Agroecology and Permaculture – A review

Permaculture-review.jpgThis page is an extract of a study conducted by INRA and Springer-Verlag (France) over the potential of Permaculture in the transition to agroecology.

Agroecological transition is pressing and complex. Permaculture offers distinctive resources for that transition but suffers from a lack of scientific studies including research, development and collaboration.

Permaculture offers a promising framework aiming to integrate site design, diversity at different scales, integrated water management, access to global germplasm, labor productivity, sustainability and multifunctionality.

Integration and application may be the most significant benefit offered to agroecology by the rigorous analysis of permaculture theory and practice.

This view is a stratification of Permaculture with mainly 2 axes; Best Practices Framework and Design System;

Permaculture-stratified

This view is a comparison between Permaculture and Agroecological principles;

Permaculture-and-agroecology-principles-comparison

This comparison may highlight the inherent specificity of Permaculture as an applied field of science where pragmatism and entrepreneurship are the key elements of success (and success is mandatory when using Permaculture as main financial revenue.)

These 3 Concept network maps of keywords from Permaculture publications shows the evolution of concerns in Permaculture publication from 1978 to 2013.

permaculture-literature-keywords-1978-1992
permaculture-literature-keywords-1993-2002
permaculture-literature-keywords-2003_2013

It is interesting to note that if Design remains the central concept the secondary main concept switches from Agriculture to Sustainable to System over the 3 different phases. Food keywords grows, Community keyword remains stable with a slight increase and the term Development pop-up with emphasis, associated to Community keyword on the last phase (together with Garden and Support). The binomial Sustainable-Design becomes System-Design and Sustainability is now associated to the term Farm; a symbol of food production nucleus of various sizes.

External resource – Read the full paper here

INRA is the french “Institut National de Recherche Agronomique” , historically pro agro-toxic with a change of focus in recent years. INRA conducted as well a research in collaboration with the “Ferme du Bec Hellouin” (France) to study the performance ratio (financially speaking) of this Permaculture farm.

Note: Permaculture applies a bottom up projection of natural principles like biodiversity and resilience to human society and ethic which broaden the scope of application compared to agroecology. This duality may partially explain a lack of complete focus over scientific paradigm and gives a large place to people experimentation, education and sometime chaotic self learning. This social dimension is both a strength (integrate) and a weakness (effort dilution).

In this perspective and understanding that Permaculture is per essence an integrative approach; any effort to bring scientific inputs, objectivity, measures, methods, collaboration, results and ideas can easily be integrated in the existing social Permaculture network and fields of application.

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