An Emerging Network for Sustainable Agriculture: A Social Network Analysis of Permaculture Practitioners in the Philippines

An Emerging Network for Sustainable Agriculture: A Social Network Analysis of Permaculture Practitioners in the Philippines

Jabez Joshua M. Flores, Inocencio E. Buot Jr., Alexander G. Flor, Ricardo T. Bagarinao, Marisa J. Sobremisana
DOI: 10.4018/IJSESD.326610
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The study identified permaculture practitioners and determined how network relationship patterns can help in the mainstreaming of permaculture in the Philippines. Social network analysis was conducted to determine network structure and discover relationship patterns. Results of the study identified 204 permaculture practitioners with 75 individuals belonging to 53 projects that fall under nine project types. This is the first systematic documentation of practitioners in the Philippines. The network structure had a low density (0.185598) suggesting the high diversity of members in its network composition. Degree centrality index (max=92) revealed the network's prominent practitioners while local clustering coefficient (max=0.999) identified the presence of eight organizations and local government offices implying that membership was not limited to the participation of individuals. In conclusion, the way the permaculture network was constructed gave it a strategic position to mainstream permaculture to a broader audience which includes farmers and non-farmers.
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Since its conception in the late 1970s, the permaculture network has gained a diverse international following of closely-knit grassroots networks of designers, farmers, and teachers (Ferguson & Lovell, 2014). But despite its presence in the Philippines, there have been few studies, if any, about its local practitioners (adopters) and how they contribute to the promotion of permaculture in the Philippines.

As a design science anchored in ecology (Hirschfeld and Van Acker, 2019); and systems-thinking (Mobus, 2018), permaculture’s spread from its Australian origins (Crosby et al., 2014) to the global stage in the 1980s to 1990s was led by its co-founder, Bill Mollison—a senior lecturer of Environmental Psychology at the University of Tasmania. The applications of permaculture core ethics and design principles were disseminated via the 72-hour Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC) course format which was generally considered as the de facto mode of entry into the permaculture network for most practitioners (Abiral, 2019). PDC courses were reported to have been offered in countries such as India (Suresh, 2010; Fadaee, 2019), Japan (Paull, 2011; Chakroun, 2020), Nepal (Upreti & Upreti, 2002; Bhandari & Bista, 2019; Mayer, 2019) as well as Continental Europe (Ulbrich, 2016; Kolarova, 2020; Oliveira & Penha-Lopes, 2020) and the Americas (Millner, 2017; Caraway, 2018) among many others.

In a worldwide survey of permaculture practice (Ferguson & Lovell, 2015), 731 self-identified permaculture practitioners from 45 countries were discovered. Unfortunately, socio-demographic data revealed that there was a lack of ethnic diversity in the global network with an overwhelmingly White/Caucasian majority (90.4%). On the other hand, the Permaculture Worldwide Network database (Permaculture Global, 2017)—a project of the Permaculture Research Institute-Australia (PRI Australia)—has reported a much larger number of practitioners. As of 2017, the project has mapped out 21,648 practitioners and 2,614 projects registered on their website. To this day, the discovery of permaculture practitioners and their actual projects (i.e. farms, gardens) remain dependent on self-declaration—which is common in loosely organized social networks.

In the Philippines, permaculture is a relatively new idea. In 2000, an effort to organize practitioners was highlighted when the Philippine Permaculture Association (PPA) was registered at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Since its inception, however, national gatherings, called ‘Convergences,’ have only been held twice. The first event organized by the PPA and graduates of a permaculture school in Nueva Ecija sought to gather local practitioners in Cebu. After 8 years, the second Convergence was held in Laguna in 2018. Thus, documentation on permaculture’s history in the country is barely existent and, with a fragmented narrative, its practitioners lack a collective identity as well. Furthermore, it does not help that the design practice lacks institutionalized standards according to the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM). Nonetheless, the valuable impact of permaculture practitioners and permaculture principles in local sustainable agriculture cannot be easily undermined.

To address these knowledge gaps, the study aimed to shed light on the people involved in permaculture (referred to in this study as ‘permaculture practitioners’) in the Philippines. Hence, the objectives of this study were to identify permaculture practitioners in the Philippines and determine how relationship patterns of practitioners in the network can help mainstream permaculture as a local practice of sustainable agriculture.

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