Permaculture Design Course

Berg-en-Dal is undergoing a rezoning process with the local municipality, which is a rather drawn out red tape process. Thus we are going to move our PDC to Magic Mountains Retreat, the venue for our very successful Food Gardening in Permaculture Course in April. The course will include a field trip to Berg-en-Dal to observe and interact with the permaculture system there.

NEXT COURSE DATES: 8 to 20 September 2014

Why attend a Permaculture Course?

Empower yourself and learn how to become self-sufficient in any situation. The Permaculture Design Course teaches essential skills to meet the challenges of a world beset with climate change, economic meltdown and diminishing natural resources. Learn to design regenerative human living environments that will provide for your every need in a way that benefits everything and everyone around you… A Permaculture Design Course will change your life and set you on a pathway towards health, abundance, personal freedom and economic well-being without compromising the earth or your ethics.

The Permaculture Design Course is the international standard for entry into the world of permaculture. Because Permaculture is a design system, having a working grasp of the design process is critical to successful application of permaculture in one’s life. The Permaculture Design Course specifically focuses on design by practically exploring the ethics, principles and methodology that underpin permaculture design.

The process is dynamic and fluid and mimics the processes and patterns found in the structure of nature. By applying the design process and toolbox to any situation  an elegant, appropriate and integrated living system that self-p;erpetuates will emerge. We as humans cannot separate ourselves from our environment and permaculture design concentrates this reality.

The Permaculture Design Certificate Course

The Permaculture Design Course was developed by Bill Mollison to teach principles and foundations of sustainable design. All PDC courses offered throughout the world must follow the same format to assure that the integrity of certification process is upheld.


Permaculture Education Africa’s PDC follows the original certification course developed by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren plus includes layers of process and content that are appropriate to the African context.  Our courses meets all requirements for certification. Participants that attend all sessions of this class and complete the final design project will receive Certificate of Permaculture Design.



SanZen Karoo Retreat

This is an 11 hectare guest farm that is envisioned as a spiritual retreat nested in a permaculture system. This interesting farm is set in the beautiful succulent veld of the Klein Karoo under the Langeberg Mountains and is home to the Peace Pagoda and a laybrinth. The site is in transition from a more conventional set-up so provides us with endless opportunities for us to develop permaculture systems as part of the course curriculum and our hosts Susan Greef and her son Wihan have been working hard deconstructing the old system so that the new can take hold…

Currently they have established a off-grid water harvesting system that is a combination of swales catching overland run-off,  a borehole on solar power and catchment of water off rooftops. We have developed a beautiful Zone 1 system with a vegetable garden, food forest, nursery and composting systems during the recent Food Gardening in Permaculture Course and the roll out of the design continues during the PDC. We will expand the current vegetable garden and food forest during the course as well as implement a grey water system and soft fruit berry cage system and more as part of the course process. We will be working on the design for the farm as part of the course design work and there are many exciting design opportunities within the scope of the farm as only a mainframe design has been completed at this stage…

The Labyrinth


Permaculture Education Africa’s courses are usually held at The Klein Karoo Sustainable Dryland Permaculture Project (KKSDPP) on the farm Berg-en-Dal. We will visit Berg-en-Dal on a field trip during the course providing us an opportunity to observe and interact with the wide range of established permaculture systems on the farm. We will learn about and see…

  • all the principles of permaculture in action
  • broadscale regenerative water harvesting earthworks that are well established on the farm
  • a variety of established homestead permaculture systems that include established food forests, mature vegetable gardens, agroforestry systems, small animal systems as well as a range of soil management strategies for food production.
  • our extensive farm scale earth restoration program
  • a variety of natural buildings and different off-grid technologies (the farm has never had mains electricity or any municipal services)
  • how to site and build keyline dams and linked swale systems
  • the application of indigenous vegetation to permaculture systems in the context of desert environments
  • the impact of a holistic grazing management system on veld recovery
  • the application of permaculture design to regenerative rural settlement design
  • compost toilets, worm farms and much, much more

The KKSDPP was founded in 1999 on the farm Berg-en-Dal as a Permaculture Training Environment. Berg-en-Dal is located in the foothills of the Swartberg Mountains outside Ladismith. The Training Environment functions as a Living rural settlement model that embraces a wide range of ecologically based human settlement approaches with the goal of becoming more socially, economically and ecologically sustainable.

The models we are exploring are living, cutting edge and are dynamically interactive with the surrounding environment in a constant feedback/response system in order to enhance our individual and collective capacity for living sustainably. in community, at the present and for future generations.

View of Swartberg Mountains Across the farm dam

The farm has been designed and is under development using Permaculture principles, and provides the ideal context for a PDC as Permaculture can be seen and experienced. Participants will be living a Permaculture lifestyle for the two weeks you are at Berg-en-Dal.


Permaculture is the conscious design of human living environments that are reflections of the ecological principle that underlies nature. It is the harmonious integration of landscape and people providing their food, energy, shelter and other material and non-material needs in a sustainable way. Permaculture design is a system of assembling conceptual, material, and strategic components in a pattern which functions to benefit life in all its forms.

“A design is a marriage of landscape, people and skills in the context of regional society”. (Bill Mollison)

The process of permaculture design spirals through every aspect of the human endevour

Without sustainable resource management there is no possibility of a sustainable human culture. Sustainable human cultural and economic systems are built on this sustainable resource base which makes available renewable natural capital as the core and energy source for society.


Permaculture is a broad-based and holistic approach that has many applications to all aspects of life. At the heart of permaculture design and practice is a fundamental set of core values or ethic which remain constant whatever a person’s situation. These ethics are often summarized as;

CARE OF THE EARTH: Look after our planet, and everything that lives on it.

CARE OF THE PEOPLE: Look after each other.

SURPLUS SHARE: Direct all surplus resources, time, and energy towards establishing to first two ethics in the world around us so that is may transform into a healthy, abundant and peace place for all.

PROMOTE LIFE: All forms of life have a right to exist. Our efforts as designers are directed towards enhancing and promoting life in all its wonderful and diverse forms.


The core of permaculture has always been in supplying a design toolkit for human habitation. This toolkit helps the designer to model a final design based on an observation of how ecosystems interact combined with human needs and vision .

- The development of integrated systems thinking and design skills that can be applied to any situation in any part of the world. Permaculture designers will have a range of principles, ethics and skills at their disposal that can be applied to the following:

- Design of urban homesteads, farms (small or large scale), community based natural resource management systems, sustainable community development programmes, village and city design (Ecovillage and Ecocity), integrated business planning and design, design of integrated and appropriate social and legal system. It is an ideal tool for regional and local planning for NGO and government workers in all fields of sustainable development.

- Development of integrated systems management and assessment tools to bring disparate and non-communicating elements of any environment together into organic processes that self replicate and evolve.

- Discover how to turn problems into solutions.

-Retrofit by applying Permaculture ideals and methods to existing systems. (Home, office, industry, forestry, schools, etc)

- Assess systems for sustainability.

- Develop business plans based on outputs from sustainable systems.

- During the course each participant will get hands on design practice using a real time site on the farm where you will effectively interact with the design tools and processes within the diverse context of a community permaculture farm . Designing happens in small groups providing essential training in working in teams and interactive group multitasking. We will run through the complete design process over the duration of the course and by the end of the course you will have completed a design and be well practiced in the permaculture design process. Effective knowledge of the design process is central to permaculture and the course process ensures practical experience in the following aspects of design…

Students recording design site observations onto map layers

Presenting course work designs

Site observation

-Mapping and map overlaying

-Landscape process understanding

-Infrastructure assessment

-Resource assessment

-Response to climatic and topographic factors

-Assessment of human needs and choices

-Ecosystem health assessment

-Identification of vegetation systems and units

-Working with survey instruments

-System component analysis

-Zone and Elevational Planning

-Water infrastructure design

-Land use design

-Integration of Design Elements and systems

-Building design

-Roll out planning and budgeting

-Design for community.

The design will take the form of maps, pictures, text and models. Materials for the design will be provided.

- Upon completion of the course you will be provided with an internationally recognized Permaculture Design Certificate.


Tahir Cooper, Alex Kruger and Guests….

Tahir and Alex have been practicing permaculture for 20 years. They taught together for the first time in 1995 and have trained thousands of students over the years. Through their own respective journeys into permaculture they have designed a wide range of permaculture systems ranging from small scale urban gardens, ecovillages, farms to regional level marginalised community action plans, established and managed community projects and non-governmental organisations, consulted on ecological restoration and land rehabilitation projects across the country and abroad. Alex and Tahir bring this vast experience into the PDC environment, delivering a high quality transfer of knowledge, skills and intuitive understanding of permaculture producing high standard graduate designers.

Lead facilitators Alex and Tahir


COURSE CONTENT The course runs over 13 days with a rest day. The learning process is based on Permaculture principles and makes use of a wide range of group-based and creative accelerated-learning methods.

We take you practically through the design process in the context of a Drylands Permaculture environment, which presents a diverse range of challenges and opportunities developing design skills, knowledge and experience set that can be applied anywhere.

By working in groups you will have the opportunity to cover material that is not possible through individual work and in the process of developing a real time design that will be implemented; you will also develop essential group working skills.  Many of the techniques and methods used in implementing Permaculture systems will be covered in some detail, but the focus will be on the design process.

Students working in small groups


  • Ecology and Integrated Systems Thinking
  • Sustainable Culture versus Consumer Culture, and the Emerging Culture of Energy Descent
  • Nature of Dryland Ecosystems or Brittle Environments
  • Understanding Patterns in Nature and designing with with them
  • What is Permaculture?
  • Ethics and principles of Permaculture
  • Design Process. Land and Ecosystem observation skills, mapping, Sector, Slope and Zone planning…
  • Ecovillage and Community Design
  • Phases of Pioneering Succession
  • Soil:
    • Analysing and understanding soil
    • Principles of soil management
    • Conditioning practices
  • Water:
    • Principles of water management
    • Broad scale holistic water catchment systems Design: Infrastructure design and management. Keyline Design and other Run-off infrastructure design strategies for dryland production.
    • Domestic water management
  • Plants: their uses and selection for environment
  • Access roads and pathway design and management
  • Animals in Permaculture (focus on small animal systems)
  • The Sustainable Home and Natural Building (Cob, Rammed Earth, Straw Bale, Adobe)
  • Natural Energy Technology (Appropriate energy and technology solutions)
  • Food Garden design and management
  • Waste recycling
  • Permaculture Orchard design and management
  • Staple food systems
  • Agroforestry and broadscale production systems
  • Designing for different climates
  • Holistic Management
Students enjoying planting vegetables in companion systems


This thirteen day course cost is R7500, which includes the following…

- Vegetarian lunch & teas and four evening meals

- Permaculture Course Manual, course materials and electronic data

- Accommodation costs are not included – please see the options at Magic Mountains below:


Please write to Susan Greeff at to make your enquiry.

What we will offer:
Bedding and Towels
African Organics Biodegradable Hair, Bath & Body Products & Earthsap Biodegradable Toothpaste
Flat screen TV and DVD player for Permaculture movies if required
We will service the bathrooms, toilets and living space.
Free WiFi at main house
Bring Own:
Biodegradable insect repellant and sun block
Swimsuit & swim towel
Food for Breakfast and Dinners
Cell reception is poor but sms and what’s up available.
Below the accommodation available:

Self-Catering Guesthouse
An open and vibrant space for communal stays, consisting of an open plan living area, 6 bedrooms sleeping 18 people in total and 3 shared bathrooms.

Shared Accommodation

2014-01-14 18.19.16

  • - Room 1 sleeps 6, 3x bunk beds
  • - Room 1 sleeps 6, 3x bunk beds
  • - Room 2 sleeps 2, 1x double bed
  • - Room 3 sleeps 2, 2x 3/4 beds
  • - Room 4 sleeps 2, 2x 3/4 beds
  • - Room 5 sleeps 4, 2x bunk beds
  • - Room 6 sleeps 2, 1x double bed

Please book and pay preferred room in advance otherwise it will be on a first come first serve basis.


All rooms are fully equipped with bedding and towels.

3x Bathrooms, 2 Toilets (1 inside and 1 outside)

Open plan Living Area with Jetmaster Fireplace

Fully equipped kitchen with gas stove and frigde

Outside Firepit Area.

Sorry, NO PETS, DRUGS, ALCOHOL ABUSE, FIREARMS and Violent/Disruptive  behavior. 

Swimming in dam at own risk.

We have one entertainment evening, which will be catered for, and three design evenings which will also be catered for – these costs are now included in the course costs.


Please bring all basic food stuffs and other necessities. We provide top-up shopping trips during the course. We also provide an on-site laundry service at R30 per small load.

  • Good walking shoes
  • Hat
  • Clothes for cold and heat (the Barrydale area can experience temperatures ranging from 3 to 35 degrees C in April and September, although the weather is normally very pleasant at this time of year)
  • Hot water bottle
  • Rain gear and gumboots
  • Pens, pencils, coloured pens and a ruler
  • Swimming gear
  • Water bottles and containers
  • A 32 Gigabyte memory stick  – we will load data on to it for you
  • A torch


Contact us to request your booking form for the course itself via email, or fax if you do not have email.


As we have had many enquiries, we will be able to deal with applications on a first come first served basis. Your place is confirmed ONLY on receipt of your deposit. Your deposit covers the implementation costs of the course.

Please confirm your place on the course by 20 August 2014, with a deposit of R3750.00. If you cancel after this date, deposits will not be refunded. Should the course be cancelled by us, we will refund you in full. It is unlikely that we will cancel the course. Late applications for the course will be considered if space is available.

Please bring the balance of your bill with you to the course or make an electronic deposit, and bring the proof with you.

Also please put your initials and surname in the recipient reference box, in both instances of payment, so that we know who you are! Email us a proof of payment too. You can also fax us proof of payment on 086 540 8997.

Our banking details:

Permaculture Education Africa Karoo

First National Bank


Branch code: 200213

Cheque account: 62269863926

Please contact us by email as this is most easily accessed by us on the farm as we have no phones in our homes or cell phone signal.  If you cannot mail, please try the number below:

(028) 55 11 678 (if you get the answering machine, please leave a message)


Floating Widgets