Quick Guide to Permaculture for Sustainable Development

Image from The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

Today, soaring food and energy prices continue to deepen the cost-of-living crisis in the United Kingdom.  The situation, in fact, is even worse in developing countries in the poorest parts of the world in Africa, Asia and Latin America, where food shortage has been a real problem. 

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations estimates that by 2030, when 8.3 billion people will walk the Earth, farmers will have to grow almost 30 percent more grain in order to feed them.  How can this goal be achieved, especially with the challenges of climate change and loss of biodiversity?  Will permaculture – a promise of “permanent agriculture” with evolvement towards “permanent culture” – be able to help us realise our dream of a sustainable world?

Image from Permaculture Association

What is permaculture?

The idea of permaculture was originated in Australia in the 70’s with a purpose to create a stable agricultural system in responding to the energy crisis and rapidly growing use of destructive industrial agricultural methods that were poisoning the land and water, reducing biodiversity and removing billions of tonnes of soil from previously fertile landscapes. Later on it had become a design approach with a set of universal guidelines for sustainable developments. According to Permaculture Association, these principles, coming from “thoughtful observation of nature” and work by ecologists, landscape designers and others, are applicable to any place, with any climate and at any scale.

At the heart of permaculture are three core ethics:

  • Earth care
    Permaculture works with natural systems, rather than in competition with them. It uses methods that create minimal negative impact on nature.
  • People care
    This is about ensuring the well-being of individuals as well as the community.  As long as we take care of each other, we can develop a community with a supportive culture and environmentally friendly lifestyle.
  • Fair Shares
    The limited resources of the Earth should be shared fairly amongst people, animals and plants alike, also taking into consideration our future generations.  People, as a result, should govern their own needs, live within limits and co-create consciously.

With this ethnical framework and understanding of how nature works in mind, the design approach of permaculture is expected to help sustain human activities for generations. 

Permanence is not about everything staying the same.  It’s about stability, about deepening soils and cleaner water, thriving communities in self-reliant regions, biodiverse agriculture and social justice, peace and abundance.

Oxford Permaculture

Will the dream for a better world come true with permaculture?  It all depends on how far we can put the ideas into practice, consistently and persistently.  We can work towards a more sustainable culture with each of our actions.

How to implement permaculture in our daily life?

Principles don’t tell you what to do, but guide you through the search for the answers right for your own particular situation.  To practice permaculture, you don’t have to dive in a rural lifestyle, or own a garden.  It’s simply about doing something with care for the Earth, the people around as well as for yourselves.

Image from Pixabay

Here are a few examples of what you can do:

  • Buy only what you need
    Think twice before making a purchase.  It is getting easier than ever to buy by just clicking your mouse but this always ends up with more waste.  Try to control your desire and reduce consumption.
  • Reuse what you can
    It could be as simple as reusing your shopping bags and bringing your own water bottles, coffee mugs and cutlery.  Also consider purchasing reusable and second-hand items that can help reduce waste.
  • Sharing instead of buying
    Utilize the resources around such as libraries.  And think about bike or car sharing as they are actually more economical and environmentally friendly.
  • Recycle more
    Make something value from your bins.  A fallen tree, leaves and rotten fruit can all go back into feeding the soils and plants.  Try to sort things out for recycling before throwing them into a rubbish bin.
  • Buy local and eat seasonal
    It helps reduce food miles and support your local community.  In fact, the produce you get directly from local farmers are usually fresher, healthier and tastes better.
  • Look after yourself
    To continue taking care of the land we live on, we must prioritize and plan for self-care.  Life can hand us difficulties – work pressure, financial strains, medical problems or relationship issues.  We need to create resiliency in ourselves that can help keep us calm during the roughest times in our lives.  Practice mindfulness and yoga, or simply do some exercises.  Just find some ways that work for you.

Permaculture projects in Oxford

There are also permaculture practices at community level.  A number of projects is going on around Oxfordshire, working towards an environmentally harmonious human society.

Image from Barracks Lane Community Garden
  • Barracks Lane Community Garden
    Barracks Lane (off Cumberland Road),
    Oxford, OX4 2AP
    Barracks Lane Community Garden is a community-run green space off the Cowley Road in East Oxford.  Within the Garden is a living green roof and solar panels, a rainwater harvesting system, a compost system, a wildlife corridor and bug hotel.  It is open for the public during weekends and regularly holds free events and workshops.
  • Low Carbon East Oxford
    This is a community-run action group focused on climate change and reducing the carbon footprint in east Oxford.  They have been working on a number of campaigns such as improving energy efficiency in local houses, promoting safe cycling, supporting local and seasonal food, and increasing tree cover.
  • Oxford City Farm
    Cornwallis Road (behind the Isis Care Home),
    Oxford, OX4 3NU
    Oxford City Farm is a 2.3 acre working farm and registered charity in East Oxford. The Farm provides opportunities for children and adults to engage with farming and food production, animals, nature and one another.  They have community farming sessions on Wednesdays and Fridays and family learning sessions on Saturdays.  The food they grow is shared with volunteers and distributed within local community.
  • Westhill Farm Project
    A group is forming to renovate and transform the derelict farm at Westhill in Oxfordshire’s Shotover Woods into a community-led model farm by practicing the philosophy and principles of permaculture.

Permaculture works with nature to make a better world for all. We can use permaculture design methods to improve the quality of our individual lives, our society and our environment. Try to assess if there are small changes you could make to your existing lifestyle that you may have neglected. 

Start with shopping locally. Our Farmers’ Market Guide 2022 could help you locate a farmers’ market nearby. Or discover this year’s last chance to a pick your own farm in Oxfordshire

If you want to enhance your wellbeing first, we also have 6 Free Mindfulness Apps and 9 Free Activities for Exercising suggested for you.