Tuesday 26th December, 2006

 

Permaculture

 
 
 
 
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By Adrian Boodan

Have you ever heard of the word Permaculture? No? Well, for starters, it has nothing to do with styling hair if that thought flashed through your mind for a microsecond.

Permaculture stems from the words “permanent agriculture” which is in fact, the design and maintenance of agriculturally productive ecosystems that have the diversity, stability and resilience of natural ecosystems.

Members of the Fondes Amandes Community Reforestation Project (FACRP) in the plant nursery.

It is in fact a way to mimic nature to maximise the agricultural benefits one can achieve from a spot of land.

John Stollmeyer, who is part of the group bringing in Permaculture specialist Peter Bane to T&T in January, said to understand the Permaculture concept easier, one must first picture a freshly ploughed piece of land; bearing in mind that once the earth is exposed, nature’s answer is to cover the soil with a mass of weeds and return the land to dense forest that would protect the soil.

Stollmeyer said on the ploughed plot one can observe within two-weeks a variety of diverse weeds appearing; within months trees start poking through the weeds and a few years down the road you have what modern man deems as “useless bush.”

However, he said this bush is no way useless to the world’s indigenous peoples who have learnt to pick out the plants that are edible, medicinal or good for construction without upsetting the balance of nature.

Stollmeyer said modern farmers undertake a heavy battle to reap a successful crop after resorting to hard labour, fertilisers, weedicides and pesticides while being in constant conflict with nature.

Gerald Corbie, left, and Amos Joseph harvesting tomatoes in the Zone 1 kitchen garden.

Stollmeyer said the inputs of commercial agriculture are expensive and harmful, both to the environment and the farmer.

In T&T, as throughout the world, farmers are increasingly dependent on hybrid seed and agri-chemicals sold by multi-national corporations.

Farmers have also become dependent on unsustainable methods of production, there is a corollary inverse loss of knowledge of sustainable, low external input farming techniques.

Because of the erosion of knowledge about locally appropriate production models and the devaluing of traditional agricultural techniques a diminishing number of farmers are capable of producing food sustainably with local resources.

This jeopardises food security throughout the lowland humid tropics because of the loss of agricultural autonomy at the regional or national level and the increasing dependence on imported agrochemical inputs.

Stollmeyer said Permaculture preaches that on the same piece of ploughed land, instead of each weed and grass that would sprout, a range of diverse and useful plants would rise and cover the soil.

A few months later useful fruit and timber trees and shrubs that were sheltered within these plants started to poke through and, a few years later, what would be produced is a diverse, environmentally sound and economically viable microecosystem.

The value, he said, lies within the diversity created; every day the farmer would have something to reap and sell, instead of waiting for a single crop to come in all at once.

The system also attracts wildlife as birds and wild meat, and holds the possibility for ecotourism based on the size of the project.

The trees, while initially providing wind breaks, shelter and soil protection, would eventually bear fruit or be turned into economic lumber. The huge value of the system lies in the overall diversity and not in a single crop that faces the risk should a natural disaster strike.

The term “Permaculture” was created by Australian Bill Mollison who defines Permaculture as the conscious design and maintenance of agriculturally productive ecosystems that have the diversity, stability and resilience of natural ecosystems.

Permaculture is applicable in urban, suburban, and rural environments and offers a proactive approach to addressing the escalating environmental crisis.

Bane, a Permaculturist for 15 years and editor for Permaculture Activist, the world’s oldest journal of permanent culture, will be conducting a workshop to lay the groundwork for Permaculture within Trinidad.

This programmes run for two weeks starting on January 3, 2007 at Wa Samaki Ecosystems in Freeport, Central Trinidad. A free public lecture would be given at the Port-of-Spain City Hall on January 3 at 5 pm, and there would also be a short course within the two-week programme.

Participants would learn how to maximise the usefulness and value of each plant, animal and structure within a project and learn how to “read” a piece of land to make use of all the microclimates it may contain.

Peter Bane’s Permaculture programme would also focus on the following topics:

* Permaculture ethics, design principles and methodologies

* Patterns in nature

* Reading landscapes, site analysis, & mapping

* Climate, ecosystems and plant origins

* Earthworks and pond construction

* Hydrology and aqua-culture

* Forest management and agro-forestry

* Soil Fertility

* Appropriate construction and technologies

* Energy conservation and renewable energy sources

* Household waste treatment and recycling

* Design for fire and catastrophe

* Gardening and food production

* Integrated animal systems

* Perennial polycultures and developing food forests

* Plant propagation and seed saving

* Whole systems design

* Urban Permaculture and village design

* Community development

* Alternative economic systems & local self-reliance

* Ecosystem restoration / bio-remediation

* Presentation and networking

Details can be obtained by calling Erle Rahaman Norona (673-4180) or John Stollmeyer (624-1341)

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