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Permaculture, what is it? (1)

Short introduction on permaculture backgrounds. What were the reasons to develop this vision? What’s the difference with organic farming?

Short introduction on permaculture. What were the reasons to develop this vision? What’s the difference with organic farming?


The word permaculture derives from the Latin words ‘permanens’, meaning with perseverance, and ‘cultura’, meaning household. It was developed in the 70’s at the University of Tasmania, Australia by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren.
The founders developed their ideas to find solutions to the many problems which were the result of monocultures on farm lands.


Fossil fuels are becoming scarce and expensive. In conventional farming, huge amounts are used. Therefore, this system is not sustainable in the long term.
Monocultutures are also extremely vulnerable due to the lack of natural diversity of the species. The consequences of this are, for example, failed harvests due to disease, drought or too much rain.
In addition, contamination of groundwater by chemical fertilizers and use of pesticides is a worldwide problem. One of the consequences is the disappearance of bees from our landscapes.

Robust ecosystem

Permaculture finds solutions by studying ecological rules which occur in natural ecosystems and traditional small food production systems. On the basis of these rules a system has been developed which is functional for mankind and has the robustness of a natural ecosystem.

Difference with organic farming

Permaculture is a design system that can be applied anywhere, not just food production. That’s a difference with organic farming. It’s about designing nature for people. And considering mankind as being a part of the whole ecosystem.
Permaculture differs from organic agriculture also by explicitly using perennials and abandoning rotation cycles and yearly digging.

Ethical principles

Permaculture has three foundational ethics:

  1. Take care of the earth: all ecosystems should have the chance to continue and multiply.
  2. Take care of the people: all people should have access to resources neccessary for their existence.
  3. Share the surplus: input and output in a system should be in balance.

How does permaculture look like? Watch an example in the video Greening the desert.

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