Permaculture : a vision and strategy for sustainable development? : a Malawian case study : a thesis presented in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Philosophy in Development Studies at Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand

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This thesis is a study of perceptions of sustainable development and whether permaculture contributes to sustainable development in Malawi. Underpinning this thesis are two key contentions: that there is insufficient exploration of the broader societal and cultural values orientating current sustainable development theory, practice and policy; and permaculture, as ethically informed social movement network that promotes a design system for sustainable interaction with the environment, is both a vision and strategy for sustainable development. A qualitative, ethnographic case study approach was employed, using semi-structured interviews, in-field observation and permaculture document analysis. Research revealed perceptions of sustainable development were very similar to perceptions of permaculture, suggesting that most people saw permaculture as significantly contributing to their understanding of sustainable development. A key finding was involvement in permaculture arose from a plurality of instrumental goals and identification with social movement values, which in turn influenced perceptions of sustainable development. Several factors emerged as influential in perceptions of both sustainable development and permaculture: culture, level of involvement in permaculture, degree of initiative activity and the role of leaders and committed individuals within an initiative. These findings are seen to have implications for future sustainable development policy and practice. The universality of sustainability issues within perceptions of both sustainable development and permaculture, and the establishment of independent projects and spontaneous adoption of instrumental aspects of permaculture in an area surrounding one research site suggest permaculture has potential to effect sustainable change in individuals and culture both within and outside of initiative parameters. Likewise, demonstrated embodiment of permaculture values in identity, action and lifestyle opens space for the inclusion of personal development and personal responsibility within the concept of sustainable development.
Permaculture, Sustainable development, Cultural values, Environment