- About the Permaculture Research Institute (PRI)
- Interested in becoming a PRI satellite site?
- What is Permaculture?
The Mission of the Permaculture Research Institute is to work with individuals and communities worldwide, to expand the knowledge and practice of integrated, sustainable agriculture and culture using the whole-systems approach of permaculture design. This will provide solutions for permanent abundance by training local people to become leaders of sustainable development in their communities and countries.
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.
The Permaculture Research Institute works to establish a global network of educational demonstration sites, which operate as education centres that seek to replicate themselves across their respective surrounding regions. Each demonstration site seeks to become financially self-sufficient within three years through both reducing the need for cash inputs by providing as much of their own needs, sustainably, from the land-base of the project itself, and through selling knowledge – running courses to help others follow their example. Each educational demonstration site thus works to build communities around them where locals can re-skill and transition to live resilient lives independent of the globalised, industrial system.
Each site would provide local employment in the following positions: teacher, project/farm manager, and administrator. These positions will also provide mentoring for paying students as advanced training for permaculture project work.
Transitional financial assistance for such projects can come by way of students from wealthier countries/situations subsidising the training of local people through their course attendance and fees, whilst those students simultaneously gain benefits in cultural exchange and exposure to local, traditional skills. Local students, in turn, also learn to appreciate the instruction, as the presence of international students helps them gain confidence in the value of the course.
All courses will specialise in the appropriate technologies and systems specific to each country and region, both culturally and biologically.
The ultimate aim is a worldwide network of interdependent communities who can cooperate to vision and rebuild economic harmony that is not dependent on perpetual growth or resource depletion and which reinvests all surpluses into their people and the land. The goal is to create self-replicating demonstration sites which will not only spread permaculture education worldwide, but also share knowledge and techniques between sites for the advancing of permaculture design systems themselves.
Suitably positioned, motivated and competent teams may wish to cooperate with the PRI in establishing new PRI satellite sites worldwide, benefitting from the PRI’s high readership base, support base, recognised quality teacher registry and teacher network.
The following article outlines some of the benefits of working with the PRI to collaboratively spread permaculture concepts and application:
- PRI Networking, the Value of Collaboration, and the Development of More PRI Education/Demonstration Projects
The following resources are available to help interested teams to determine their readiness for such an undertaking:
- Timeline for Permaculture Project Establishment (GoogleDocs)
- Questionnaire for PRI project development (GoogleDocs)
The following MOU must be signed by the new PRI-project administrator when applying to become a PRI satellite site:
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.
Permaculture in Landscape and Society
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).
This is a valid aim for settlement design, but we also need a nature-centered ethic for wilderness conservation. We cannot, however, do much for nature if we do not govern our greed, and if we do not supply our needs from our existing settlements. If we can achieve this aim, we can withdraw from much of the agricultural landscape, and allow natural systems to flourish.
Illustration by Cecilia Macaulay
Recycling of nutrients and energy in nature is a function of many species. In our gardens, it is our own responsibility to return wastes (via compost or mulch) to the soil and plants. We actively create soil in our gardens, whereas in nature many other species carry out that function. Around our homes we can catch water for garden use, but we rely on natural forested landscapes to provide the condenser leaves and clouds to keep rivers running with clean water, to maintain the global atmosphere, and to lock up our gaseous pollutants. Thus, even anthropocentric people would be well-advised to pay close attention to, and to assist in, conservation of existing forests and to assist in, the conservation of all existing species and allow them a place to live.
We have abused the land and laid waste to systems we never need have disturbed had we attended to our home gardens and settlements. If we need to state a set of ethics on natural systems, then let it be thus:
- Implacable and uncompromising opposition to further disturbance of any remaining natural forests, where most species are still in balance;
- Vigorous rehabilitation of degraded and damaged natural systems to stable states;
- Establishment of plant systems for our own use on the least amount of land we can use for our existence; and
- Establishment of plant and animal refuges for rare or threatened species.
Permaculture as a design system deals primarily with the third statement above, but all people who act responsibly in fact subscribe to the first and second statements. We believe we should use all the species we need or can find to use in our own settlement designs, providing they are not locally rampant and invasive.