Fair Share Friday: Building community resilience with permaculture

Fair Share Friday: Building community resilience with permaculture

Thanks to your generous donations, PA’s Permafund has supported 59 projects in 17 countries. Each month we’ll bring you a wrap up of some of the projects being supported, so you can follow their progress and fantastic outcomes.

They say a picture tells a thousand words, so scroll through and check out the photo updates shared from Sustainable Communities Kenya. The team have been busy training farmers in organic farming skills, with more activities still occurring before the crop harvest occurs in July and August, and “are happy how our farmers have benefits so much because of the Permafund grant.”

The IRDS Project team in India have completed the training for fifty rural tribal farmers in growing tomatoes, brinjal, beans and castor oil and provision of seeds. This included a focus on eco friendly farm inputs, low cost crop tonics, and intercropping. Criteria used to determine the farmers included: young, has interest to try new methods in agriculture especially the integrated agriculture, allocate time to training and other project related activities, and has land to practice the new permaculture skills.

“IRDS expresses its sincere thanks to PA’s Permafund for their partnership. The farmers are taking care of their cultivation crops now, and they are happy to raise various crops in their lands that will ensure diverse crops and various out come as a result for their sustainable livelihoods.”

The reality and impact of COVID in India, was shared in the project update from Aranya India, with many team members, family and the project communities negatively impacted by COVID directly.

“The situation here isn’t as great. Many of our family, friends , staff and the farming community have been affected with COVID. We have started working on the one acre permaculture projects, however couldn’t continue with the sudden resurge in COVID cases. The villagers shut their boundaries and are not stepping out of their homes whatsoever.  However, we have managed to work a little bit with the help of our ground level staff and volunteers. As the monsoon is nearing, we have procured the plants for plantations and earthworks have started.”

And finally, we are thrilled to introduce a new project in Zambia. The Youth Empowerment for Development Initiative (YEDI) plans to train rural communities to improve land, become more resilience and sustainably produce food using permaculture principles.

The scope of the project is ambitious, aiming to not only teach permaculture but also to train local leaders to nudge farmers towards ‘climate smart agriculture’ where traditional beliefs at times hinder the adoption of sustainable practices. (For examples of such beliefs see Considering Religion and Tradition in Climate Smart Agriculture: Insights from Namibia).

Permafund will follow YEDI’s progress with interest, as its goals of land conservation and permaculture ideas may provide lessons for many projects in such hot, subtropical areas with limited rainfall.

For more information:

PA’s Permafund provides small grants for permaculture projects implemented by community organisations across the globe. Since 2012, we have supported 59 projects in 17 countries, thanks to generous donations. Permaculture Australia is a registered charity and registered environmental organisation, and donations over $2 are tax deductible in Australia. To find out more, including how to donate here.

Graduate stories: Designing for disaster & experiences from the bushfires

Graduate stories: Designing for disaster & experiences from the bushfires

Ben completed a Diploma of Permaculture with Eltham College in Victoria. In this article, Ben shares experiences of using permaculture to design for disaster, and how his VET Permaculture knowledge assisted with the recent bushfires.

“I first heard about permaculture while WWOOFing on farms in New South Wales and Victoria. It seemed to me that the people talking about permaculture had a different approach to their land, animals and life in general, so I took notice. After reading about it online and in books, I became interested in studying and commenced the Diploma of Permaculture in 2012,’ Ben Buggy

Tell us about the permaculture studies you’ve completed and what were the highlights
I completed the Diploma in Permaculture, which included a PDC qualification as part of the study as well as Dynamics Groups training with Robyn Clayfield. There was so much good in that course, but the highlights were often the practical days and field trips, where we visited people to learn about specific skills like bee keeping and cheesemaking.
I remember one morning spent on the course with John Seed, the Deep Ecology pioneer, where he took us through a process exploring the birth of the universe and life on earth. That was a powerful experience that has stayed with me.

Designing for a changing climate & resilient communities is an important consideration for permaculture design – how can we promote this better in Australia (and internationally)?
Permaculture design is a great framework to tackle big problems, such as the climate crisis. It’s a way of thinking that, together with Indigenous knowledge, can be harnessed by leaders at all levels. Also, the grassroots work we can do to share this knowledge within our community can help mitigate the worst effects of the crisis. As permaculture designers we need to be a part of the process – thinking deeply and walking together.  There are so many inspiring permaculture examples and stories around the world that people need to see and hear. I think media like Pip Magazine and Happen Films are doing a great job at finding these stories and sharing them more widely.

You mentioned that your permaculture studies and design helped save your property during the bushfires – can you share some of the design components you utilised and also any lessons learnt?
My family and I were able to stay and defend our home from the Badja Forest fire that burned through our community around Cobargo, New South Wales, on NYE 2020. When my mum and I moved onto a property, which adjoins the vast Brogo wilderness, we knew that bushfire would be a very real threat, and because of my studies I had seen the ways that we could prepare ourselves. That preparation included meeting up with neighbours to talk about our fire plans, as well as a visit from the local RFS and a consultation with permaculture elder and designer, Phil Gall. Our defence fire system was a big investment which we prioritised over a tractor. We installed a large steel tank (110kL)  that would be dedicated to fire fighting, and a decent sized petrol pump, which sends water to a network of misting sprinklers over the house and other buildings. Our sprinkler system is in copper pipe and is designed to endure a firestorm. We have a number of fire hoses that come off that system. We planned to shelter in the house during the fire front. Other things that are part of our fire kit include protective gear, smoke masks and battery radio.

The fire was stopped by the green growth in the orchard, but the bird netting was taken.

During my permaculture course, we visited a couple in Kinglake, Victoria, where we learned about the ways that they prepared for the event of fire, and stayed and defended their home. It was that day when I learned that we would need to prepare our home to fight fire, and started to gather the knowledge that we needed to do it safely.

The fire that burned through our property was not a firestorm, which was raging further to the north of us, but a grass fire that spotted ahead of the front. In retrospect, the system we had designed was not well suited to this type of fire. The house and buildings were soaked and very well protected, but the gardens further out from the buildings were burning, and we didn’t have a mobile option. We also fought fire for about five hours, so we needed to turn the pump off at times to conserve water. We used 80kL of water that night, and kept our buildings from burning.
We are now adding an extra loop of sprinklers further out in the garden, so we can keep fire further away. We really love our gardens, and realised that we hadn’t done enough to protect them. This new ring of sprinklers will help to keep our gardens greener during drought, which is also a great buffer against grass fire. It will also give us more control to direct water where it’s needed.

 The portion of the 90 acre that was unburnt after the fire.

The experience of staying and defending our home was traumatic and exhausting and not something I’d wish on anyone. The weeks afterwards were even harder – living in a home unrecognisable and barely functioning. We would do it again though. We love this place and we grew through that hardship. I want to help other people see that preparing to stay and defending safely is possible.

Would you recommend others study permaculture – and why/why not?

My mum Nina, (Kovo), Manu and Ben on their first outing together after the fire

Yes I would recommend this study to anyone who hears the call. The PDC is a small but mighty program that has the potential to flip thinking on it’s head and open new pathways. You really do see the world through new eyes. Then there’s the extended [VET Permaculture] certificates where we had the time to broaden that understanding through other aspects of our human habitation – working together, self care and planetary reverence.

My experience of permaculture is as a pathway, an open invitation and a responsibility. It is a pathway to a deeper and healthier connection with plants, the natural world, and other people. It is an open invitation to share in the vast wealth of knowledge and loving care that exists all around us. And it’s a responsibility to be a part of the tradition of sustainable human existence. I’m grateful for the opportunity.

More information:

The VET Permaculture studies include accredited Certificate I – IV and a Diploma of Permaculture courses. They are offered by a variety of TAFE and Registered Training Organisations in Australia. More details of where you can enrol in these courses can be found here.

The Permaculture Design Course is generally offered as a 72 hour course, either online or face to face, by permaculture practitioners across Australia and internationally. We’ve collated a list of PDC’s offered by our PA members here, including many which offer a discount to PA members.

And the winner is – South Australia for 2023!

And the winner is – South Australia for 2023!

We are thrilled to announce that South Australia has been successful in their bid to host the 2023 Australasian Permaculture Convergence, with support from Permaculture South Australia.

The vision for the 2023 APC is to run a fun, socially responsible, educational and sustainable event with the theme Toolkit for life: building a resilient future.

In addition, the APC 2023 will aim to:
* Accelerate learning about permaculture and practice
* Build, strengthen and connect permaculture communities (local and national)
* Bring together a community of designers, educators, learners and activists looking to use permaculture in their regions to tackle key challenges and grow resilient communities, and
* Showcase permaculture projects to inspire and inform participants.

There will be a range of events for people to encounter permaculture leading up to and post the APC. These will be for anyone, not just those registered for the Convergence. They will be independently organised and will have to meet some basic criteria set to be part of the official APC program. The APC 2023 team will also aim to film or audio record a selection of presentations at the APC and make available online to ensure greater access to some of the content.

More information:

Permaculture South Australia is active on Facebook and has loads of information on their website.

For those that use social media, you can join the APC Facebook group and follow the APC Facebook page, as well as find regular updates via the PA website.

Fair Share supporting permaculture projects across the globe

Fair Share supporting permaculture projects across the globe

A huge thank you to our generous donors to PA’s Permafund in the lead up to the end of the financial year. Here are two updates from donors Permaculture Central Coast and Permaculture Principles on why they donate to PA’s Permafund as part of their ‘Fair Share’ ethic.

“Most people have no difficulty defining and living the ethics of ‘earth care’ and ‘people care’, but when it comes to ‘fair share’ it can be challenging. After all, in a world where some of us live lives of considerable privilege while others suffer poverty, wars, displacement, and the loss of their homes due to climate change, who decides what is fair? 

Many permies adopt the philosophy of living simply so that others might simply live. This commitment asks us not to buy what we do not genuinely need and to remember that every human-made thing must take resources from the natural world. Others adopt a philosophy of donating a set percentage of everything they earn to charities that care for the earth and care for people. 

The executive team of Permaculture Central Coast recognises that our organisation also needs to actively demonstrate the ethic of ‘fair share’. We have chosen to support Permafund because it is volunteer run and the Committee includes some highly regarded permies such as John Champagne, and Rowe Morrow is one of the charity’s ambassadors. PA’s Permafund’s focus is providing small grants to permaculture-aligned activities and we see this as an extension of the principle of ‘the least change for the greatest effect’. We all know what difference permaculture can make to people’s lives, particularly in places where there is financial disadvantage. 

Projects are as diverse as tree planting, regenerative farming, seed saving and household food gardening. Perhaps my favourite is a recent project aimed at teaching women in India how to grow food so that they don’t need to rely upon the turtle population for their dinner. This project managed to combine earth care and people care in a truly inspiring way.”

Meg McGowan, President Permaculture Central Coast Inc.

Permaculture Principles (the business, PcP) is all about practicing the ethics and principles of permaculture. Supporting PA’s Permafund through profits from sales of the Permaculture Calendar is one of the ways in which PcP demonstrates the ethic of Fair Share. We must practice our values. The vision for the calendar is of a collective process; to engage with the permaculture community and to illustrate practices and promote examples.

In order to run a growing business like ours, we need to constantly evolve. The principles that are illustrated in the calendar are the design tools we use to adapt to changing needs. As support for Permafund and the calendar grow, we are expanding our reach to support other permaculture enterprises and projects. This multiplier effect will increase our collective impact to help create a positive future in tumultuous times.”

Richard Telford, Co-Director of Permaculture Principles

More information:

Richard Telford and Permaculture Central Coast Inc are PA Professional and Organisation members respectively. You can find out more including how to sign up as a member of PA here.

The 2022 Permaculture Calendar and a great range of permaculture books and resources can be purchased from the online Permaculture Principles shop here. PA members receive a generous discount as one of their member benefits, access the discount code via the members only section of the PA website (log in).

Reading the landscape, David Holmgren & Dan Palmer

Reading the landscape, David Holmgren & Dan Palmer

You may or may not know about the Reading Landscape documentary film project. A collaboration between PA Patron David Holmgren, film-maker Dave Meagher, and PA member Dan Palmer, that will shine a light on the foundational aspect of permaculture design. The project emerged from Dan’s fascination with David’s extraordinary capacity to unpack a landscape through direct observation. Featuring footage of David reading landscapes ranging from national parks, farms, botanical gardens, abandoned arboretums, and suburban backyards, the film aims to firmly establish the reading of landscape as a fundamental human skill and a core foundation of permaculture design.  Find out more in our interview with Dan below.

“We are creating a compelling, accessible and beautiful film about reading landscape and deepening connection to place, in a way that generates excitement, catalyzes learning journeys, and contributes to re-embedding reading landscape into our cultures as a known and fundamental human capacity,” Dan Palmer

Tell us about yourself Dan, for those who don’t know about you and your multitude of projects!

I’m a passionate student of permaculture and indeed any processes that bring people and places more alive. With my wife and two daughters I live on a small homestead in a 1965 two-story Bedford House bus in Aotearoa New Zealand’s aptly-named Bay of Plenty. As well as co-directing Very Edible Gardens with my friend Adam Grubb, I am creating a podcast called Making Permaculture Stronger, online courses on Holistic Decision Making, a book about Living Design Process, and a film about Reading Landscape with David Holmgren.

So many great projects! Tell us a bit more about your new project – Reading Landscape. Why is reading the landscape such an important skill to share to make permaculture stronger?

 We are creating a compelling, accessible and beautiful film about reading landscape and deepening connection to place, in a way that generates excitement, catalyzes learning journeys, and contributes to re-embedding reading landscape into our cultures as a known and fundamental human capacity.

For me, reading landscape is a foundational human capacity, that for most of our time on the planet was essential to everyday life. While for most of us it has since atrophied, it is a skill we can practice and redevelop. Not only for the sheer joy of it, but as a key stepping stone toward becoming re-nested within the wider ecologies we are but one expression of. To me it is impossible to imagine a permaculture that is not grounded in reading landscape, and I am excited to be helping highlight its relevance and importance within permaculture in this film. This project started with me inviting David Holmgren to come and read landscape on some of my design consultancy projects. I was just fascinated with David’s uncanny abilities to unpack a place through direct observation. Initially we recorded rough footage as an extra resource for the clients, who would struggle to process everything David was sharing at the time. Then, after several such visits, it occurred to me that it would be a tragedy not to somehow capture and share more widely the experience of reading landscape with David. I invited my filmmaker mate Dave to tag along, and it was only a bit later the idea of making a film emerged, for me almost in the sense of an obligation, or at the very least the right thing to do. 

Your project mission/goal refers to First Nations knowledge sharing – can you tell me more about how this?

As the film slowly started to take on some kind of overall shape, it was clear to us that the landscapes we were reading, and indeed pretty much any landscape around the world, has been read or deeply engaged with for a very, very long time. Hence our desire to honor the fact that for tens of thousands of years, the landscapes featuring in the film have been known and cared for by Indigenous peoples to a degree most of us can only dream of. We are currently pursuing conversations with Indigenous readers of landscape toward including their voice as a central theme.

How can folks get involved and support with the project?

You can subscribe to the (very occasional) project newsletter on the website. At this stage a primary focus is raising the $35K we estimate completing this film to our desired standard will take. So if anyone believes in this project anywhere near as much as we do, please consider donating or letting a friend who might be interested know about it. Our dream is to raise the necessary funds in an in-house crowd funding campaign from mid July through the end of August, and then to be able to share the finished film as a gift to the permaculture movement and beyond. Help us make it so!

More information:

Follow the Reading Landscape project Facebook page and www.ReadingLandscape.org for regular updates and video footage.

Dan Palmer is a PA Professional Member and David Holmgren is a PA Life Member and Patron of Permaculture Australia. Join up as a member of PA here and join Dan, David and hundreds of members across Australia advocating for permaculture solutions and making positive change.

Announcing David Holmgren, Patron of Permaculture Australia

Announcing David Holmgren, Patron of Permaculture Australia

Now as the PA Patron, I see my role as more actively contributing my conceptual and historical perspectives within the movement to support Permaculture Australia’s various priorities and projects towards the vision of an Australia enlivened by permaculture ethics and design principles. As patron I will continue to highlight the lineage from and respect for Indigenous and traditional ways of being inherent in permaculture that can help all Australians come to terms with history and rekindle a shared connection to country.”

David Holmgren, Co-originator of permaculture & Patron, Permaculture Australia

We were thrilled to announce David Holmgren, as the first Patron of Permaculture Australia at the Australasian Permaculture Convergence earlier this year. Here are some words from David on why he agreed to become our Patron and how we hopes his role will support Permaculture Australia and the continual growth of permaculture.

“Popularly seen as a ‘cool’ form of organic gardening, permaculture is better described as a design system for resilient living and land use based on universal ethics and ecological design principles. Although the primary focus of permaculture has been the redesign of gardening, farming, animal husbandry and forestry, the same ethics and principles apply to design of buildings, tools and technology. Applying permaculture ethics and principles in our gardens and homes inevitably leads us towards redesigning our ways of living so as to be more in tune with local surpluses and limits. Beyond the household scale diverse expressions of “social permaculture” are influencing decision making and organisational processes at the community and enterprise scale.

Permaculture is also a global movement of individuals, groups and networks working to create the world we want, by providing for our needs and organising our lives in harmony with nature. The movement is active across the globe in the most privileged and the most destitute communities and countries. Permaculture may be Australia’s most significant export for humanity facing a world of limits. The movement sprang up following the publication of Permaculture One in 1978 and has been a positive agent of influence on grass roots environmental and social innovation for nearly half a century, especially in its country of origin Australia. However the influence of permaculture is still not well understood by the media, policy makers or the general public.

Permaculture Australia is a national member based organisation that has illustrated the  permaculture design principle of “Small and Slow Solutions” as it evolved over the decades. It has a track record in media and communications, accredited training, overseas development assistance and self governance that makes it ready to take on the mantle of truly representing this broad, diverse and deeply influential social movement.

“If a critical mass of Australian local permaculture groups, designers, teachers, activists and everyday practitioners join Permaculture Australia for the benefits of membership then that membership base could trigger much greater benefits here and abroad.  With that critical mass of members and resources Permaculture Australia could give voice to permaculture ethics, design principles and solutions as being relevant to how all Australians navigate the climate, pandemic and associated emergencies that are taking over our individual and collective lives.” 

It could highlight how permaculture draws on the wisdom of indigenous and traditional cultures everywhere, recognising the value of old timer and new comer flora and fauna diversity and using the best from our shared global culture of science and modernity to craft new ways of living in tune with nature’s rhythms.  Further it could speak truth to power about removing the constraints and impediment to the self organised flourishing of our nation’s households and communities.

As the co-originator of the permaculture concept, I have never been an “organisation person” but have always supported Permaculture Australia for the work it has done over the years and for the potential outlined above.  It is often said that trying to get permies to align around a collective process is like trying to herd cats. However I believe Permaculture Australia, can provide that rallying point while respecting the benefits of our anarchic diversity.”

More information:

Not a member of Permaculture Australia? Join us today here and help us strengthen our collective national permaculture voice and advocacy activities.