By way of introducing Permaculture I want to share this photograph I took of a painting by an Aboriginal Australian.
The painting hangs on the wall of the permaculture centre run by Robyn Francis in Nimbin, NSW, Australia, where I attended my second permaculture training course.
Robyn Francis was one of the first assistants to Bill Mollison, the founder of permaculture, and her courses, delivered all over the world, are much sought after.
The course began with a welcoming ceremony by the local indigenous tribe and in their language to greet the multinational course participants onto the land of their ancestors.
For a moment, we felt a bond between us based on a common love for mother earth. We were here to learn how to take care of the planet and so were allowed to stay.
If you were to initiate your own project a basic course would be essential to learn how to begin. From there, building on experiences gained, your project will grow and evolve into something marvellous.
Recently permaculture has been much spoken about, which is a good thing, but the discussion is often limited to organic vegetable growing.
Permaculture contains an incredible wealth of techniques which have more in common with the approaches used in agro-ecology and agro-forestry.
A suburban garden can be managed using permaculture principles as can a farm of several acres which rears animals. There are no limits. The main focus is always how to build and manage an ecosystem that will maintain itself and not solely on profiting from the land.
With the help of permaculture principles a healthy ecosystem can be re-established. This will lead to greater fertility and hence greater yields. The benefits can be even greater in the developing world in which the successful management of a plot of land could be an escape from insecurity and exploitation.
The first step is to observe and study the ecosystem as it is currently, especially taking into account its location and climate, and then to develop a long term plan. The aim is to optimise the amount of energy needed to be invested to create the right conditions for nature to be able to take over and reward us for our efforts.
There are also benefits at the human level, other than bringing people together to exchange ideas, it is possible to consider the redistribution of surpluses as our forbearers used to.
New technologies have a role to play, providing they are used advisedly. Permaculture would help to free us of the current agricultural working practices with its dependence on fossil fuel energy.
Permaculture is not a political movement: it works on the assumption that change can only come about by individuals implementing their own permaculture projects until there is a sufficient number to prevent humanity from rendering the planet infertile.
It is of utmost importance that we better understand how nature works so we can steer it to work for us.
We hope that our gardens at Casa Murza develop into a place where nature is respected and cared for to the benefit of future generations.
You can follow its evolution by reading our updates.