Permaculture Definition, Principles And Applications

What is permaculture? What are its principles? Below are some examples of the application of permacultural design.

permaculture definition

Definition Of Permaculture

Permaculture can be understood as the growth of agricultural ecosystems in a self-sufficient and sustainable way.

This form of agriculture draws inspiration from nature to develop synergetic farming systems based on crop diversity, resilience, natural productivity, and sustainability. Still, since the early 1980s, the pre-conceived idea of permaculture extended to a systemic approach that goes far beyond the agricultural domain.

Nowadays synonymous with permanent culture in its broadest sense, permaculture is a global ethic method for designing integrated systems based on the idea of sustainable development. Therefore, human activities must consider natural ecosystems and operate in harmony with them.

Permacultural Design: The Principles And Techniques of Permaculture

Based on the precise observation of how ecosystems work (particularly in terms of productivity and efficiency), permaculture draws on non-fixed modes of design that are adaptable to the fields of application. The result is a method of universal principles known as “permacultural design”.

The permacultural design (the word design here includes the notions of project and process of realization) is set up from three founding ethical requirements:

  • Preservation of the environment and biodiversity;
  • Willingness to build a community for individual and collective well-being;
  • Sharing of resources and equitable redistribution of excesses (for the benefit of humans and the environment).

The method itself is based on:

  • An overall understanding of issues and systems;
  • The analysis of the connection modes between the elements of a system;
  • The application, to deficient systems, of solutions derived from operational and proven systems;
  • The analysis of natural ecosystems to correct errors in the implantation of human activity and planning for optimal integration;
  • The inclusion of people new to permaculture in the process.

Permacultural design implements many solutions inspired by scientific ecology, biomimicry, and empirical practices developed over the ages by traditional societies.

Examples And Practices Of Permaculture

permaculture definition examples

  • Agricultural example: no-till practices that ensure the preservation of soil balance and long-term fertility
  • Habitats example: buildings made of biodegradable local materials, that are energy-efficient and have a minimal ecological footprint (individual houses made of straw and clay in the Netherlands)
  • Economy example: the development of community organizations such as SEL (Local Exchange System), generating short circuits, social links, solidarity, and community cohesion

Permaculture And Agroecology: Differences And Similarities

Agroecology and permaculture are often confused, yet these two practices are different. Agro-ecology goes further than biological agricultural as it uses sustainable agricultural systems with techniques such as complementarity, composting or cultivation on mounds. Afterward, it integrates these systems in an ecological way by saving water, fighting against erosion etc…

The practices above can be found in permaculture too, but the latter is broader since it focuses not only on creating sustainable and resilient farming systems but also on integrating them into a broader life system where other variables are also accounted for.

A Video To Help Understand Permaculture

Here is a video to help you understand permaculture:

Images credits to permaculture on Shutterstock and permaculture farming on Shutterstock