Though permaculture as a design tool and a philosophy has been around since the 1970’s it has only recently started to become more recognized internationally as framework for sustainable development, able to provide sustainable solutions to many of the challenges facing the world today.
The word ‘permaculture’ itself is a contraction of ‘Permanent’ and ‘Agriculture’- a term coined by two Australians- Bill Mollison and David Holmgren in the 70’s. These days the ‘culture’ in permaculture is also seen to embrace social culture, another essential pillar for sustainability.
Permaculture combines three key aspects: an ethical framework emphasising environmental sustainability and socio-economic justice, a holistic understanding of the processes and relationships in nature and a systemic design framework. These are integrated with an emphasis on observing before doing to create a ‘permaculture’ design that works with, rather than against, the natural processes around us.
For a region like East Africa, where resources are scarce and the problems of deforestation, soil erosion and lack of water are compounded by increasingly severe impacts of climate change, permaculture provides a framework for developing ‘climate resilient’ agricultural and land regeneration techniques that can help develop climate change resilience. Being a design framework, permaculture emphasizes that there are no silver bullet solutions, each design will be different according to the context. Thus rather than being prescriptive, permaculture provides a framework for sustainable design that can help local communities find solutions to their challenges themselves.
Being a design framework, permaculture is useful not only to design food production systems but also landscape regeneration, sustainable housing and regenerative enterprises. We use permaculture design techniques not only to in the implementation of our programmes but also in the designing of the programmes themselves. In our Permaculture & Regenerative Enterprise programme we use permaculture principles in developing the enterprises incorporating key permaculture principles such as recycling of resources, cooperation, diversity and resilience in the economic sense.