What is Permaculture ?: Objectives, principles, techniques and benefits

The organic farming is the best known of all, but there are other agro – ecological currents  (such as  Biodynamic Agriculture , the  Permaculture – to be discussed today- , or natural farming)  that have the same basic goals :

Develop a sustainable and environmentally friendly agriculture and ensure, in the long term, the fertility of the soil thanks to the maintenance of biodiversity. 

What is permaculture?

Biodiversity in agriculture consists of keeping all kinds of living organisms alive: bacteria and fungi from the soil, insects or beneficial plants, so that all their benefits are taken advantage of in terms of nutrient conservation and natural control of pests and diseases.

It is an agriculture based on the natural philosophy of the Japanese Masanobu Fukuoka (1913-2008), and started in 1972 by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren in Tasmania, Australia.

The word Permaculture  derives from the contraction of permanent culture – “permanent agriculture” and / or “permanent culture” -, which gives us a glimpse of its main objective: that raw materials and resources (water, land, organic matter, seeds, food …) last, remain, to meet our future needs. It is about cooperating with nature, respecting and taking advantage of natural rhythms without fighting against or changing them.  

Permaculture combines various philosophies and ecological practices in order to achieve this stability of the environment and living beings. To do this, it uses the  imitation of the patterns of nature and the conservation of natural resources , trying to reduce both raw materials and materials and waste products from agriculture.

More than a way of doing agriculture, permaculture is a way of life , those who practice it live immersed in nature, collaborating in its balance and benefiting from its resources.

Principles and techniques of permaculture

Basic principles of Permaculture

  • The foundations of  Fukoka  Natural Agriculture : no use of chemical fertilizers or compost , no tillage, no elimination of weeds, no use of chemical pesticides.
  • Each of the elements that make up the  agrarian system  must be situated in relation to the others and thus fulfill various functions. Also, each basic function or need is supported by many elements.
  • Reproduction of natural mechanisms that contribute to the increase in organic matter and to the stability of the ecosystem: protective plant layers, diversity ( rotation and  association of species ), development of transition zones (ecotones) or recycling of organic matter.
  • Energy self-sufficiency thanks to efficient energy planning.
  • Achieve a high diversity of plants adapted to each specific ecosystem through the presence of staggered productions or natural rotations.

To achieve this, Permaculture relies on the integration of multiple elements: crops, animals, landscape, buildings, technologies and homes , to form an agricultural system that develops and regulates practically by itself and that is in symbiosis with human activities. But this is not an easy task, and good planning is essential for all components to fulfill their functions.

Techniques used in permaculture

  • Integration of agriculture, livestock, aquaculture, forestry and grazing in one place.
  • Selection of plant and animal species according to their composition, distribution and organization.
  • Spatial and ecological planning.
  • Zoning of the agrarian system according to the intensity of use by man and external energies (sun, air, light …).

Training and dissemination of permaculture

Most of these permaculture techniques and methods are based on  experience and patience , and that is precisely what anyone who lives in a developed country and wants to get started in this world is lacking. For decades our culture and our way of life have ceased to be marked by natural rhythms …

Now we can eat oranges in summer and cherries in winter, for example, without wondering how and where those fruits that arrive at our table at a time so far from their typical “harvest time” have been grown.

For all this, for a new permaculturist it  is essential that someone transmit the necessary knowledge . The permaculturists are aware and therefore there are countless public and private associations, groups, cooperatives and permaculture centers in Spain  and around the world   that, through permaculture courses , conferences, publications, initiatives such as “ecovillages”, etc., They promote this philosophy of life and instruct in the techniques necessary for a sustainable ecological design.

Even the European Parliament has been influenced by this way of doing agriculture, and in the communiqué “Options for a European vision and objective for biodiversity beyond 2010”, the European Commission stated that:

“The promise of permaculture as an effective protector and restorer of biodiversity should be explored and enhanced.”

In 2012, a project was launched, encompassed within the “Action Program in the field of lifelong learning”,  to support the professional development of Permaculture teachers. More than a dozen European Permaculture organizations participate in this project , such as  Permakultur Akademie ( Germany),  Permaculture Association in Britain  (UK) or  Cambium  (Barcelona, ​​Spain), which have joined with the aim of  “increasing the professionalism of the permaculture in Europe ».

Permaculture benefits

According to the defenders of this type of agriculture, Permaculture not only brings environmental benefits, it  also brings social and economic  benefits   for those who practice it (as it promotes the social economy and local sales, without intermediaries, among other things).

Permaculture is  beneficial for physical and mental health,  as it provides healthy food free of chemical compounds and makes us surround ourselves with a natural and much less polluted environment that we are used to. In addition, it collaborates in the  family economy  and in the education of society, since it contributes to the autonomy of those who practice it while learning to live in a healthy way and to know nature.

These benefits have been recognized by the United Nations, which awarded the Association for the Development of Permaculture  last year in the  Ninth International Best Practices Competition.

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