Sunday, March 14, 2010

Permaculture Design in Tropical Forestry

The socio-economic benefits of tropical tree plantations can be greatly enhanced by including a permaculture design in the process. Permaculture means permanent agriculture, a system in which food is raised for human and animal consumption in a bio-diverse framework. Since tropical afforestation and reforestation usually includes soil reclamation, it can lend itself to an integrated permaculture design. The idea is to include vegetable, root and herb plants with farm animals for manure, all placed in strategic locations with fruit trees and shade trees, possibly using recycled water, and with each element within the design performing several functions. At the end of the day, the goal is to use the least amount of space for the largest amount of food production with the lowest possible labour requirements. Low maintenance, but high productivity, is the buzzword!

There are 3 significant philosophical objectives that underpin permaculture design. The first is environmental  and ecological. Look after the Earth by implementing biodiversity in the design, while restoring or reclaiming damaged land, so that the impact is one of conservation coupled with an ethical use of resources. The second is to create a design that can look after a large number of people within the system. This is what we mean by socio-economic benefits, as people can meet their basic needs and generate some income, all within a sustainable development framework. The final and third objective is to perfect one’s environmental and people permaculture design, so that one can start to reach out and help others to achieve their goals with the least impact and in a sustainable manner.

It should come as no surprise that permaculture design tries to copy natural eco-systems. Natural eco-systems are usually bio-diverse, recycle, and do not depend on man-made chemicals, pesticides, herbicides, antibiotics and hormones for success. Good permaculture may include micro-climates within the overall design, such as using the heat reflected off a wall for areas that need warmth, or using shade trees for areas that perform best with less sunlight. Trees can act as windbreaks or firebreaks. Composting reduces the need for external additions to one’s food production. The bottom line is that no two permaculture designs are alike, as each is based on local conditions, preferences and human requirements. Amazonia Reforestation is happy to be associated with Weforest for the purpose of developing good permaculture designs within their afforestation and reforestation areas.