. Tel.
African Tree Centre.
PO Box 90, Plessislaer. Tel. 0331-984 220.
PO Box 33, Bothas Hill, 3600. Tel. 031-777 1930.
Thloleko Learning Centre.
PO Box 1168, Rustenberg, 0300. Tel. 0142-25322.