Harding Special School – A Project
We are a junior school, catering for the needs of physically disabled children in KwaZulu-Natal. Most of our children come from impoverished, rurally based Zulu speaking homes. We have about 155 learners of whom all but 8 live in our hostel. Many of our children have diverse disabilities/impairments/barriers viz. cerebral palsy, amputations, genetic syndromes, congenital disorders, post disease disorders, epilepsy, partially sighted, hard of hearing, attention deficits, learning impairments, are trauma victims (violence, fires, accidents, etc), and some have multiple impairments. These are all barriers to daily living as well as learning.
The word "permaculture" was first used in the mid 70's by David Holmgren, a young Australian ecologist, and his associate, Bill Mollison. It is a contraction of "permanent agriculture" or "permanent culture."
The concept of permaculture is best defined in Bill Mollison's book entitled PERMACULTURE - A Designer's Manual, Bill defines permaculture as: "Permaculture (permanent agriculture) 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."
In other words it is the study of nature and the application of nature to all agricultural practices. One would also suggest that it goes further than just agricultural practices. Gardening, landscaping, water management, urban development, rural housing and recycling of waste products should also be included.
The word permaculture comes from permanent agriculture. Permaculture strives for agriculture that is ecologically sound and sustainable in the long term: this means that it should be non-polluting, economically and socially viable, and provide for its own needs. Permaculture uses the inherent, or natural, qualities of plants and animals, combined with the natural characteristics of landscapes and structures, to produce a life- supporting system for city and country, using the smallest area possible. Permaculture is essentially a way of achieving efficient and sustainable food production.
* Care of the earth - means care of all living and non-living things: soil, plants, animals, atmosphere, water. It implies activities that do not harm, but rehabilitate the earth, promote active conservation and the frugal use of resources.
* Care of people - means that basic needs such as food, shelter, education, and satisfying employment are taken care of.
* Contribution of surplus time, money and energy to achieve earth and people care - means that after we have taken care of our basic needs and designed our systems to the best of our ability, we help others to do the same.
SOME PERMACULTURE PRINCIPLES
Put things in the right place!
Permaculture deals with plants, animals, buildings, and infrastructures such as the supply of water, energy and communications. However, permaculture is not about these elements themselves, but rather about the relationships we can create between them by the way we place them in the landscape.
Planning and design are crucial to permaculture. For example, dams and water tanks should be placed above the house and garden so that gravity, rather than a pump, is used to direct flow. Home windbreaks should be placed so that they protect the home from wind, but do not shade it from winter sun. The garden should be between the house and the chicken pen, so that garden refuse (good chicken food) is collected on the way to the pen, and chicken manure is easily shovelled over the garden.
Each element has many functions.
A dam, for example, can supply water for irrigation and stock, be a fire control, and provide a home for fish and waterfowl. If you choose and position the trees to be planted around the homestead carefully, they can fulfil many functions, e.g. a windbreak, kindling for firewood, nectar and pollen for bees, nitrogen for the soil (leguminous trees), seeds for poultry.
Basic needs (e.g. water, food, energy, fire protection) should be supported by many elements. Thus a house with a solar hot water system should also have a back-up such as a wood burning geyser.
Make things easy for yourself.
Areas that are visited often, such as the chicken pen and the vegetable garden, should be positioned close to the house. The orchard, stock pens, and sheds, which are not visited so frequently can be placed further from the house.
Use plants and animals.
Plants and animals can save you energy and do work for you. Chickens, pigs and goats can be `animal tractors'. When enclosed in a weed infested area, they will destroy all vegetation, while turning and manuring the soil. Plants can play an important role in pest control. Marigolds and daisies attract insects which feed on garden pests. Ponds attract insect-eating frogs. Garlic and onion tend to repel many insects. Trees and vines, cleverly placed, can provide shade, windbreaks and firebreaks.
Make sure that nutrients do not leave the farm or garden, but are cycled through it. Turn kitchen wastes and animal manure into compost, and leaves and dry grass can be raked around plants to form a mulch.
South Africa is a dry country, and water is often a limiting resource. Make the most of the water you have by slowing down its flow and spreading it out. This will reduce soil erosion, and give the water a good chance of sinking into the soil where it is available for plants. Swales (similar to contour banks, but higher) are very useful for creating mini dams and allowing water to penetrate the ground.
Small-scale, intensive systems.
Cultivate the smallest possible area, and make it as productive as possible - plan for small-scale, energy efficient intensive systems, rather than large-scale, energy consuming extensive systems. Use handtools (handmower, pruning shears, wheelbarrow) on a small site, rather than large harvesters and transport trucks.
Include many different animals and grow a large variety of plants. However, it is not enough to simply have a range of plants and animals on your farm or in your garden - planning must take account of their functional connections, or the way in which they work together.
The advantages of farming with a range of plants and animals include: meeting the nutritional needs of the people living off the farm or garden, a wider range of saleable goods, and reduced pest infestation.
Everything works both ways.
Every resource can be seen as either an advantage or disadvantage, depending how it is used. A prevailing wind coming off the sea may be a disadvantage for growing crops. However, if it is used to power a wind-generator, it can be an advantage.
Using information, not money.
Rather than relying on money, permaculture relies on information and creativity to increase yields. In addition to making the most of the physical resources in a garden, or on a farm, permaculture requires that we make the most of our ability to find useful information, and adapt it to suit our needs.
Com a colaboração: Harding Special School – Harding KwaZulu-Natal South Africa