"Permaculture is an approach to designing human settlements and agricultural systems that are modeled on the relationships found in natural ecologies. Permaculture is sustainable land use design. This is based on ecological and biological principles, often using patterns that occur in nature to maximise effect and minimise work.
Permaculture aims to create stable, productive systems that provide for human needs, harmoniously integrating the land with its inhabitants. The ecological processes of plants, animals, their nutrient cycles, climatic factors and weather cycles are all part of the picture. Inhabitants’ needs are provided for using proven technologies for food, energy, shelter and infrastructure. Elements in a system are viewed in relationship to other elements, where the outputs of one element become the inputs of another.
Within a Permaculture system, work is minimised, "wastes" become resources, productivity and yields increase, and environments are restored. Permaculture principles can be applied to any environment, at any scale from dense urban settlements to individual homes, from farms to entire regions."
So says Wikipedia's definition of permaculture. I took the basic 72 hour permaculture design course at the Hancock Permaculture Center a few years back. Since I don't have a garden, my opportunities to apply it are limited, unless you count my office worm box.
Permaculture came up in conversation with my friend and colleague-in-networking Bill Verdone. Bill, who serves on the Board of Directors of the Helena Kaushik Women's College in Rajasthan, India, thought it might be an interesting addition to the school's curriculum. Up in the arid Indian north, permaculture's water-conserving agricultural techniques would be especially valuable. Bill called up the school's founder. We made a brief pitch, and Dr. Kaushik asked us to send a proposal.
The next day, a conversation with NYC permaculture teacher Claudia Joseph clarified the next steps: invite a number of senior permaculture teachers with expertise in dry land agriculture to put in a proposal for an introductory permaculture design class at the school. Depending on how that PDC goes, the college may want to sponsor PDCs on a regular basis, or develop longer programs with a permaculture teacher in residence.
I've spoken with a senior permaculture teacher who will be submitting a proposal soon.
In the video Greening the Desert, you can see how permaculture techniques were successfully applied to a 10 acre demonstration plot in the Jordanian desert.
A brief search turned up another effort to set up a permaculture training for India. Lend-A-Hand India hopes to design a training program for high school students, to consist of pilot permaculture courses at two rural locations in the state of Maharashtra, and the creation of a permaculture curriculum translated into local languages and adapted for local conditions.
"The course will be designed to empower these rural students to help their communities meet their food, water, and shelter needs sustainably. Training in permaculture based farm design, water harvesting, waste management, locally appropriate building design and construction, and community action will enable better use of local resources, improved self-reliance, and rehabilitation natural ecosystems." It's a big country - with need for many such projects. Here are some other items that came up:
WWOOFing in India (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms - a network linking volunteers with apprenticeships)
"A short report on the evolution of permaculture in India," from the 6th International Permaculture Conference, in 1996
Indian permaculture pioneer Narsanna Kopulla (video interview)