Intro to Permaculture in Kodai Kanal, South India, April 17th 2014

During the Earthship Building Course at the farm here in India last month, I taught what I called a ‘Permaculture Primer’. I had one afternoon to summarize my 12 years of self education, my 10-week Internship and PDC with Geoff Lawton at the PRI, and somehow explain what Permaculture is, what it can do and how one could get started and continue learning until either deciding to take a course or connect with existing Permaculture networks back home. I spoke for an hour or so, then we went out and started building and planting things.

But alas, time was limited and the weather started to turn on us and so I offered to be available for the remainder of the course to answer questions, consult for people interested in developing their own property or projects and to share knowledge and resources. The response was staggering. Slowly at first, then almost exponentially each day more people would come to discuss specific topics, get help planning their own gardens, farms, homes etc… I even have an offer to help with the design of the world’s first Earthship Yoga Ashram in Rishikesh. My home turned into a Permaculture cafe and I was suddenly in high demand (or maybe it was just the spice tea). It almost started to encroach (unintentionally) on the actual Earthship course we were hosting! I had to shoo everyone away and send them back to the tires and cob plastering.

Needless to say, it was decided that I should offer a separate course exclusively on Permaculture and tailor it for those new to the idea but interested in getting started. So I devised an extended version of what is typically a 2-day course, so as to include more practical, experiential aspects to supplement the theory.

Plus this place is just too beautiful to only come for two days — it would be cruel to send everyone away after such a short time.

We learned a lot from the last course and realized there was a demand for cheaper spaces in the course for both local Indians and budget travelers just passing through. So last time we informally accommodated these guests by asking for assistance in the kitchen, at the garden and even through documenting our shared journey in pictures and video. The video you may have seen was done by one of the course attendees and we are very grateful for the results.

This time however, we are offering different rates to accommodate people in different situations. People who just want to come, learn new things, enjoy the view and take part in the course fully but would rather not do much labour are able to pay the full rate. Those who want to save some money and just help out on the farm while the course is going will get a discount and just need to help a few hours each day. Some spaces were to be made available for the people who have money restrictions but are happy to participate partially and can assist in the kitchen in exchange for partial attendance of the course.

Hopefully there is enough interest to make the course worthwhile, otherwise I’ll just go back to turning my compost. Ultimately, the proceeds from the course will go to the development of our budding vegetable garden, which probably sounds odd since we are indeed already a farm, but til now, no one has been able to manage the space and the rest of the farm is occupied by low maintenance fruit trees, banana and coffee. And while I like coffee, bananas and fruit, that’s only really breakfast — we still need to work on lunch and dinner.

Being in the early stages gives us the opportunity to explain and demonstrate the process of planning, designing and implementing the systems we need to become more self sufficient. Many places show you what you can eventually achieve but we don’t always get to see how they started.

I told Geoff after the Internship that it was my intention to help spread Permaculture in India and may have even said something to the effect of trying to reach all 1 Billion Indians in my efforts. Perhaps a bit ambitious. In my defense however, I was still feverish from my terminal infection with Permaculture — motivated to get out and share the knowledge and start applying it to the land. India has many environmental, economic, social and agricultural issues which could all be aided through aspects of Permaculture design and implementation. On the other hand India has an embarrassment of riches and wastes that could all be integrated into existing homes, farms, cities and larger regions. With a little knowledge and some self effort, the situation in India could very quickly change from one of perilous ecosystems, to stable ones providing for the needs of indigenous species and local people.

So, if you know anyone living or traveling in India hoping to escape the heat of the plains and is interested in sustainability, Permaculture and that sort of thing, send them to us. I’m excited to offer this opportunity to people from around the world and the remaining 999 999 974 Indians I have yet to influence. It’s sure to be an Experience we won’t forget.

Course details are available at:


  1. Hi, Hart: I am so happy to see you blooming in Indian permaculture. I enjoyed your company at Zaytuna and hope to hear more about your successes in the future. Best Wishes and thanks for the inspiration!

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