PDC material was originally developed by Bill Mollison, co-founder of permaculture, to teach the principles and foundations of sustainable design. All PDC courses offered throughout the world must follow the same format to assure that the integrity of the certification process is upheld. This is the curriculum of the PDC jointly offered by IMAP and Atitlan Organics.

spiral flower

Permaculture Ethics and Principles of Natural Systems and Design
The course begins by covering the three main Permaculture Principles of Earth Care, People Care, and Sharing the Abundance. We move from there to a detailed analysis of the principles that govern natural systems and holistic design. This section covers design methodologies, needs analysis, zones and sectors, and other basic natural design approaches. Here, we also cover pattern analysis, as well as the observation, mimicking, and pattern adaptation from natural systems and cycles.


Mayan Cosmology and the Influence on Natural Systems

This is a special component that is unique to our course. Led by Rony Lec, IMAP’s Coordinator and Indigenous Mayan Anthropologist, this component will provide an in-depth look at the Mayan calendar and how to use this and other astrological tools to guide your interaction with the landscape. Aside from the calendar, there will be ample opportunities to participate in an authentic Mayan ceremony, connect with Mayan communities and learn traditional techniques of seed saving, food production, and Indigenous worldview.

iquitieu 4

Understanding Natural Systems and the Establishment of the 3 Major Land Types within a Site

This section takes a look at trees and forests, as well as wetland areas, pasture, and other natural ecosystems in order to understand the importance of each and how they can be integrated together to build resilient landscapes. Permaculture tends to favor perennial plants and self-regulating systems, and being able to integrate the various major land types into a specific site is the surest way to maximize diversity and build regenerative landscapes. Here, we are focusing on on-site diversification within the context of the various zones and sectors.

Earthworks are a major piece of permaculture that often get overlooked. Stripping native vegetation can often cause people to shudder and write this whole process off as not being ecologically sound. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth. Through earthworks such as pond building, texturing the landscape, swales, and terracing, we are actually accelerating and steering the succession and evolution of natural systems. Nature, when left to her own devices, thinks nothing of the human inhabitants. We must guide the evolution of a site to not only provide for the earth and other creatures, but also for ourselves. While earthworks can be initially labor and resource-intensive and seemingly destructive to the current landscape, they are the only way to fully develop a site for efficient energy capture and storage, which in turn, increases abundance and resiliency.

Water Management, Capture, and Efficient Use

Water is the most important resource that is available for us to capture and utilize. We cover a wide range of strategies across a variety of different climatic conditions for the efficient capture, storage, and use of water. Relating back to earthworks and the three major land types, we see how water retention can be improved, which is the foundation of any successful, self-regulating site.

soil feet

Permaculture Gardening Techniques, Soil Basics, and Fertility Management

Mainly a Zone 1 and 2 strategy, this part of the course will cover intensive vegetable gardening techniques that allow for big production in small spaces with minimal reliance on outside inputs. Various strategies for both wet and dry climates will be covered, as well as the placement of these generally annual gardens within the overall perennial Permaculture site. Here, we will also cover soil fertility and the building of soil within a site. Carbon to Nitrogen Ratios, the use of animals, mulching, and other techniques will be covered and accompanied by hands-on activities.

Sustainable Animal Systems

This part of the course will cover a variety of animal systems and their integration into the total landscape design. These include:

  • Chickens, both for meat and eggs
  • Ducks, Geese, and other water fowl
  • Rabbits
  • Bees, including honey production and harvesting
  • Goats, and minor talks on sheep, cows, and other grazers

Free-range systems, rotational grazing, wetland integration, grazing within food forests, and other designs will all be covered in detail.


Food Forest Establishment

This is where all the various components come together, focusing on the integration of animals, wetlands, and perennial/annual productions systems.

We will talk about accelerating succession in an evolving landscape and how to maximize impact with minimal effort. Earthworks are covered here again and the whole process of site design, modification, and evolution comes together in this section.

Seed Banks and Plant Propagation

Nursery work and seed saving are major activities that can aid in building the diversity of a site. Learn to master the tools that nature has given us, which allow us to tap into her abundance through the use of propagation material for useful plants.

A lot of hands-on work will be done in this section of the course, including grafting, cloning, and more basic propagation techniques.

licking plate

Value-Adding, Fermentation, and Handling Abundance

Another component that is heavy on the hands-on participation. Students will have the opportunity to kill and process a chicken (which will be part of their meals for non-vegetarians), as well as milking goats and making cheese/yogurt. There will be a fermentation workshop and lectures on how to preserve the harvest and improve its value over time, without diminishing the nutritive value.

Small-Scale, Sustainable, Land-based Opportunities

Another unique aspect of our course is the focus on making a sustainable and comfortable living based on a Permaculture site. Practitioners of Permaculture have a great opportunity for producing food, fuel, and other products from a sustainably-managed system, which would enable them to provide employment, as well as nutrient dense food to their community.

PDC in the water


We will briefly cover aquaculture and the diversification of landscapes via ponds, wetlands, and water systems. Useful plants, animals, and water retention systems will be looked at and the opportunities for aquaculture will be covered, with relevant examples provided.

bamboo hotel

Natural Building

Guest Speaker Charlie Rendall will be leading the natural building component of the course. Charlie has been building and designing with natural materials for over 7 years and now runs a design consultancy for natural building projects in Guatemala. His specialty is building with bamboo, but he also has extensive experience in cobb structures, natural stucco, traditional stone buildings, thatch roofing, and many other natural building techniques.

composting toilet

Alternative Technology

Both passive and active technologies will be explored, with many examples and hands-on opportunities. Compost heated showers, passive solar showers, solar electric systems, rocket stoves, and a wide array of other technologies will be covered.


Community-Based Alternatives and Invisible Structures

Building on the small-scale business opportunities for permaculturists, this lecture will examine invisible structures at play in the current prevailing socioeconomic arrangement and cover a variety of ways that we can work to change the status quo. New approaches including time banks, land-based production systems, and local-only distribution of goods will be lecture

Design for Climate Change and Resilience to Natural Disasters

As the climate continues to change before our eyes, we now see that the only normal weather patterns are abnormal ones. More and more natural disasters are occurring worldwide, which is a driving force for the new-found interest in more sustainable approaches to land-use and business. This area will focus on how to design for climate change and natural catastrophe, via the built-in resiliency that can be achieved by permaculture design. Trends in climate change, new threats to living systems, and biological remediation techniques will all be looked at here.