Permapartner works to protect the remaining forests of Madagascar by working with one of the causes of deforestation and habitat fragmentation: small-scale farmers. Traditionally, these clear forest patches so they can have access to fertile soil for their plantations. After a few years of use, the fertile layer is destroyed leading to poor crops and soil erosion. The farmers then clear existing forest and start again. Permapartner breaks this cycle by supporting the farmers with know-how and manpower, so they can implement permaculture techniques adapted to Madagascar and convert their farms into more permanent and productive sites.
With the active involvement of farmers and their communities, several measures are implemented in a complementary way: the soil is stabilised and terraced where needed, water catchment canals are created to help with irregular rainfall and increase water levels, native plant species are used to stabilise the soil and provide material for mulching and other natural techniques that improve the fertility and yields. In addition, to improve the nutrition and economic security of families, a mix of food crops is introduced to provide better, diversified harvests and create an extra that can be traded.
Permapartner trains the farmers, helps with the handwork and provides ongoing support. All this is done with local materials and manpower, in a collaborative way that makes the communities adopt the process as their own. The farmers adopt the techniques and, in turn, train others in their community. Much of the early work is a communal effort, meaning that mutual assistance becomes part of the approach and helps to spread it faster.