Permaculture Design Certificate Course in Malaysia
A Permaculture Design Certificate Course (PDC) is not merely an “information course; it is a transformation course”. It is a comprehensive curriculum designed to expand your perspective on design. The knowledge in this course empowers you to take control of your own productivity. After completion of a Permaculture Design Certificate you should be able interface with nature directly rather than the artificial layers of middlemen and bureaucracy that dilute the quality of what you need to keep you alive. Permaculture is not about going back to labor intensive productivity, but about learning how to design intensive systems that are seamlessly linked to the natural environment and that do most of the work for you. Your backyard becomes the supermarket. Your rain water harvesting system replaces the water company . Your roof with solar panels or wind belts will take the place of power companies.
The power of independence goes far beyond not having as many bills at the end of the month. Living a life free from debt, connected to your local community and knowing how to live is a refreshing change that most of us need and can achieve.
“Though the problems of the world are increasingly complex, the solutions remain embarrassingly simple” – Bill Mollison Founder of Permaculture
A PDC is the first step to enable a person to re-orient their thinking and activity towards becoming a creative problem solver instead of a mere consumer. Hopefully this article will shed light on what to expect from a PDC.
The First Permaculture Design Course Organized by Murujan: A Look Back
Dates: January 23rd until February 4th 2012.
Teacher: Mustafa Fatih Bakir
Number of Participants: 17
Location: Kuang, Selangor, north of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Alhumdulillah, Murujan’s first attempt at organizing a full two-week PDC was by all accounts a resounding success. Our intention was to create a comfortable space for students and for a real transformation to take place in their perspective on the world and this was achieved.
I had many a sleepless night in the months leading up to the PDC. As it was my first time organizing such a program, I was nagged by the constant fear that there was something I was supposed to be doing but that I wasn’t and I didn’t know what it was. I hope that this article will serve as a helpful checklist for anyone who wishes to organize a Permaculture Design Course or other similar course.
This guide is intended to be as comprehensive as possible but of course, there are always many details that will vary for each unique PDC. In the spirit of open source learning I would encourage others to share their experiences in organizing PDCs in the comments section to further bolster the usefulness of this article.
1. Examine your intentions
The primary purpose of hosting or organizing a PDC should not be profit. Neither should it be about getting a free design for your site nor should it be about hosting a PDC for the sake of hosting a PDC. The primary objective must be to cater to the particular students who are attending to educate them and endow them with the tools and confidence to go out and take positive action.
2. Think About the Potential Students
Every PDC must cover a minimum basic curriculum as found in the Designer’s Manual written by Bill Mollison. But there is no reason that a PDC can not include additional information and relevant material that is tailored for a special topic or group so long as it does not interfere with the required content .Most PDCs will include such information anyway, especially in the examples and projects the teachers uses to demonstrate the principles and concepts.
For example, our focus at Murujan is providing Permaculture education which “includes information that is relevant for developing Muslim communities” and we are hoping to develop content specifically along these lines.
That being said, our target audience is NOT limited to Muslims only. We are very eager and determined to include people who are not Muslim in our programs as well. I am confident that there a many who would want to learn about Permaculture as applied to Muslim communities. We at Murujan are committed to providing comfortable and welcoming environments for all.
Care must be taken to ensure that the teacher covers the all required material, that additional information is provided in an objective and informative way and not imposed or skewed in its presentation.
A relevant and interesting discussion on this topic is taking place here:
After having said all that, my advice is that unless you want to run a generic run-of-the mill PDC with random participants, then focus on a niche. Choose a niche, a set of people with common characteristic distinct from the general public that you know well and customize your PDC to cater to them and their needs/wants. Permaculture has developed to such a stage where this is possible and necessary. There are so many diverse sets of communities and demographics in the world, that failure to give Permaculture teachers the liberty to address the respective needs of all these types of communities will hinder the spread of Permaculture. Design your PDC so that you will attract an audience that will be cohesive and work together well. The quality of the PDC will be that much better as a result.
3. Choose a Teacher
I stumbled across the existence of Mustafa Fatih Bakir and with minimal research and communication decided to engage him. I definitely struck gold with him. His understanding of Permaculture is deep and broad and his ability to present it is engaging and full of clarity. All of the students were impressed and so was I.
But if you can’t get Mustafa or another well-known teacher does that mean you are out of luck? There are plenty of great teachers out there and if you do some searching and stick to a few rules of thumb you can find one. If you can’t meet the teacher in person first, then try to find videos of them teaching, and of course research reviews or ask people who have been taught by the teacher you are considering. Think about the types of students you might have and try to pick a teacher who is suitable. It is also important to consider the teacher’s ability to present. While someone may have many years of experience in Permaculture which is of course important, you must also consider their ability to communicate the information and facilitate learning. If the teacher is not good at communicating, it does not matter how many years of experience they have if they can not communicate it to the students.
Make sure you prepare to accommodate the teacher’s needs and ensure that transport, food and accommodations are taken care of. In addition, find out what the teacher needs to be effective in the classroom. The teacher is probably the most important pillar of a PDC. Make sure you have a great teacher who can engage the students and inspire them. If you have a certificate you may also want to teach the PDC yourself, but make sure you have help with the organization because it really will be difficult to juggle both jobs of teaching and organizing.
4. Choose a Venue
Another very critical decision is the choice of venue. Find a site with comfortable amount of space for the number of participants you hope to have. Think about the following components of a venue and how they will need to be used for two weeks. Visit the venue and the hosts and communicate clearly what is needed.
At a minimum consider the following:
Classroom, with white board, projector and whatever equipment is required by teacher.
Comfortable on-site accommodations with enough bathrooms
Provision of meals and snacks during the course.
5. Decide the Dates
Take in to accounts holidays, school semesters and other Consider the types of schedules that would constrain your target demographic. For many people, especially students and working people, two week stretches are very precious and would prevent many of them from being able to attend. For this you may consider breaking the PDC into weekend segments if possible.
Better to coordinate and cooperate with other Permaculture outfits nearby. Murujan is hosting PDCs in Malaysia targeting a specific demographic. Some of our fellow permaculturalists, Eats, Shoots and Roots, also based in Malaysia are organizing a PDC in May. More details can be found here. By establishing cooperative relationships with other Permaculturalists in the same area stability and steady profits are more easily achievable and preferable to competition. Seek ways to expand and grow the pie together instead of fighting over what is perceived to be a small pie as conventional thinking often contends. Theoretically the pie is infinite. If any lesson is more easily learned in Permaculture is that abundance is out there and design and ingenuity can enable us to benefit from the abundance of nature. We must apply this lesson to our business practices and social relationships just as much as we apply it to our gardens.
6. Revenue and Finances
As mentioned previously, the primary objective of hosting or organizing a PDC should not be profit, however this does not mean that profit should not be sought. While there may be many occasions and possibilities to teach Permaculture altruistically, there should also be value-based incentives for hosting quality PDCs as they will naturally arise as entrepreneurs take the initiative.
Budgeting is extremely important yet difficult to do. Consider the costs of the teacher, the venue, food purchase and preparation, overnight accommodations, materials for students, tools, space for practicals, promotion costs, and any other costs attributable to the planing, promotion, operation and follow-up of the PDC.
There are many PDCs out there that are very low cost. This may seem to be a good thing, but makes it difficult for people to have an incentive to organize a PDC. Permaculture is a robust methodology and provides real solutions for the world’s problems and should be valued as such. While the PDC may only be about two weeks long in time, it is not far-fetched to say that you will learn more useful things in those two weeks than you would in most forms of so-called “higher education.” By developing and conducting quality programs we can attract more attention to Permaculture and get more people involved.
If we take a step back and look at who is getting rewarded in the conventional mono-culture economy, it is those who are destroying. Loggers clear cutting forests, Bankers sucking the value dry from economies, AgroBiz eliminating the existence of local resilient farmers. In order for Permaculture to truly be a viable solution for sustainability we need to compete with these destructive practices. We must educate and demonstrate that using Permaculture is actually more rewarding than the status quo.
My strong belief is that bonafide Permaculturists should be getting paid the most in the world because we are actually restoring and producing rather than destroying and exploiting.
If we don’t restructure our economies and business models to align doing good with monetary incentives then the destructive path will always appear more attractive and will prevail.
7. Don’t Forget the Details.
We received a great deal of positive feedback for little things. We provided pencils and drawing papers. we had informative posters up. We gave gift bags with our logos on it. We asked how everyone was doing and if they needed anything we tried to help them to get it. Paying attention to details shows that the organizers care and goes along way in making the participants enjoy a positive experience so don’t neglect the details.
During the PDC
Following Mustafa’s wise recommendation we set the breaks for half an hour and lunch for two hours. The participants were able to get to know each other during these break periods and it gave them enough time to recharge before another intense session.
2. Instructions and Announcements
Make sure written guidelines are given as well as verbal announcements to reinforce. Make sure all the participants understand what is expected of them and what to expect of the course.
Taking attendance is important and should be recorded each session. Here you can download the template I used to record attendance of each participant:
Good, nutritious and tasty food is essential. If possible, try to arrange as much organic food as possible. And it is even better if it can be obtained directly from the site. If you are unable to, suggest it as part of the design exercise to figure out ways to grow food on site in order to feed PDC participants if that is possible. It is best to inform potential students when advertising the course as to what they can expect. Be sure to accommodate special dietary needs if that is required by some students. If you are unable to satisfy special dietary needs than inform the potential participant and try to refer them to another Permaculture course where they can be accommodated if possible.
Although a PDC is design course and primarily theory based course and technically can be taught without any practical component, it is always nice to demonstrate some of the concepts and let people get their hands dirty. For our first PDC we arranged a compost practical and I felt there was room for improvement. This was one of the most difficult to prepare and next time I would do more in advance of the actual course. Based on what I learned I would recommend the following:
Make sure well in advance that you have an area with ample space for all your participants and teachers; and the right tools and equipment, and organic and biological materials. Make sure that you have planned out how the practical will happen and how to get each of the participants to be involved.
5. Client Interview
The venue of our PDC served as the subject for the design exercise and there are many advantages to this. The participants will experience the site first hand. The clients were also present during the course and so we were able to conduct a live interview with them. Thus in my opinion it is always better to have a real site and a real client where the design exercise results will actually be put to use. This may not always be possible, but if you make the project a real one, the students will feel that much more engaged and interested.
6. Design Exercise
The design exercise is an essential part of a PDC and gives the participants a taste of using the design methods in a real design. when you are able to have a real site and real clients for the participants to work with it is relatively easy to make the design exercise effective. Make sure the participants have time to tour the site and to work together in groups to prepare their presentations. A good teacher will understand how to coordinate the design exercise and presentations correctly so ask the teacher what needs to be done and make sure everything is prepared.
1.Video Footage and Pictures
If you can afford a professional to record video and take pictures it will prove useful for future promotions. It is also good for documentation of the presentations if you have a real client and real project. Even if you can’t get a professional make sure you have a dedicated volunteer take pictures at important intervals because it will distract from your duties as an organizer if you have to take the pictures yourself. Some suggestions are to record and photograph the first day, any practicals, the design exercise and presentations and the last day at least.
2. Documentation and Review
Documentation during the PDC is very useful for future reference for a number of reasons but most importantly for budgeting and for improving the quality of future programs. Make sure you keep all receipts if possible and record the expenses incurred in an organized way. Pass out evaluation forms and interview each student if possible.
Organizing a PDC is not as daunting as it might at first seem. If we start from the beginning with the goal of providing a space for the students to learn and design our program with that goal in mind it should fall into place.
If possible, it is also important to maintain relationships with the participants after the PDC is over. Keeping in touch with and creating opportunities for participants is part of the overall objective of regenerating and restoring our environments and communities. If participants sit through a PDC and then go home and do nothing, then it has not been much of an impact. We need to do more work to facilitate people’ ability to transition because it is not easy and so we must work together to do it. Create mediums for the students, teacher and organizer to keep in touch. A private facebook group is very useful for this purpose. Arrange meet-ups occasionally for the participants who live near each other and find ways to highlight and encourage their progress.
We have learned many valuable lessons from our first PDC and we hope to organize more high-quality PDCs in the future inshAllah.
The classroom is just waiting for some eager students!
Participants wrote down concise quotes from Mustafa that had an impact on them and posted them on this board to share with others.
Ahmad, Muneeb and Hamza show off their trophy after “hunting” in the front yard.
Participants enjoy some break time and get to know each other.
Participants focus on their design exercises.
Class of January 2012 Murujan Permaculture Design Certificate Course in Malaysia
Dr. Adi Setia
Dr. Adi is planning to write an article “Adab, Filahah and Permaculture,”
to be published in a journal based on his recent PDC course
experience. He also plans to practice what he has learned on a
friend’s two-acre plot in Janda Baik, and help a friend apply
Permaculture principles on his one-acre orchard in Gombak, Malaysia.
His areas of interst are urban & village Permaculture, Relevant Education and Invisible Structures.
Ahmad Abu Zahra
Ahmad is a thirteen year old who is well on his way to making real positive change in the world. He is interested in applying Permaculture in desert environments and his fluency in English, Arabic and Malay will ensure that many opportunities will be open for his future inshAllah.
His areas of interest are Water Harvesting and Trees
Atika is a mother of two who takes great concern in her children’s health and well-being. She is very knowledgeable in matters of health and nutrition and would like to apply Permaculture to some land she has access to in Malaysia. She is very keen on spreading the knowledge of Permaculture and in helping to make a better world for the next generation inshAllah.
Ashaari is currently in the field of disaster prevention and plans to use Permaculture to enhance his abilities in the field. He also is passionate about teaching and spreading the knowledge.
He is interested in the areas of Waste Management and Aquaculture
A resident of Singapore who wrapped up a year sabbatical with a Permaculture course. Grace has a prime opportunity to educate her fellow Singaporeans and apply urban Permaculture.
Contact: Not Available Currently
Hamza is planning to work on spreading awareness of Permaculture and also looking into possibility of learning how to develop accounting reports which incorporate Permaculture as a complete reporting concept.
He is interested in Teaching and in Natural Resource Accounting.
Ibraheem completed the PRI ten-week internship at Zaytuna Farm in April 2012. For the long term he hopes to work on projects in the developing world, especially in poor communities. He currently studies at Zaytuna College in California.
He is interested in rehabilitation and rejuvenation of damaged ecosystems and landscapes as well as self-sufficient and sustainable community building.
Iesha plans to work on her parents house and another plot with a group of women in California.
She is interested in animal husbandry, specifically chickens, bees, and goats. She is also interested in urban homesteading, affordable access to fresh, organic food for all.
Iftikhar is utilizing Permaculture in his role as Program Coordinator for Concern Worldwide an international NGO based in Pakistan.
Contact: Not Available Currently
Kate hopes to use Permaculture to develop a site in Poland. She plans to gain experience at projects in Europe. She also would like to enroll in a Permaculture teacher’s course.
She is interested in family vegetable & herbal garden, use of wild plants for food and healing, small community building projects
Mohamad Tarmizi bin Mohd Wafa
Mohamad Tarmizi is applying Permaculture to family’s 2 acre land with the objective of supplying a restaurant.
He is interested in water-harvesting, earthworks, aquaculture, biogas, compost, and community development.
Mohamed Tawhidul Islam
Mohamed Tawhidul is in the process of completing his studies in law at the International Islamic University of Malaysia where he can spread the word about Permaculture.
Contact: Not Available Currently
Muneeb Bin Yousuf
Muneeb hopes to develop and live in sustainable, healthy communities.
He is interested in complementary currencies and alternative trade systems, sustainable architecture, sustainable energy solutions among others.
Salwati has returned to the northern Malaysian state of Kelantan where she plans to continue her activism work and organic farming but now using Permaculture.
Contact: Not Available Currently
Shafqat is utilizing Permaculture in his role as Agriculture Coordinator for Concern Worldwide an international NGO based in Pakistan. He has already begun teaching in some rural areas devastated by floods.
Contact: Not Available Currently
Tajuddin plans to pursue a Diploma in Permaculture, to teach others and to work on his own land
He is interested in soil building and is exploring ways to extract fulvic acid from tropical black water.
Wendy has returned to her native Australia where she hopes to enhance her homestay nestled among beautiful scenery of Kimberly in Western Australia
Contact: Not Available Currently