Although Permaculture is based on scientific principles and research, it also draws on traditional and indigenous folk wisdom.
Mollison: Well, if I go to an old Greek lady sitting in a vineyard and ask, “Why have you planted roses among your grapes?” she will say to me, “Because the rose is the doctor of the grape. If you don’t plant roses, the grapes get ill.” That doesn’t do me a lot of good. But if I can find out that the rose exudes a certain root chemical that is taken up by the grape root which in turn repels the white fly (which is the scientific way of saying the same thing), then I have something very useful.
Traditional knowledge is always of that nature. I know a Filipino man who always plants a chili and four beans in the same hole as the banana root. I asked him, “Why do you plant a chili with the banana?” And he said, “Don’t you know that you must always plant these things together.” Well, I worked out that the beans fix the nitrogen and the chili prevents beetles from attacking the banana root. And that works very well.
(Source: Extracted from an interview adapted from the radio series Insight & Outlook, hosted by Scott London)