Analog forestry and permaculture: (not so) distant cousins?

Analog forestry and permaculture: (not so) distant cousins?

One of the most frequent questions we get when talking about analog forestry is: isn’t that the same as permaculture? The truth is, they’re not so different – indeed, one could say that they sprouted from the same soil, as both methods were born around the same time, and both have strengths that complement one another. At IAFN, a number of our board members have taken, or teach, Permaculture Design Courses. In this interview, IAFN Chairperson and experiences permaculturalist Grover Stock explores the common goals of analog forestry and permaculture, and how the two can work together.

Photo: Graham Burnett

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  1. Rafael Ocampo S.

    Interesante el tema de Forestería Analoga y Permacultura.
    Hay que entender la dinamica ecologica, para considerar las diferencias de enfoque, además, que todas conducen hacia la Madre Natura.
    Agroecología la parte esencial de la Madre Natura, por la intervención Humana, antes de eso BOSQUE. La Agroforestería analoga, una forma de ir acercandose a la Sostenibilidad o sea al BOSQUE con la mejora de la Salud del Suelo, añadido con la mejora de la Captura de Carbono, a través del mejoramiento de microorganismoso en el suelo y La Permacultura, un diseño arquitectetonico de ordenamiento del espacio, logrando la autosuficiencia ALIMENTARIA.
    Lo importante es ir acercando las iniciativas en MEJORA DEL MEDIO AMBIENTE Y DEL SER HUMANO

  2. Ranil

    Actually the two are very different. Analog Forestry always uses the native forest as the model , while permaculture looks to tradition and human experience. Analog Forestry recognizes non utility (for humans) biodiversity as essential in design Permaculture does not. Analog Forestry addresses the forest as ‘an organism’ with its own identity , permaculture does not. Analog Forestry was born to address the biodiversity of forests while Permaculture was born to address the sustainability of farm production.These are just four examples. An in depth analysis will reveal more.

    1. Eduardo

      Thanks Ranil.. on the other hand, if we look at the similarities, both tools are design-based human systems that aim at improving livelihoods and both can (and probably do already) co-exist one with the other.. In fact, I think AF can greatly improve already wide-spread production systems like PC and agroforestry, at all scales, all over the world. Cheers.

      1. Ranil

        Thanks Eduardo,

        While tools are often similar.The philosophy guiding their use may be different, thus the end result will be different. It is critical to have the design in mind before utilizing the tools in any human endeavor.

        1. Eduardo

          Totally agree Ranil! Having clarity on design objectives, based on sound assessments (provided by the AF method), are key in the intervention plans up ahead… I imagine a world where amongst the many toolkits out there, AF becomes a preferred tool in the landscape matrix composition, inclusive or complimentary of others 🙂

  3. Sion

    It was interesting to hear Grover and Kabir have this exchange about the design tools that we have at hand. It is also interesting to see the dialog evolving here.

    I would first offer that any tool that helps humanity move towards ways of living that are positive in the world are most welcome.

    I would secondly like to offer that design starts with intention. What comes from our design is dictated by what we want to come out of it. In our work, design is also greatly influenced by the ecologies that are around us.

    In my personal experience and understanding of Permaculture, the system was born to address issues related to human exploitation and use of oil and other natural, non-renewable resources. Permaculture starts with three ethics that ask us to act to take care of the precious resources that we have. Care for the earth. Care for humans. Reinvest the surplus (into care for earth, care for humans, or both). From there, Permaculture offers 12 principles for the design of human settlement, human managed ecosystems, and perhaps life in general. (

    Analog Forestry asks us to re-imagine and re-design degraded and vulnerable landscapes. In order to do this we look to the forest for our inspiration. To this end it offers us a set of tools and principles that can guide us towards the goals of building ecosystem health/resilience (including an emphasis on enhancing biodiversity), encouraging diversified and sustainable livelihood opportunities and offering opportunities for abundant ecosystem services to once again flourish (oxygen creation, water filtration, soil building, etc.).

    If we look deeply into the two design systems we will surely find countless similarities and differences alike. Rather than dwelling on those questions, I would like to pose the question of how we know where and when to reach into our toolkits and pull out either system, or part/s of either system.

    I have observed that Permaculture was originated and continues to be practiced predominantly by people from the global north (formerly “the west” or “first world”). Analog Forestry, by contrast originated in the global south (formerly “the third world”) and continues to spread readily in those parts, with few applications in “the west”. I wonder why this is, and if anyone out there has thoughts on this question. And if my observations are generally correct, I wonder how we might move these systems into spaces where they have not penetrated deeply or spread widely….

  4. grover

    Permaculture, the way it is presented in the Design Manual actually uses the structure of the Native forest as a model and encourages designs that mimic natural systems. Permaculture also recognizes the non-human aspect both in the establishment of habitat and in the setting aside of wild zones where the designs go towards establishing a climax forest that is free of human intervention after being established. Permaculture is much more than a “farming or gardening” system, it takes into account natural building, renewable energy systems, community design and has a whole systems outlook that is way beyond purely economic yields. This is the way it is and has been taught for over 2 decades.
    Analog Forestry brings us closer to the spirit of the forest and helps us form deep intentions in the inception of our designs. It offers us some very special tools that are completely different from the ones used in permaculture design. To me the systems are very complimentary and if one uses the special tools from each, the result will be a resilient, regenerative landscape that honors diversity and that reflects the beneficent nature of the forest and enhances the eco-system services provided by the forest organism.

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