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[This document was prepared as part of the process of renewing our temporary planning permission in November 1994. It has been regularly revised and updated and the latest version can be found here.]
DRAFT CRITERIA FOR ASSESSING THE VIABILITY OF PERMACULTURE (SUSTAINABLE), HOLDINGS.
The criteria outlined below contain a range of measures which we consider to be essential in the assessment of whether a holding is sustainable in economic, social and environmental terms. In simple terms we could describe a holding as sustainable if it produces more resources than it consumes.
A. Permaculture Design for the site.
A design appropriate to the specific qualities of the site, occupant and locality which contains the strategy by which a sustainable holding is achieved. (NB. not just what it will look like but how it will be achieved).
The Permaculture Design is a key component in measuring the success, (i.e.. sustainability), of that strategy and the system.
A design, (in the form of say text, maps, illustrations, photographs), would outline the occupants strategy in the short, medium and long, (say 50-100 years), term.
It would demonstrate how the occupant planned to implement, (establish), the system and would provide a means of measuring progress.
The design would set realistic targets for achieving sustainability.
It is important to see that the a Permaculture Design is not just about how the site will look but about how it will be achieved; this involves setting targets, establishing priorities, developing the equivalent of cashflows, planning investment and monitoring progress.
It is flexible and should change to take advantage of unforeseen effects.
- A Permaculture Design would cover all the draft criteria outlined in this document.
- A design would be specific to a particular occupant, site and locality and would draw upon their unique resources; all designs will be different in some respects.
B. The Occupants.
The occupants should have a theoretical and practical understanding of sustainable systems.
The occupants should have a good working knowledge of sustainable systems, (Permaculture), and how to design systems that are appropriate to the specific qualities of both the site and themselves.
- At present there are various educational opportunities related to sustainable systems.
- The Permaculture Design course represents one of the most accessible entry points to understanding and implementing sustainable systems.
- Education in Permaculture Design is supervised by an Academy, over-seen by the Permaculture Association (Britain), (a registered charity).
- The Academy monitors standards and co-ordinates the development of the syllabus.
- The syllabus covers the major aspects of sustainable development in both theory and practice.
C. Community integration.
The occupants would be integrated with the existing community.
This integration would deepen as the system developed. It would reflect the occupants commitment to the local community.
Integration could be demonstrated by actions such as;
- Involvement in and support for living community activities and traditions, (such as the Welsh language).
- Use of goods and services from within the local community.
- The provision of goods and services for that local community generated from the holding, (for example organic food products or useful material items or employment).
- The use of exchange systems, (such as bartering or LETS).
- The Community Councils are probably best placed to monitor this process.
The occupant should be able to generate from the holding a level of income which is adequate for their personal needs and sufficient to allow for the continued implementation of the design.
The income would be a poly-income, generated from several related business activities, (up to say four or five), which would be derived from the unique qualities of the occupant, site and locality. One or more of the poly-incomes may be generated from off-site work within the community; this would also demonstrate community integration.
- Income would not be measured in sterling alone; income substitution in the form of exchanges, barter, LETS or the sharing of equipment and resources, (for example), would be totally acceptable and would also demonstrate community integration and support for living traditional activities.
- As the design for the holding progresses the occupants would be expected to meet more of their needs from the holding itself. Consequently the need for a high sterling income could be expected to lessen.
- Surpluses would be re-invested in sustainable projects locally or abroad, rather than accumulated at an individual level.
E. The site and the environment.
The following criteria relate to sustainable landuse and are applicable irrespective of the detail of any particular design; they still apply. Strategies for achieving these criteria would be covered in the design for the site. These criteria could be assessed after say a three year period by a competent ecologist. They could be checked at subsequent intervals, perhaps 10 or 25 years.
If these criteria are not fulfilled, the site cannot be considered sustainable.
- Water would leave the site cleaner than when it entered.
- The water holding capacity of the site would increase with time. This increase would be due to increased water holding capacity of the soils (through for example soil conditioning and chosen plant systems) as well as physical structures such as ponds or dams.
- The soils on the site would be increasing in quantity, (through soil building) and quality (that is, fertility).
- Fertility would be restored by appropriate techniques; for example, initial mechanical soil conditioning, the use of specific plant species such as trees on steep slopes, grazing regimes on pasture.
- Bare soil cultivation might be minimal or avoided generally but would certainly not occur on slopes.
- The overall biomass of the site would be increasing.
- The initial bio-diversity of the holding would be maintained.
- Appropriate species would be employed to increase the diversity of the system.
- Where possible, if a plant is required for a specific purpose, (such as nitrogen fixer or winter animal fodder), it will be a native plant from local seed. This will be first choice every time. This provides a niche space for local plant nurseries.
- Native plant from non-local seed is second.
- Certain exotics can be usefully employed in the process of establishing productive native plant communities and as cash crops.
- Materials used in the construction of structures, fences etc. would be mainly of local origin. (This will help re-generate local economies).
- It is accepted that at present this may not be easy but it represents a challenge which must be faced up to.
- The Design for the site would demonstrate how the occupant intended to reduce their reliance on non-renewable resources over time and replace them with renewable resources generated on site or obtained within the locality.
- The site would in time produce more energy/resources than it consumed.
- Re-cycling of products and bi-products within the system would be taken into account.
- The limited use of non-renewable forms of energy will usually be necessary initially in order to establish the site. The design should demonstrate how this use would reduce over time.
F. General notes:
To a certain extent when looking at sustainable holdings the occupants cannot be separated out from the site nor the site from the locality; assessing whether the holding is "successful", (i.e. sustainable or moving towards sustainability) is not only a question of looking at what has been done on the ground but also how the occupant and site fit into and enliven the local community.
By local and locality is meant; if goods, (for example plant material or seeds), or services are required that cannot be produced on site, they are searched for first within the very local community; for example, Llanfachreth. If not obtainable here then the search moves out to neighbouring communities, in this example, Ganllwyd, Hermon or Rhydymain. Next would be the wider community of the Dolgellau area and only if unobtainable at this level would the buying in from other areas be considered. It is the action of searching that will generate the work locally which in turn keeps money and investment circulating at a local level; this is a crucial aspect of sustainable development.
It takes time. Sustainability cannot be achieved over night. It requires the re-generation of patterns of living and working within the community that have suffered serious erosion over the past fifty years. The Permaculture Design will take these challenges into account and provide realistic targets with times, (deadlines), within which these targets can be achieved.
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