Applying Permaculture Principles in Barbados

Permaculture is best described as “permanency in agriculture”, a whole systems design of sustainable and regenerative land practices. It is a system that directly and positively affects the ecology, our personal livelihoods and our communities. Permaculture is an agricultural design system that is ecologically sound and economically profitable. The method draws on organic farming or […]

By Lorraine Ciarallo

June 22, 2012

Applying Permaculture Principles in Barbados Hudson Permaculture Garden at the Future Centre Trust in Barbados

Permaculture is best described as “permanency in agriculture”, a whole systems design of sustainable and regenerative land practices. It is a system that directly and positively affects the ecology, our personal livelihoods and our communities. Permaculture is an agricultural design system that is ecologically sound and economically profitable. The method draws on organic farming or pesticide free/natural farming, applied ecology, agroforestry, horticulture, architectural design and soil regeneration. This may sound out of reach, but let me assure you that permaculture is for anyone willing to learn and take a 72 hour intensive Permaculture Design Course (PDC) that is sure to change the way you look at nature. In fact, it will have you back in your garden for all the right reasons: creating food security, improving your health and well-being and yes, less stress and more disposal income. Sound too good to be true? Believe me, it’s even better than that!

The forefather of Permaculture, Bill Mollison, coined the term permaculture in the early seventies and developed a basic approach to create sustainable systems that provide an opportunity for self-reliance by growing ones’ own food in an urban garden, community garden, or broad acreage farming. It also incorporates water catchment harvesting systems, recycling, seed saving, etc., and no scale is too small or too large to create a fully functioning productive system.  That means everyone can have a kitchen garden set up anywhere and everywhere using natural organic inputs available at your fingertips free of charge which by the way, reward a high yielding harvest. Whenever the ethics and principals of permaculture are applied to the land real environmental change takes place. Mollison, proved this when he received the prestigious Right Livelihood Award, also known as the Alternative Nobel Prize, for his work developing and promoting permaculture all over the world.

Over forty years later, permaculture has spread and taken root in almost every country on the globe and since the creation of The Permaculture Research Institute of Australia ( http://permaculture.org.au/ )  people like myself have completed the PRI Internship Certification and have taken initiative to spread this knowledge in countries who aren’t familiar with this full proof system, yet they are faced with food security issues and high import food bills such as Barbados. And if you are not aware of what is happening in this country, food security is a critical issue high on the national agenda and in fact, the topic is currently reaching local town meetings. Food security and green initiatives are considered some of the most important challenges of the millennia and although, there are solutions, permaculture can definitely transform people and communities on a huge scale and at a very fast pace too.

Although, we have lost valuable farming knowledge or interest in farming for that matter, evidence does show us that with today’s agricultural production of higher input-higher output yields that reply heavily on fossil hydrocarbon inputs known as agrochemical fertilization, we are seeing evidence that this practice is destroying the natural balance of soil ecology that is home to approximately 7 billion micro-organisms per hand full of soil. Our fresh water tables are also being contaminated from the leaching of these insoluble chemical fertilizers which also contribute to soil erosion because chemical fertilization does not create soil structure like that of organic matter. What will happen if we continue to ignore life in the soil? For without high microbiological activity in the soil our future is at risk. What will it take to change poor habits? Permaculture hands down!

If my initiative and efforts to create “The Caribbean Permaculture Research Institute” (CPRI) right here in Barbados becomes a reality, local Bajans and international students will have an opportunity to come to learn what all the hype is about and without a doubt students will walk away so enthused it will have everyone implementing real environmental change within their everyday lives. With support from the Ministry of Agriculture, CPRI, looks promising and once we can secure land to set up a fully functioning CPRI demonstration site and education center, we will seek international funding to lift the project off the ground. If all goes well, we hope to have it set up within the next six months to one year, but hopefully sooner than later. Within the first 3 years, the demonstration site will be in full operation and at the start of year four it will be handed over in trust to local Barbadians to continue in the steps for long term success.

Imagine communities having access to information and support to make it happen? Imagine creating self-reliant communities where highly nutritious food is growing abundantly out of kitchen gardens? Imagine community gardens sprouting up everywhere?  Imagine more farmers markets? Imagine a reduction in grocery bills and how the extra disposable income can now provide more peace of mind to cover other expenses such as electrical power? Imagine communities taking steps to catch and store rainwater and divert it into the garden as needed, or compost through the use of banana circles which not only provide produce, but produce rich humus soil to add to your garden beds?  Imagine community compost drop-off areas and community recycling? This may sound too unrealistic for some, but if Barbados is listening and ready to be pro-active, we can make it happen with the support and help of The Caribbean Permaculture Research Institute of Barbados.

Lorraine Ciarallo

Permaculture Designer, Consultant and Educator, Vancouver, BC Canada