Certificate In Self Sufficiency

Take advantage of the years of training and experience and qualifications of ACS tutors when you undertake this amazing course. Study from anywhere in the world.

Course Code: ASS102
Fee Code: CT
Duration (approx) Duration (approx) 600 hours
Qualification Certificate
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Reduce your reliance on money, a secure job and a regular income

It can be a life changing and liberating experience to learn how to provide for your own needs and the needs of your family.

Self sufficiency is not an "all or nothing" proposition; and in reality, we will never be totally independent for one reason: it is in our nature to be social, and we all need to interact with other humans in order to be psychologically fulfilled.  Many of the tutors in this course have however shown through their own lives that it is possible to grow your own food, produce your own energy and make many of the things you need in your day to day living.

When you study Self Sufficiency through ACS you are learning from people who are both academically trained (in things like farming) and who are applying aspects of self sufficiency to their own daily lives.

Why do this course?

  • To become more self sufficient in your own life
  • To help others become self sufficient, perhaps teaching or maybe by developing a "green" industry business.


Core ModulesThese modules provide foundation knowledge for the Certificate In Self Sufficiency.
 Self Sufficiency I (Be More Self Sufficient) ASS100
 Self Sufficiency II ASS101
Elective ModulesIn addition to the core modules, students study any 4 of the following 15 modules.
 Alternative Energy VSS102
 Herb Culture BHT114
 Home Fruit Growing AHT104
 Home Vegetable Growing AHT102
 Mud Brick Construction ASS103
 Starting A Small Business VBS101
 Beef Cattle BAG206
 Permaculture Systems BHT201
 Poultry BAG208
 Sustainable Agriculture BAG215
 Advanced Permaculture BHT301
 Bush Tucker Plants BHT328
 Health Food Production BSS302
 Manufacturing Herbal Products BHT345
 Organic Plant Culture BHT302

Note that each module in the Certificate In Self Sufficiency is a short course in its own right, and may be studied separately.

What is covered in the Modules?


Core Modules:

Self Sufficiency I covers ten lessons which develop your understanding of self sufficiency, food and nutrition, and making the right decisions about changes in lifestyle; as well as showing you how to do a whole range of practical things such as mud brick building, making crafts, growing fruit, vegetables, herbs, and other crops; raising poultry, sheep & goats, extending the life of clothing, conserving energy, recycling, simple home medical care and first aid, and lots more.

In Self Sufficiency II you learn to be self sufficient with your food. You learn about nutrition and how to balance your diet, as well as how to produce, process, store, and use different types of food. This includes berries, nuts, milk, cheese, eggs, bread making, preserves, & dried food. Cooking, freezing, drying, bottling, making bread, planning a vegetable garden to give produce all year round, and lots more are covered over ten lessons.


Elective Modules

Only four of these are studied.


Alternative Energy

This course has eight lessons as follows: 

  1. Problems & Energy Sources
  2. Understanding Energy
  3. Generating Electricity
  4. Electricity Storage and Use
  5. Non Electric Systems
  6. Energy Consumption
  7. Energy Conservation
  8. Converting to New Systems


Mud Brick Construction

  1. Scope of Mud Brick
  2. How to make a mud brick
  3. Planning and Site Works
  4. Legal Considerations
  5. Foundations
  6. Laying Bricks
  7. Doors, Windows, and Roofs
  8. Finishes
  9. Services
  10. Other types of Earth Building

Permaculture Systems  

The course is divided into eight lessons as follows:

  1. Permaculture Principles
  2. Natural Systems
  3. Zone & Sector Planning
  4. Permaculture Techniques
  5. Animals in Permaculture
  6. Plants in Permaculture
  7. Appropriate Technologies
  8. Preparing a Plan 

Advanced Permaculture  

There are ten lessons in this module as follows:

1.  Evaluating Design Strategies

2.  Understanding Patterns

3.  Water

4.  Earthworks

5.  Humid Tropics

6.  Dry Climates

7.  Temperate to Cold Climates

8.  Planning Work

9.  Costing

10. Sustainable Systems


Sustainable Agriculture

 Eight lessons:

  1. Introduction: Scope, Nature of Sustainability
  2. Soils
  3. Water
  4. Land care: Weed control, Tree Management, Pest and Disease, Fire, etc.
  5. Financial Sustainability
  6. Broad Management Strategies
  7. Enterprise Selection & Management: Plants
  8. Enterprise Selection & Management: Animals



 There are eight lessons as follows:

  1. Introduction: Terminology, Breeds
  2. Nutrition
  3. Diseases In Poultry
  4. Layers
  5. Broilers
  6. Incubation
  7. Brooding
  8. Record Keeping, Economics & Marketing


Organic Plant Culture

The ten lessons are as follows:

  1. Introduction - Gardening styles, basic organic procedures, etc.
  2. Plant Culture
  3. Understanding Soils
  4. Fertilizers and Plant Nutrition
  5. Soil Management
  6. Pests & Diseases
  7. Mulching
  8. Seeds - Collecting, storing & sowing
  9. Vegetable Growing in your locality
  10. Fruit Growing in your locality.


Herb Culture

Lessons cover:

  1. Introduction to herbs, definitions, uses. Classification of herbs; use of a botanical key.
  2. Cultural Techniques...planting, soils, drainage, feeding, mulching, composting, pruning.
  3. Propagation Techniques...propagation mixes, growing structures, cuttings, seed, separation & division, layering.
  4. Identification of plant health problems...pest & disease, frost, heat, water stress, etc.
  5. Processing & Use of Herbs
  6. Harvesting & Storage
  7. Mentha species: Peppermint, spearmint, applemint, wintermint, pennyroyal, corsican, ginger mint etc.
  8. Lavender (Lavendula varieties) & thyme (Thymus).
  9. Assorted Lamiaceae varieties:Lemon Balm, Hyssop, Rosemary, Bee Balm (Monarda), Basil, Savory, Marjoram, Sage.
  10. Artemisia species...Southernwood, Wormwood, Tarragon, Mugwort.
  11. Miscellaneous Asteraceae: Chamomile, Tansy, Safflower, Costmary, Yarrow, Calendula, Dandelion etc.
  12. Parsley, Coriander, Dill, Caraway, Angelica, Cumin, Fennel, Lovage, Sweet Cicely etc.
  13. Chives, Leek, Garlic chives, Tree onion, Welsh onion, etc.
  14. Garlic
  15. Rosaceae (Rose, Burnet, Strawberry, blackberry, etc)
  16. Miscellaneous: Lemon grass, Lemon verbena, Bay, Sorrel, Dock, Juniper, Horseradish, Evening Primrose, etc.
  17. Scented Geraniums; Australian Natives, Eucalyptus and Others
  18. Companion Planting
  19. Natural Pest Control: Herb sprays, biological control, etc.
  20. Landscape Design Principles and Practices: How to draw a landscape plan
  21. Home Gardening With Herbs; Cottage gardens, hedges & borders, tubs, baskets, kitchen gardens, herb lawns, herb indoor plants.
  22. Public Landscaping: Historic herb grdens (Knot gardens etc), herbs for low maintenance & colour in parks..etc.
  23. Establishing & Operating a Herb Nursery: Open ground vs container growing, nursery layout, potting soils, pots and labels,marketing, etc.
  24. Establishing & Operating a Herb Farm:Soil Preparation and management (plastic mulch, organic mulches, cultivation), row cropping.
  25. Evaluating Herb enterprises, assessing market demand. Deciding how to proceed.


Starting a Small Business

There are 12 lessons in this course:

  1. Introduction to Small Business
  2. The Business World
  3. Your alternatives - different types of ventures
  4. Marketing
  5. Planning
  6. Basic Bookkeeping
  7. Sales Methods
  8. Budgeting
  9. Developing a 12 month business plan
  10. Implementing a business plan
  11. Reviewing progress in a new business
  12. Improving profitability


Bush Tucker Plants

 Learn to identify, grow and use Australian Indigenous Plants for Food.  There are many Australian plants that are edible, and even some that are in very high demand as foods throughout the world.  The Aborigines lived off the land before white civilization came to Australia. Plants contributed significantly to their diet. Many of these native plants are worthwhile growing ‑ others might not be.  There are many different types of bush tucker foods, including:

  • Nuts and seeds (eg. Acacia, Macadamia, bunya nuts)
  • Drinks (eg. hot teas, infusions of nectar laden flowers, fruit juices)
  • Flavourings (eg. lemon scented myrtle)
  • Berries (eg. Astroloma, some Solanum species)
  • Fruits (eg. quandong, Ficus macrophylla, Syzygium)
  • Vegetables
  • Wattle seeds ground to produce ‘flour’
  • Plant roots ground to produce a paste or flour




by John Mason (Principal, ACS Distance Education)

Modern society is extremely complex. It relies completely upon a massive network of interrelationships between individuals and groups. Each part of society supports each other part. To live in such a world usually involves finding a niche for yourself, giving your contribution to the whole machine, and in return the machine supports you.

This system does have it's advantages:

  1. It allows for efficiencies of scale. When something is made in large quantities, it can be produced more efficiently.
  2. It allows for specialised development of skills (ie. if a person is able to concentrate on one job they can become more proficient at that job).
  3. It buffers the effect of a mistake (ie. if someone has an accident, the system supports the person until they recover ‑ through an insurance scheme or government welfare, the expense of the accident is shared by many).

 Modern society also has its disadvantages:

  1. It is impersonal ‑ It only guarantees the material needs of a person. The impersonal way in which goods and services are provided can increase the likelihood of emotional problems.
  2. It does not tolerate anything which does not fit the system. People who deviate from what is considered the 'norm' are 'labelled' and rejected by society in the main as being odd or different.
  3. Everyone is so dependent on everyone else that they are frequently affected by things they have no control over, for example, industrial disputes.
  4. If the system collapses, everything collapses.  People do not have a broad enough range of skills to survive if thrown into unusual situations such as war, economic collapse, massive power plant breakdown or natural catastrophes.


 The concept of self sufficiency is all too often bandied around without people properly understanding what it all means. Consider the following statements:

  • To be self sufficient, is to produce the things which you need to survive without the assistance of outside people.
  • You can produce some of your needs and be partly self sufficient, or produce all of your needs and be completely self sufficient.
  • An individual person can be self sufficient, a small group (eg. a family) can be self sufficient, or a large group can be self sufficient (you might think in terms of a whole society, city or nation).
  • To become self sufficient usually involves making certain compromises or concessions in your lifestyle. You might have to wear different types of clothing, adapt to a different level of mobility, reduce or no longer use modern consumer goods, or change your diet. The degree to which you can achieve self sufficiency is usually related to the degree to which you are willing to make compromises.
  • Large areas of land are not necessary to become self sufficient. Depending on what you produce and how you produce it, you can become relatively self sufficient, in terms of food production, on even a standard suburban house block.
  • Bartering or swapping goods and/or services is a way of living often adopted by the person interested in self sufficient living. This is not self sufficiency strictly, but like self sufficiency, the barter system offers an escape from a dependence on the monetary system. Many communities have set up barter groups which work on a point system for goods/services supplied, which are then traded throughout the group.



To be self sufficient requires a blend of three things...

a) Practical knowledge and skills.

b) Management or organisational skills.

c) A readiness to compromise. You may need to compromise to achieve a balance between the things you would like to have and the things you are able to provide yourself with. A self sufficient lifestyle might make you less dependent on society, but this might only be possible at the expense of giving up some of societies luxuries.

To become self sufficient, you must be selective in the goods and services you choose to supply for yourself. It involves doing those things which yield greatest benefit in relation to the time, money and materials you need to spend on producing the goods or service (eg. if you spend $20 on fertilizer and seed in order to grow $10 worth of vegetables, you would have been better to not grow the vegetables at all...you could have bought them instead and still had $10 in pocket to spend on another more worthwhile project).

The way you physically organise your property and living space (both inside and out) as well as the way you organise your time, are vital factors in improving your level of self sufficiency.



The first items to which one must look at for self sufficiency are food, clothing and shelter. Once these are either satisfied or a plan is organised on how to meet your requirements of further areas of self sufficiency can be explored.



Food is essential in order to survive. It is perhaps the single most important consideration if you are trying to become self sufficient. It should be possible for any family to become relatively self sufficient for food on as little as 1/4 acre (0.1 ha) of land. You cannot do this by simply growing anything which you might be able to eat. It is essential that you plan the food you produce, to ensure a steady and regular supply of a variety foods needed to maintain good health.

Vegetables and Fruit: In most climates it is relatively easy for the farmer to maintain some cropping. Variables such as drought, floods, etc can play havoc with crops as can voracious animals. A constant supply of a variety of fresh vegetables is important for health. Many fruits can store well as can some vegetables - which make important food reserves

Meat: Stocking animals which can be slaughtered on farm and eaten reduces costs and improves self sufficiency. To ensure the health of individuals, a range of animals is recommended such as cattle, pigs and poultry. Other by-products such as milk and eggs are also important for self sufficiency.



Consider farm animals capable of yielding usable fleece eg. sheep, goats, alpacas, etc. Another by-product, the hide, is essential for leather production.

Fibre from plant sources will provide the farmer with a more diverse range of materials to work with. Cotton, flax and silk are well known fibre plants. Hemp, although presently illegal in Australia, produces a popular well wearing strong cloth.

It may be difficult to become self sufficient in terms of clothing based on these products, but they may become valuable as barter commodities.



Most farmers already have their dwelling, so at this point, we will presume that this basic essential is catered for.


It is almost impossible for you to become self sufficient in the area of health care; however measures may be taken to minimize the amount you need to rely on the medical profession.

There are two things which you can do to reduce your dependence:

  • Keep healthy!   If you are fit and healthy, you are more likely to be able to resist infection when you come in contact with it. Sleep is essential to good health. People have different requirements, however most need at least seven hours.
  • Learn the basics about medicine for yourself!    Everyone should know some basic first aid. If you know the basics, you will then know when to seek professional help. Organisations such as, the Red Cross and St Johns Ambulance Society regularly hold courses in first aid.

The practice of preventative medicine, which incorporates an overall healthy lifestyle, may reduce the need for medical consultations. However, it is important to recognise there are many reasons to see a medical expert which are warranted. 

A wide variety of alternative medicine practices have seen a resurgence in recent times. Many have a solid scientific foundation while others do not. You should approach alternative medicine with caution and make up your own mind after thorough investigation of all the available facts.



Not many people would like to go back to the days before electricity was supplied to every home. The thought of living a contemporary life-style without flicking a switch can seem daunting. However there are ways in which the energy needs for the modern family can be met by those who are looking towards self sufficiency; Sun, wind and water all readily available, can be harnessed to provide us with our daily energy needs, while reducing long term costs.



These are items people can either use substitutes for, or in some cases can live without.

For the self sufficient person, it is the items used within the house that are the first to be replaced with more natural or basic alternatives.

Soaps, cleaning solutions, shampoos, etc can be made at home with a few basic ingredients. Once the making process is understood, expensive named brands will no longer need to be purchased.

For anyone, it is wise to look at items used and try to determine how to make alternatives or do without.


Since 1999 ACS has been a recognised member of IARC (International Approval and Registration Centre). A non-profit quality management organisation servicing education.
ACS Distance Education holds an Educational Membership with the ATA.
Principal of ACS Distance Education, John Mason, is fellow of the CIH.
Member of Study Gold Coast Education Network.
ACS Global Partner - Affiliated with colleges in seven countries around the world.
Member Nursery and Garden Industry Association.

How can I start this course?

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This course is aimed at providing you with a solid understanding in your selected discipline. It has been designed to take 600 hours, which includes your course reading, assignment work, research, practical tasks, watching videos and more. When you complete the course, will have a good understanding of the area/ industry you want to work in.

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More information is here

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Course Contributors

The following academics were involved in the development and/or updating of this course.

Yvonne Sharpe

RHS Cert.Hort, Dip.Hort, M.Hort, Cert.Ed., Dip.Mgt. Over 30 years experience in business, education, management and horticulture. Former department head at a UK government vocational college. Yvonne has traveled widely within and beyond Europe, and has worked in many areas of horticulture from garden centres to horticultural therapy. She has served on industry committees and been actively involved with amateur garden clubs for decades.

Adriana Fraser

Freelance writer, businesswoman, educator and consultant for over 30 years. Adriana has written extensively for magazines including free living publications -Grass Roots and Home Grown; and has authored or co authored many books ranging from a biography to books on business and gardening. She holds formal qualifications in education, child care and horticulture and has worked with ACS Distance Education since the mid 1990's.

John Mason

Writer, Manager, Teacher and Businessman with over 40 years interenational experience covering Education, Publishing, Leisure Management, Education, and Horticulture. He has extensive experience both as a public servant, and as a small business owner.
John is a well respected member of many professional associations, and author of over seventy books and of over two thousand magazine articles.

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