By Ellaine Kryss Hubilla

Environmental problems have existed even before the 21st century. However, it was not prevalent as it is today. Due to the emerging environmental threats, many organizations, agencies, and individuals are taking actions to revive the planet.

These people and organizations have their own way of lessening the damage. Some may reduce the use of plastics or even to completely eradicate it while others are switching to sustainable alternatives. Bert Peeters is one of these people, and his way of promoting sustainability is through building permaculture sites.

Peeters is the founder of the Philippine Permaculture Association (PPA). A product developer by profession and a permaculture designer at heart, the Belgian national finished his Masters in Product Development at the University of Antwerp in Belgium. His passion for permaculture compelled him to acquire an eco-village design degree from Scotland. He also took permaculture design and teaching courses from Australia and Hawaii, respectively.

Bert Peeters, founder of the Philippine Permaculture Association.

Working for about 30 years in the Philippines, Peeters’ design skills are applied in building permaculture sites, cultivating farms, and various social activities like teaching permaculture design courses.

Before Peeters started building the permaculture site located in one of the cities in Metro Manila, he started by building Cabiokid Foundation Inc., a 13-hectare organic farm located in Cabiao, Nueva Ecija. From a rice field, it was converted to a permaculture site with gardens, crops, and bamboo structures. Peeters and his team started this project in the year 2000. Then he decided that permaculture must be spread to other places to promote the advocacy of a sustainable environment.

Permaculture site in an urban area

Based on the PPA, “permaculture is a design system that works like and with nature.” It focuses on system thinking, simulating, or directly utilizing the patterns of how natural ecosystems work. It revolves around three principles: care for the earth, care for people, and fair share.

The ultimate goal of PPA is to connect minds and creativity to come up with ways to improve the ecosystem. To achieve this goal, PPA offers relevant permaculture knowledge through teaching activities such as permaculture design courses, natural building, building with bamboo, bamboo bike making, and permaculture-based enterprise.

Participants in PPA’s bamboo building activity.

Aside from these activities, PPA applies everything that they preach by being a model of a permaculture site: their facilities located at Marikina City and Cabiao Nueva Ecija are both made from natural materials such as bamboo, and not only their facilities but also some of their furniture are made from a discarded native tree trunks.

Utilizing what nature gives them is one of their ways to strengthen permaculture processes. The permaculture site built in Marikina City was designed to have its own sewage system, compost area, solar panels for energy sources, and bamboo structures that gives an additional benefit of free-flowing air.

The Marikina site includes is a two-story building located in the center of the land. It is surrounded by various plants like cucumber, eucalyptus, and many more. Dried leaves from plants are stored in a compost bin that is used to fertilize the soil. Rainwater is also collected through a drainage system that is located at the edge of the roof. The collected rainwater is used to water the plants. A solar panel on top of the elevated roof of the first floor gathers all the energy for current and future use.

The setup shows that permaculture design can work well even in an urban setting. According to Sandino Guinto, a licensed landscape architect who is also a permaculture designer and trainer, PPA is seeking partnerships with other organizations and Local Government Units (LGU) that are ready to adopt the process.

Inside the PPA’s permaculture building in Marikina City.

Why Marikina

From the 16 cities in the National Capital Region (NCR), Marikina City was chosen as the home of the Philippine Permaculture Association due to the city’s discipline when it comes to waste segregation and because it isn’t as crowded as other cities. Aside from being the shoe capital of the Philippines, the city has also been branded as one of the greenest and cleanest cities in Metro Manila.

The PPA promotes permaculture in the city because they want people to experience natural processes in the ecosystem and to prove that it is not impossible to have a green space, even in an urban area.

The association recently sought partnership with the LGU of Marikina City. The idea is that there are a lot of parks located in the city but they are not well maintained and not connected to each other. Through the partnership, PPA is aiming to rehabilitate public spaces and convert them into green spaces which will still be available to the public after the rehabilitation.

Guinto shared that, “If Marikina is interested, we already submitted a suggested (Memorandum of Agreement) MOA, that if the mayor is interested, within three years we’ll try to develop those parks.

These initiatives are part of their way to promote permaculture in the city. But the organization is still in a battle to promote the processes of permaculture due to people’s lack of engagement, awareness, and support.

Today, the PPA is pushing for a curriculum that will teach students the essence of permaculture not only for the knowledge that the system can offer but also to promote a more sustainable environment that is in harmony with nature.

Permaculture ethics for a sustainable environment

As the Philippine Permaculture Association works with various sectors for common goals, they also follow their own principles and ethics to achieve said goals. These are:

Care for the earth. The natural processes that permaculture promotes do not impair the flow of nature and the ecosystem. Due to this, permaculture promotes sustainability by simply working with nature instead of against it.

Care for people. Permaculture design cares for people in the sense that it provides a sustainable environment conducive to human activity. Also, raw materials from the natural environment are available for humans to use as long as humans also give back to the environment.

Fair share. The rule in permaculture is simple: as the environment works to sustain the lives of its people, humanity must also work to sustain the environment. O

Find out more about the Philippine Permaculture Association at http://www.phpermaculture.com.

This appeared in Agriculture Monthly’s April 2020 issue.