The “Undergraduate University Module in Permaculture: Creating new synergies between higher education and professionals to promote sustainable systems” project – in short, PermaModule – is an Erasmus+ project under key action 2 (“Cooperation for innovation and the exchange of good practices”) which SAFE proudly coordinates since September 2019.
The project also involves four partner universities:
- the University of Liège-Gembloux AgroBioTech (Belgium);
- the University of Malta (Malta);
- the University of Catania (Italy);
- the University of Agronomic Sciences and Veterinary Medicine of Bucharest (Romania)
and two permaculture associations:
- the Accademia Italiana di Permacultura (Italy)
- the Institutul de Cercetare in Permacultura din Romania (Romania)
We design an undergraduate module which will involve both university researchers/teachers and professionals in permaculture.
The module is built around 3 main outputs:
- a curriculum, including its teaching methodology, several intensive study programmes in permaculture;
- a student handbook to support lectures and on-field work from students;
- an online platform.
Meet us on our platform ! Visit permamodule.moodlecloud.com for more information.
PERMACULTURE AND UNIVERSITIES: A CONFLICTING RELATIONSHIP
Permaculture is a set of principles that integrates land, resources, people and the environment through mutually beneficial synergies. It aims to imitate and recreate natural ecosystems through the use of closed-loop and no waste techniques. It has gained increasing visibility in recent years, with the rise of growing environmental threats and deterioration of ecosystems. Where intensive agriculture generally results in high productivity at the expense of biodiversity, Permaculture indeed offers alternatives as it is a holistic approach that encompasses a complete spectrum of regenerative concepts, systems and solutions. In that sense, it is at the core of ethical education.
But then, why is Permaculture not already taught in Universities? The relationship between permaculture and higher education has been conflicting for years if not decades. Permaculture was born in an academic context in Australia in the 1970’s. However, while many primary and some secondary levels of education have already integrated permaculture in their teachings, permaculture courses have barely been integrated in university programs. Indeed, Permaculture is still relatively isolated from scientific research and academia, although it has grown to become a widely-spread international movement attracting more and more adherents. This can be explained by several factors, such as the changing activities of universities in a global economic context implying a bigger reliance on private fundings, but also feelings of mistrust towards the academia and the establishment in Permaculture movements, the rigidity of administrative course frameworks in universities, ‘clashes’ between diverging teaching methodologies,
PERMACULTURE IN UNIVERSITIES: WHY IT IS NEEDED
As our planet faces ever-growing global environmental crises related to human societies’ heavy reliance on fossil energy and overconsumption of natural resources, it is of key importance to initiate changes at multiple levels. Permaculture was born as one of the answers to the great problems our planet is facing and to an urgent need of an integrative societal movement towards sustainability to address the complex environmental, social and economic challenges of our near future.
As centres of knowledge and research, universities are key institutions in the process of social change. Permaculture education can offer something unique in the frame of the faculty courses by integrating its knowledge and best practices into a comprehensive framework where sustainability learning and traditional education would draw upon the diversity of learning domains to enable the emergence of transformative sustainability learning. Integrating permaculture into academic curricula is therefore a way to promote innovative approaches towards sustainability education at a higher level.
University researchers have therefore a lot to learn from the permaculture field in terms of social links between sciences, the environment, the people and sustainable practices. But they also have a lot to bring in. Indeed, Academia could offer the rigor and methodology of scientific research and catalyse expansion of permaculture’s research & documentation standards, while also translating and encouraging its entry into a variety of fields. From university, Permaculture as a sustainable lifestyle could enter every niche of job or service.
Younger generations most often seek alternative solutions to the conventional way of producing food and growing plants. Permaculture responds to the urgency many students feel in becoming change agents: permaculture students will integrate design thinking in their studies and their lives, thereby creating future citizens with responsible consumption attitudes, empowered with active-learning skills acquired with on-field work. Additionally, the study of permaculture at university will be an opportunity for permaculture practitioners and farmers to participate in on-farm research. On-farm research can be potentially highly beneficial to permaculture practitioners, including as pertaining to their decision making and farm profitability.