Come join us June 14-27 2015 for our Permaculture Design Course.
Adam Woodman author of Gabions for Gully Erosion Peru and Contour Beds Peru is co-teaching in the Sacred Valley of the Incas, a place that is rich with history and where you will see the native cultures (Quechua speaking) working the land as they have for centuries
This Bi-lingual (English and Spanish) Two-Week Intensive Permaculture Design Course (PDC) is an opportunity to immerse yourself in the beautiful gardens of Sach’a Munay eco retreat with delicious food and a creative learning environment with internationally renowned permaculture teacher Penny Livingston-Stark, permaculture practicioner Adam Woodman, and special guests including indigenous farmers who will share with us their own permanent agriculture techniques.
This training provides multiple ways of presenting information from presentation and slide shows to storytelling and interactive group process. This course include hands-on experiential learning opportunities provided by experienced instructors.
This course is a powerful way to have a transformational experience, be nurtured with delicious meals while learning powerful tools to create resilient environments on all scales.
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Working on a project in the Sacred Valley Peru, I came across an opportunity to install Gabions to reduce soil erosion on a steep slope. A Gabion is a porous dam wall made from rock and small stones free standing or packed into a wire basket. They combat soil erosion by slowing the flow of water and dropping sediment and organic material behind the rock wall as water slowly leaks through it. They can also be used as retaining walls and in drylands used as a water harvesting feature, see Geoff Lawton’s article here http://permaculturenews.org/2010/11/25/gabions-water-soaks-in-the-desert/
To the left of a steep (35-40 degree) area planted to food forest is a growing erosion gully caused by water erosion during the wet season. This was probably initiated by disturbing the natural slope when paths were cut in, creating conditions for a large flow of water to spill out over the path above the point of the gully. In some cases the erosion is back to bear rock, and furthers rains threatened to erode the edges of the newly planted food forest.
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The Permaculture Research Insitutute’s Rhamis Kent and former WWoofer Ignazio Schettini, on day ten of a PDC they are teaching in Altamura, have a brief to camera candid discussion about the PDC and their thoughts for the future.
One interesting thought point is, “How do people in different countries, with the same climatic zone, solve the same problem?”.
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In March of 2015, France passed a bill supporting green energy which affects the commercial building industry. The bill requires all new buildings in commercial zones to have their roofs partially covered with either solar panels or plants. Although construction companies and builders may see this as an additional upfront cost, the long term benefits will outweigh the initial funding necessary.
Environmental activists initially pushed the French government for all new roofs to be completely covered, but Parliament only agreed to pass a law for partial covering on new commercial buildings. Until recently, France had been lagging behind other European countries when it came to producing solar energy. For example, when it came to solar photovoltaic mechanisms that produce energy from sunlight, France was behind Germany, Spain, and Italy. According to a Reuters article in 2014, “It had 5,095 MW of photovoltaic capacity in June, which accounted for only 1 percent of its energy consumption in the first half of the year, and compares with nearly 37,000 MW in Germany.”1
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This article was first published in the Holistic Science Journal Vol 2 Issue 4. To view the journal click here www.holisticsciencejournal.co.uk.
The wars of the 21st century will be wars fought over water – these are the now famous words of former UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali, words that a growing number of authors are repeating today. But what if, instead of providing the catalyst for war, water could instead be the catalyst for deep, holistic and sustainable human participation in Earth systems?
As someone drawn to holistic science and the need for change towards big picture thinking, I struggle to think of a single area more ripe for holistic engagement than water management. I say this because, whilst my intention here is to articulate a complete paradigm shift in the way in which we think about and approach water management in our basins and catchments, none of the arguments I will be using to support this position are particularly controversial. What is unique here is approaching the subject in a holistic manner.
The development and adoption of a new holistic water management paradigm, a paradigm that acknowledges, seeks to understand, and in some instances to reverse, humanity’s impact on the ‘small water cycle’, could be one of the most important challenges we face. The good news is that at its most fundamental level, the change in approach can be summarised in one short sentence: a shift from the current paradigm reality, where evaporation is viewed as a loss to the system to be avoided at all costs, to a new paradigm, where evaporation is understood and respected as the source of all precipitation and managed accordingly.
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Today the organic food movement is no longer considered to be a luxurious fad, enjoyed exclusively by those with the financial resources to care. Indeed, our common high street supermarkets have been cashing in on our desire to live a greener, more sustainable life and the organic market is thought to be worth in excess of $14 billion in the USA. But looking beyond the feel-good marketing, there are an increasing amount of poignant questions that should be addressed, when it comes to the role of organic farming within long-term sustainable agriculture.
The goal behind organic farming is to mitigate the risk of using industrial chemicals and fertilisers, plus at the same time enhance soil fertility, encourage biodiversity and prevent soil erosion. If you look at a field sporting an “organic” sign, the last thing you would expect to see is a dustbowl, yet in some parts of the world, organic farming is taking its toll not only on the environment, but is impacting farmers, workers and consumers.
One of the reasons for this is the term “organic” is open to interpretation. For example many farmers use organic farming techniques, such as not using harmful pesticides, but do not practise some of the fundamental techniques, such as crop rotation. This would then suggest that the line is blurred somewhere between organic and a monoculture, the definition of the word itself meaning the tilling of the land for one particular crop. Monoculture has of course had its advantages over the years, for example having only one crop enables farmers to mechanise planting, weeding and harvesting, thus getting a greater yield. The world’s population surpassed the 7 billion mark in 2011 and the United Nations forecasts this number to be 9.6 billion in 2050. Having the capacity to produce enough food to feed the planet is therefore a genuine concern.
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Growing your own food doesn’t require expanses of acreage. It doesn’t require a tractor. It doesn’t require complete self-sufficiency. As we all well know by now, it doesn’t require chemicals, either. It doesn’t even require a garden, at least not in the way we’ve come to picture one. In some instance, it doesn’t even require soil. There are so many things they are not necessary for anyone to start growing their own food, and that’s good news.
Not so long ago it became official that most of the world’s population had migrated into urban settings. It’s a strange thing, really: In a global society that has been battling world hunger and poverty for decades now, the bulk of people are relocating into cities, where land is at a premium, soil—especially healthy stuff—is harder to come by, and the food available is more apt to be nutritionally deficient. Our migration may not be the most logical of moves, but it isn’t without its own possibilities.
There are lots of permaculture newbies wanting to join in on the game, throw a little greenness into their lives. It’s no wonder, really, because it isn’t so far back that growing our own food was fairly standard practice, and even more recently that a sort of first-world disconnect with what we eat has occurred. Eventually, the pendulum does swing to a returning dawn of awareness, an old direction worth moving, so it’s no surprise that even just the thought of growing a few herbs for ourselves strikes a harmonious chord.
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Within the world of Permaculture we often find reference to plants known as Dynamic Accumulators. In brief, this is the idea that certain plants (often deep-rooted ones) will draw up nutrients from the lower layers of the soil, and these nutrients will be stored in the plants’ leaves. When the leaves fall in autumn and winter and are broken down, those stored nutrients are then incorporated into the upper layers of the soil where other plants will benefit from their deposition.
As a physician, I strive for scientific accuracy. I understand the scientific method and the world of academia. I know, beyond doubt, the benefit this arena has provided for the world. However, I also know, beyond doubt, that there is a lot of truth that has not been proven in a lab. This may be due to many factors. To name but a few: the topic has not yet been studied, there are flaws in the design of the study, or the topic is too complex for reductionist evaluation.
Comfrey (Symphytum species) is one of the most popular Dynamic Accumulators.
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The world’s leading soil scientist and creator of the Soil Food Web, Dr Elaine Ingham, sits down to a fun and down to earth interview with Nicholas Burtner where she answers many questions of how she got to be where she is today, plus many other GMO and soil goodies.
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Celebrating International Year of Soils
Healthy soil makes for healthy people, animals and plants; it provides the foundation for all life on land. Soil gives us food, clean water, clean air, medicine, fibre and fuel, it’s also a climate regulator and buffer. All these vital services depend on a dynamic web of billions of organisms, which break down organic matter; this activity renews the soil and keeps it fertile and resilient.
But soil is under threat. Millennia of agriculture and other human activities have robbed our soils of life; from simple ploughing and overgrazing, to chemically based monocultures; to logging, mining and other consequences of urban and industrial growth. Today almost one third of the planet’s surface is classed as desert and a quarter of all agricultural soils have been lost. The remaining topsoil is depleted and could vanish within 60 years. The threat is therefore critical. Interconnected crises in climate, water, energy and the economy only add to the problem. We need holistic soil solutions now.
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Tom Kendall from the Permaculture Research Institute Sunshine Coast describes the process after the cow manure goes through the biodigester. The biodigester compost pits and reed bed are shown and how he generates soil fertility through the cycling process is discussed.
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The International Permaculture Convergence (IPCUK) in September will bring together practitioners from across the globe to share ideas and solutions that can be used to transform our futures. Can you help bring these global practitioners to the convergence?
In September this year, the International Permaculture Convergence – IPCUK – will bring together permaculture practitioners from around the globe. From ‘the front lines in climate change’, hopeful scholarship applicants tell us their stories of how permaculture transforms landscapes and communities.
Can you help these people attend IPCUK? The Permaculture Association are aiming to send as many scholarship applicants to IPCUK as possible, can you donate to help them attend? Visit www.crowdfunder.co.uk/ipcuk-scholarships for more information. Closing date is 17th April 2015.
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