Waste reduction is one of the hallmarks of permaculture. Almost nothing goes to waste, when permaculture is followed. Various kinds of waste such as garden waste, fallen leaves and scraps are converted into fertilisers or animal fodder. High-density and single crops denude land of nutrients. Artificial fertilisers accumulate salts over time, degrading the quality of the soil
Permaculture is a way of sustainable living. It is an ecologically harmonious system that can be used in households, gardens, communities and elsewhere by anyone at any time. It is, however, basically related to agriculture.
Permaculture promotes sustainable, green and eco-friendly living. It offers solutions to umpteen problems, whether local or global, facing us.
Permaculture stresses the use of resources in quantities not exceeding our needs so that adverse impacts on the environment can be eliminated or minimised and ecosystems can be sustained.
The term permaculture was first used by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren, both Australians active in the field of sustainable land use, in 1978 as a contrast to Western methods of production.
However, the practice of permaculture dates back to thousands of years. It accentuates the use of indigenous knowledge and traditions in various spheres of human life.
The main thrust of permaculture is to allow nature to do most of the work so that human interventions in the environment can be minimised and efficiency in the use of resources can be enhanced.
In contrast, conventional methods work against nature by over-exploiting it.
Permaculture emphasises the optimal management of land by minimising waste, labour and use of energy and by maximising synergy through a focus on the relations between individual components.
Permaculture has three important components: earth care, people care and fair share. Earth care refers to protecting the earth for ourselves and our posterity.
Only a robust earth can sustain the survival of humans, animals and plants.
The earth creates a life-support system for living beings to grow and survive.
People care refers to enabling people to have access to resources they require to survive.
Likewise, fair share ensures that people do not use resources to excess.
The principles of permaculture dictate that even waste should be returned to the system for re-use.
Permaculture has been adopted in several areas. It has been used in agroforestry, suburban and urban permaculture, hugelkultur (a German word that means burying wood to increase soil water retention), natural building (using eco-friendly building systems and materials), rainwater harvesting, domesticated animals, vegan permaculture (avoiding the use of domesticated animals), sheet mulching (using mulches of organic materials, which is a gardening technique for mimicking natural forest processes), cell or rotational grazing, keyline design (maximum use of water resources, fruit-tree management and mariculture) and so on.
Permaculture has several benefits. It is a cost-effective and efficient method that can be used in farming.
As wastewater and rainwater are used for agricultural purposes, the use of water can be minimised.
Permaculture is, therefore, useful in places where rainfall is scant and where irrigation facilities are not adequately available. Further, under permaculture fertilisers and pesticides are used in lower quantities, which leads to less maintenance cost. Increased production and productivity can be ensured by adopting permaculture.
Waste reduction is one of the hallmarks of permaculture. Almost nothing goes to waste, when permaculture is followed. Various kinds of waste such as garden waste, fallen leaves and scraps are converted into fertilisers or animal fodder.
High-density and single crops denude land of nutrients, making the land barren.
Artificial fertilisers accumulate salts over time, degrading the quality of the soil. Further, intensive agriculture renders land unfit for farming and reduces the land available for habitation.
So permaculture is important from a viewpoint of land improvement and availability.
Permaculture makes it possible to lead a zero-waste lifestyle. Instead of allowing byproducts to go to waste, they are used to make things like compost toilets. Unlike in the conventional setup, the permaculture setup allows nature to do most of the work. For example, water is stored in manmade water structures that attract birds, frogs and other animals.
Such animals help in controlling pests. In a similar vein, companion plantinghelps in controlling insects.
Since permaculture is a nature-based method of growing food, mechanisation is hardly resorted to.
This helps in keeping pollution, one of the biggest problems around the world now, at bay. As less fertilisers, pesticides, insecticides and weedicides are used under permaculture, the environment becomes less toxic. Pesticides, insec ticides and weedicides have chemicals that are deleterious to the environment.
In fact, an organic method of farming is used under permaculture.
Permaculture ensures the enhancement of ethical values and green living.
Under permaculture, natural fertilisers and biocides are used, which are eco-friendly. As waste is minimised by using things in just sufficient quantities, any surplus can be used for other purposes. Developing such a practice is important in this consumeristic world, which is marked by accumulation of waste and pollution.
Permaculture makes it possible to attain self-sufficiency in food. A large array of crops can be grown on land in an economical, productive and eco-friendly manner. Even excess things can be preserved for future use. Permaculture can even be used in existing systems, big or small.
So the importance of permaculture can hardly be exaggerated. In the present-day world beset with many problems due to the haphazard exploitation of resources, the use of ecologically harmful and unsustainable methods of farming and an increasing trend of consumerism, permaculture can come in handy.
So it would be prudent on the part of the government to encapsulate the component of permaculture in agrarian, land-use and other plans.
A version of this article appears in the print on April 27, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.