Turning rainforest into sugar, is this the best we can offer?

Working with Dolen Ffermio in Uganda, Steven Jones, Sector39.

It was a wonderful opportunity to work with Dolen Ffermio in Uganda last month, meeting many new friends and I hope future colleagues on the 2 week permaculture course held in Kamuli by the Sector39 teaching team.

Uganda is at a pivotal stage of its evolution as a nation, with an average age of under 18 and with a whole generation of the population now emerging from education, Uganda is all about the future. The people there are hungry for opportunity and the choices they make now will shape the emerging nation for many decades to come.

permaculture students

Uganda’s troubled history is now fully in the rear view mirror as the equatorial nation is slowly emerges from the trauma, stress and mayhem of that period into a rapidly changing world. Economically there are still caught in the primary producer economy stage, witnessed by the huge sugar cane plantations currently gobbling up the remaining rainforest at a frightening rate in a race to generate revenue for the government and their corporate friends.

Contrast the breathtaking ecology of equatorial rainforest, with its 200 species of birds, 100 of butterflies, without forgetting the massive canopy of huge and diverse trees and climbers that is the core of the forest to that of the sugar cane field. Whole ecologies are being consumed to please foreign markets; the price being paid is absolute destruction of pristine habitat. Never has the economic paradox appeared more clearly as a stark choice between ecology and economy?


Hauling sugar from remote parts of central Africa for global markets, the impact is absolute!

You know there has to be another way! There must be an economic model where ecology and economy are intertwined, where economic transactions create positive environmental and social benefits, where one is not at the cost of the other, well there is and we call this permaculture. At the heart of permaculture is a set of values and design tools that steer outcomes towards those which are mutually beneficial, ones that mimic nature, rather than consume it. Nature is diverse and interconnected, constantly changing and responding to change, it is dynamic and self steering; permaculture takes this a model and uses it as a design template.

The Sector39 team of 4, all from the Llanfyllin and Llanrhaeadr area delivered 120 hours of training over 12 days to 15 full time students and numerous guests and visitors. Those completing course were certificated and can now progress towards become permaculture teachers in their own right as they gain experience and develop insight as they work with the ideas themselves. The team worked on a design project focussed on the 30 acres of land on the banks of the Nile, funded by Dolen Ffermio that serves as a training and demonstration farm. It was tremendously exciting to be able unleash permaculture design thinking on such a place and the resulting presentation was witnessed by local teachers, head teacher, environment minister and community members. We hope to be able to return to deliver a series of courses in the area over the coming years. Strong friendships and working relationships have already been formed and we look forward to building on them.

Anyone interested in finding out more about permaculture please contact Steve Jones via sector39, we are planning to offer a full 2 week PDC course this September as well as a 2 day introduction weekend at Dragons co-operative in Llanrhaeadr.


See our Africa course blog here, as well as news on future courses and events.

Steven Jones

June 2016



Getting involved in permaculture


I am not used to quoting the Pope but on this matter he is correct, the climate crises demands our attention

Permaculture is something you do, so much more than something you talk about; it is an active process. Much of the ‘doing’ may involve thinking and planning but that is still active and in turn can bring about long term change. I believe permaculture is the most powerful tool we have in formulating our response to the challenges of the day.

The global response to the rapidly unfolding climate crisis requires a co-ordinated effort, we are all going to have to pull in the same direction to bring about the changes required in the increasingly limited time remaining. Permaculture design is that frame-work of understanding, a broad embrace of peraculture could be of use to evolve our collective thinking into a set of beahaviours that can have net positive impact on the biosphere. The rates of damage and depletion are such that we are required to repair and regenerate the natural world to enable us to avoid the worst excesses of the climate de-stabalistion bought about by the concined effects of agriculture, deforestation and carbon based fuel burning.

permaculture_introductionThere are tons of permaculture resurces freely available on the Internet, but still the best way to ignite your own interest in the subject is to take part in some kind of course, activity or open weekend; see it for yourself!

We are offering such a weekend this August in the Welsh mountian village of Llanrhaeadr at a hosing co-operative and craft shop, within that community. We will have a practical look at how nature works and what we might be able to learn from that in ways we can apply it to our own lives. Permaculture is psotive, informative and fun and by invovling yoruself you will meet likeminded people whilst having the chance to expore this amazing area and its community.


If that really intrests you then you might also consider undertaking the full 2 week PDC, an immersion in permaculture design over the course of 2 weeks, whilst covering the internationally recogised curriculum.

These can literally be life changing experiences and less dramatically they do offer a chance to put things into perspective and to allow yourself to focus on your own personal priorities for once. Permaculture teaches us that change is inevitable and that design and evolution present useful strategies and models of how to deal with change and turn it to an advantage.

Labour policy consultation

Hey Guys, I fully support Corbyn at the healm of Labour and am pleased to see you opening your doors to ideas but I am not sure this is the forum I want to engage with you, but I will try.

I am responding to a tweet inviting contribtions.


Here goes, more than policy you need a new vision. A vision the transcends the neo-liberal/ BBC spectrum of debate. You need to set a new agenda not respond to the current one.

Our Economic paradigm is at odds with the ecology of the planet. Tweaking your economy and erecting some wind farms is not enough, we know this, we need a new vision entirely. It is coming, it is evolving and mainly still exisits under the radar as it is grass roots, decentralised, dispersed and leaderless.

It contains a great many innovations and is hugely challenging to corporate power and centralisation. Are you Labour as a politcal party brave enough to take this on? Can you evolve as we all need to.

1. Take control of food out of the hands of corporates. Help us unleash a food revolution of millions of small farms, organic community led schemes and an opening up of the countryside to a new wave of entrepreneurship and innovation. You just need to remove the planning barriers preventing this from happening and to invest in start up businesses to accelerate the process. This gives us food security and a reinvigorated lcoal economy. It also creates a million new pathways for social inclusion and rehabilitation.

2. Create new economic tools. You might ask how to fund this, but you are missing out on the biggest inovations of the era if you are thinking this. Crypto-currency. Community led and managed currencies the enable local exchange and investment. Bitcoin and block chain technology give us new peer to peer models to create and dstribute wealth outside of the banking system which is corrupt and self seving.

3. Wage peace with force. Our ecological destruction is almost complete, tipping points are being passed almost every week as the CO2 rises and species are destroyed. A vision that empowers communities locally but unites us all in common cause transcends conflict and allows us to channel resources to mutual long term benefit.
Its nearly to late, many activists feel this, yet we could overturn the global
mess before us if we were to choose to do so.

Its time for new ideas, Einstein is attributed to saying you can’t fix problems using the same thinking that created them, well here goes….

Steven Jones, Lead tutor Sector39 permaculture
Dragons co-operative, Haulfre, Market Street, Llanrhaeadr Ym Mochnant, SY10 0JN

Fracking UK

Max Keiser has been on the money about fracking for years, describing it as a no hope industry that is essentially a fraud. With zero % interest rates, industry doesn’t have to make a profit anymore, they can just make money from fees setting up the continuation of that fraud. It is like the banking crisis brought to commodity extraction. The oil industry is already over, investment in the sector is not going to deliver long term yields as it is already in over production as the renewable energy market continues to explode. I can only see this continued determination to exploit every carbon resource as the last acts of desparation of the oil baron as they know well that once this era is over it is never coming back. This is the last chance salon of a dying industry, that needs to support of governments and enournous tax breaks and subsidies to keep it going o its final lap.

Here is Max and Stacey taking apart the Fracking industry, before turning their attention to the zombie financial undustry in the second half as well as looking at energy markets.

The globalised economy has became a fraud since they started buying up the bad debt to protect the bankers from their own folly. The lack of imagination to see the writing on the wall and to move to post carbon economy demonstrated by governments and banks is dumbfounding, in denying reality tehy have embraced fantasy and unreality. No one confronts this reality better than Max and Stacey!

Helen speaks, permaculture heals..


Helen presenting on the PDC, plant guilds and integrated systems

What have I learnt since I have been here?

This bold woman speaks from her heart on her experiences on the Kamuli PDC, relating it to our own life experiences.

In an conversation with Han Rees, from Llanfyllin, Wales Helen talks about what the course has meant to her and how it relates to own work with orphans in Ngora community.

Bamboo is an essential componant of any multi-functional tropical permaculture system

We were extremely lucky to have Andrew, an ex journalist and great communicator who is now developing a new careeer as a bamboo expert and nurseryman. On the recent 2 week course he presented this excellent lecture on the subject. Forgive all the background noises, the narrative is compelling as he develops his main indeas.

I am am keen to publish as many oututs of the PDC as possible, to create a resource for students present and future. These are early attempts at creating new accessible permaculture teaching resources from very limited means.

The image is from permaculture Timor Leste manual for tropical permaculture, which was a major inspiration for us on this course.

Uganda and Ethiopia

Uganda and Ethiopia

Am home after a whole month away which feels like much more. Uganda was a huge experience, followed by 10 days in Ethiopia, something I wasn’t properly prepared for at all! Course blog updates are on the permaculturedesigncourse site, we published something from each day as best we could, it was so busy whilst it was all in motion.

The Uganda PDC was amazing, we covered such a distance together, and far exceeded any expectations I had dared to have. An amazing group of people and a very intense, immersive experience being together at the same venue for all that time.

I will keep this short as a test post as I havent been able to update this site for a month or more.. so I am hoping this will work this time around.