Welcome to International Institute of Naturopathy and Permaterapy (IINP)

What is Permaculture?

Permaculture integrates land, resources, people and the environment through mutually beneficial synergies – imitating the no waste, closed loop systems seen in diverse natural systems. Permaculture studies and applies holistic solutions that are applicable in rural and urban contexts at any scale. It is a multidisciplinary toolbox including agriculture, water harvesting and hydrology, energy, natural building, forestry, waste management, animal systems, aquaculture, appropriate technology, economics and community development.

Permaculture (the word, coined by Bill Mollison, is a portmanteau of permanent agriculture and permanent culture) is the conscious design and maintenance of agriculturally productive ecosystems which have the diversity, stability, and resilience of natural ecosystems. It is the harmonious integration of landscape and people — providing their food, energy, shelter, and other material and non-material needs in a sustainable way. Without permanent agriculture there is no possibility of a stable social order.

Permaculture design is a system of assembling conceptual, material, and strategic components in a pattern which functions to benefit life in all its forms.

The philosophy behind permaculture is one of working with, rather than against, nature; of protracted and thoughtful observation rather than protracted and thoughtless action; of looking at systems in all their functions, rather than asking only one yield of them; and allowing systems to demonstrate their own evolutions.

As the basis of permaculture is beneficial design, it can be added to all other ethical training and skills, and has the potential of taking a place in all human endeavors. In the broad landscape, however, permaculture concentrates on already settled areas and agricultural lands. Almost all of these need drastic rehabilitation and re-thinking.

One certain result of using our skills to integrate food supply and settlement, to catch water from our roof areas, and to place nearby a zone of fuel forest which receives wastes and supplies energy, will be to free most of the area of the globe for the rehabilitation of natural systems. These need never be looked upon as “of use to people”, except in the very broad sense of global health.

The real difference between a cultivated (designed) ecosystem, and a natural system is that the great majority of species (and biomass) in the cultivated ecology is intended for the use of humans or their livestock. We are only a small part of the total primeval or natural species assembly, and only a small part of its yields are directly available to us. But in our own gardens, almost every plant is selected to provide or support some direct yield for people. Household design relates principally to the needs of people; it is thus human-centered (anthropocentric).

Permaculture in a Nutshell:

Permaculture is a creative approach to abundant and fulfilling lifestyles. It is for everyone wishing to live sustainable and tread more lightly on the Earth. Permaculture is an ecologically sound approach to providing for our needs, including our food, shelter and financial and social structures. It is based on co-operating with nature and caring for the Earth and its people. Permaculture in a Nutshell is a concise and accessible introduction to the principles and practice of permaculture in temperate climates. It covers how permaculture works in the city, the country and on the farm and explores ways in which people can work together to recreate real communities. This inspiring book clearly describes how we can live fruitfully and sustainably and is essential reading for anyone wishing to reduce their environmental impact.

The 12 principles of permaculture

1. Observe and interact

Before you take action, start by taking some time to observe what’s happening. If you want to build a garden, watch the space and see which parts get sun and rain and which parts get the wind or shade. Your job becomes so much easier when you can work with nature, rather than spending time and effort tending to plants that are growing in the wrong spot.

2. Catch and store energy

When resources are abundant, it’s smart to store some of them to use later. For example, use water tanks to catch rain, or pickle summer vegetables so they can be eaten in winter. Design your house so the sun heats it throughout a winter’s day, retaining the warmth into the evening.

3. Obtain a yield

Make sure your hard work pays off. If you go to the effort of planting tomato seedlings, watering them and keeping the snails off them, you want to make sure you end up with some fresh tomatoes for your salad. If not, you need to improve your systems. On top of that, think about what yields you might be missing. Is there uncollected fruit, left on the trees in your neighbourhood? Or weeds from the footpath you could collect for your chickens?

4. Apply self-regulation and accept feedback

Climate change is an example of negative feedback telling us to change the way we produce and consume goods. Your garden is its own ecosystem, and some of your interventions might have negative effects on parts of it. Watch your garden closely and listen to what it is telling you. Once you’ve heard the message, accept it and make changes.

5. Use and value renewable resources and services

To make your garden sustainable in the long term, choose energy and materials that replenish themselves. Keep your soil rich and healthy by building up the microbes in your soil with compost, and choose cardboard and newspaper to suppress weeds instead of black plastic.

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6. Produce no waste

Remember that old saying: “Waste not, want not”? Have a look at what you throw away and reconsider whether it can be repaired or reused. Take the time to clean and maintain your garden tools so that they last longer. Create closed loops — feed your food scraps to the chickens, they produce manure, the manure turns into compost and is added to the garden, the garden produces veggies to eat and more food scraps.

7. Design from patterns to details

Observe your daily patterns. What are the foods you and your family love to eat? Which parts of the garden do you walk past everyday on the way to the front gate? Plant your garden in zones, and put the herbs and veggies you use most in the zone closest to your kitchen door where you can access them easily. The things that need less attention can be placed further away.

8. Integrate rather than segregate

Think of your garden as part of a much wider network of community gardens. You’ll benefit from being able to swap your excess produce, from sharing your tools and learning new skills. Rather than trying to achieve self- sufficiency for each household, think about building connections between households and aim for community sufficiency

9. Use small and slow solutions

Have you ever started a new hobby, went out and bought a bunch of new equipment, only to drop the hobby a few weeks later and let the equipment gather dust? It’s better to build your skills and invest slowly as you go. When building a garden, you can gather many materials cheaply or for free if you’re willing to be patient. Going slowly means we save on resources because we won’t buy new things that end up wasted.

10. Use and value diversity

We can describe this principle using the old phrase “don’t put all your eggs in one basket”. Growing a diversity of plants means there is always something for beneficial insects to eat, and protects your garden from pests and disease. Eating a diverse range of foods through our diet also keeps us healthier.

11. Use edges and value the marginal

Balconies, the footpath verge and the edge of the driveway are just a few of the spaces that can be productive. Herbs like nettle and dandelion can be foraged from the edges of footpaths or unused plots of land.

12. Creatively use and respond to change

Nature, like human society, is constantly changing. As we absorb the shocks going on in the world, what changes do we need to make that leaves ourselves and our communities better off?