Permaculture, Biodynamic and Agroecology, different concepts working towards a sustainable agriculture & future
Agroecology, Permaculture and Biodynamic Agriculture, all set different frameworks and principles for the purpose of creating thriving food systems for the benefit of the community at large, from the bacteria in the soil to the worker in the field. More precisely their common goal is to improve biological efficiency and preserve diversity so the Agroecosystems can promote their own soil fertility, productivity and crop protection. They all achieve this by using the principal of living organisms and by mimicking the structure and function of natural ecosystems. Even though these concepts try to solve similar problems using nature as a teacher they also differ. The distinctions are found in the scope of application, the focus, the techniques and the people, which we will explore in more detail below.
Permaculture is a philosophy and an ethical design system which aims at consciously designing landscapes which “mimic the patterns and relationships found in nature, while yielding an abundance of food, fibre and energy for provision of local needs” David Holmgren. Permaculture uses 3 ethics and 12 principles, which provide the framework to implement this vision. The scope of Permaculture is unlimited; it can be applied to things as small as a garden to more complex things such as cities.
Both a philosophy and a practice, Biodynamics is one of the earliest sustainable agriculture movements and quite a successful one as it is practiced in more than 50 countries and has its own certification process. It focuses on agriculture, nutrition and healing and uses very specific techniques and special preparations made from mineral, plant or animal extracts. Biodynamic emphasizes spiritual and mystical perspectives and uses the astrological sowing and planting calendar. It also looks at social and economic aspects of the farm and the community as a whole.
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Agroecology is a scientific discipline based on the observation of nature. It is “defined as the application of ecological concepts and principles to the design and management of sustainable agroecosystems” (Altieri, 1995). Agroecology has emerged as the discipline that provides the basic ecological principles for how to study, design and manage agroecosystems that are both productive and natural resource conserving, and that are also culturally sensitive, socially just and economically viable (Altieri 1995)3.
Permaculture, Biodynamics and Agroecology, all acknowledge that when dealing with natural ecosystems, one needs a holistic view. They are based on the observation of nature and share a deep respect for the land and everything that inhabits it. When researching for this article, it was funny to notice their evolution; these movements seem to be taking almost a political facet to include social and economical aspects and creating a new framework to enable a change in paradigm. At the end of the day, these different concepts are just many doors to a more sustainable agriculture and life. They overlap as well as offer diversity of applications and perspectives offering something for everyone. I will finally add that in my opinion, Agroecology is a more accepted concept because it has been subject to scientific scrutiny. Consequently it has the potential to pull concept from both Permaculture and Biodynamic into the mainstream arena.
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This article (Permaculture, Biodynamic and Agroecology, different concepts working towards a sustainable agriculture & future) was shared by Marine from Wandering Farmers, February 1st, 2016. Follow Wandering Farmers on Facebook. *Image credit: Evening Walk, by Rising Damp, used with permission under this Creative Commons 2.0 license.