What does effective permaculture aid look like?

What does effective permaculture aid look like?

In our monthly video interview series, PA Members Morag Gamble, John Champagne and Lachie McKenzie share their experiences working with community permaculture projects across the globe. Key lessons learnt include:

  • community led projects and solutions are key to success
  • youth led activities are effective to bring positive change, and
  • the importance of promoting and re-learning Indigenous knowledge and traditional skills.

The panel members

Lachlan McKenzie (Dip. Permaculture) is the Co-Director of Permatil Global. He has been immersed in permaculture since completing his Permaculture Design Course (PDC) in 1994. His permaculture adventures took him to Timor-Leste in 2001 working for 5 years with Timorese NGO Permatil and consulting for International NGOs providing trainings (including PDCs), writing curriculums, creating educational materials and demonstration sites. This culminated in co-writing and producing the Permaculture Guidebook from Timor-Leste in three languages. An accompanying bi-lingual Permaculture Facilitator’s Handbook and permaculture educational DVD were created working with IDEP Foundation in Bali and post-tsunami Aceh, Indonesia. He volunteered with the Permaculture Association Britain for two years, working with permaculture projects in the UK, France and Portugal. He is a core member of the International Permaculture Education Network (IPEN) project, current Chairperson for Permaculture South Australia and loves to keep his hands dirty in the garden.

Morag Gamble is an award-winning international permaculture teacher, speaker, designer and practitioner. She is the founder of the Permaculture Education Institute and Director of the registered charity, the Ethos Foundation. Morag is based at a UN World Habitat Award winning permaculture village in Australia and has taught permaculture in more than 20 countries over the past 25 years.  She leads the Permaculture Educators Program – the first comprehensive combined online Permaculture Design Certificate and Permaculture Teacher Certificate. Morag is co-founder of the iconic Northey Street City Farm in Brisbane, the Sunshine Coast University Community Garden and the Australian City Farms and Community Gardens Network and many other local food initiatives around the world. She leads permaculture camps for schools, nature kids programs for young children, and mentors many young people in permaculture.

John Champagne (Dip Permaculture) has more than 25 years permaculture experience in teaching and projects in Australia and internationally, including Indonesia and India. John is recognized as an elder within the Permaculture Movement in Australia  and continues to be active in permaculture.  He was on the Board of Permaculture Australia for three years and is the Convener of PA’s Permafund, a registered charity that receives and distributes funds to permaculture projects worldwide. In 2018 John was one of the drivers and organisers of the Australasian Permaculture Convergence (APC14) held in Canberra. He is based at Brogo Permaculture Gardens in NSW.

Video interview: What does effective permaculture aid look like?

​More information:

PA’s PERMAFUND provides small grants to community permaculture projects across the globe. They have funded 51 projects in 15 countries with a focus on food security, regenerative agriculture practices, seed sovereignty, women’s empowerment, and permaculture education to name a few. Donations over $2 are tax deductible in Australia.

PERMATIL GLOBAL is making permaculture tools and knowledge accessible to everyone across the globe, working with people to strengthen food sovereignty, facilitate environmental regeneration, mitigate climate change and build resilient and sustainable communities everywhere.

THE TROPICAL PERMACULTURE GUIDEBOOK is a comprehensive resource of permaculture, food sovereignty and environmental regeneration strategies.

ETHOS FOUNDATION, in partnership with the PERMACULTURE EDUCATION INSTITUTE, is supporting local permaculture initiatives in East Africa. They are committed to supporting community led programs that are guided by the ethics – earth care • people care • fair share.

Permafund projects making a big difference

Permafund projects making a big difference

PA’s Permafund provides small grants of less than $2000 AUD to community permaculture projects across the globe. Since 2012, we have funded 51 projects in 15 countries that support food security, seed sovereignty, regenerative farming practices and water harvesting.

Some of the volunteer Permafund team members

After reviewing a record number of applications, we are thrilled to announce thirteen successful grant recipients for 2020/2021. A huge thank you to our generous donors and to the Permafund volunteer team (pictured left) for their amazing work coordinating the grant program.

We have four more projects we’d like to fund on the waitlist. If you have thought about donating to Permafund or would like to organize a fundraising activity to assist please get in touch. We’d love to hear from you.

2020/2021 Permafund grant projects

  • Aranya India aims to promote permaculture farming practices to create ecological, sustainable and regenerative  livelihoods. Permafund funding will support the design and development of permaculture farms for small and marginal farmers, with a focus on female farmers in rural India.

Emas hitam Indonesia is a grassroots permaculture non-government organization (NGO) that aims to promote, support and develop regenerative solutions to poverty and development across Indonesia. This project supports training and seeds for food security in Bali, an area hard hit from the fallout of Covid-19 travel restrictions.

  • Fambidzanai Zimbabwe supports food and income security projects through sustainable land use management, training and the facilitation of market opportunities for organic produce. The Permafund project will set up a biogas model plant in Harare for learning and replication in rural and peri-urban communities.
  • Foundation for Research and Sustainable Development (FRSD), India is an NGO devoted to the preservation of the natural diversity of plant and animal species and their habitats, through the prevention of environmental degradation and destruction. Permafund funding will support the training and set up of permaculture kitchen herbal gardens for rural and Indigenous women in rural areas, including the purchase of plants, biofertilisers, training and the translation and printing of booklets into Tamil language.

IRDS India is an NGO that envisages a society where the less privaledged are socially, economically and politically empowered. The funded project will support tribal farmers in rural Tamil Nadu with training on permaculture and low input farming, Indigenous seeds and a seed bank, and materials for natural pest control.

Laikipia Permaculture Centre (LPC) in Kenya is a partnership of 11 Maasai women groups with  770 individual members who have been pushed by climate change, severe environmental degradation and change of land available for grazing to find alternative livelihoods in drylands. The grant will be used in land rehabilitation through the planting of trees, developing food forests in established groups and permaculture training.

  • Poret Zimbabwe core activities are in permaculture practices both at our Centre and in the villages in which they work, including natural resource management, water catchment, indigenous seed saving and organic farming. The Permafund grant will support the purchase of seed tubers to ‘bring the Madhumbe tuber back’, including training and training and construction of swales to assist with growing the tubers.
  • OTEPIC Kenya is a community based organization sharing knowledge and innovative approaches on permaculture, renewable energy and peace initiatives, with a focus on women and youth groups. The grant will assist with training and setting up of bee hives for 100 community members, as well as promoting the value of bees as pollinators in mixed rural agriculture settings.

SCDI Kenya aims to empower smallholder farmers to lift themselves out of poverty and hunger with sustainable livelihood, environmental conservation, food security and water & sanitation projects. The Permafund project will support 200 small holder farmers with green manure seeds and training to improve soil fertility, farm planning and crop rotation.

Sustainable Kenya aims to build the resilience of sustainable community food through transformation of healthy soils and promotion of native plants for pollination. Permafund funding will support a regenerative agriculture project for marginalized communities that have been affected by Covid-19 with seeds, tools, native plants and permaculture training.

Turtle Survival Alliance India has a focus on conservation efforts with local communities to safeguard threatened freshwater species in four (of the five) turtle priority areas in India. The project will offer training in vermicomposting and food growing to reduce the reliance on aquatic wildlife for food.

White Mountain Tanzania is part of the White Mountain, Maasai community-led initiative which aims to regenerate the land and livelihoods around Mount Kilimanjaro. This funding will support the training and set up of community food gardens based on permaculture techniques in ten 10 villages of Amboseli which have been impacted with reduce tourism due to COVID.

WORD Trust India improves the lives of communities through health, safe water, sanitation and sustainable development projects. This funding will support training on preparation of vermi-composting, construction on compost pits and supply of seeds and saplings for growing for rural marginal women farmers in Tamil Nadu.


Just enough: Let’s never stop thinking about the future

Just enough: Let’s never stop thinking about the future

Let’s never stop thinking about the future: The connections between permaculture, Japanese design and homesteading in a frugal future.

The world has changed immeasurably over the last thirty years, with ‘more, bigger, better’ being the common mantra. But in the midst of this constantly evolving world, there is a growing community of people who are looking at our history, searching for answers to issues that are faced everywhere, such as energy, water, materials, food and population crisis.

In “Just Enough, ” author Azby Brown turned to the history of Japan, where he finds several lessons on living in a sustainable society that translate beyond place and time. This book presents a compelling argument around how to forge a society that is conservation-minded, waste-free, well-housed, well-fed and economically robust, including what Edo Period life has to offer us in the global battle to reverse environmental degradation.

In contrast, Retrosuburbia, by David Holmgren shows how the Australian suburbs can be transformed to become productive and resilience in an energy descent future. It focuses on what can be done by an individual at the household level with examples from ‘Aussie Street’ story and real life case studies to support and enhance the main content.

Su Dennett and Virginia Solomon have been living and promoting a sustainable households at their respective Melliodora and Eco resilience households and wider community activities including the Hepburn Relocalisation Network, Permaculture Australia, Holmgren Design & permaculture education to name a few. Virginia has also travelled multiple times to Japan, including meeting Azby and connecting all of the interview members here today on behalf of Permaculture Australia.

Video 1: Introduction and welcome from Virginia Solomon, Permaculture Australia

Video 2: Full video interview Azby Brown, Su Dennett, David Holmgren & Virginia Solomon

For more information:

Azby Brown is a native of New Orleans, and has lived in Japan since 1985. He is a leading authority on Japanese architecture, design, and environmentalism, and the author of many influential books and articles, including The Very Small Home (2005), Just Enough: Lessons in living green from traditional Japan (2010), and The Genius of Japanese Carpentry (2014). He majored in fine art and architecture at Yale University, graduating in 1980. In 1985 he was named a National Foreign Scholar by the Japanese Ministry of Education, which supported his graduate studies in architecture at the University of Tokyo. His creative work has been widely exhibited at galleries and museums internationally and he is a sought after speaker on Japanese culture.

Su Dennett is David Holmgren’s partner in life and livelihood. After many years managing the business, Su is now focusing more of her prodigious energy and passion in the kitchen and community than in the office. The vegie box scheme she initiated with local organic farmer Rod May, and her own innovative approach to bulk food purchase and distribution supports regional producers. While she remains active in the Holmgren Design (HD) office and business management she now spends as much time in community events and organising mainly through Hepburn Relocalisation Network (HRN), a transition initiative that she started in 2006 with Maureen Corbett. In 2013 she was one of two women added to Hepburn Shire Council’s Women’s Honour Role for her community work and leadership in  pursuing a low impact, simple lifestyle. At Melliodora, Su’s morning and evening hour with her milking goats is her “time out.”

David Holmgren is best known as the co-originator with Bill Mollison of the permaculture concept following the publication of Permaculture One in 1978. Since then he has developed three properties, consulted and supervised in urban and rural projects and presented in Australia and around the world. His writings over those three decades span a diversity of subjects and issues, including his recent book Retrosuburbia: The Downshifters Guide to a resilient future. At home (Melliodora in Hepburn, Central Victoria), David is the vegetable gardener, silviculturalist and builder. David is respected for his commitment to presenting permaculture ideas through practical projects and teaching by personal example, that a sustainable lifestyle is a realistic, attractive and powerful alternative to dependent consumerism. David is a life member of Permaculture Australia and is about to release Our Street, a children’s permaculture book co-authored with Beck Lowe.

Virginia Solomon has been involved with permaculture since the early 1990s. Since 2003 she has been worked on the Accredited Permaculture Training (APT), is a founding member of the Permaculture Educators’ Guild and passionate advocate for quality permaculture education. She has been a previous Board member and President of Permaculture Melbourne (now Permaculture Victoria), convenor of the Australasian Permaculture Convergence in 2005, and is the current Chair of the PA Board of Directors. She lives in NE Melbourne and has a large, productive garden and a rambling friendly house where visitors and guests are always welcome. She is a patchworker, a cheesemaker, an eco-dying enthusiast, a shoemaker (only for herself) and a dressmaker.

Additional texts and resouces referred to in the interview:

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Azby Brown, Just Enough: Lessons in living green from traditional Japan

Beck Lowe & David Holmgren, Our Street. A permaculture story for kids.

David Holmgren, Retrosuburbia: The Downshifters Guide to a resilient future.

David Holmgren, Feeding RetroSuburbia: from the backyard to the bioregion

David Holmgren, Permaculture in Japan: Foreign idea of Indigenous Design?

Azby Brown, illustrations as part of his book ‘Just Enough: Lessons in living green from traditional Japan’

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Permaculture for Refugees

Permaculture for Refugees

A small team of permaculture practitioners are developing culturally appropriate permaculture resources, with a focus on teaching in displacement settings & crowded urban areas.

Led by international permaculture pioneer & Permafund Patron Rosemary Morrow, four days were spent in the Blue Mountains recently to progress the teaching resources.

My years have shown that there are few materials available in translated languages to the participants we teach. This workshop will ensure accurate & appropriate training materials, which at the time of COVID-19 is even more essential to support distance/online training and community reach even more camp and urban settlement settings”, Rowe Morrow

Highlights of the workshop also included sessions with Permaculture for Refugees members BASD in Bangladesh, Sarah from Green ReLeaf in the Philippines, Blue Ribbon in Malaysia, Kat Lavers, and Morag Gamble sharing information on Permayouth.

Professional development sessions on teaching online, developing videos, cartoons, written and visual training materials were completed to assist with the resource development.

A new booklet ‘Teaching Permaculture in Refugee Camps‘ by Rowe Morrow and Ruth Harvey was also launched at the workshop.

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P4R SEA member Sarah Queblatin from Green ReLeaf in the Philippines briefs the Blue Mountains participants via Zoom.

Permaculture Australia, including Permafund, are well representated with members Kym Blechynden, Jed Walker, Greta Carroll, Morag Gamble and Sarah Boulle all involved in the project.

“PA staff and members are thrilled to be involved withthe Permaculture for Refugees SEA activities. By partnering together we’ve been able to produce appropriate teaching resources for local NGO’s working in refugee camps and informal settlements – improving access to information by communities across the globe who often need it the most“, Kym Blechynden, PA.

These teaching resources will be translated and made available for use by communities in early 2021. The key to making these resources accessible to refugees are their translation into multiple languages. Funds are required towards covering the cost of translations, so all donations are welcome and gratefully received. Please contact hello@permcaultureaustralia.org.au for more information

PA’s Permafund members Greta Carroll, Rowe Morrow (Patron), Jed Walker & Kym Blechynden at the Blue Mountains workshop.

A huge thank you to the Blue Mountains Food Coop, Quakers Service Victoria and Permaculture Australia Permafund for their financial support to the workshop, all of the facilitators and participants for volunteering their time and travel costs, and to lead organisers Rowe Morrow and Jed Walker.


For more information:

This article relates to the three permaculture ethics (Earth care, People Care & Fair Care), Use and Value Diversity, and Use Edges & Value the Marginal. More information on the permaculture ethics and principles can be found here.

Permaculture 4 Refugees South East Asia is a network of permaculture aid workers in Australia, Bangladesh, Malaysia and the Philippines, including members of Permaculture Australia and PA’s Permafund. We work in partnership with local NGO’s to support permaculture training and resource development in displacement and crowded urban settings. Donations are required and gratefully received to assist with the translation of resources into multiple languages, contact hello@permacultureaustralia.org.au to find out how to donate.

PA’s Permafund provides small grants to community permaculture groups across Australia and internationally. Since 2012 we have provided 38 grants in 14 countries, with another 12 projects being announced on the 1st November 2020. Donations over $2 are tax deductible in Australia. Find out more including how to donate here.

Rosemary (Rowe) Morrow is a permaculture pioneer, Permafund patron, author and teacher. For almost 40 years Rowe has worked extensively with farmers and villagers in Africa, Central and South East Asia and Eastern Europe and to communities experiencing the serious effects of climate change. When not working overseas, Rowe is based in Katoomba, NSW and is an active member of Permaculture for Refugees.

Growing it forward – a guide to permaculture and rental properties

Growing it forward – a guide to permaculture and rental properties

Have you ever wondered if you can implement permaculture principles in a renting setting? Yes, you can! Read more about ‘permaculture renting’ with our guest blogger, Dawn Green, from lutrawita / Tasmania, and check out some great case studies on permaculture renting properties too.

“Many of us, myself included, have lived in rental properties over the years. Some of these situations are temporary, some are long term. But no matter what time frame applies, renting brings with it a unique opportunity to make a difference in the world.

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Permaculture renting refers to the practice of establishing gardens and lifestyle choices based on permaculture principles within a rental property setting.

There are two big factors at play here – the temporary nature of the garden and infrastructure (for you, but it may pay divendends to future renters and owners. More on this later). And two, ensuring you have the appropriate permission and guidelines established before your shovel hits the dirt or any infrastructure is modified.

So, how does it work?

Firstly, pen a letter to the rental agency, seeking permission from the house owner to establish a garden or make changes. Make sure you talk about your passion for gardening and include a sketch of the garden beds you’d like to put in. Ideally these will be no-dig garden beds which are super easy to establish. That way it’s crystal clear what your intentions are and you have permission in writing to proceed.

Then it’s time to consider what type of garden you’d like to plant. A great source for ideas can be found here.

While you are working on your garden, find ways to connect with your local community to access all kinds of (usually) free resources, including seeds and cuttings. Discover your local permaculture group and start networking. Together we are smarter and more resourceful than on our own.

Other ways to live sustainably while renting includes the all-important act of reducing your waste. Most urban areas have good recycling collections systems, but don’t forget it’s important to avoid packaging where possible, especially food packaging. Buy food in bulk where you can and food waste and vegetable peelings can go into a backyard compost or give your waste a second change by tracking down a local Share Waste host. Or better yet, buy or make yourself a worm farm – you and your kids will be delighted with your new ‘pets’ and you’ll be pleasantly surprised to see how quickly they multiply and munch up your food scraps!

Of course we must also focus on our water usage too. The easiest way to use greywater is to place a hose on the end of your washing machine output and then divert it to the lawn or trees. Ensure you use the most natural biodegradable detergent that you can find.

You can save litres and litres of water by catching the first part of your shower water before it starts to run hot into a bucket and then use the water on your veggie garden. And it’s also worth considering standing in one of those large plastic tubs while having your shower and then dumping the shower water outside.

A great firsthand story on permaculture renting from Milkwood Permaculture will give you lots of tips and ideas to consider too.

Think of the future

Even though you may need to move on from your rental property one day (the house is being sold, or your living arrangements have changed), your legacy garden will go on helping others and helping the planet.

Planting trees or perennials at a rental property means we are leaving behind plants which will improve the soil, increase biomass, create habitat and will hopefully make a small, but significant difference to the world.

So don’t let a minor detail like renting prevent you from the pleasure of creating permaculture in your community and contributing to having a smaller carbon footprint. Do your homework and before you know it, you’ll be out there with the dirt in your hands, knowing you are making a difference in the here and now, and also laying the seeds for the future as well.

More information:

Some of our PA members have excellent blog posts on permaculture renting. Check out Meg McGowan, aka Permacoach, Legacy Gardening in Rental Properties, Nevin Sweeney from Under the Choko Tree Sustainable Living for Renters and a great series from Milkwood Permaculture in a variety of rental properties.

For those on Social media, you may wish to follow The Urban Nanna on Facebook and Instagram for daily tips on successfully implementing permaculture principles and building community while living in a rental property.

The Smart Renting website also has a great range of tips from across Australia.

Photo credit: Matt & Sabas Rental Property, Retrosuburbia website

There are also a great range of permaculture renting case studies on the Retrosuburbia website to check out including:

Case study: Small Rental Unit

Case study: Rental Sharehouse

Matt and Sabas Rental property

The Retrosuburbia Real Estate Checklist (RREC) and ‘Sun’ rating checklist aim to help you evaluate an existing property – whether it is the one you live in or one you are considering purchasing or leasing. It’s available to download free from here or purchase the entire book here (if you are a PA member don’t forget to use your membership discount code too!)

Urban Revolution – Permaculture graduate stories

Urban Revolution – Permaculture graduate stories

“As more emphasis and urgency is placed on the need for sustainable living due to the Earth’s health, through societal norms, economic drivers and (hopefully) legislation, people will turn to learning from and employing those with permaculture skills.”

Jo Bussell’s permaculture journey started with two weekend permaculture introduction courses in 2010 and 2011.  In 2013 she completed a PDC in Fremantle with Sparkles, Harry Wykham and a range of presenters, followed by an Advanced PDC with Ross Mars and Graeme Bell in 2016. Only a year later, Jo opened Urban Revolution in Perth, WA. Martina from the PA Education team chats with Jo about the permaculture skills required for her retail employees & opening a permaculture store in Perth, WA.

Jo, you have the only permaculture ‘brick-and-mortar store’ in Perth. Tell us a little bit about the concept and how you got the idea to open this store.

Permaculture sparked (like for so many people) a passion in me to make my home food gardens efficient and mineral dense, followed by helping friends and family implement permaculture design elements into their gardens.  This moved onto paid permaculture design work. There was a need to recommend tools and soil inputs to have a successful food garden in Perth.  This morphed into working with Men’s Sheds to make plastic free gardening tools such as our first product, a seedling flat.  I then created an online store and went to markets offering the products, permaculture advice and design work. The bricks and mortar store came to fruition due to the number of products we were supplying and the need to take the business out of our home.

What are the goods and services available in your store?

The store offers garden, cleaning, homeware and personal care products that are made from materials that are compostable, plastic free or are better for the Earth. The gardening products are aimed at growing food along with a fabulous range of local, heirloom and open-pollinated veggie, herb and flower seeds. We assist and educate people individually on how to grow food, create soil and compost everyday organic waste.  We randomly present on various permaculture related subjects at community events and in schools. We also connect interested people with permaculture courses, teachers and designers.

I know your employees have done Permaculture Design Courses and at least one has done her Certificate III in Permaculture. Is permaculture knowledge something that is needed for the work at Urban Revolution?

Yes. Permaculture knowledge is key to assisting our customers with product use and our free advice on how to create soil, compost, grow food, and modify or add elements into an urban garden using permaculture design techniques. Skills I am looking for in particular are a holistic composting knowledge, soil creation specifically for growing vegetables, experience in growing various vegetables, herbs, fruit and flowers; companion planting, backyard chickens and integrated pest management knowledge.

Are you encouraging further permaculture studies for the people you work with and your customers?

Yes, absolutely.  Out of our six staff, three have Permaculture Design Certificates (PDCs) and two have completed further permaculture education – and we all would like to do more. The remaining three are growing food at home and are eco aware with other skill sets. They are learning about permaculture by just working in the store.  When possible, I hope they will all complete a PDC. In addition, our customers are consistently recommended to do a PDC at every appropriate opportunity!

There aren’t many permaculture jobs advertised at the moment. Do you think this will change?

Yes, I think it will change and gain momentum.  For example, why hire a mowing company to maintain your garden? Y ou can hire a permaculture-based gardening company to improve and manage your garden’s health, grow food, educate and provide garden design. As more emphasis and urgency is placed on the need for sustainable living due to the Earth’s health, through societal norms, economic drivers and (hopefully) legislation, people will turn to learning from and employing those with permaculture skills. Ultimately our business goal is to employ permaculturists to provide presentations and workshops to schools, businesses and especially in our communities.  At the moment this is a longer-term goal due to cash flow and providing an appropriate venue.

Additional information

Martina Hoeppner holds a Diploma in Permaculture and a Certificate IV in Training & Assessment, teaches PDCs and Certificate III in Permaculture in Perth and is the current Co-Convenor of Permaculture West. She contributes to Permaculture Australia’s Education Team and tries keep alive her own garden and three sons in her spare time. More information on the different types of permaculture education completed by both Martina and Jo can be found here.

Martina and Jo are Professional and Organisation members of Permaculture Australia, the national member based organisation in Australia. Sign up as a member here today to join hundreds of members across Australia advocating for permaculture solutions.

Urban Revolution Australia is anEco & Garden Store and Online Shop with household, personal and gardening products to make it easy to have a thriving garden, wasteless kitchen and greener lifestyle. There have a current vacancy to join their team which would suit someone with a permaculture background (a Permaculture Design Certificate would be highly regarded).