Permaculture Design Internship 2021

Permaculture Design Internship 2021
Montalegre - Portugal
Permaculture is to live in harmony with nature providing for human needs and the needs of everything around us

Relationship between Soil and Human Health:

 Soil and Human Health:

Correlation between soil composition and our well-being

We, human beings, live from about 25cm of topsoil, containing bacteria, fungi, earthworms and other forms of microscopic life, that sustain vegetation, insects, birds and animals. 

Soil and human health are deeply interconnected, yet mainly ignored by our modern medical practices, that “treat” the symptoms, not the causes

The soil is what feeds us throughout our entire lives, to gently embrace us back into the cycle of life when we are gone. 

It’s the greatest natural resource we have. 

True wealth is a fertile soil.

First links between the environmental geochemistry and human health were found in Chinese medical texts dated back to the third century BC, while in the West such information became more relevant around 1921-1959 thanks to pioneers like McCarrison,

Albert Howard, Eve Balfour, J.I.Rodale and André Voisin, who were writing about the links between soil and human health, in particular the effect of soil fertility on the nutrient content of foods.

In 1959 Voisin published a study on the potential links between soil and human health, which was probably the most comprehensive and extensive study on the subject up to that time. 

In his book Soil, Grass and Cancer: 

Health of Animals and Men is Linked to the Mineral Balance of the Soil he stated that 

“all living things are biochemical photographs of their environment." 

Our ancestors, were well aware of the fact that the dust of the soil itself is what finally determines vigor and health.”

His predicament about the increase of degenerative diseases in both animals and people as a consequence of overuse of artificial fertilizers progressed geometrically worldwide, to the present day.

The health and well-being of all living things on our planet, including plants, animal and humans, is directly connected to the health of the soil.

Soil study- Permaculture course (Sep 2020, Azores)

Micronutrients in Soil and Human Health

Usualy scientists say there are 14 elements essential for plant growth that come from the soil, and many of these elements are also essential for human health but some people of the regenerative movement talk about 90 and even 102 different elements we should have available. 

These essential nutrients end up in the human diet either directly through the consumption of plants or indirectly through the consumption of animal products.

“In the pyramid of life, plants play an essential role, as man cannot ingest essential elements directly from the soil. 

They must be brought to him through the good graces of living plants, which likewise feed all animals, directly or indirectly. 

Via plant and animal our bodies grow out of the soil.” 

(The secret life of plants, Peter Tompkins)

Hydrogen, oxygen, carbon, nitrogen, sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, sulphur and chlorine make up 99.9% of the atoms in the human body, with all but hydrogen, oxygen and carbon having soil as their major source.

However, the remaining 0.1% consists of approximately 18 additional elements (iron, manganese, copper, zinc, sodium, iodine etc) known as micronutrients or trace elements that are essential in small amounts to maintain human health.

These trace elements required by humans cannot be synthesized; therefore, there is a direct link between soil composition with its geographical particularities, food and health issues.

The diets of more than two‐thirds of the worlds population lack or are deficient in one or more essential elements, with more than 60% deficient in iron, around 30% in zinc, almost 30% in iodine and about 15% in sodium. 

Dietary deficiencies of calcium, copper and magnesium are also prevalent in many countries.

Cardiovascular diseases are common where the soil is deficient in trace elements, as more recent investigations have suggested. 

A study in the Netherlands showed that mortality from arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) was greatest where the soil was formed from sea clay and peat, and least on sandy glacial soil. 

Beeson & Matrone (1976) discovered more incidences on the Atlantic Coastal Plain of the USA where the soil is sandy, leached and often poorly drained, than on the Great Plains where the soil is muchless leached. 

Shacklette et al. (1972) observed more disease on the coastal plain in Georgia than in the Appalachian Mountains where there is more variation in the soil.

Anaemia in sedentary populations was found to be linked to micronutrient deficiencies in the soil, especially iron.

Iron deficient soil can lead to small iron concentrations in plants and in humans who consume them. 

This is especially problematic in arid soils and in populations whose diets rely on a large intake of cereal grains

Iron deficiency causes anaemia because it is an essential component of haemoglobin

About 25% of the world’s population and 47% of pre-school children are estimated to have iron deficiency making it one of the most common nutrient deficiencies worldwide, mainly in developing countries.

Selenium deficiency in Scandinavia has a similar distribution to that of iodine: both are prevalent on glacial soil. 

This is because of the low temperatures, high humidity, low pH and large Fe concentration in the soil.

In the late 1970s it was shown that all agricultural products from Finland contained exceptionally small amounts of selenium, that apparently contributed to common diseases, especially cardiovascular ones and cancer (Varo et al., 1994).

Iodine deficiency has been identified as the single most preventable cause of brain damage world-wide by the World Health Organization, with other known effects such as congenital anomalies and delayed physical development.

Deficiencies are common in regions where soil does not supply adequate iodine to the crops grown in it, and although widespread, they are most common in the high altitude interiors of continents.

Iodine was the first element to be recognized as essential to human health when the French chemist (Chatin 1851) identified its relationship with goitre (swelling of the thyroid gland).

 He observed that goitre was more frequent in the Alps than near the sea; a difference explained by the iodine content of soil and water. However, goitre was known to the Chinese possibly as early as 2700 BC, and around the fourth century AD they realized that seaweeds provided a cure (Ellis, 2001).

The main source of iodine in soil is from the oceans via atmospheric deposition in either rain or dry deposition. 

There is no simple correlation between iodine in soil and distance from the sea, although the largest concentrations are typically 0–50 km from the sea. Iodine deficiency occurs worldwide; it is most pronounced in high mountain areas, inland areas of continents and some alluvial plains, being less concentrated in leached sandy soil and more in loamy clay soil.

The soils potential to fix and retain iodine depends principally on soil organic matter content, and humus might be the main reservoir of iodine.

In Romania people develop goitre on acid soil formed from conglomerates, sandstones and marls, whereas it does not occur on the near neutral chernozems- grassland soils rich in humus (Rauta et al.,1986).

Zhang (1987) noted that deficiency of iodine in the hills and mountains of Jilin Province, north-east China, gave rise to goitre.

Thilly et al. (1972) studied Idgwi Island in Kivu Lake (Congo) and found that goitre was common where the soil had formed on granites in the north of the island, whereas in the south-west, where the soil had formed from basalt, there was none.

Soil pH and nutrients availability

Among all the aspects that affect soil quality, like composition, proportion of organic matter, redox potential, moisture, human management, the pH is of particular importance because it controls the behaviour of metals and the availability of elements and essential nutrients for plant uptake.

Acid soil, which represents about 40% of the worlds agricultural land, has toxic concentrations of manganese and aluminium that limits crop production, whereas on sodic and saline soils (10% of agricultural land) too much sodium, boron and chloride mostly reduce crop production.

Alkaline and calcareous soils (25–30% of all agricultural land) have small availability of iron, zinc and copper, coarse‐textured, calcareous or strongly acidic soils contain little magnesium. Consequently, crops also have inherently small concentrations of certain elements.

Differences in soil moisture, acidity or alkalinity, arising naturally or from cultivation or irrigation, from industry or urbanization, can also affect the availability of specific elements to plants and the water supply.

Irrigation affects trace element availability. 

If the water is alkaline it decreases the availability of zinc and enhances plant uptake of molybdenum and selenium

Iron-rich water restricts selenium uptake.

In general the more acid the soil the more available are iron, aluminium, manganese and heavy metals such as lead and cadmium which can be harmful to health. 

In addition, where the soil is acid, iodine and selenium are less available.

Human impact on soil quality

Composition and concentration of elements reflect the natural condition of the soil, however the anthropogenic or human impact is an alarming aspect that we simply cannot ignore anymore when we speak about soil-human health nexus.

Soil is the primary nitrogen source for plants, and given that nitrogen is required for human health, nitrate is an essential nutrient.

Plants can quickly diminish nitrate concentrations in soil. 

For production agriculture to succeed, the nitrogen consumed has to be replaced frequently, and this is usually done with the use of chemical fertilizers.

Overuse and improper management of chemical fertilizers, among other faulty agriculture techniques applied worldwide, can lead to leaching of excess nitrate into groundwater or surface water. 

Nitrate-contaminated water can cause serious toxicity when the gut microflora convert nitrate into nitrite, which reacts with haemoglobin, preventing oxygen from being carried throughout the body. 

Nitrate has also been identified as a risk factor in the development of stomach cancer.

Soil degradation through irresponsible agriculture involves the depletion of nutrients and organic matter, increase in leaching, acidification, compaction, erosion, salinization, sodification and desertification.

Salinization in arid and semi‐arid regions from irrigation and internal drainage reduces biodiversity, efficiency in nutrient cycling and productivity, which increases food insecurity and diseases in plant, animal and humans. 

Salinity, desiccation and drought reduce crop cover and increase wind‐borne dust, which leads to bronchitis and asthma

Such dust often contains fungi and pathogens that affect humans (anthrax, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, influenza viruses, hantavirus).

Of the total agricultural land, 40% (2 billion ha) is degraded

These adverse and cumulative effects reduce the soil capacity to sustain crop growth and animals and thereby have a direct impact on the quantity and quality of food accessible to human beings and their health, whereas pollution of surface waters by fertilizers and pesticides is an indirect effect.

Urban soil is contaminated from sources such as traffic, the combustion of leaded petrol, industrial manufacturing, mining, use of lead-based paints, recycling and disposal of wastes, application of lawn chemicals and so on, leading to toxic concentrations of heavy metals like lead, arsenic, cadmium, chromium, copper, nickel, mercury etc.

 They affect local crops and human health directly.

Given the large numbers of people who live in urban centers (over 54% of the world’s population and increasing), particularly in developing countries, there is large exposure to these contaminants in this particular environment.

Lead and arsenic are probably the most relevant contaminants worldwide because they been widely introduced into soil from anthropogenic sources such as petrol (gasoline)lead-based paint, mining and smelting, and other industrial activities.

Mass lead poisoning was reported in Senegal in 2009 and Nigeria, in 2012, in villages that participated in informal recycling of used lead-acid batteries and gold ore processingrespectively. 

The recycling and gold processing activities resulted in lead contaminated soil, with dust from such soil being inhaled, ingested or both, causing lead poisoning.

Soil has a large capacity to immobilize lead because clay and organic matter adsorb it.

The more lead there is in the soil the more concentrated it is in plants (Davies, 1995), and hence in food.

Arsenic is a naturally occurring element that can concentrate in drinking water, especially water obtained from wells. 

Millions of people worldwide are exposed to potentially toxic levels of arsenic each day.

 Another problem is the use of arsenic contaminated water to irrigate rice crops; the arsenic then accumulates in people who consume the rice. 

Rice is the dietary staple for about half the world’s population, and for most of these people rice also represents their primary exposure to arsenic.

Biosolids , sewage sludge and animal slurries applied to agricultural land result in the introduction of pharmaceutical products in the soil, such as antibiotics, hormones, antiparasitic drugs and a large numbers of bacteria carrying genetic elements that are antibiotic-resistant. 

Humans end up beings exposed to these antibiotic‐resistant genes or bacteria through crops, water and animal products, thus continuing the vicious cycle.

“A degraded habitat will produce degraded humans.” 

(Thomas Berry)

Poor soil grows poor food, together with faulty farming and agricultural practices leading to disease, first to the land, then to the plant, then to the animal, then to people.

Healthy soil, with the proper composition of microorganisms produces strong, healthy plants which naturally repel pests, feeding healthy animals and strong healthy humans, that naturally develop immunity to diseases.

To keep these beneficial microorganisms and fungi in balance, consistent quantities of decaying organic matter need to be added to the land, returning to the soil what plants and trees took as nutrient. 

In Permaculture this is accomplished by different techniques such as “chop and drop”, mulching, composting, cover crops, and basically turning “waste” into nutrition- it all goes back in the syntropic cycle of life.

With the growing awareness of the cyclic nature of life comes the opportunity of change, and the chance to break free from the destructive loop. 

When we realize the reciprocity of our actions, we make better choices, making space for regeneration. 

Our peace and well-being depends on the relationship we have with our natural resources. 

Not their exploitation, but their nurturing

a PERMAnent CULTURE of caring.


Diana Arhire

References and inspiration:

 The secret life of plants, by Peter Tompkins
Happy Soil- Happy People, Permaculture internship (Sep 2020, Azores)
 Soil, Grass and Cancer: Health of Animals and Men is Linked to the Mineral Balance
of the Soil, by André Voisin
 Department of Soil Science, The University of Reading, Whiteknights, Reading RG6
ecause%20soil%20provides,distances%20from%20where%20they%20originated .
 WHO (1996) publication Trace Elements in Human Nutrition and Health

Agricultura sintropica em Africa Moçambique

 Agricultura sintropica em Africa


Agricultura sintrópica é o termo designado a um sistema de cultivo agroflorestal (SAF) baseado no conceito de sintropia - principio contrário ao de entropia - caracterizado pela organização, integração, equilíbrio e preservação de energia no ambiente

Para saberes mais sobre florestas comestiveis 

clica aqui.

Can i drink water directly from a clean stream?

 Can i drink water directly from a clean stream?



Because you dont know what is in the water.
Just because it looks clean and just because it doesnt smell bad doesnt means its safe.

Main contamination componants in water are either heavy metals or parasites.
Heavy metals like lead, aluminium, mercury cam come from industries or chemical agriculture farms.
Parasites usualy are present on decomposing organic matter in anaerobic conditions, that means stinky and without oxigen.

So...even if the water looks clean and you hourse want to drink from it you dont know if the re is a factory or a intensive animal farm or a junkyard upstream, you could even get sick by a dead animal standing on the stream water.
In tropical climates this is extremly dangerous, do you have a friend that went to india that got sick from the water? Thats it.

The same in Congo, indonesia or the amazon, lush tropical forests full of life and microorganisms that can make you very sick and eventualy kill you...but it could also be slums of mozambique or peru ou haiti.

What would be the result of drinking contaminated water?

Usualy in a extreme context it can result in organ colapse. 
I had a teacher he was 60 years old and he looked like he was 90, guess why...parasites. 
They are everywhere

What can i do if im in the jungle and i need to drink water?

You need 2 tools
and problably most importante survival tools

A metal cup and a lighter 
Always boil your water if you want to be safe

The number of people and specialy children that die because of contaminated water its huge, dont be part of those numbers.

Share awareness and not romantic ideas

Bruce Lee and the story about water

Bruce Lee, the story about water

One day, frustrated after many hours of meditation and practice, Bruce Lee, still a teenager, went sailing. 

His martial arts teacher, Yip Man, had been instructing Lee in the art of detachment, a key facet of gung fu. Lee couldn’t let go. 

“On the sea I thought of all my past training and got mad at myself and punched the water!” he later wrote. 

“Right then—at that moment—a thought suddenly struck me; was not this water the very essence of gung fu?

 I struck it but it did not suffer hurt. 

I then tried to grasp a handful of it but this proved impossible. This water, the softest substance in the world, which could be contained in the smallest jar, only seemed weak. 

In reality, it could penetrate the hardest substance in the world. That was it! I wanted to be like the nature of water.” 

PDC Permaculture Design Course - Belgium - Ghent 2021

New School Permaculture PDC
Permaculture Design Course 
August 2021

Course by Helder Valente and
the New School Permaculture  Team
Course will be in Velzeke - Ghent

In this course you will learn the New School Permaculture design secrets.

In Belgium we will be teaching 2 courses
 the PDC Permaculture Design Course 
and the PWC Permaculture Water Course 
 if you want you can be part of the 2 courses to get a deeper experience on Permaculture education.

INFO Contact:

Helder Valente is a british Permaculture association 
Educator member and master diploma holder and tutor.

This course will be in one of most beautiful regions of Portugal

Have you ever asked yourself this questions? 

How can i get more connected with nature and understand how it works?
In what way can i save energy on everything i do?
How can i recover and redesign areas or objects in a way that they become more ecological and nature friendly?
How can i live a more healthy life without having to buy so many chemical products?
How can i develop or be part of a network of people that is inspired to be of positive change to this world?

Did you ever found your self having this ideas?
I want to develop design skills and find a new way of thinking.
I want to support other people to find a way to live a low impact lifestyle  
I would like to be living connected with nature working the same way it works.
I see myself living with a community that works toguether.
I want to recover an old farm and live with what it can produce.
On this course we will answer these questions and will support  these ideas

The PDC is the course that creates the certified permaculturists, many people practice permaculture in an intuitive way with wonderfull results, on this course we learn about the thinking of permaculture, the way we look at things, so this course has the objective of changing the way we look at the world, thats why for many people its a life changing experience.

What is Permaculture?
Permaculture is a sustainable design system that provides for human needs while having positive effects on the surrounding environment.

 It is based on the ethics of earth care, people care and fair share, and provides practical solutions to the global crises we are currently facing.

Helder studied and worked with pioneers like Bill Mollison and Geoff Lawton in Turkey, Doug Bullock in the Amazon, Rosemary Morrow in Austria, Graham Bell in Scotland, Darren dougherty, Ernst Gotcsh, Sepp Holzer in Portugal and many others in countries like Haiti, Canada, Egipt, Finland, Peru, always learning and practicing this sustainable design methods.

While living in the city he dedicated 5 years on developing urban permaculture projects and for the last 5 years traveling and developing permaculture institutes around the world. 

 It all started in 2009 teaching permaculture to students at the agriculture university and since then learning and teaching in many different climates and getting to know the old ways and new ways of sharing information.

To join us on Facebook click HERE

 By December 2012 in the Peruvian Amazon working in support to the shipibo indigenous communities Helder created the New School Permaculture and  is now developing alternative educational methods.

In 2013 the New School has been presenting at the IPC International Permaculture congress in Cuba and sharing experience about ecosocial regeneration.

The New School Permaculture uses creative and inspiring educational tools that enable the students to empower each other in a way that many people have never seen before.

Diana Arhire
     My review of New School Permaculture Internship

September- October, 2020

One thing was clear for me from the beginning- if among all this world pandemic chaos, all these people are still coming for the internship, across the middle of the Atlantic- it’s going to be a special one! I felt inspired, supported, understood, challenged, encouraged. As they say, every conflict is an opportunity, and if we see this pandemic as a global conflict, then it could indeed be a great opportunity- for change, for slowing down, for going deeper not further, for (inner) gardening, for Permaculture!

I’m grateful for all the amazing people I met during the courses, so many laughs, hugs, spontaneous dancing, building and burning our first fireplace. Our Perma-tribe was led by our eco-shaman Helder, the most unusual, non-conformist teacher I ever had, with his great sense of humor & observation skills, he knows how to bring out the best in people. Lots of cool (horror) stories from his many experiences around the world. Bring popcorn.

And so, brave people from 10 different countries, so different from each other, yet we got together for the same reason or cause- we want to shift from an outdated broken society model to a conscious, harmonious co-existing with Nature, where we can all be involved, from growing a pepper on your urban balcony (and maybe some guerrilla planting shhh) to regenerating soils, forest, and rivers. It’s a change of mindset where you realize (or more like you are being reminded) that ANYONE can make a change. Anyone can grow food, in any conditions. Each of us plays an important role, wherever we are, and whoever we are- a farmer with many lands, or the weirdo of the family, backpacking around the world- we are all connected in this web of transformation and we are the influence in our community or family, and nowadays, influence is power. So this Permaculture internship was for me, among other things, about Empowerment.

Empowerment and understanding the Essence- whatever the question is, the answer can be found in Nature, by observing, interacting and experimenting. We humans, as Observers, can change the world around us, thus we are creators of our own worlds (inspiration from quantum physics). When we slow down and observe Nature, we see problems as solutions, we understand the natural succession of things, where each part plays a role in the cycle of life, where there are no invasive species, just pioneer soldiers doing their job to balance something our or to regenerate damaged soils or ecosystems. By understanding the Patterns in Nature, we understand ourselves, and by understanding ourselves we move upward in the spiral of Life.

I’ve learned that Permaculture is about compassion, for all life forms- it’s empathizing with the Earth, with Nature, with the plants, with the animals, the insects, the rivers, the soils, but also with ourselves and the other humans beings across the globe. It’s a holistic approach on Life.

I’ve learned that techniques and recipes are useful but once you understand The Essence of a process, you don’t need the recipe anymore. You can make your own fertilizer, you can make your own vinegar!

I’ve learned that when working with Nature, as with people, being gentle is more important than having a lot of knowledge and experience. Mindset and attitude are more important than any material resources.

With every course of the internship it felt like I’m putting a puzzle together to finally see “the bigger picture”:

PDC design course: the most intense course in my opinion, touches many aspects of our lives, from good design of our gardens and lives, to patterns in nature. We started by learning about Permaculture classics and their methods, like Bill Mollison that said:

Permaculture is a dance with Nature- in which Nature leads.”

We continued with Natural Succession, understanding the process and purpose of an eco-system, from Gramineae to forests. We studied soil composition and the importance (VERY important) of soil health in relation to balanced systems, abundant yield and sustainable agriculture. Of course we also touched classic topics like different types of composts, dry toilets, water management and household efficiency.

It wasn’t all hard work and taking notes, we also had chill open space at night and occasional movie nights when we would watch inspiring films about Permaculture projects around the world, for example the virtual tour around David Holmgren’s farm (another classic), or the online interview we had with Brian Laufer and his amazing plant collection.

Finally, we got to designing our first Permaculture project, for our first “client”- our dear host Ana, understanding her needs, vision, mission and objectives- great teamwork and very efficient Design Plan Process (OBRADIMCE)!

Another important aspect of this course for me was working on our dream project, design to details, because our dreams are the seeds of change, waiting patiently in the darkness, to be sprouting in the right conditions (inspiration from the Seeds Workshop with Pablo).

Water course: the secrets of Water (8 magical words and they all start with an S, good luck guessing!) and all kind of biodynamic aspects (witcheries) on how to understand and explore this primordial resource, that is being shaped not only by climates and landscapes, but also by planets and electro-magnetic fields (nerdy, I know), a resource so ancient, powerful yet so fragile under the impact of irresponsible human activity.

We discussed global water problems & ethical solutions, water landscape, quality and filtration systems, but also about more complex systems like Aquaponics, Hydroponics, Aeroponics and DUCKPONICS (yup, it’s a thing and I love ducks even more now... also geese).

Fun practical class on swales and efficient water systems- we got together at Peer’s land (one of the students), on the mountain side of the island, amazing ocean views and vast open space, surrounded by forests and rolling green cow pastures. And we digged. Then we had some pizza, then we digged again, music, laughing, party-mode team work swale digging. Result- amazing terraces that catch the excess rain water to guide it, save it and safely store it down the valley, to feed the plants and trees, preventing land erosion and flooding. Beautiful!

And here we are,  we all made it alive, more or less, tired but super “inspiraled”. Some intense study, some feet in the mud, some funny road trips, some staring at trees, some seeds smuggling….but what happens in Azores, stays in Azores. Ok people, moving on. Time to save the world!

To see more testimonials from our students
click HERE

The course is presented by creative non formal education methods, that are based on creating a bridge between the right and left side of the brain, so that the analytical and creative abilities of the students get fully stimulated and get the most out of the experience...for many people is the most empowering and inspiring transformative process of their lives...and they carry this with them every were they go....and thats our goal.

INFO Contacto:

To see what grows in the region
click HERE

The subjects covered during this Permaculture Design Course include:

The ethics and principles of Permaculture
Learning strategies

Educational Methods
 Reading the landscape 
Pattern in design
Water preservation
Forests and trees
Soils building
Buildings and natural construction
Alternative economies
Community development

To know more about this course click HERE

To know more about the content of the course you can check our videos on you tube

 know more about our seed bank
 Atlantis Seeds click HERE

More videos of Helder

TV Italia HERE 2015
Spanish national TVE HERE 2014
Video at IPC Cuba HERE 2013
Portuguese RDP HERE 2013
Spanish national TVE HERE 2013
Reportagem da SIC HERE 2012
Biosfera da RTP HERE 2011
Biosfera da RTP HERE 2010
Biosfera da RTP HERE 2009

Para ler mais entrevistas do Helder
Entrevista para Atlantico Express dos Açores AQUI
Join Facebook event click HERE
Like us on Facebook click HERE

Join also our facebook groups

There will be some early bird discounts for people that sign up in advance
A lack of funds is the biggest challenge for most potential PDC students. How many times has a potential student asked you if they could do the course on work trade? WeTheTrees makes it easy for these students to fundraise their tuition by providing them with all the resources and support they need to be successful. We provide a professional video, strategy guide, and a demo PDC campaign to get them fundraising quickly and effectively. Check it out yourself.


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