Permaculture Design Course

26th Jan - 8th Feb 2020

What is it?

Project Bona Fide’s annual Permaculture Design Course (PDC) is a 2-week hands-on training experience in permaculture design principles and practices. Our courses offers the standard PDC curriculum with a special emphasis on forest gardening in the tropics.

Although the course is held in a tropical setting, many of the techniques will transfer directly to any climate. Students will receive resources and plant lists for many climates as part of their course content.

This 14-day course is ideal for anyone interested in taking an active role in building a regenerative future, as well as anyone with a focus on agriculture, architecture, ecology, gardening, landscaping, experiential education, or community development. NO prior permaculture experience is necessary.

At the end of the course, all participants will receive a certificate of completion of 72 course hours plus 20 additional hours of skill-building workshops and hands-on work experience. Design Course 2020 Project Bona Fide


What’s included

All meals during the course are included. Dinner the night before the course starts and breakfast the morning after the course finishes too. Food is a mix of local cuisine, farm-fresh food, and a variety of tasty treats at our favorite local cafe. Weare happy to accommodate dietary restrictions- let us know of any before you arrive.

Accommodations - we have limited space available in the PBF dorms and camping spaces. All the sleeping facilities are rustic, open-air, cabañas with bunk spaces. Bedding and mosquito nets provided. These spaces fill up quickly. Farm spots are filled on first-come-first-serve.

If you are looking for more private, upscale accommodations during the course, there are several guesthouses on the property available. The guesthouses are about a 5-minute walk from the area where the course is taught. All of the guesthouses include a queen bed, desk and chair, private bathroom and shower, with hammocks, and breakfast served each morning. Some have hot water and volcano views. These suites are also filled on a first-come-first-serve basis.

permaculture design course 2020 Bona Fide Farm Isla Ometepe Nicaragua

Project Bona Fide

Project Bona Fide is an internationally recognized 26-acre demonstrative permaculture site that has been in development for almost 20 years. Located in Balgúe, Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua, Project Bona Fide has become an important center for education and community development. The project has been featured in various permaculture publications including “Sustainable Revolution”.

Our infrastructural systems include natural buildings built with local materials, terraced vegetable & medicinal plant gardens, an extensive nursery, seed bank, mature fruit and nut orchards, food forests, native timber forestry, timber bamboo plantings, water-catchment systems, drip irrigation and ferrocement technologies, renewable energy systems, and composting toilets.

Past and present Project Bona Fide community collaborations include providing educational opportunities in ecological agriculture, community reforestation efforts supported by our seed bank and nursery, local seed and plant exchanges, a community center and breakfast program, and backyard gardens and cob ovens. The developing site, interwoven with the support we have received from our local community, allows Project Bona Fide to be fertile ground for cultural exchange on the island and beyond.

The Instructors

Chris Shanks Agricultural Director & consultant, Living Systems Solutions

Chris has had a lifelong passion for the natural world and her patterns. During his time at university he was introduced to many ideas and concepts concretized into different fields of Ecological design and Natural sciences. In 1999 he was introduced to Permaculture Design by Ben Falk. Since that fateful time Chris has passionately pursued a life of work, design, self-study and right livelihood by teaching, practicing and creating businesses that espouse the principles and ethics of Permaculture Design.

Chris has practiced Permaculture Design year after year faithfully on his home site, Project Bona Fide and Selvista Guesthouses since late 2002. He was a young junior teacher and part of Bona Fide’s first PDC in 2003, an apprentice teaching with Douglas Bullock, trained by Bill Mollisson himself.

Chris has taught over 30 full Permaculture Design courses, founding PDC programs at Project Bona Fide, Nicaragua, The Island School, the Bahamas and Rancho Mastatal in Costa Rica. Chris has been fortunate to lead/guest teach at sites in Thailand, Hawaii and at the Green School/Kul-Kul farm in Bali, Indonesia.

Chris’ primary expertise lies in the tropics and encompasses all manners of site design from homestead to institutional scale. Chris has built and advised in the design and build of many farms, eco-boutique hotels, BnBs and educational institutions all over the tropical belt of the world.

Chris in addition has extensive ethno-botanical plant knowledge, Permaculture Business Development skills as well as water systems and self reliance skill sets.

He loves dogs, all types of berries and is an aspiring pirate/sailor

Chris Shanks Permaculture Design Course Instructor Testimonial
I met Chris during my PDC at the kulkul farm in Bali last year and it was quite possibly the most memorable learning experience I have been a part of. Chris’ way of teaching is very direct, applicable and easy to understand. He makes it quite fun to learn about not just permaculture but anything that happens in our little blue planet. His resilience and fierocity in making a difference with one small thing at a time is evident with how he presents his knowledge and how he carries himself with each student encounter. If you want to be inspired, I highly recommend taking his pdc no matter where in the world it may be.
— Coleen Tan 2018

Ben Falk, Whole Systems Designs, Vermont

Ben is the author of the award-winning book the Resilient Farm and Homestead (Chelsea Green, 2013).

Ben developed Whole Systems Design, LLC as a land-based response to biological and cultural extinction and the increasing separation between people and elemental things. Life as a designer, builder, ecologist, tree-tender, and backcountry traveler continually informs Ben’s integrative approach to developing landscapes and buildings. His home landscape and the WSD studio site in Vermont's Mad River Valley serve as a proving ground for the regenerative land developments featured in the projects of Whole Systems Design. Ben has studied architecture and landscape architecture at the graduate level and holds a master’s degree in land-use planning and design. He has conducted more than 300 site development consultations across the US and abroad, and has facilitated dozens of courses on property selection, permaculture design, and resilient systems. He has given keynote addresses and presented dozens of workshops at venues ranging from Bioneers to the Omega Institute. Ben is the author of the award-winning book the Resilient Farm and Homestead (Chelsea Green, 2013) and serves as an Advisory Council for the international regeneration group Ecosystems Restoration Camps.
Listen to an overview of his ideas on his TEDx talk.
An introduction to Ben Falk and some of the work at the Whole Systems Design farm from Costa on Vimeo.

“I have to thank you for providing such useful insight into the sustainability of our school. Your fresh eyes and expertise were crucial to hear. Your advice was an inspiring blend of practicaltiy and vision.” ~Rachel, Ohio

”Your work is at the cutting edge of food and energy security”
~Dennis D., Waitsfield, VT

”Your talk was packed with more valuable information per minute than any talk I’ve been to in a long time.” ~Brian Tokar, after a Bioneers VT Presentation by Ben Falk

”Ben Falk was fascinating. By far the best speaker I saw at the conference; my only complaint is that his lecture ended too soon!” ~ NOFA VT Conference Attendee

”Hi Ben - Thanks a lot for the meeting today, it was thorough, well-organized and inspirational. As you know, you are offering an immensely important and timely service in what you are doing.” ~Peter Payne, Site Consult, VT

”The work of Whole Systems Design is fascinating, visionary, and vital. They craft living solutions out of what a place is and what it can be. They are testing the waters for a new wave of design that embraces social and ecological complexity and finds a fundamental fit between the two.”
~Paul Cawood Hellmund, ASLA, Director, Conway Graduate Program in Sustainable Landscape Planning & Design

”Falk actually rebels against the notion of the designer’s prerogative. “We’re not trying to get to a solution just from our heads,” he says. “We’re trying to let the place and the conditions bring the process to its solutions.” It is true that WSD’s site analysis is exceptional.”
~From an Utne Reader feature article “Future Farmers” on Ben and WSD
— Testimonials for Ben Falk
2019 Permaculture Design Course Central America students

Course Format

The course begins with an intensive introduction to the principles, philosophy, and ethics of permaculture design: what is permaculture, how it is applied, and the main design and thought paradigms used. Course participants will be introduced to the Project Bona Fide farm systems and facilities as a teaching and demonstration tool.

The next several days will be dedicated to specific aspects of permaculture design, including water systems, energy use and efficiency, natural building, and agroforestry. These course days will include lectures, on-site examples, and hands-on experience putting all of the information into context. Several hours in the afternoon are dedicated to skill-building workshops and more intensive work projects on the farm. The end of the course brings everyone together in a final group design project that is presented on the final day of the course.

The course spans 14 full days, and includes a half-day or full-day of free time to relax or explore the island about halfway through the course.

A typical day:

7:30 AM Breakfast at the hostel/farm 8:30 AM Arrive at the farm, daily intro 9:30 - 10:45 AM Break (Coffee and farm fresh snacks) 11 AM - 12:30 PM Class time 12:30 - 2:00 PM Lunch, free time to relax/read/study 2 - 3:30 PM Class time and field exercises 3:30 - 5:30 PM Work projects and/or workshops (ex. Compost making, plant propagation, fermentation, natural medicine) 6:30 PM Dinner at local café 7:30 - 9 PM Evening session (lecture, slideshow, movie, group work)

Final Project for presentation 2019 Permaculture design students Project Bona Fide


The standard course price is $1575 USD.

This includes 3 meals per day for all 14 days of the course, as well as dinner the night before the course and breakfast the morning after.

Lodging on the farm during the course, including the night before the course

All course materials and fees

Airfare is NOT included Expats are offered the course with a $300 discount (total price of $1275 USD)

Citizens of Central America are offered more than a 50% discount (total price of $750 USD). There are also limited partial and full scholarships available for citizens of Central America. Contact for details.

Upgrades to comfortable guesthouses here at La Bambouseraie are optional with limited availability. Contact us for options..

Couples receive a 10% discount.

$100 Early Bird discount for registering before Sept 30th 2019.

Discounts on Permaculture Design Course 2020 Central America

How to Reserve your spot

To reserve your spot in the course:

1. Complete the online registration form

2. Submit a non-refundable deposit of $500 USD

Your spot will only be reserved after Project Bona Fide has RECEIVED the $500 deposit. Once registered, you will receive a confirmation email from

Remaining tuition balance is due by January 1st, 2020. Failure to pay the full tuition balance by this date may result in losing one’s spot in the course.

You may submit a tuition payment by bank transfer, PayPal, or Venmo.

If a participant cancels or withdraws from the course...

-On or before January 1st, 2020, Project Bona Fide will refund the amount paid so far to the participant (excluding the $500 non-refundable deposit) --On or after January 2nd, 2020, Project Bona Fide will retain all course fees that have been paid. We cannot offer any refunds less than 30 days before the course start date. If for some reason the course is canceled, Project Bona Fide will refund all course fees, including the $500 deposit. (However, we have never to date canceled a course in the 15 years of organizing this!

contact with any further inquiries

chocolate making introduction - permaculture design and principles Central America Isla Ometepe 2020

Packing List

● Comfortable clothing that you can move around in

● Long-sleeved shirt and long pants for sun/bug protection and those random nights were it gets a little cool

● Light rain gear

● Covered shoes or boots, as well as sandals/flip flops

● Hat, sunglasses and sunscreen

● Towel or sarong

● Bathing suit (there are great swimming holes on the island, and we’re located in the center of a huge lake.)

● Toiletries, shampoo, conditioner, soap (biodegradable if and when possible)

● Bug spray (optional - chemical free if poss)

● Water bottle to refill from our local, spring source

● Headlamp or flashlight (very, VERY useful!)

● Something comfortable to sit on in class, ex. Crazy Creek-type chair or sleeping pad

● Notebook and pen/pencil

● USB drive for uploading electronic resources at the end of the course


There are two scholarship positions available for the course for Cenral Americans.

Please write to us @ courses@projectbonafide outlining:

  • Whether full or partial scholarship is required

  • If/whom you are sponsored by

  • Why you want to participate in this course

  • What you plan to do with the course certificate upon completion

  • Interests

  • Formal education history

  • Work experience

  • Where you’re from

  • If housing and food will be required