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PERMACULTURE

“...the greatest change we need to make is from consumption to production, even if on a small scale, in our own gardens. If only 10% of us do this, there is enough for everyone...” Bill Mollison

The ability of ecosystems to meet the growing demands for food, medicines, water, fiber and bio-fuels, are severely challenged by a growing population, climate change and an increasing living standard that determines: extensive urbanization, changes in eating habits and increasing globalization of trade.

The combination of these factors, along with increasing soil degradation and progressive desertification, produce strong negative impacts not only on the physical environment but also on the socio-economic sphere and especially on prospects for future global food and water security.

Agriculture should meet these new challenges to ensure the production of high quality nutrient-dense food that simultaneously contributes to improving the condition of ecosystems and human communities.

Operating from the belief that "culture cannot survive for long without a sustainable agricultural base and ethics in the use of earth", Australians Bill Mollison and David Holmgren began developing the intellectual & systemic framework for Permaculture in the early-1970s. The ultimate goal has been to effectively address the persistent problems of humanity by integrating agronomy, ecology, architecture, forestry, animal husbandry, climatology, soil science and other related disciplines to devise solutions modelled primarily on the functional imitation of natural systems. With intentional & well-considered design, the implementation and management of stable, permanent agricultural ecologies & energy-efficient systems dedicated to provisioning human needs - producing food, fuel, fiber, medicines, and building materials – can be established without undermining the functional integrity of natural living systems.

What is Permaculture?
Key to Permaculture is the design of functional agro-ecosystems that aim both on sustainable land use (the production side) as well as on sustainable living (the consumption side).

To indeed design a sustainable system, nature is copied as much as possible. Patterns and relationships between species that occur in the wild are applied in the designed ecosystem. This makes it possible to harvest enough food, energy and fibre from the system to fulfill local human needs in a sustainable way.

But Permaculture is more than just a designed ecosystem. The concept of Permaculture rests on 3 ethics: Care of earth, Care of people and Fair share of the surplus. These ethics make that within Permaculture, people and the way they organize themselves are of primary importance.

Permaculture Ethics
As mentioned above the principals of Permaculture rest on three ethics:
Care of earth: it means making sure to maintain the safety conditions under which all forms of life and the biological cycles may remain and bodies continue to multiply; care of the earth means attention to all living and not living beings: land, plant species and their variety, atmosphere, forests, micro-habitats, animals and rivers. Such attention involves practicing non malicious activity and can restore the altered environmental balance, the active protection of the environment, ethical and frugal use of resources and a "right to live" (work for useful and benefit systems). Care of the earth is to recognize the intrinsic value of all living things. A tree is something that has a value in itself, even if for us, maybe, has no commercial value. What is important is that he is alive and in good health. It does its part in the ecosystem: recycles biomass, produces oxygen and carbon dioxide, offers shelter to small animals, improves the soil, and so on.

Care of people: it means making sure that all people have the resources necessary for their livelihood; care of the people means respect for basic needs of its people in terms of food, housing, education, satisfying work and social relationships. The attention given to humans is important because even though they make up only a small part of the totality of living systems, they have a large impact on the planet. If we can by ourselves to provide for our basic needs, we won't need to indulge in large-scale destructive practices against the planet.

Fair share of the surplus: limit our consumption needs means saving resources that can be brought under the first two ethical principles. Changing the way you think can facilitate the pursuit of these principles. Replace the general thought "how can this be of maximum satisfaction for me?" in "how can i collaborate with others?" It is a good start. The share of the surplus concerns the opportunity to make available time, money and energy surplus in favor of the care of the earth and people. This means that, after we have taken care of our basic needs and we have designed our systems to the best of our ability, we can extend our influence and our energies to help others achieve those same purposes.




AGROECOLOGY

Agroecology is the study of ecological processes that operate in agricultural production systems. The prefix agro- refers to agriculture. Bringing ecological principles to bear in agroecosystems can suggest novel management approaches that would not otherwise be considered.

Agroecologists study a variety of agroecosystems, and the field of agroecology is not associated with any one particular method of farming, whether it be organic, integrated, or conventional; intensive or extensive. Although it has much more common thinking and principles with some of the before mentioned farming systems.

Agroecologists do not unanimously oppose technology or inputs in agriculture but instead assess how, when, and if technology can be used in conjunction with natural, social and human assets. Agroecology proposes site-specific manner of studying agroecosystems, and as such, it recognizes that there is no universal formula or recipe for the success and maximum well-being of an agroecosystem. Thus, agroecology is not defined by certain management practices, such as the use of natural enemies in place of insecticides, or polyculture in place of monoculture.

Instead, agroecologists may study questions related to the four system properties of agroecosystems: productivity, stability, sustainability and equitability. As opposed to disciplines that are concerned with only one or some of these properties, agroecologists see all four properties as interconnected and integral to the success of an agroecosystem.
Recognizing that these properties are found on varying spatial scales, agroecologists do not limit themselves to the study of agroecosystems at any one scale: gene-organism-population-community-ecosystem-landscape-biome, field-farm-community-region-state-country-continent-global.

Agroecologists study these four properties through an interdisciplinary lens, using natural sciences to understand elements of agroecosystems such as soil properties and plant-insect interactions, as well as using social sciences to understand the effects of farming practices on rural communities, economic constraints to developing new production methods, or cultural factors determining farming practices.

Agroecology is defined by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) as “the study of the relation of agricultural crops and environment”. This definition refers to the "-ecology" part of "agroecology" narrowly as the natural environment.

Following this definition, an agroecologist would study agriculture's various relationships with soil health, water quality, air quality, meso- and micro-fauna, surrounding flora, environmental toxins, and other environmental contexts.

A more common definition of the word can be taken from Dalgaard et al., who refer to agroecology as the study of the interactions between plants, animals, humans and the environment within agricultural systems. Consequently, agroecology is inherently multidisciplinary, including factors from agronomy, ecology, sociology, economics and related disciplines. In this case, the “-ecology” portion of "agroecology is defined broadly to include social, cultural, and economic contexts as well. Francis et al. also expand the definition in the same way, but put more emphasis on the notion of food systems.

Agroecology is also defined differently according to geographic location. In the global south, the term often carries overtly political connotations. Such political definitions of the term usually ascribe to it the goals of social and economic justice; special attention, in this case, is often paid to the traditional farming knowledge of indigenous populations. North American and European uses of the term sometimes avoid the inclusion of such overtly political goals. In these cases, agroecology is seen more strictly as a scientific discipline with less specific social goals.



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