Permaculture is a practice of combining hundreds of species, plant and animals, into fertile-regulating ecosystem rather than planting large tracts of one crop or livestock. It uses the interactive benefits of agricultural and forestry technologies to create more diverse, productive, profitable, healthy, and sustainable land-use systems.
By attempting to reproduce the ecology of natural areas in a planned and managed way, without the aid of artificial inputs, permaculture has the potential to providing economic solutions to environmental problems.
It integrates land resources, people and the environment through mutually beneficial synergies – imitating the no waste, closed loop systems seen in diverse natural systems.
The operational concept of permaculture is woven under a practical design; a system of assembling conceptual, material and strategic components in a pattern, which functions to benefit life in all its forms.
The philosophy behind Permaculture is one of working with, rather than against, nature. It is of protracted and thoughtful observation rather than protracted and thoughtless action; of looking at systems in all their functions, rather than asking only one yield of them; and allowing systems to demonstrate their own evolutions.
Even though permaculture is seen as new agricultural concept, it has contributed immensely towards the livelihood of the rural poor in Ghana and its benefits for rural farmers cannot be underestimated.
Permaculture in Ghana is an evolving business, but with a large following as it makes agriculture more sustainable, restores soil, conserves water and redirects waste streams.
The primary goal of adopting permaculture principles is to empower individuals to be their own producers and move away from being dependent on consumers.
These techniques are practiced in very different ways globally based on climate and resources particular to the region.
While there is variety in the methodology of permaculture practices, the holistic approach remains constant.
Presently one identified area that needs government’s attention is permaculture business.
This is because it is considered as one of the less invested agro- businesses that have thrived and sustained most families and communities in some parts of the western countries.
Many would have expected that since a sizeable number of farmers operating within Brong-Ahafo and other forest zones in the country have testified the potency and the reliability of the permaculture industry, authorities would intervene to support its operations and activities.
However, the story seems more pathetic as that process has not been getting such recognized support and policy protection.
Farmers with skills training support from the Ghana Permaculture Network (GPN) continue to do their best to organise interested farmers at the local levels in the pursuit of the business but the desired impact is yet to be felt.
Permaculture business is new, but fast growing in Ghana both in geographical and numerical coverage.
For instance, in terms of numbers, experts say an estimated 8,000 and more people are involved in it in the country.
Undeniably, permaculture business helps mitigate climate change and enhance the eradication of poverty.
Despite what the business stands for with all its prospects, the lack of a policy to strengthen its practice and protect the actors in Ghana leaves much to be desired.
Thus, there is high level of insecurity prevalent in the business, which inhibits actors to roll out their full potentials for optimum benefits.
It is, therefore, lowering the incomes of actors with a number of them losing interest in the business and thus exiting often after entry.
It is impossible to know exactly where and when plant cultivation was first invented. However, due to accelerated mass spectrometry testing of plant remains, scientists have been able to date domesticated squash, maize cobs, and common beans back 10,000 years.
Agricultural knowledge developed over centuries shows the co-existence and co-development of culture and nature.
Biological efficiency along with contribution to familial diet can be found in the corn/bean/squash system “three-sister system” of Mexico and South America.
Indigenous communities would intercrop maize plants with bean and squash for multiple reasons.
In the United Kingdom, Sir Albert Howard began laying the social and practical groundwork for the organic gardening movement.
Around the same time in Germany, Demeter Association produced the first official organic label in 1928.
Beginning in the 1940’s many organisations, such as the Rodale Institute of the United States, the Soil Association of the United Kingdom, and Soil and Health of New Zealand, began forming with focus on the study and promotion of organic farming.
It is against this background and several challenges that the GPN, a farmer-based organisation in the Techiman Municipality, with support from the Business Sector Advocacy Challenge (BUSAC) Fund, is implementing advocacy project for a national policy framework to push and sustain permaculture development in the country.
With support from the Centre for Posterity Interest Organisation (COPIO), service providers and facilitators of the project, the GPN/BUSAC advocacy, extimated to cost GH¢189,000.00, further seeks to mitigate climate change impact in the country.
Mr Paul Yeboah, the Chairman of the GPN, which has 8000 members comprising 4,800 males and 3,200 females, a policy framework on permaculture was urgently required to protect the business and create enabling environment for it to thrive and develop.
Recommendations and conclusion
The GPN believes that a policy framework on permaculture would improve business to contribute more to mitigate climate change, eradicate poverty and empower practitioners for increased productivity and economic growth.
Dr John Yaw Akparep, a Consultant to the GPN, in an interview with the Ghana News Agency, underscored the need for the Government and its development partners to actively engage permaculturists and civil society actors in formulating such a policy.
Also, the Ministry of Food and Agriculture should organise training programmes for farmers to continuously recognise the essence of permaculture.
Dr Akparep, who is a lecturer at the University of Development Studies, said agricultural extension officers must also undertake routine monitoring on activities of permaculture farmers to ensure they operate in accordance with its principles and protect natural reserves.
As an evolving business in the country, more research on permaculture ought to be done, he said, citing Hong Kongas an example where the Government had developed agriculture training schemes to give advice on new methods that would strengthen permaculture principles.
In conclusion a strengthened permaculture system has huge potential to contribute immensely towards enhancing the socio-economic livelihoods of many rural poor in Ghana and helping farmers to produce more foods using fewer resources.
Common crops used in permaculture include Moringa, Oyster mushrooms, pea nuts, maize, cocoa, citrus (lemons and oranges), sweet potatoes, tomatoes, star fruits, bread fruits, pepper and garden eggs, making the process very useful in the agricultural sector.
If investment is made in the sector, permaculture would remain supportive of Ghana’s economy, thereby providing employment, food and medicinal crops and plants, wildlife habitats, crafting materials, and private relaxing atmosphere throughout every season.
Indeed, permaculture reduces cost of farming, adds to community value, produces less waste and is chemical resistant, all contributing to sustainable agriculture and promoting economic growth and development.
By Dennis Peprah