Madan Poudel

Madan Poudel

Passionate Agriculturist

System Thinking: Developing Solutions to Sustainability Challenges

Permaculture PERIOD: 1
Mr. Madan Poudel


System is a group of component interacting with each other which makes it functional. System is anything that can be separated into its functional unit and reversely different layers/strata arrangement makes it functional. System is a broader aspect of any entity/element. Clearing the concept of system with an example of car, it is made up of different sub-systems and its elements (spare parts). To be a car functional, each element function on their own and interacting with other such elements. Even, driver is one of its critical element as car without a driver is not a system. Human body is made of different organs which is in fact interaction of tissues subsystem and tissues are made up of cells. Every system has its components of what it consists.

Approach of system thinking

The approach of system thinking is to provide solutions over the complex problem which arises due to lack of understanding on system as a whole. Instead of isolating smaller and smaller parts of a system, this approach expands its view to take into account larger system to derive conclusion analyzing relationship and interaction on their functional component. The issue when solving any problem we often encounter is that we fail to picture the problem as a whole and we stress on one specific solution which in turns makes the problem more complex.  

Science today is in advanced stage and several disciplines has been discovered and people started to dig deeper into the knowledge to be specialized in such disciplines. The break up in the body of knowledge makes it difficult to communicate with other aspects knowledge. Physicist talks with physicist, economists to economists even worst electrometricans to electrometricians. The more the science breaks down, increasingly it becomes difficult to communicate to other discipline. Ultimately,  we lose the ability to generalize the framework of the system with which it functions.

System thinking approach can be used in various aspects of our  life, for business development, organization, research and many more. Life is cooperative rather than competitive and life forms of very different qualities may interact beneficially with one another and with their physical environment. Even the bacteria live in collaboration, accommodation and exchange.

System thinking in context of agriculture systems

Increasing debates have been raised on the issues of negative impacts of industrial agriculture which don’t coordinate with the natural system. We all know where the sustainability of our food system lies. It’s not out there in big farms with huge machinery practicing mono culture, heavily tilling the soil destroying its life form without any diversity; this definitely does not harmonies with our natural system!

Agriculture research system are often biased and researchers focus on their specific protocol to meet their research objectives. Specialists in various fields when gather together and observe a stalk of rice. The insect disease specialist sees only insect damage; the specialist in plant nutrition considers only the plant’s vigor. Methods of insect control, which ignore the relationships among the insects themselves, are truly useless. Suppose a scientists wants to understand the nature, he may start with studying a leaf but as his investigation processes down to the level of molecule, atoms and elementary particles, he loses the sight of the whole leaf. 

To illustrate a real example, scientists who studies nutrient to enhances the crop production, he studies the ways by which plant absorb. He control the environment and omit all the relationship plant has got with its supporting factors. He discovers that when there is too little calcium or magnesium in the soil  growth is poor and the leaves whither. When he artificially supplements the calcium or magnesium, he notes that the rate of growth increases and large grains form. Pleased with his success, the scientist calls his discovery scientific truth and treats it as an infallible cultivation technique elements as nutrients. But the real question here is is that a true deficiency? If so, what is the basis to call it a deficiency? When a field really is deficient in some component, the first thing done should be to determine the true cause of the deficiency. Yet science begins by treating the most obvious symptoms. If there is bleeding, it stops the bleeding. For a calcium deficiency, it immediately applies calcium. 

This calls for a new approach. In every cause, there is a second and a third cause. Behind every phenomenon there is a main cause, a fundamental cause, an underlying cause, and contributing factors. Numerous causes and effects intertwine in a complex pattern that leaves little clue as to the true cause. Even so, man is confident of the ability of science to find the true cause through persistent and ever deeper investigation and to set up effective ways of coping with the problem. Yet, just how far can he go in his investigation of cause and effect?

–  Last two Paragraphs adapted from  Masanobu Fukuoka “The natural way of Farming. The Theory and Practice of Green Philosophy”

In the nutshell, systems thinking is critical in developing solutions to sustainability challenges
To be continued...

The happy secret of effective table work with gardening hacks

Your workspace might be messed up things that breaks your attention. Try to surround with good things around to get focused and it will surprisingly delights you with its beauty. I have got half a dozen of bottles mostly reused ones of beverages. I put cuttings of ornamental and medicinal plants submerging stem base into the half water filled bootle.  

Believe me I put these plants into these vessels for more than five months, they stills looks fresh, green and smells good.

This croton is one of the awesome plant I have got in my collection. It has already developed 30cm long  adventitious roots in the water. Trust me, you can put this croton plant cuttings for a year or so alive, healthy and green. You can put 2 inch of white sparky pebbles which gives perfect reflection at light. I utilized this beverage bootle (Golden Oak, Vodka) to grow these plants. Even some beverage bottles has got artistic patterns. Alike croton you can put acalypha, justicia, aloe vera, money plant, balsam etc at these bottles to give a fantastic workspace design.


Pic: Justicia developing its root on volumetric bottom flask

I do spend my time in my mini little table garden keeping a maintained water level, changing the orientation and many more.

As a true natures guy, I feel deep affection at the plants. These environment brings me the strong sense of feeling to spend my time enjoying the work, networking and communicate the online world.

You can make the cuttings of balsam to root keeping at water for 15-20days. You can transplant into little plastic bottle cuttings. Balsam and aloe vera has got wide medicinal properties and it’s good to consume herbs that you could cultivate at your own desk.


You can put it at the window. The bottle with its top part separated is a nice thing to play with. You can raise nursery at it planting small vegetable seedlings and flower seedling. The broad leaf shade loving indoor plants like iron plants placed at the pot gives a nice view.


Try these gardening hacks at your own table. You will get to know how plants can amaze us and could bring positiveness at your work.



Sustainable Agriculture: Back to the roots

– Madan Poudel
Agriculture and Forestry University, Nepal
Sustainability has been creating a buzz for a while now, with ever increasing environmental and political concerns. A 1987 UN report known as Our Common Future, defines sustainability as, “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” If we see sustainability under the lens of agriculture, it’s about ensuring safe, nutritious and healthy food availability to the people who need it the most. And as of today, Organic Farming, Permaculture, agro-ecological farming, biodynamic farming has all begun to outshine the conventional agriculture practices.
As we know Industrial agriculture has dominated the landscape for the last 40 years, polluting water and skewing the market place while warming the climate for future generation. The corporate food system is fully centralized and have extended their monopoly from production to the consumption.
This all have led to a crisis, that seems to be approaching in many forms, energy crisis, water crisis, climate crisis and food crisis while debates on this issue have been increasing on present food system.
We all know where the sustainability of our food system lies. It’s not out there in big farms with huge machineries practicing monoculture, heavily tilling the soil destroying its life form without any diversity; this definitely does not harmonize with our natural system!
While the problem of present food system seems outrageously complex, the solutions are yet simple.
Bill Mollison: Father of Permaculture has quoted, “The greatest change we need to make is from consumption to production, even if on a small scale, in our own gardens. If only 10% of us do this, there is enough for everyone.” It might be hard to believe that we, as individuals, can make much of an impact on the prevailing models of food production and its detrimental effects on the environment.
Much changes can be brought through small scale farming, practicing polycultures, regenerating the previously lost productive landscapes that aims for the creation of social capital and cohesion.
With the emergence of people’s movement towards their right for safe, nutritious and sustainable food system, consumers have been aware on what food they want on their tables and the source of the produce!
Although young people still take farming as the last resort of their career, contrastly there are young farmers mushrooming around the world establishing ecological farms and leading the agendas of sustainable food systems.
We can see, the solution lies in small scale farming where farmers are growing food ecologically, working with nature. The solution for all types of crisis, which now seem unavoidable; as they deviated from natural being, should be brought back to their roots.
All in all, sustainable farming is not a rocket science that needs tremendous intellect or knowledge. It’s beauty is that it can be achieved by our average farmers toiling in their own fields with few twitches in their system and a few modifications. The question is, are they willing and are we willing?

In memory of Bill Mollison: RIP to World Class Hero

I am in heavy heart with loss of great visionary soul: Bill Mollison; who died on 24th September, Saturday in Hobart, aged 88.  Bill was Australian researcher, author, scientist, teacher and biologist who co-founded the world permaculture movement.

The world is saddened with his loss, the contribution he made with defining and leading the movement of permaculture is like the remarkable achievement.

It has not been so long that I was introduced with Permaculture. Among many buzz words of 21st century like organic, sustainable agriculture, I often use to hear the word Permaculture too. Within this very short time, I became so much fond of permaculture design system and I started to trust on this system that it is simpler solutions for every complex problem we are facing today. Permaculture is an integrated system of design which Mollison co-developed with David Holmgren, and it encompasses not only agriculture, horticulture, architecture, and ecology, but also economic systems, land access strategies, and legal systems for businesses and communities. It is an holistic science that integrates the multi dimension functionality of natural elements to make our living environment regenerative, productive and sustainable.

David and Bill went on to co-originate the permaculture concept and write Permaculture One: A Perennial Agricultural System for Human Settlements together, published in 1978. Bill went on to write the seminal Permaculture: A Designer’s Manual and teach permaculture design all over the world.

After founding Permaculture Institute in 1978, Bill formalized the training of practitioners, which directly impacted hundreds of thousands of lives, and indirectly many millions more. For his service to humanity, he was honored with numerous awards, including the Right Livelihood Award (sometimes called the “Alternative Nobel Prize”)in 1981. But of all the accolades he received, the one he was most proud of was the Vavilov Medal, in large part due to the tenacity, courage, and contributions of the award’s namesake, who Bill considered a personal hero. Bill was also the first foreigner invited and admitted to the Russian Academy of Agricultural Sciences.

Suggestive Readings:

In Memory of Bill Mollison : Facebook Group

Bruce Charles ‘Bill’ Mollison 1928-2016




Bruce Charles ‘Bill’ Mollison (born 1928 in Stanley, Tasmania, Australia died 24 September 2016 Sisters Beach, Tasmania).

A few people are born who are world class heroes to those who know them and unknown to the great majority, until one day their inescapable influence floats to the surface and is generally recognised for the cream it is. In hindsight, such leaders go on to become household names.

Such a man was Bill Mollison: backwoodsman, academic, storyteller, lady’s man and to many just ‘Uncle Bill’, but doing all these things par excellence. In consequence, he has left a worldwide movement of remarkable resilience. He has left much useful information and not a few words of guidance and encouragement for those who will miss him most.

Growing up in Stanley, Tasmania, he left school at fifteen to help run the family bakery and before 26 went through the occupations of shark fisherman and seaman (bringing vessels from post-war disposals to southern ports), forester, mill-worker, trapper, snarer, tractor driver and naturalist.

His lack of formal education gave him many learning opportunities in how the real world works.

Bill joined the CSIRO (Wildlife Survey Section) in 1954 and gained extensive research knowledge. His time in the Tasmanian rainforests gave him the founding structure for what became his life’s passion – Permaculture. The idea that we could consciously design sustainable systems which enabled human beings to live within their means and for all wild life to flourish with us.

A spell at the Tasmanian Museum in curatorial duties, a return to field work with the Inland Fisheries Commission took him back to college in 1966 living on his wits running cattle, security bouncing at dances, shark fishing, and teaching part-time at an exclusive girls’ school. Upon receiving his degree in bio-geography, he was appointed to the University of Tasmania where he later developed the unit of Environmental Psychology. During his university period (which lasted for ten years), Bill independently researched and published a three-volume treatise on the history and genealogies of the descendants of the Tasmanian aborigines.

In 1974, with David Holmgren, Bill developed the beginning of the permaculture concept, leading to the publication of Permaculture One. He became fixated on proving and promulgating what he saw as a world renewing concept. Leaving the University in 1978, abandoning a secure academic tenure at the age of fifty (an unheard of move) Bill devoted all his energies to furthering the system of permaculture and spreading the idea and principles worldwide. He has taught thousands of students and has contributed many articles, curricula, reports, and recommendations for farm projects, urban clusters and local government bodies.

In 1981, Bill Mollison received the Right Livelihood Award (sometimes called the “Alternative Nobel Prize”) for his work in environmental design. In recent years, he has established a ‘Trust in Aid’ fund to enable permaculture teachers to reach groups in need, particularly in the poorer parts of the world, with the aim of leaving a core of teachers locally to continue appropriate educational work.

We are helped in remembering Bill by his 1996 autobiography Travels in Dreams. Typically he laughs at himself: “This book is a work of fiction: most if not all of it is lies. Even the lies are imprecise reports of old lies overheard.” He wasn’t universally liked. One reason being he was committed to disrupt the status quo of misguided unfeeling management. “First feel fear, then get angry. Then go with your life into the fight.” He was eloquent about the need for peaceful ‘warriors’ as he called them to challenge the stupidity of ill-governance on a global scale. His own fears about being ineffectual were misguided: “Nobody takes any notice of me and even my friends continually criticise me.” In reality, he engendered a massive global respect which will endure and grow as others develop his foundation thinking.

The pinnacle of his career to his students was the publication in 1988 of The Permaculture Designers Manual, honoured to this day by devotees as ‘The Bible of Permaculture’. If devotees suggests falsely some religious connotation it’s really that Bill pioneered a deep respect for the planet and for more sensible approaches for how we could live on it: “We are true time scouts finding places now for what will be needed then.”

Bill asked: “Are we the public or the private person?” The truth of the matter is that for all seasons we are both. Perceived as challenging, a huge harvester of great ideas from around the world (and not always crediting their sources) Bill was also a sensitive man, eloquent raconteur, poet and appreciative of the poetry of others. He knew how to provoke others to action, but also when to withdraw and let others carry on the work. He paraphrased Lao Tzu: “True change is to so change things that it seems natural to everybody but no-one knows who thought of it.” And: “Our best will not be our children’s best.”

Though often outwardly gruff and challenging there was real heart to everything he did.

Bill Mollison founded the first and original Permaculture Institute, which was established in 1979 to teach the practical design of sustainable soil, water, plant, and legal and economic systems to students worldwide. Bill’s legacy is that hundreds of thousands of past students have created a world-wide network to take his concept forward. This is a world in which we are acutely aware of our environment, its capacity and its limitations, and we design systems to meet human needs which respect that.

Bill spent his final years in Sisters’ Creek, Tasmania. The final words must go to him in true classical tone:

“If you hear that I am dead tell them they lie.”


Originally Published on Graham Bell’s Online Journal.