The benefits of Permaculture for the farmers and the Environment
What is permaculture
Permaculture is the growth of agricultural ecosystems that are sustainable and structured in a way that mimics nature. Mechanisms of nature are used when designing permaculture projects to ensure they are within the earth’s carrying capacity. Permaculture is a system of design. That means it’s flexible and fluid according to the needs of the person for whom it is designed without negatively impacting the environment. As a result, each design in permaculture changes according to the landscape, the latitude, and the farmer to meet the owner’s needs regarding food, income, soil fertility, pesticide use, income cost, and ease of managing the system.
Permaculture has many benefits to the farmers.
Benefits of Permaculture for Farmers
- Increased income – financial security for the farmers
The techniques used in permaculture, such as intercropping and organic fertilizers, improve soil health. The soil thrives, leading to more productive nutritious plants, healthier consumers, and surrounding ecosystems. This creates a stable economic situation for the farmers because as the soil is built up using sustainable methods, the top layer (topsoil) used for growing crops becomes deeper, allowing crops to grow deeper roots, and the crops become more resilient and can bounce back easily in case of disasters. The well-extended root systems help the plants withstand strong winds and become more robust and drought-tolerant.
- Year-round production of food
Mixing crop varieties is a staple for permaculture. There is a general increase in biodiversity, meaning there is a constant production to harvest throughout the season. Choose crop varieties that can be harvested in the early, mid, and late season. Taking advantage of intensification, which is encouraged in permaculture, will also increase the yields. By filling all the niches in space, the growth of weeds is suppressed, decreasing the competition for nutrients. Time stacking is also a big part of intensification, never leaving the land bare from plant cover. Increasing biodiversity also means the farmers can benefit more financially because they can hedge their bets when the food market fluctuates. For example, if the corn price is low in the market, the farmers have peanuts and beans to sustain them financially while the market recovers.
- Every element of the system (e.g. weeds) can be a beneficial resource.
You work to see the positive side of each element and use each situation to your advantage. An example is the weeds. These are considered to harm the crop, but on the positive side, there are indicators of soil fertility. Weeds can be used for many purposes, including mulching, composting, and animal feed.
- “Insurance” against localized crop failure
Permaculture encourages the inclusion of crops for a range of functions. With this higher diversity, the ecosystems can disturb and restore balance in their process of material cycling and energy flow. This means that in the case of a disease outbreak, some crop varieties might be wiped out, but other crops will survive and continue to be productive. On the contrary, this would result in a complete crop and economic failure in a monoculture system.
- More resilient and diverse agroecosystems
Permaculture systems are designed in a way that there are beneficial connections between ecosystem components. Plants like spices may be planted within or bordering a main crop to attract predators. Ground covers reduce weed invasion, and legumes add nutrients to the soil.
- Encourage energy efficiency and Waste management.
Permaculture designs utilize placing plants, animals, and structures in zones and sectors. Elements are places starting from your home and according to how much you need to use and service them. Elements that need to be used or services are often placed closest to the house, while those that are not used frequently are placed furthest. The water harvest elements like the dams and other elements like the access roads, wastewaters, and biogas units are placed in a way that utilizes the slope rather than working against gravity.
- Encourage the recycling of energy – Enhanced energy management.
In a permaculture system, you can catch, store, and use everything before it has degraded to its lowest energy use and lost to entropy. Use dams and swales to collect rainwater and runoff, recycle kitchen waste to compost, use manures for biogas or as fertilizers, direct household water to the garden, turn the green to the earth, and rake the leaves around the trees as mulch. Increasing the cycling increases the yields.
- Turn barren areas into lush and fertile systems.
Permaculture design follows natural patterns to assist the landscape instead of fighting the light forces. This means that you use what is already growing to build soil fertility, introducing plants that will easily survive in the environment and which will improve the soil fertility like the legumes, raising organic levels artificially by using mulch, green manure crops, compost, and other organic fertilizers.
Given these benefits, permaculture is perfect for farmers, especially subsistence crop farmers, supporting their food needs. They last long and require low maintenance, not overexerting the financial resources of farmers and damaging the environment.