I studied permaculture for the last two weeks under a New Hampshire instructor named Steve Whitman (who did indeed appear the part of a permaculture instructor from New Hampshire). For those of you not familiar with the term, permaculture is a word coined by a guy named Bill Mollison from Australia. It comes from the words permanent and agriculture.
Basically permaculture is about designing ecosystems that are sustainable and self-sufficient. It takes a great deal of what we learn from nature and apply it to designing farms and other spaces. We limit inputs from outside and eliminate as many waste outputs as possible, as well. We ensure every entity on the farm has multiple purposes and that different subsystems are beneficial to one another. We also work a great deal with landforms in order to encourage rainwater to penetrate the soil and, so, remain on our properties.
A quick example of permaculture think: 1) I need fences on my demonstration farm. 2) I also require some type of plant life to hold in place the soil on my swales. 3) I’ll be feeding goats, as well. 4) And what farmer wouldn’t benefit from more nitrogen in his soil?
My answer: I’ll be planting four or five different leguminous trees on the higher side of every swale and as my fences around the property. These trees fix nitrogen into the soil and will grow back after being cut off at four feet from time to time. That means my soil benefits from these trees, even though much of my reason for growing them is to have goat fodder. The soil above my swales is held in place, and I’ve got a living fence as a border around the farm. We call this stacking functions, and it’s just one small part of permaculture.
So, I learned a lot and I now hold a Permaculture Design Certificate. Below is my first design for the demonstration farm here in Geita. I’ve already made some changes to it, but I’ll continue publishing updates from time to time. I’ll also post some photos of the area when I get a chance. The drawing is nearly four feet in height, so I took as good a picture of it as I could during my presentation.