New review of the permaculture literature in Agronomy for Sustainable Development 18

Concept Network

I just got the official word that my paper Permaculture for Agroecology: Design, Practice, Movement, and Worldview  has been accepted for publication in the  agroecology journal Agronomy for Sustainable Development. This is the first hard look at permaculture in any peer-reviewed natural science literature that I’m aware of, so I’m pretty excited to be getting this into print – especially in a journal like ASD.

[EDIT] So now that it’s official, I’m making a preprint of the article available for download I’m uploading a copy to the eprint archive server dedicated to sustainable agriculture research, It will be available for download for there shortly.

As this is a late-draft preprint, the final published form may differ slightly, or not at all, from this version. I’ll link to the final version, as well as make it available here, when it’s finally published.

I had high hopes for, but they have been totally unresponsive. In any event, the article is now published. [/EDIT]

I look forward to your comments.





  • Neil Bertrando

    Rafter, do you have a list of your favorite Agroecology journals for those of us interested in peer-reviewed science literature?

    • RafterSass

      Good question!

      I like Agronomy for Sustainable Development a lot, as may be obvious. Other strong journals include:
      • Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems (formerly Journal of Sustainable Agriculture)
      • Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems
      • Agroforestry Systems
      • Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment
      • Agriculture and Human Values
      • Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development

      All of these are pretty interdisciplinary (vz. combining ecological and social issues) and the last two are especially strong on the social view.

      Also, it’s important to note that lots of agroecology papers are published in broader topic journals, not specific to agroecology (like Ecological Applications or Ecology and Society, for example).

      • Neil Bertrando

        This is great Rafter.

        We’re working to develop Permaculture trainings into an ‘Agroecology’ program through a non-profit I work with who is partnered with the University here (Nevada, Reno). We’re striving to match the edge of the university needs by focusing on a scientific discipline with journals and textbooks and nesting Permaculture design curricula and activities within it.

        I will use these journals and any others you suggest to help us build our case and program.

        Are there specific articles (review or otherwise) that you see as foundational papers in Agroecology or that tie it well to the Permaculture concept? I will reference yours of course.

        Are there other leverage points or trajectories you can suggest to continue improving the credibility, quality, and availability of Permaculture and Agroecology education and training in the US?

        I am very interested in pathways towards a participatory ecological society. Both as individuals striving for a meaningful work based career (right livelihood), and as local communities working to transition to regenerative resilience.

        Some questions on this line of thinking…What are the current career pathways for Permaculture? how can we broaden the spectrum to improve Regenerative action and land management? What are the specializations and general skills needed within local permaculture guilds and social networks to improve effectiveness and land transformation? Are there maps or tools to facilitate this work already developed?

      • Chris Warburton Brown

        If you want to keep up with the latest permaculture-related publishing, look at the Permaculture Digest:
        I try to put 20 new items on it every month

  • Dave Jacke

    Read the article last night, rafter. Good stuff, very interesting, and also grateful for the critiques.

    • RafterSass

      Thank you, Dave. I look forward to talking with you in more depth when we can. And as usual, I appreciate your collaborative attitude.

  • Tomas Remiarz

    Brilliant! A much needed stepping stone towards a more systematic investigation of permaculture claims and improvement of the discipline as a whole.

    • RafterSass

      Thanks so much, Tomas.

  • Ed Sears

    Great stuff Rafter, am I okay to spread this link around or do you
    want to wait for the final article? I have read it all, and have a
    bunch of ideas for a review of all the non-agroecology aspects of
    permaculture, which I will seek interested partners for (I think it
    would take you outside your farming/landscape remit!). It looks like
    the abstract I submitted to the Tyndall Centre conference on Rapid
    Emission Reductions wasn’t accepted, so that frees up some of my time –
    although I might go to the actual conference anyway as it sounds like a
    good-un. I know a couple of people who have just been to a Negative
    Emissions Technologies conference at Oxford University – it was a link
    up with RIchard Branson’s Carbon project (Virgin Earth Challenge) where I see biochar is mentioned a few times.

  • Daniel Raskin

    This is exciting and important work!

    One criticism: This paper neglected to investigate the sociological make-up of permaculture practitioners, compared to, say practitioners of agroecology. For instance, if “agroecologists” (to invent a term) would include researchers, FAO bureaucrats, CSA farmers in the US, MST farmers in brazil… permaculture practitioners might consist of permaculture professional, suburban gardeners, landscape design professionals, members of urban gardening associations, etc.

    These differences, which certainly exist although not as simply as i’ve described, would help build a fuller understanding of permaculture’s role in agroecological transformations.

    Was this an intentional omission? something that just didn’t make the cut? too difficult to quantify? were these differences assumed to be understood from context? I thought you were gonna hit on this after the bibliometric analysis, which is fantastic, like the rest of the paper.

    I’m delighted that i stumbled upon this post by accident while google searching Peet and Watts book “liberation ecologies.”

    • RafterSass

      Hi Daniel.

      Sorry for the long delay in my reply. Your comment is well taken – I’m not sure it even counts as criticism.

      Questions about the roles that people are playing in permaculture are important, but much more difficult to answer based on a review of the literature. And this paper is strictly literature review. To the extent that I could pull out interesting and meaningful information about roles, I did – though I was also running into the upper limits of a sensible length.

      That doesn’t mean I’ll be neglecting those questions, though. I conducted an international (though English-only) survey specifically about these questions, which received a very high response rate. I’ll be working on the first article based on that survey in the coming months. Stay tuned!

  • Daniel Raskin

    Exciting and important work!

    One critique: There was no breakdown of the sociological makeup of permaculture practitioners campared to, say practitioners of agroecology. For instance, “agroecologists” might consist of university researchers, FAO bureaucrats, CSA farmers in the US, MST farmer/revolutionaries in brazil, etc. Permaculturists might be broken down into groups of permaculture teaching professionals, landscape designers, suburban gardeners, community organizations, homesteaders, etc. I’m not claiming to have accurately summarized these differences–simply that I’m assuming they exist and that they’re significant. I’d argue that this kind of analysis would be very helpful in understanding permaculture’s role in agroecological transformations.

    Was this omission intentional? were these differences too difficult to quantify? Or do you not think this is a particularly useful analysis? I was expecting more than a nod in this direction after the fantastic bibliometric analysis, and was kind of surprised when nothing was mentioned.

    Still, I’m delighted that this link popped up while googling Peet and Watts book ‘Liberation Ecologies.’

  • Ed Sears

    I spoke too soon – Rafter, Tomas and Chris, our abstract has been accepted for a poster at the Tyndall Centre’s conference in December: ‘A social learning organisation evolves a research capability in order to study itself.’ The permaculture network as a whole is the organisation we are talking about here.

  • Ryan Byrnes

    Great to see permaculture getting more play in the academic press. I am a graduate student in the States (MSc) and trying to figure out how/what I could test regarding permaculture during my PhD research in a few years. I’m at a pretty big land grant school so the resources are here but trying to design a rigorous experiment around permaculture + agroecology is kind of mind boggling. Would be great to talk more about these ideas and how we can test the efficacy of these systems.

  • Deano Martin

    Hi Rafter
    I really enjoyed reading this.

    Fully agree with your comments on overreaching and oversimplifying.

    One reason for the lack of citation/referece to scientific literature is that it is expensive. Time and again I come across papers that may help in my own research projects, but cannot justify paying for a piece of work that may not be relevant, or of any use. For an academic or researcher getting access through an institution that would not be a problem, but for a practitioner it is a real handicap. Were those papers to be available for free, more practitioners could make use of them.

  • Stefan Schwarzer

    Hi. Great news. But where can I read the article? Hasn’t been uploaded yet, it seems. Thanks for any hints, resp. a link to the article!

  • Katrina Kellner

    Thank you for your work on this! I am doing an independent study on Permaculture at University and needed some peer reviewed work. It is great to find some.

Notice: get_currentuserinfo is deprecated since version 4.5.0! Use wp_get_current_user() instead. in /hermes/walnaweb12a/b89/moo.liberationecologyorg/wp-includes/functions.php on line 3839