[Milkwood PDC course outing with David Holmgren in Sydney, photo by Oliver Holmgren]
With more Singaporeans learning about permaculture, many wonder if a Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC) is relevant to them and how we can practice permaculture in the city given most of us live in apartments.
In my previous post featuring reviews on PDC courses in Southeast Asia and Australia, I mentioned that the PDC is highly relevant if you wish to design a farm or any kind of space for growing crops because it is a design course. The course is currently not available in Singapore, and I would suggest getting acquainted with the ethics and principles of permaculture first, before deciding if you wish to proceed. You can even do an online Intro to Permaculture course like the one offered here (it started on 1 May but it looks like one can still enrol).
So how can we practice permaculture in the city, where it’s also relevant to apartment dwellers? In permaculture, the aim is to create a holistic design system for managing an ecosystem in harmony with nature, and can be scaled down to suit the size of our balcony, corridor, rooftop, courtyard, or backyard garden/s.
Recently, I obtained my Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC) in Sydney with Milkwood, and was keen to find out about the courses offered in the region. Since several people in the urban farming community in Singapore have one, I thought to ask them about their experiences and write a blogpost listing PDC options and reviews.
For those asking, “Do I need a PDC?”, my personal opinion is that while it is a useful course and it sounds very interesting, it’s relevant if you’re designing your own backyard or someone else’s garden/farm space. Otherwise, learning the 12 permaculture principles would suffice, a more affordable option, because the full 14-day PDC will cost you at least $1,000 in course fees alone – my opinion, of course. It greatly helps if one already has gardening/farming experience. In my class, everyone pretty much had experience growing edible plants, and some people had chickens as well as goats, so we didn’t have to keep stopping to explain basic information on growing plants.
When deciding on a PDC, it is worth considering what climate you are thinking of applying your knowledge to – tropical, subtropical and/or temperate, and city or rural? Also, whether you prefer a more hands-on experience in the countryside or a less physically involved experience in the city. They each have their own strengths, so see if any of these 7 reviews pique your interest!
1. Where did you complete your PDC? Kul Kul Farm at Green School, Bali.
2. Who were your teachers? And how many people were in your class? Ian Lillington (main trainer), Orin Hardy (practical training), Jodi Roebuck (grazing and bio-intensive gardening) and Scott Godfredson (planning and design). Additional evening talks and speakers – Brendan Morse (permaculture in East Timor), Jeni Kardinell (straw bale housing), Petra Schnieder (water technology), William Ingram (social enterprise and traditional weaving), Dennis Walker (systems approach) and Elora Hardy (bamboo architecture and design).
There were 26 students in total (including myself).
3. How much was it? Did it include accommodation?
The two-week design course is USD1,500. It includes food and tent accommodation. I added another USD150 for better comfort of staying in a twin-sharing bunkhouse.
4. Highlights of the course?
Personally, the greatest highlight is getting to visit the Green School and Green Village to physically immerse in the amazing bamboo architecture.
We were also given a tour of the bamboo factory, PT Bamboo Pure, where different types of bamboo are treated and formed for making furniture and buildings.
On top of that, a short workshop by native craftsmen using bamboo to create simple building structures, musical instrument, etc.
I also thoroughly enjoyed myself on a half day tour of the Subak water management system in Bali.
Another highlight is a trash walk, led by John Hardy, which was an eye-opener on how destructive urbanisation and modern lifestyle can effect a once pristine and harmony with nature island.
Last but not least, the invaluable friendship of sharing culture and exchanging ideas with fellow classmates from all over the world. I’m so excited by the projects they will bring back home to start upon completion of this PDC!
5. Theory vs practical?
Personally I found that the course inclines more towards theory-based classes and would prefer more practical and hands-on experiences. However, I also appreciate and understand it is next to impossible to cover the subject’s holistic and multidisciplinary teachings within two weeks when it is also evolving with the advancement of technology. Thus, this PDC generally managed to give a good overview of permaculture and its design as a form of a toolkit for the participants.
6. This course is for those who…
love Balinese culture and Green School! 🙂 I wouldn’t recommend just anyone to head there for PDC, especially city folks who are used to modern amenities. You will need to gauge your comfort level and appreciate a rural and back-to-basic lifestyle of insect bites, smell and sight of the composting toilet, stomach discomfort due to food and water, awareness of natural surrounding and possible danger, etc.
A few days ago, I received my Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC) from Milkwood after almost 14 straight days of classes. In between, we had one off day to prepare our personal design projects for presentation and submission, but otherwise, it was a 9-5 day every day. And now that it’s over, I’m a bit sad that I won’t be seeing my classmates very often, but we will continue to stay connected via a private Facebook group that Milkwood created for us.
If you’re wondering what permaculture is, my extremely basic definition is – a holistic design system for managing an ecosystem in harmony with nature, you can find other definitions here. Permaculture co-originator Bill Mollison defines it as “… A philosophy of working with, rather than against nature; of protracted & thoughtful observation rather than protracted & thoughtless action; of looking at systems in all their functions rather than asking only one yield of them & of allowing systems to demonstrate their own evolutions,” while the other co-originator, David Holmgren has updated the definition to be “Consciously designed landscapes which mimic the patterns and relationships found in nature, while yielding an abundance of food, fibre and energy for provision of local needs.”
This course was a spiritual experience for me, and probably for most who attended, because we interacted with many gentle, lovely, likeminded people along the way, and the course provided a catalyst for creating change in our lives. Even though I was already open to all the concepts we discussed, the process opened me up further to doing even more for others and the community. I felt recharged after the course and on the last day, we left class on a high note, feeling that there were so many possibilities before us.