The team from the OTEPIC Peace Project, represented by Coordinator, Philip Odhiambo Munyasia, thanks donors to PA’s Permafund for their support in promoting permaculture in Kitale Kenya.
In 2020, OTEPIC received a $2,000 Permafund grant for a beekeeping project. This included establishing ten bee hives initially and training a core contingent of 70 local community members in beekeeping. A further 100 community members are being introduced to beekeeping as a means of generating personal incomes and reducing local poverty. Youth leadership training is ongoing.
As an alternative local farming enterprise, beekeeping is already creating employment at a low level. Four people are working on the bee project while learning to build bee hives to sell to the local market. Farm yields have also increased due to the availability of bees as pollinators.
OTEPIC’s apiary was established in April ’21 providing ongoing beekeeping business management training and demonstrations for members of the Biddi community. By December 2021 members of the community will be sharing roles for the collective management of the apiary and the surrounding bee attracting gardens and food forest.
Honey has been harvested twice already with a beeswax and propolis extraction process to be established by the end of 2021. Hives have been bought collectively and are being managed by OTEPIC project community members as a group demonstration site at the Upendo garden.
To keep the bees in good health for the long-term sunflowers and nectar rich flowers have been planted, water sources made available and bee feeding stations are set up when required.
There are many social and economic factors that cause division among communities and bee keeping has helped to bring people together to exchange and share, promoting unity and diminishing the divides of political and resource-based disagreements and conflicts.
The project has its challenges including transportation of materials, bee hives and volunteers to the working site. The unpredictable rainy season has affected the swarming season which helps add colonies for the bee hives. There wasn’t enough shade when the hives were first installed so fast-growing trees are being grown around them.
A lot has been learned during the project planning process, which has served as a reminder to look at how each element is connected to the others and the importance of looking at whole systems and the complete vision when planning one aspect.
Members of OTEPIC and its neighbours have learned from every step of the installation of the bee keeping project and will be able to replicate the process in future projects. They have been inspired by the experience of collaboration and exchange with other regional projects such as the Garden of Hope project and will continue to look for these opportunities, Monitoring and evaluation of the project is ongoing.
Donations to Permaculture Australia’s Permafund over $2 are tax deductible in Australia and support environmental and community building projects like the OTEPIC Beekeeping project. Find out more including how to donate here.
“Communities and individuals can use permaculture to redesign the use of these resources to create sustainable self-reliance. It follows that including permaculture agriculture-based programs in any community development is the smart thing to do and a good legacy to leave.”
PA professional member Greg Knibbs is a permaculture designer and educator, working across Southeast Asia, East and West Africa and Australia. Greg did his PDC with David Holmgren and Leah Harrison in 1992, and has since taught permaculture workshops and courses alongside Geoff Lawton, Bill and Lisa Molllison, and David Spicer. Greg was instrumental in the creation of the Philippines Permaculture Institute and the Ghana Permaculture Institute, and has undertaken permaculture teaching and consulting in countries including Tanzania, Cambodia and Myanmar. Greg’s business Edge5 Permaculture provides permaculture design consultancy and delivery, and works with NGO’s to provide local permaculture solutions to communities
How did you discover Permaculture?
I first met Bill Mollison when I was 17 visiting the 1976 ConFest, a Conference and Festival of subcultures of the alternative movement. Bill was presenting a hands-on practical workshop. His appearance was scruffy, (like all of us at the time) in thongs with long trousers, blue rolled up shirt and hat, and chain-smoking cigarettes. He was raving on about how to plant a set of spuds without digging. He had a dirty old horsehair mattress, some straw and a bit of old cow manure in a bucket. He threw the manure down over weeds, then threw the mattress on top. He ripped a hole in it and placed a few spuds in the hole, so the spuds were touching the ground. Then he covered it all with straw. “So easy to grow a set of spuds just come back a few months later and harvest ’em”. There was only probably a dozen of us watching him as there was a heap of other workshops on at the same time. My initial thought was this guy is crazy. Slowly, I had a last look and quietly slipped away laughing to myself.
Permaculture remained floating around in the back of my brain along with mucking around with organic gardening. I remember looking for books on organic gardening in 1976. A few months later, I came across Bill presenting lectures at the Organic Garden Festival in NSW. The book, Permaculture One by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren was published in 1978 around the time I attended another festival where Bill was giving some of the earliest lectures on permaculture. Following the first PDC training with David Holmgren and Leah Harrison in 1992, I studied under Bill to complete a Diploma of Permaculture Design and Permaculture Teacher’s registration and then completed an Advanced Permaculture training with Robyn Francis. Since then, I’ve been privileged and delighted to co-teach permaculture with Geoff Lawton, Bill and Lisa Mollison, Dave Spicer, David Holmgren and many others. In my wildest dreams, I never thought I would become a traveling permaculture teacher, designer and consultant.
You’ve been instrumental in the setup of Permaculture Institutions in the Philippines and Ghana. Can you give me some insights into how these were set up and what we in Australia can learn from them?
Setting up in-country Permaculture Institutes is essential for a solid foundation of growing and building permaculture anywhere in the world. In 1976, I was visiting Bohol in the Philippines. There I was introduced to Carlos Echavez, who arranged for me to run a two-day Permaculture Introductory Course for 25 people who were active in their communities. Following that course, 15 people committed six weekends to complete the first Permaculture Design Course (PDC) in Bohol.
From that, the Philippines Permaculture Institute was created in 1997; initially as a collaboration between myself and students from the first of the four PDCs that I had taught in the Philippines. At the inaugural meeting, the Institute members, the students from the PDCs, took an oath and were sworn in as officers of the Philippines Permaculture Institute (PPI). The legal set up costs of the Institute and registration were funded by the students and the wider community. Today there are many permaculture activities in the Philippines, including The Philippines Permaculture Convergence, the Philippine Permaculture Association (PPA)and Nu Wave Farmers.
The establishment of the Ghana Permaculture Institute followed a different path, and began as a working collaboration between Paul Yeboah, a Ghanaian, and I. In early 2004, Father Ambrose, of Ghana, West Africa, was in Perth, Western Australia recovering from illness. Whilst in Perth, the Abbott contacted Bill Mollison inquiring about arranging a Permaculture Design Courses (PDC) and help to retro fit the Monastery’s 430-acre farm. Bill told Ambrose to contact me and suggested that I would go to Ghana to help him. I’ve now been to Ghana three times. During the first trip to Ghana in May 2004, I met Paul Yeboah, the farm manager of the Monastery. We became good friends and together set out a vision to set up the non-profit Ghana Permaculture Network, which became the Ghana Permaculture Institute, and which is now providing a demonstration of how to create stable food production and improve quality of life in Ghana.
Why did you start your business Edge5? What community needs are you addressing?
I created Edge5 to help address the crises in global communities and ecosystems by working with corporations, business, governments and NGOs to implement proven evidence-based solutions. A key part of this is to train people in practical tools for ethical best practice Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and Holistic Community Development to meet the needs of communities and landscapes. My decision to follow this path was based on my 30 years of experience that best practice permaculture education and training is an effective approach. A central aim of Edge5 is train people to become on the ground, on-location permaculture educators and designers. Then these people can gain their own experience and train others to care for the earth and its people, rebuild natural capital, set up demonstration sites, secure local food and water supply lines, set up open pollinated seed banks and plant nurseries.
We know from experience and research that community development projects have the best chance of being successful if they build on what is in place: the resources and people locally. Typically, the most accessible and useful resources are the natural resources available to local (particularly rural) communities. These include the land (soil), the climate – sun and water (energy), plants and animals, humans and their skills, knowledge and community dynamics.
“Communities and individuals can use Permaculture to redesign the use of these resources to create sustainable self-reliance. It follows that including Permaculture agriculture-based programs in any community development is the smart thing to do and a good legacy to leave.”
How does your teaching of permaculture vary between Australia and overseas?
In more affluent countries with abundance and available resources, large amounts of money may be spent implementing a permaculture design. This may include items such as raised vegetable beds, pre-mixed soils & mulch, automatic reticulation, books, further training & soil amendments and advanced green stock. In less affluent countries, this is a different picture. It is much more beneficial to accurately target permaculture training. We identify needs and then teach in more detail only those elements of the PDC that are relevant. For example, to focus much more strongly on designing the zones immediately next to the house and only for that climate zone and weather patterns. Water security for growing food is typically a key issue and permaculture offers a suite of tools to help retain water in the landscape and extend the growing season across the hungry gaps. Often, specific design tools and specific techniques offer huge gains. Two practical things that spring to mind are the use of resources of open pollinated seed and basic tools like a broad fork to ignite a project.
Under this new normal, is permaculture the solution?
COVID and climate change effects have shown that globalisation increase our risks of failure to fulfill essential needs that can adversely affect 100s of millions of people. One part of the solution is for the essentials of life to be produced and managed locally – or at least enough of them to avoid the above problems. The challenge is to provide stability by doing things locally AND efficiently AND under local control. Mostly, this concerns how we design how best to use land and other natural resources to live safely and securely. This means carefully designing the local environments to efficiently and effectively provide human needs – including aesthetic needs – that positively improves the landscape rather than degrading it. Permaculture design methods are a reliable way to do this. I see permaculture as the best solution right now, for communities and landscapes in crisis. Practical examples of permaculture have shown that it is possible to turn things around rapidly using the permaculture toolbox to restore landscape, rebuild natural capital, secure local food and water supply, and build and create self-reliance in communities. The success of Permaculture is due to the design methods and ways of understanding the world set out in the original Permaculture Designers Manual together with new understanding and evidence from on the ground working examples.
I’d like to give a short quote from Bill Mollison about the primary directive of Permaculture,
“The only ethical decision is to take responsibility for our own existence and that of our children. There is historical proof that within a region of environmental stability created by sustainable land use systems, stability in human population naturally occurs. If we do not get our cities, homes and gardens in order, so that they feed and shelter us, we must lay waste to all other natural systems and we become the final plague.
Permaculture as a design system contains nothing new. It arranges what was always there in a different way, so that it works to conserve energy or to generate more energy than it consumes. What is novel, and often overlooked, is that any system of total common-sense design for human communities is revolutionary.“
Bill, we are keeping up the anger and the fight. The revolution is in place and growing.
Greg is a Professional member of Permaculture Australia, the national permaculture member organisations. You can find out more, including how to sign up today, here.
PA’s Kym chats with Terry Leahy, who has been involved in the permaculture movement for more than 40 years, about his new book. The Politics of Permaculture is one of the first books to unpack the theory and practice of this social movement that looks to challenge the status quo. Drawing upon publications as well as extensive interviews with permaculture practitioners and organisations from around the world, Terry Leahy explains the ways permaculture is understood and practiced in different contexts.
Tell us about yourself and how did you get involved in permaculture?
I was in a Child Care Cooperative in the early seventies. I joined with some other people in the collective to purchase a block up the back of Taree. I am pretty sure that I read Permaculture One as a guide to the kinds of things we might do on our block. I loved it. Later on, in Newcastle, we had a large block and I was keen to use permaculture so I went up to Tyalgum in Northern NSW to do the PDC with Liz Nicholson and Peter Wade. I think that was 1996. A year or so after that I went to my first Convergence in Nimbin at Djanbung Gardens. In 2003 as part of my job at University of Newcastle, we got ten students from South Africa who were working in the rural villages there as extension workers. That led to a whole interest in permaculture in the context of food security and development.
In 2009 I went to the international convergence in Malawi and met the people from the amazing Chikukwa permaculture project in Zimbabwe (pictured left). The following year my sister and I went there to make a documentary on that.
We often see comments online that permaculture is not political, and that politics has no place on a permaculture site. How would you respond to these comments?
Well, that’s a doozy, isn’t it? I’ve been very much influenced by the second wave feminist movement. In terms of their slogan, ‘the personal is political’. Their idea is that wherever there’s relationships between people, there can be conflicts and you can talk about the politics of these relationships. So, politics is a part of any social life, and my book takes a very broad view of politics.
If you narrow it down and talk about politics as related to government, to the political process, as it’s normally understood, I’d say this. There is the famous scene from ‘Global Gardener’. Mollison is walking across a misty paddock and talking about how he used to be involved in forestry protests in Tasmania. And he realized that protests were not ‘enough’. What we need to do is to build the permaculture alternative from the ground up.
“Permaculture is just as much about system change as more obviously ‘political’ movements. But the route to that is building up the alternative. My view is that permaculture has a lot to contribute as a grass roots strategy, but also a lot of permaculture people are not seeing that as the only thing to be doing at the moment.”
What I found talking to permaculture people is that there are different approaches. Some are massively happy that permaculture is not ‘political’. They don’t like the conflictual argy-bargy that’s associated with the political scene. They want to get on with doing things that are making a difference in the world, even if it’s just one backyard at a time, as one of my interviewees said. This is quite defensible, and I explain why.
At the same time, a lot of my interviewees are also talking about how permaculture needs to intervene in the political space. For example, the initiative in Britain called “Control Shift”. Which brings together various groups, including permaculture, to try and create a way forward through political alliance.
Tell us some more about some of the topics in your book.
There’s a lot covered in the book. Even though it’s only 50,000 words, it rattles along. The book begins with the definition of permaculture. Most of my interviewees define it as a design science for environmental sustainability. And I question that and talk about various options reflected in the practice of permaculture people. The next chapter is on permaculture as a social movement. So, how does the network of permaculture people hang together and what sort of things are they doing as permaculture?
The third chapter is partly on the anti-political strategy of permaculture and how people are responding to that. The second half is about visions. Like, so if you are in favour of system change what kind of system do you want? I look at different approaches that people are following. ‘Town and village market bioregionalism’ is close to what Mollison proposes. ‘Radical reformism’ hopes for a cultural change and a change in market behaviour along with some degree of state regulation. Ethical businesses and cooperatives with an interventionist state. I found that full on anarchists and democratic socialists are very much a minority in the permaculture movement.
“Permaculture’s grass roots interventions are meant to prefigure what a permaculture system would be like if it was implemented through the whole society. I look at how this works out in practice and give a lot of examples — a lot of detail on what permaculture people are doing. And most people, including those in other movements for system change have got no concept of what permaculture is doing, in that sense.“
The final chapter is on gender and colonialism. This is about critiques of permaculture that come from within the movement — but also from outside. Some people are writing off permaculture because they think it’s patriarchal or colonialist. What is the substance of those critiques? How is permaculture responding? I hope people will find what I am saying about this helpful.
How do you see the current permaculture movement in Australia? What more could be progressing and how could this occur?
I think I am pretty happy with the diversity in the permaculture movement which probably comes through in the book. Go on with what we’re doing. David Holmgren’s recent book Retrosuburbia is just brilliant. And like heaps of what we are doing all around the world. Adding to that the first thing I’d be saying is to be realistic about what we can achieve and what we can’t. For example, what are the typical problems of trying to run an ethical business in the context of a capitalist economy? The second would be that there is a slight problem in defining permaculture as system design for sustainability. I tend to think that the definition Mollison gives in The Designers’ Manual is closer to what most permaculture people are actually doing – sustainable agriculture with a side salad of settlement design. And I think that the mismatch between the current definition and what people are doing can lead to certain problems. In terms of how permaculture relates to the broader environmentalist movement and how it relates to the left and the public. Because when people ask, “What is permaculture?” they get an answer that is hard to read.
You are a long-term member of PA (thank you!). Why are you a member & what do you see as the role of the national permaculture organisation?
I love PA. It’s great that we’ve got a permaculture organisation in Australia. Despite some difficult conflicts in the Australian movement, we have a peak body that works extremely well. The UK has got one, but the United States is still reaching for a consensus. I see PA’s role is to facilitate convergences and to promote people’s businesses and media and to help them to establish their permaculture careers. Yes, that’s what it is and it’s doing that already and I’m liking it! Obviously, I have a particular fondness for Permafund, for the permaculture in developing countries action. Which permaculture’s done very well so far and we have the scope to expand.
Anything else you’d like to share?
I’ve been sometimes worried about writing this book. You worry about a number of things. I worry about whether I’ve been faithful to my interviewees and whether they’ll see themselves in what I write about what they say. It’s an inevitable problem for a sociologist writing about interview data. You excerpt the particular piece of interview text and then you try and relate that to other interview data and put it into some sort of framework. It can seem very far removed from what the person felt at the time. I have also been a bit worried that some of what I say about permaculture is controversial within the permaculture movement. But quite a lot of positive response to the book so far has made me less worried about this. I think people are looking forward to a book that has a go at tackling some tricky issues for us.
You can purchase a copy of The Politics of Permaculture here.
Terry is a professional member of Permaculture Australia, the national permaculture organisation. You can find out more, including how to join up as a member, here.
“I support individuals, micro/small/family-owned business owners and people in not-for-profit or social enterprises. I do this because I believe that grassroots action and people working together locally is better for all of us. I see the enormous difference not-for-profits and social enterprises make in our communities. I believe that local business is a cornerstone of connection and resilience. And behind it all is you and I – just people with our own personal and family commitments, trying to do our best.”
PA’s Kym spoke with Bonnie Tuttle, one of our new PA members based in lutrawita / Tasmania about the links between permaculture & Holistic Decision Making, building local economy, and obtaining many yields by working with small community organisations/groups.
For those who don’t know you, tell us more about yourself?
I’m a business and community consultant and my core focus is on helping our communities grow through service and enterprise. I offer training, facilitation, coaching, project management and marketing/communications support. I’m based in the South of the beautiful lutrawita / Tasmania, on the ‘sunny Eastern Shore’ which has allowed me to create some lovely little microclimates in my garden, where annual veggies were a (very time consuming) passion before I discovered permaculture! Now we have significantly more perennials.
I can’t remember how I first came to permaculture. I think living here with such a small and well-connected community meant that I just stumbled across it when keeping up to date with fellow PA members Hannah at Good Life Permaculture, and Lauren and Oberon from Spiral Garden. I did some reading and although the gardening aspect really spoke to my hands-in-the-dirt obsession, it also set off all the bells in my strategic/solutions/design/planning brain, which had lived in the corporate growth economy for far too long.
What are some of the wins and challenges of your work activities and running your own business?
The main challenge is that I have chosen to work with grassroots organisations, and people who don’t generally have a lot of access to funds. During my Permaculture Design Course (with GLP) I became more interested in the economic aspects of permaculture, because it helped me to better understand the issues, but also some of the solutions.
I am still grappling with how to best obtain a yield from my work whilst maintaining a sense of fair share, but I have adopted barter as a form of payment, set up payment plans, and joined the CENTS network to try to make my services accessible to everyone. I do a little bit of ‘Robin Hood-ing’ with corporate clients every now and then, as long as they align with my values – by working with some larger clients who have capacity to pay I can then offer time pro-bono to other volunteer-led grassroots groups, or start-ups without any capital.
“Although this ‘target market’ may not be the most appealing in a marketing sense, I am all the richer for it. I have created the most wonderful tapestry of friends and acquaintances, and I now have the opportunity to share my knowledge with people I know will use it well and build a better future for themselves and our community.“
Another ‘win’ is that I am able to live a more holistic life, with work integrated into the flow of my days. If I fancy a walk in the bush, I can take it. If the tomatoes need watering, I can pop out and do it. My days are still extremely busy, and I do work early in the morning and late into the night on occasion – but I pick my kids up from school every day, and am always here if the neighbours need a hand.
You are doing some great work in Holistic Design Management (HDM). How do you see this linking with permaculture (ethics & principles) and broader community resilience?
I learned HDM with Dan (Palmer) early this year, and it immediately sparked something. I have used the framework on a number of occasions now, with individuals, couples and groups. There are many similarities to other forms of strategy and design, and I tend to pick what I think will be the most effective tool for each client.
I see many linkages with permaculture. The most powerful impact I have seen so far (and I’m only at the beginning of my HDM journey) is the impact it can have on Zone Zero. Many people put substantial energy into People Care, but their focus is on the ‘other’. By using the nested wholes structure we can see that there is no ‘other’ – we all exist in symbiosis with the living systems we are nested within. Without clarity and care for ourselves, we can’t possibly be sustainable nor regenerative.
I love that it is a Patterns to Details approach, and this aligns with my philosophy no matter what the framework is. I always start with the ‘big picture’ and work down, because in my work I see people, in their personal and professional lives, get very ‘stuck’ in the doing. Using HDM it is easy to give appropriate space to these enabling actions, but they are always in service of something bigger, and of great importance to the person or the organisation.
For me personally, the whole HDM system’s value is in Applying Self Regulation and Feedback. The tools have really helped me to stay on track, Observe and Interact with the things influencing my progress towards where I want to be, and adjust – usually through self regulation! I am known for being ‘all in’, and have been prone to burnout in the past. Utilising HDM energises me, and gives me little indicators when I’m putting too much energy into one thing (and so it helps me to better value diversity too!)
You are a member of PA (thank you!) – why do you think permaculture and supporting the national permaculture organisation is important?
Although I have a very grassroots focus in the work that I do, I acknowledge that the impact we can have on many issues including the economy and climate change really needs to be addressed at a higher level. This requires momentum and pressure. We can’t do it alone, and our many voices make our message louder.
I also think a sense of belonging is important – to all of us, but to me as an individual too. I have been very lucky to have only experienced a short lockdown period in April 2020, but my work can be very isolated which is hard for a social person like myself. I went from busy offices to being alone all day with my sleepy dog much of the time, and it made me realise that the only connections I had were work colleagues and family.
“Being a member of Permaculture Australia and Permaculture Tasmania has given me opportunities to connect with like minded people and spend my time doing things I consider to be a good use of what precious time we all have. I’m also relatively new to permaculture, and I love to learn. PA exposes me to such a wealth of knowledge – I’m so grateful.”
What do you see as the challenges we are currently facing (e.g. climate crisis) and how could these be addressed?
Wow that is a big question! There are so many opportunities, but the one I focus on is building local economy and taking the wind out of the global growth economy. There is such big ‘bang for buck’ in local economy! People have richer lives because they can work close to home; they can get what they need in their neighborhoods, cutting down on monocultures and carbon miles; we would consume less, and what we would consume would be more necessary and less frivolous if it wasn’t just available at the click of a button from the other side of the earth. From a business owner’s perspective I think it would be easier to find our own place in the market, because we wouldn’t be competing with people online from everywhere. And services would be place based and therefore more tailored and effective…
This isn’t all necessarily true of local economies all of the time, and it would take a lot of work. But I think if as consumers and business owners we turned our minds to providing for ourselves and our neighbours, buying only what we need, and took our feet off the accelerator in the quest for global domination then a lot would change for the better.
What does the rest of 2021 have in store for Bonnie Tuttle Consulting?
I fell into working for myself because of a family emergency, and so at the time I didn’t have time to do things ‘properly’. I certainly didn’t go through any of the steps I advise my clients to take! So I have recently spent a lot of time and energy on the business – looking at systems which support my way of working and reduce the time I need to spend at my desk. I also continued the momentum which started in January this year with my PDC and HDM study, and really looked into who I am and what impact I want to make – how I exist with my business and how that exists within the world. It led me to a rebrand, which I have just launched. So for the rest of the year I will be continuing to get my systems in place, and become more routine in the way I work. And now that I have something I can be proud of, I’ll be promoting the brand a bit more.
I have also been working hard to develop relationships with local government bodies and other organisations who have access to funds to support grassroots organisations, and so I will be delivering some workshops called Business Fundamentals for Grassroots Organisations over the next few months. I have teamed up with my dear friend and fellow permie Jo Smith (Naturally Well with Jo, and Bruny Island Market Garden) and we are running a ‘Living with Purpose’ workshop too – that should be great fun.
And last but not least, I have a Permablitz I’m helping out with in October, and my husband Andrew and I will be starting to roll out the permaculture plan I created for our own space. It will be a slow process, and Small and Slow Solutions is the principle I struggle the most with, but we make a great team so I’m sure we will get the balance right.
For more information:
Check out Bonnie via her Website, Facebook and Instagram. PA members are able to access a generous 10% discount on services from Bonnie too – log into the PA website to find out more.
Bonnie is a Professional member of Permaculture Australia, the national permaculture member organisations. You can find out more, including how to sign up today, here.
“I love permaculture because it doesn’t just highlight what’s wrong in the world, but it provides the tools for us to craft genuinely new solutions for how we could move forward to create the world of our dreams that’s good for everyone, not just for our individual selves. ” Hannah Moloney
PA’s Kym spoke with PA member Hannah Moloney, Good Life Permaculture about her new book, radical hope, living the Good Life in lutrawita / Tasmania and the busy time she’d have doing great things as Prime Minister of Australia for a week!
Thanks for chatting with me Hannah. How did you get into permaculture and how do you think it can address some of the challenges our society is facing?
I’m originally from sunny Kurilpa, Meanjin (West End, Brisbane) and the youngest of five wildly different kids. I grew up on a quirky herb nursery my Dad ran while Mum worked as a Research Librarian at The Native Title Tribunal. By default I absorbed a strong sense of social and environmental justice which has undoubtedly helped shape me into who I am today. Having grown up in a herb nursery (not a permaculture garden) in a rather alternative community the word permaculture was often flitted around. I think I first saw Bill Mollison speak at an organic fair when I was 17 years old. But it wasn’t until I was travelling Australia when I was 18 and met Annemarie and Graham Brookman at the legendary Food Forest in South Australia that I really learned what it was. Their holistic approach to farming and living hit home with me and I *got it* – deep down in my heart I went “yessssssssss”.
For the next few years after meeting them I was mostly involved in front line activism helping to defend old growth forests in lutruwita / Tasmania. But at some point I looked at myself and knew that I was sad and approaching activism the wrong way for me personally. There’s many different ways to be an activist and my big learning in that time of my life was finding out how I could be an activist forever. That’s when I pivoted and focused 100% on permaculture and community work. I see permaculture as a form of positive activism that addresses all the big challenges of our time.
“Many people still don’t realise it’s not just about gardening/farming – permaculture is a holistic design framework that can be applied to anything – including urban planning, the building industry, education, health and wellbeing and the climate emergency to name a few things. “
Congratulations on your first book – exciting! How did you come to write a book & what was your inspiration?
Thanks! I was incredibly fortunate to be approached by Affirm Press who suggested I write a book. While flattered, I was very hesitant as there’s so many books already – do we really need more? The short answer is yes, we need more story telling of meaningful and positive ways to move through our world. Right now we’re being bombarded by either a denialist and/or negative narrative around climate change. My book is part of a broader movement in reclaiming that narrative and grounding it in reality (can’t dodge the sobering facts) while drenching it in radical hope. Radical hope is the act of living with optimism and courage in the face of the huge uncertainty that is the climate emergency.
Tell us more about your book – what do you hope folks will take away from reading it and importantly the action they’ll take?
My book answers the question “how to live a good life in the face of the climate emergency”. I draw on my own life as a practical example – but for the first time ever I step into my vulnerability and share my personal experience in coming to terms with our world and my small place in it. It hasn’t been easy. I also highlight other wonderful people and organisations across Australia doing incredible work in their homes, communities, for their whole regions and our country. I have two hopes for people reading my book. The first is that they learn about some of the effective initiatives already happening in Australia (there’s so many) and realise the solutions are already here, we just have to support them. My second hope is that readers remember that we have everything we need to bring about stunning transformation to create a just and safe world for all. Every single one of us ordinary humans are capable of doing extraordinary things when we apply ourselves.
It’s been a challenging few years with bushfires, droughts and a global pandemic. If you were PM for a week, what changes would you implement to try and address some of these challenges or advocate for?
Oooo, I’d have a really busy week and;
Prioritise and centre First Nations engagement and wisdom. As a starting point, this would include adopting the Uluru Statement From the Heart.
Legislate and regulate non-biased, responsible media as the norm to ensure people are not ingesting blatant misinformation.
Introduce a quota in Australian government to ensure gender equality. This would include good detail about gender diverse people to ensure genuine inclusion.
Ban political donations from big industries to prevent corruption.
Transition to 100% renewable energy which would involve closing all coal power plants justly which would include supporting the workers into new industries.
Provide significant financial and technical support to farmers so they can transition towards methods in line with regenerative land management tailored for their context.
Invest in well designed/built social housing that provides secure homes for people.
Invest in the arts to re-establish them as part of our country’s foundation of cultural expression and development.
You are a long term member of PA (thank you!). Why are you a member/why is being a member of PA important?
I’m a proud PA member as I love belonging to a national community of passionate people dedicated to doing good. It encourages me to strive to be better in my work and as a human, and connects me with people across the country for support, ideas and friendship.
What else does 2021 hold for you and Good Life Permaculture?
Well, it’s been a big year – as well as our usual calendar of permaculture workshops and landscape design projects – I’m gearing up to launch my book into the world in September. This will coincide with me re-starting fun, educational weekly You Tube videos from my home/garden to share free skills with people and I’m trying my hardest to pull together a podcast based off my book for people to enjoy as well. Plus I’m excited about a new collaboration with dear friends Milkwood which will kick off later this year (watch this space). But mostly I’m really hoping I can continue to soften into myself to get closer to reaching my full potential so I can do more good in the world – as far as I can tell this requires a lot of courage and willingness to fail. But I’m going to have a crack!
How can folks get a copy of your book? (and will there be a second or third! book coming too?)
You can find the book at your local bookstore or here online at Booktopia. You can also ask your local library to order it in. In terms of writing another book – I’d love to! But let’s give birth to book baby number one first and see how that rolls.
Hannah is a and Co-Director of Good Life Permaculture based in lutrawita / Tasmania & guest presenter on Gardening Australia. You can follow the journey of Good Life Permaculture via their Instagram, Facebook and You Tube channel for heaps of great inspiration on growing food, implementing permaculture ethics & principles, and building community.
Hannah is a Permaculture Australia Professional member, the national permaculture member organisation and has completed a Diploma of Permaculture, You can find out more and sign up as a member here today, and join Hannah and hundreds of members across the globe who are advocating for permaculture solutions and positive change. Find out more information on VET Permaculture offerings, including the Diploma of Permaculture here.
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.
“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 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?
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.
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.