PERMACULTURE – MUCH MUCH MORE THAN GOOD TECHNOLOGIES

PERMACULTURE AND WHY DEVELOPMENT AID NEEDS IT

I am writing this in response to a recent request for sources of ‘hard data’ on successful Permaculture projects.

I must admit that my first reaction was indignation. I can understand the concept of quantitative verification of project efficiency (or otherwise), but I know from extensive personal hands-on experience that there are often other significant parameters which should also be taken into account, but which are not so easily measured by existing record collection status. So, I am inspired to outline these for your consideration. Also, I am as strongly aware as anybody, of the capacity to ‘doctor’ figures, which may portray very different results than reality demonstrates.

As witness to the inappropriate and inaccurate measure of worth of Permaculture. I want to offer the example of a project which I was closely involved with for many years. Perhaps my words can inspire in someone the power to take it seriously, to actually propose experiments that can be observed and – no doubt – which will convince all of Permaculture’s importance.

This was only a small local project in Tamil Nadu, south India, insignificant in comparison with so many multi-million dollar interventions of the World Bank, IMF, UN. And the list goes on, of grand funding agencies inaccessible to the majority of people in dire need around the world, denied by their scale and grass-roots nature to the small quota of financial support essential to initiate or maintain their precious and often life-changing projects. Unlike the grander ones attracting the attention of those great benefactors, these do not require vast dollars or vast energy. The chances of them resulting in great mistakes or wastage is minimised, as too the possibility of distaster, great scandal, or very questionable long-term sustainable consequences.

Our project began with very modest resources, including a pitiful financial base of two or three thousand dollars. Almost nothing, even given the relatively small aim of the project: the reforestation of a sacred mountain. Hill actually, since the peak of Arunachala stands little more than 800metres above the surrounding harsh landscape.

Most people declared the idea of that pile of barren rocks being transformed into a verdant forest as absurdly optimistic, if not impossible. After all, every photographic evidence of the past century had recorded the same thing; stone, patchy grass, and a few straggly bushes here and there. The few attempts at reforestation had been virtually a total failure. Adding to the improbability of success, the mountain represents the deity Siva, Lord of Destruction and Regeneration; worse still, Arunachala is perceived as Lord Siva in the elemental form of Fire. Such a symbol was a potent encouragement for any believer with a box of matches to earn extra karmic merit points by starting a fire on its scantily vegetated slopes. Little wonder there was so little vegetation, even though ancient scriptures had described it as a ‘mountain of medicine’.

The funds were meagre, but at least enabled the establishment of a small plant nursery, and the first attempts at tree-planting on a very limited scale. The nursery flourished, but those early plantings were more like a ritual sacrifice, for of five thousand seedlings planted, I can’t honestly say if more than the tiniest percent actually survived, their young lives terminated by fire, or goats, or machete. Even a twig can be burnt, and the demand for cooking fuel is virtually insatiable.

I mentioned enthusiasm earlier as a powerful form of energy ignored as immeasurable. Yet without it, and the blind determination it inspired, the project would have withered and died at the first hurdle. Instead, the first set-back became the critical spring-board that initiated altogether different results. A re-focus on sites most likely to achieve success proved correct, the need for paid watchmen was obvious and augmented, the nursery expanded into the main temple where water was constant and public attention assured; local support followed in large measure. Funding became available on the heels of our results. Given the failure of the first attempts, now I think of it, perhaps a dose of strong-headed madness in denial of what seemed to have been accurate, also played a role. In any case, small mistakes should lead to greater wisdom and the foresight supporting subsequent success.

I won’t go into the trials and tribulations that we endured on the way to achieving the results which eventuated, but instead offer a brief synopsis of those achievements. Nobody would deny now that the the mountain is well on the way towards being a green beacon after so many generations as a great pile of rocks and little else. So for the sake of a balance sheet of inputs measured against the original aim, the Greening of Arunachala gets a shiny big tick of acknowledgement, at a cost over twenty something years of a bit over half a million dollars in total. Wages, logistics, the lot.

That’s pretty good, by any means, but there is so much more to relate, some of it quite easily quantifiable, much of it not. In raising our nursery of three or four hundred thousand seedlings per year, apart from supplying the reforestation needs, we initiated the largest temple garden in India, recreated sacred planting constellations forgotten for long ages, awakened the population to a direct relationship between their culture and spriritual devotion and the regeneration of the topographical feature which dominates their city. Question: How do you measure a change in consciousness? And how far can the consequences lead?

The authorities of the great temple (ten hectares in area) were apparently amongst those whose consciousness changed, for they agreed for us to create forest and gardens on six more parcels of wasteland around the mountain. Bear in mind that this sacred mountain is visited by millions of pilgrims each year whose main focus of devotion is to walk around the base of the mountain, inevitably visiting or passing by each of those regeneration sites. Since we were permitted to declare our works and sentiments on noticeboards at each site, millions of pilgrims from all over the country, all over the world in fact, were made aware of the potential for reclaiming absolutely barren land and transforming it into beautiful, productivity. Who knows what some of them may as a result have been inspired to do? Empowerment by clear example can have far-reaching consequences.

The impression it made had very tangible results to, greatly reducing the need for institutional funding. One of the pilgrims, inspired by our work, even donated enough money to purchase a parcel of 2 hectares of completely arid and abandoned land, encouraging us to establish a Permaculture Demonstration Site. Many agreed that it was an impossible dream, but of course we accepted their challenge gratefully. We did nothing special in particular; nothing than any farmer could not do, without resorting to money or excessive energy in put. Just wise ‘common-sense applied Permaculture principles including perfect water conservation, complete ground coverage, great diversity of species, animal-plant association, close functional analysis to ensure maximum efficiency and productivity of the whole system. In short, excellent integration of all elements as distinct from the disjointed approach I have so often seen in larger projects. Apparently it is too complex to undertake whole systems analysis and integration. The consequences though, are invariably vastly superior in every sense than the narrow specialist focii still so prevalent.

And guess what? The barren land was transformed into productivity within just a few years, with that productivity increasing year by year with little extra input. Transformation of the working patterns was an important factor in this. I can’t pretend, I must admit, that the spectacular transformation created a revolution in district farming practises. In conservative rural situation, the fear of change is often stronger than the proof of desirable change. Still, since agricultural practises are slowly changing everywhere, at least there is a shining example of what is possible. What value is assigned to that evidence of potential? Potential that anyone can duplicate, regardless of resource (though the scale and speed of transformation may vary of course).

There have been many workshops and micro-credit programs initiated through the project, with abundant consequences, and the whole region is unquestionably more treed and less degraded than twenty five years ago. Our project has certainly been a notable contributor to that improvement, but actually quantifying the direct benefits would be difficult to undertake.

There are springs running on the mountain year-round now, that have not done so in recent memory. If clouds were gathered around the summit in the early morning, as soon as the first rays of the sun hit the rocky slopes, the resulting dry convection heat from all that stone invariably evaporated the clouds quickly, Now though, the same sun hitting the forested slopes stimulates the evaporation of the moist leaf surfaces, and the resulting humid air rising adds to the clouds rather than repelling them, resulting even in some rains that did not fall previously. In twenty five years only. How does one attach comprehensive hard data to such consequents, that accurately portray reality?

The same slopes now forested support a diversity of wildlife – animals, birds, insects and no doubt other life-forms – that have not been seen in years. Quantifying that in terms of nutrient recycling and fertility-raising would also be a challenging task that nobody has undertaken. It would not be easy to do so accurately anyway.

Perhaps though, one of the most dramatic benefits of the project has been the change in the public consciousness, in the attitudes towards what is possible, in the empowerment of people to get involved, to rush onto the mountain en mass whenever a fire breaks out (they still do, of course) to extinguish it, because they know now the benefits and want to be a part of the changes, to add to them where they are perceived to be good. Not easy to put accurate data on these things either, on the many workers trained originally by the project who have now initiated their own projects as a result of their experiences.

Quite frankly, I was far too busy actually ensuring that the project was functioning well to have time or the energy to devote to recording all the data necessary to satisfy your needs, and the resources of the project were insufficient to justify the studies required, as desirable as they may have been.

One should not forget that this project, successful in abundant measure, was based first and foremost on the principles of Permaculture, at physical, social, cultural and financial levels. After all, Permaculture is so much more than just agriculture or organic gardens. I challenge large aid agencies to put Permaculture to the test; let us show that it will outshine almost every other approach to development projects, leaving the rest in the shade.

I have signficant photographic testimony to the progressive story of the diverse aspects of this project, and the financial records were always meticulously maintained. I am sure enquiry to the Annamalai Reforestation Society, Tiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu, 606603, India would receive appropriate response.

This example is not unique by any means, and the number is constantly growing, from small to very large. The specific interventions vary considerable, according to climate, culture, needs, finances, experience, limitations. The one constant is the applications are based on the same principles; Permaculture principles. The name is not so important, except to convey a particular integrated concept of the relationship between people and place to create a harmonious, productive ‘marriage’, which lasts and invariably grows. Success breeds success. We are talking about empowerment; capacity-building in ways which most ‘development aid’ have scarcely touched. Believe me, I know from firsthand experience and observation.

In any case, I would be open and pleased to present my experience with Permaculture over the past more than 30 years, from Australia, India, Indonesia, Thailand, Philippines, Pakistan, Eritrea, Nigeria, Russia, mainland Europe and the Canary Islands. I have no doubt that any reservations that may exist about Permaculture’s relevance – importance is more appropriate to say – to the world of sustainable development and creating a better world, would be largely clarified and dispelled.

PERMACULTURE AND SPIRITUALITY

Dear old Bill Mollison would ferociously chew my ear about Spirituality and Permaculture, if he didn’t simply hang me by the balls and be done with me. Silly old sausage. He alludes to it often enough in Permaculture: A Designer’s Manual (Tagari Press), about the integration between all elements and the role people have and potentially could have, in nurturing nature while nurturing themselves. As if Nature and People are somehow disconnected. I believe this is the fundamental problem; the separation that exists between ‘Us’ and ‘It’, implicit even in declarations such as “I love Nature”.

One evening I was relaxing on my verandah in the sub-tropical rainforest of northern New South Wales , Australia. The night was peerless: balmy mild temperature; no wind; the soft sounds of the birds and animals going about their nocturnal rituals; not a cloud in a moonlit starry sky. Perfect. I was overwhelmed by it, thoughtlessly swept up in the moment. I recognized I was a part of that moment, that perfection, but with a very particular role or function, as with every individual part of Nature. One of my specific characteristics was the power to nurture, or destroy. What an awesome choice, a huge responsibility. My relationship with the natural world of which I am a part, had changed forever.

So I think that ‘spirituality’ and Permaculture are one and the same thing, if Permaculture is truly understood and applied. We live in very changing times of course, and must move with those changes. What was considered hippie dreamtime stuff when we first dived into living with the land and Permaculture, has now mercifully become almost mainstream. There are courses and workshops offering all sorts of wonderful potentials for doing-it-yourself, taking control of our lives by increments, spreading the good words in a world of negativity. One aspect that concerns me in the teaching of Permaculture in some places, has been the glossing superficially over the very fundamental basics so that maximum time can be reserved for ‘doing practical things’. Adapting to demand is very important, and no less so with Permaculture, but I strongly believe that giving time to a very deep understanding of its foundations are essential. To call a course having done 30 hours or so of theoretical with another 40 or 50 hours of practical themes, for me simply does not adequately fulfill the criteria for a Permaculture Design Course certificate, which should cover at least comprehensibly a huge range of themes which amount to total design.

Of course in such limited time frame, ‘covering’ such an integration process is simply impossible, but at least if an intense, concerted effort is made to touch them sufficiently to truly embrace the participants in the complexity of an integrated design process, is to convince them of the connectedness of all, and the necessity of seeking to consider them in achieving a harmonious design system. This includes the financial, social, political and psychological as well as the dirty-hands ‘practical exercises’. We can have a good garden, but that is only one part of a broad matrix of considerations that must be included in striving for a sustainable society and environment.

In this way a certificate holder should be able to clearly observe a diversity of specific situations and apply the undertanding to each unique situation. Permaculture is a design framework, not a junket of great things to do, even when they are good practical contributions to a situation. One can learn all sorts of great techniques in workshops and course devoted to such subjects, rather than pretending to offer a “Permaculture Design Course” in the guise of satisfying participant’s desire to go home and make good compost.

When the ‘whole picture’ is appreciated towards creating a whole system, rather than just a series of good ideas and techniques, we have the potential of truly world-changing consequences.

Advertisements

9 thoughts on “PERMACULTURE – MUCH MUCH MORE THAN GOOD TECHNOLOGIES

  1. I’ve been browsing online more than 4 hours today, yet I never found any interesting article like yours.

    It is pretty worth enough for me. In my opinion, if all site owners and bloggers
    made good content as you did, the web will be much more useful than ever before.|
    I couldn’t refrain from commenting. Exceptionally well written!|
    I’ll immediately seize your rss feed as I can not in finding your e-mail subscription hyperlink or e-newsletter service.
    Do you’ve any? Please permit me understand in order that I could subscribe.
    Thanks.|
    It’s appropriate time to make some plans for the future and it’s time
    to be happy. I have read this post and if I could I want to suggest you
    few interesting things or advice. Maybe you could write
    next articles referring to this article. I want to read more things about
    it!|
    It’s appropriate time to make a few plans for the future
    and it is time to be happy. I have read this publish and
    if I may I want to recommend you few fascinating issues or
    tips. Maybe you could write subsequent articles relating to this article.

    I desire to learn more issues approximately it!|
    I have been browsing online more than three hours as of late,
    yet I by no means found any attention-grabbing article like yours.

    It is pretty worth enough for me. Personally, if all website owners and bloggers made just right content material as you
    probably did, the web shall be a lot more helpful than ever before.|
    Ahaa, its nice discussion regarding this post at this place at this
    weblog, I have read all that, so at this time me also commenting at this place.|
    I am sure this article has touched all the internet users, its really really fastidious post on building up new blog.|
    Wow, this article is good, my younger sister is analyzing such things,
    thus I am going to tell her.|
    Saved as a favorite, I really like your web site!|
    Way cool! Some extremely valid points! I appreciate you writing this
    article and the rest of the website is also really good.|
    Hi, I do think this is an excellent site. I stumbledupon it
    😉 I will return yet again since i have book-marked it.
    Money and freedom is the best way to change, may you be rich and continue to help others.|
    Woah! I’m really enjoying the template/theme of this blog.
    It’s simple, yet effective. A lot of times it’s tough
    to get that “perfect balance” between superb usability and visual appearance.
    I must say you have done a awesome job with this. In addition, the blog loads super
    fast for me on Chrome. Exceptional Blog!|
    These are really wonderful ideas in on the topic of
    blogging. You have touched some fastidious things here. Any way keep up wrinting.|
    I love what you guys are up too. This sort of clever work and exposure!
    Keep up the terrific works guys I’ve incorporated you guys
    to blogroll.|
    Hey there! Someone in my Myspace group shared this site with us so I came to check it out.

    I’m definitely loving the information. I’m book-marking and
    will be tweeting this to my followers! Excellent blog and
    superb design and style.|
    I really like what you guys are usually up too. This type of clever work and exposure!
    Keep up the very good works guys I’ve included
    you guys to blogroll.|
    Howdy would you mind sharing which blog platform you’re
    using? I’m going to start my own blog in the near future but I’m having a tough time selecting between BlogEngine/Wordpress/B2evolution and Drupal.
    The reason I ask is because your design seems different then most blogs and I’m looking
    for something completely unique. P.S My apologies for getting off-topic but I
    had to ask!|
    Hey would you mind letting me know which hosting company you’re using?
    I’ve loaded your blog in 3 completely different browsers and I must say this
    blog loads a lot quicker then most. Can you recommend a good hosting provider at a honest price?
    Thanks, I appreciate it!|
    I really like it when individuals get together and share ideas.
    Great site, keep it up!|
    Thank you for the good writeup. It in fact was a amusement account it.
    Look advanced to far added agreeable from you!
    However, how can we communicate?|
    Hi there just wanted to give you a quick heads up.
    The text in your post seem to be running
    off the screen in Chrome. I’m not sure if this is a format issue or something
    to do with internet browser compatibility but I thought I’d post to let you know.
    The design look great though! Hope you get the problem
    solved soon. Thanks|
    This is a topic that’s near to my heart… Take care!

    Where are your contact details though?|
    It’s very straightforward to find out any topic on web as compared to
    books, as I found this post at this website.|
    Does your website have a contact page? I’m having
    problems locating it but, I’d like to shoot you an e-mail.
    I’ve got some recommendations for your blog you
    might be interested in hearing. Either way, great
    website and I look forward to seeing it develop over time.|
    Hello! I’ve been reading your weblog for a while now and finally got the
    courage to go ahead and give you a shout out from
    Houston Tx! Just wanted to say keep up the excellent
    job!|
    Greetings from Florida! I’m bored at work so I decided
    to browse your website on my iphone during lunch break.
    I love the knowledge you present here and can’t wait to take a look when I get home.
    I’m amazed at how fast your blog loaded on my phone .. I’m not even using WIFI,
    just 3G .. Anyhow, fantastic blog!|
    Its like you read my thoughts! You appear to
    grasp a lot approximately this, like you wrote the guide in it or something.

    I feel that you can do with a few percent to pressure the message home a bit,
    however other than that, that is great blog.

    A fantastic read. I will definitely be back.|
    I visited several web sites but the audio quality for audio songs
    existing at this website is actually wonderful.|
    Hi there, i read your blog occasionally and
    i own a similar one and i was just curious if you get a lot of spam feedback?
    If so how do you protect against it, any plugin or anything
    you can recommend? I get so much lately it’s driving me mad so any assistance is very much appreciated.|
    Greetings! Very helpful advice within this article!
    It is the little changes that will make the
    biggest changes. Thanks for sharing!|
    I absolutely love your blog.. Excellent colors & theme.
    Did you build this web site yourself? Please reply back as I’m planning to create my own personal website and would like to learn where
    you got this from or what the theme is called. Cheers!|
    Howdy! This blog post couldn’t be written any better!
    Reading through this article reminds me of my previous roommate!
    He always kept talking about this. I will send this article
    to him. Fairly certain he’ll have a good read. Thank you for
    sharing!|
    Amazing! This blog looks exactly like my old one!

    It’s on a entirely different subject but it has pretty much the same page
    layout and design. Outstanding choice of colors!|
    There’s certainly a lot to learn about this topic.
    I like all the points you made.|
    You have made some decent points there. I checked on the net to
    find out more about the issue and found most people
    will go along with your views on this website.|
    What’s up, I read your blog on a regular basis. Your
    writing style is witty, keep it up!|
    I just couldn’t depart your site before suggesting that I actually loved the standard info an individual supply to your guests?
    Is going to be again often to investigate cross-check new posts|
    I needed to thank you for this great read!! I definitely loved every bit of it.

    I’ve got you saved as a favorite to check out new things you post…|
    Hello, just wanted to mention, I loved this post.
    It was funny. Keep on posting!|
    I leave a response when I appreciate a post on a website or if
    I have something to contribute to the conversation. It’s caused by the passion communicated in the article I looked
    at. And after this article PERMACULTURE – MUCH MUCH MORE THAN GOOD TECHNOLOGIES | naturedesigns john and franci.
    I was actually moved enough to create a thought 😛 I actually do have
    a couple of questions for you if it’s allright. Is it simply me or does it seem like some of
    the remarks look like written by brain dead folks? 😛 And, if
    you are posting on other places, I’d like to follow everything fresh you
    have to post. Would you make a list every one of all your shared pages like your Facebook page,
    twitter feed, or linkedin profile?|
    Hello, I enjoy reading through your post. I like to write a little comment to support you.|
    I constantly spent my half an hour to read this blog’s articles or reviews everyday along with a
    mug of coffee.|
    I constantly emailed this webpage post page to all my
    associates, because if like to read it then my
    contacts will too.|
    My programmer is trying to persuade me to move to .net from
    PHP. I have always disliked the idea because of the costs.
    But he’s tryiong none the less. I’ve been using WordPress
    on several websites for about a year and am worried about switching to another platform.
    I have heard good things about blogengine.net. Is
    there a way I can import all my wordpress posts into it?
    Any help would be greatly appreciated!|
    Good day! I could have sworn I’ve visited this web site
    before but after browsing through some of
    the posts I realized it’s new to me. Nonetheless, I’m definitely delighted I came across it and I’ll be book-marking it and checking
    back frequently!|
    Terrific work! This is the type of information that should be shared around the internet.
    Shame on Google for no longer positioning this put up higher!
    Come on over and seek advice from my website . Thanks =)|
    Heya i am for the first time here. I found this board and I find It really useful &
    it helped me out much. I hope to give something back and help others like you helped me.|
    Hello there, I think your site could be having web browser compatibility issues.
    Whenever I look at your web site in Safari, it looks fine however when opening in IE, it has some overlapping issues.
    I just wanted to give you a quick heads up! Apart from that,
    fantastic website!|
    Somebody essentially help to make significantly articles I would state.
    That is the first time I frequented your website page
    and up to now? I amazed with the research you made to make this particular submit amazing.
    Great task!|
    Heya i’m for the primary time here. I found this board and I in finding It really helpful & it helped
    me out a lot. I’m hoping to present something again and aid others
    such as you helped me.|
    Hello! I simply would like to offer you a big thumbs up for your
    excellent info you’ve got here on this post.
    I’ll be coming back to your web site for more soon.|
    I all the time used to read piece of writing in news papers but now as I am a user of net so from now
    I am using net for articles, thanks to web.|
    Your method of explaining the whole thing in this article is truly pleasant, all can effortlessly know it, Thanks a lot.|
    Hello there, I discovered your blog by way of
    Google while looking for a similar matter, your website got here up,
    it appears to be like great. I’ve bookmarked it in my
    google bookmarks.
    Hi there, simply turned into aware of your blog through Google,
    and located that it is truly informative. I’m going to
    watch out for brussels. I will be grateful when you proceed this in future.
    Lots of people can be benefited from your writing.
    Cheers!|
    I’m curious to find out what blog platform you are working with?

    I’m having some minor security issues with my latest website and I’d
    like to find something more risk-free. Do you have any solutions?|
    I’m really impressed with your writing skills as well as with the
    layout on your weblog. Is this a paid theme or did you modify
    it yourself? Either way keep up the nice quality writing, it’s
    rare to see a great blog like this one nowadays.|
    I’m really impressed along with your writing talents
    and also with the format for your blog. Is this a paid subject
    or did you modify it your self? Either way stay up the excellent high quality writing,
    it’s rare to look a great weblog like this one these days..|
    Hi, Neat post. There’s a problem with your web site in web
    explorer, may check this? IE nonetheless is the
    marketplace chief and a large portion of other folks will omit your magnificent writing because of this problem.|
    I am not sure where you’re getting your info, but good topic.

    I needs to spend some time learning much more
    or understanding more. Thanks for excellent info I was looking for this information for
    my mission.|
    Hello, i think that i saw you visited my site so
    i came to “return the favor”.I’m attempting to
    find things to improve my site!I suppose its ok to use {some of|a f\

  2. You really make it seem really easy with your presentation however I find
    this matter to be really one thing that I feel I’d never understand.
    It kind of feels too complex and very broad for
    me. I am taking a look forward to your next publish, I’ll try to
    get the cling of it!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s