But is it sustainable?

But is it sustainable?

Sector39 permaculture, Llanrhaeadr YM, SY10 0JN
Sector39 limited: 9001792
I am speaking at an event in Manchester thsi weekend,on permaculture and cooperatives and I wrot ethis peice as an introduction to permaculture and why it is so vital at this point in human evolution.

permaculture perspectives manchester event

Initiation @ Wonder inn Manchester

Sometime in 1990 the concentration of carbon dioxide in the
atmosphere passed the 350 ppm mark, from that point forward the
influx of energy in the form of heat from the sun has exceeded the
rate it has been leaving the earth’s atmosphere; the planet has
literally been warming. This will continue to happen until the Co2 in
the atmosphere returns to a level of 350 ppm or below, with levels
currently over 400 ppm we can’t even begin to use the word
sustainable with any meaning until we have achieved this
momentous challenge.

Climate change isn’t even the problem, it is the symptom of a much
deeper and more serious one; that of our almost total disconnect
from the ecological reality of our finite planet. We live in denial of
reality and that reality is going to catch us out big time unless we
prepare ourselves emotionally, intellectually and physically for what
is coming next.
Fixing this problem is not a technological issue as such, rather it is a
total shift in our relationship with the living planet we occupy. New
and enlightened economic, social and educational approaches are
required to enable us to escape the disaster we are creating. To be
clear we are no long talking about minimising or reducing the
damage we cause; we are required to find strategies which actively
repair the enormous amount of damage already done to the
biosphere. We have to fix it. We call this regenerative development.
Sustainability is the starting point for such a process, it is not the
objective but the barest minimum required.

Permaculture is about solutions, it is about finding the pathways to
regenerative development. It is not just the earth’s living systems
that have to be repaired; we have to address the social imbalance
at the same time. The empowerment of all people to be fully able to
take an active part in this process is central to any chance of
success that might remain.

permaculture allows us to tackle the huge issues of the day

Permaculture sits at the intersection of economics and ecology. It is
a design strategy that asks economic questions about how we meet
our needs, personal and familial in a way that empowers others to
do the same, not at their expense. Permaculture recognises that all
of these economic decisions and transactions occur within a healthy
living biosphere. We cannot stand outside of this biological
relationship for more than a few moments, just how long can you
hold your breath or go without water or food? Permaculture is about
self empowerment and community enablement whilst caring for the
earth by listening carefully to the feedback it gives us. To be good
at permaculture you have to be good at listening and right now if
you listen carefully the planet is screaming at us, make the change,
join the movement, and get active!

Steve Jones August 2017.

How to Convert a Lawn Into a Vegetable Garden

veg basket

Image by Pixabay

At the heart of permaculture is maximising available land so that it can be used productively in a sustainable manner. That is why many practitioners of this particular science believe that homeowners should maintain their own vegetable garden, because the land is best used for growing food, instead of something fit only for a lawn.

So instead of wasting precious resources on a lawn for the sake of aesthetics, why not transform your backyard into a vegetable garden to feed the family?

One Green Planet suggests that your end goal should be to utilise every square foot of your lawn into a space to grow vegetables. However, this isn’t going to happen over night.

A case study by Permaculture News Featured James and Mary Kniskern, who converted their lawn into a garden by planting vegetables one at a time. Eventually, the number soon exceeded the amount square feet of grass that was in their garden.

The important thing is that you get started on this by converting an area that you believe you can manage. Whether this means transforming your entire lawn in one go or one section at a time it’s up to you, just as long as you are sure that you can handle the work you will be facing throughout the process.

Transforming your lawn into a garden will entail getting rid of the existing grass that makes up your lawn, which can be a tedious process. However, the work can be made easier by getting a mower, as this will make the process quicker and easier. Screwfix features a variety of lawnmowers that follow industry standards but more important are able to be easily maneuvered around a garden. They vary from sturdy models to lightweight mowers perfect for getting into the small corners of your garden. Some models even come with collectors that automatically convert trimmed grass into mulch, which you can then use as fertiliser or as compost.

Once you’ve mowed the grass, you can then use the sheet mulch technique, which involves covering the land with cardboard, and then covering it with about 4 inches of compost or mulch (you can use the cut grass for this). You will need to wait for one season, or at least until the paper decomposes, to plant when using this technique. However, make sure there are no gaps where sunlight can seep through, as this can encourage the grass to grow once again.

On the other hand, if you do not have the patience to wait for an entire season for the grass to die, what you can do instead is to set up raised beds for your vegetables. RealFarmacy has one suggestion on how to do this efficiently. The process is essentially a modified version of the sheet mulch technique, but on a smaller scale. They implemented it on an isolated part of a lawn (no bigger than four feet), separated from the rest of the land with four boards. The plot was then covered by three cubic yards of manure, and spread evenly. One cubic yard of peat moss was then raked on to the compost before the vegetables were planted. After a month, the blogger was able to harvest his crops.

Dispatch said that the process of converting a lawn into a vegetable garden can take place between 2-3 years. While this might seem long, the effort will be worth it, as you will end up growing your own food and it will save you money in the long run. The important thing is to be patient throughout the process. During this time, take the time to study up on the best vegetables to grow, including how to take care of them and whether or not they should be cycled.

Preparing for East Africa’s first Permaculture Convergence, join us.

Preparing for East Africa’s first Permaculture Convergence, join us.

Design for Sabina school driveway orchard 2008

NB. This volume of Sector39 has now been archived. New  content available at http://permaculture.sector39.co.uk

A convergence is a coming together, in this case we are hoping to bring together leading practitiners and advocates for permacuture design in East Africa. The aim is to accelerate the already considerable momentum in the region by profiling some of the amazing work already underway in the region.

Since 2015 Sector39 have taught two full PDCs in Uganda and are planning the third currently. We have also formed a supportive partnership with two Ugandan organisations to enable us to extend our regional ambitions. East Africa is literally hungry for permaculture and there is so much that can be done to significantly improve people’s lives and resilience utilising resources that are largely already available.

It seems an obvious step forward for our East African partnership to try to raise the profile for permaculture by creating an event that demonstrates the many possibilities for its positive application. We are inviting some of the region’s biggest enthusiasts as speakers and workshop leaders and planning for an event that can bring together students from our first three courses with school heads, politicians and other scoial and financial gatekeepers with whom we might build new and mutually beneficial relationships.

The planned venue couldn’t be more ideal as it is home the most mature designed food forest in whole region and the school has embraced permaculture design and ideas within its core curriculum, even the Head Teacher has completed a PDC!

sabina permaculture

Students and teachers from Sabinas permaculture class meet Steve from Sector39

Sabina school is near to Rakai in central Uganda, the region that was the epicentre of the global AIDS epidemic. They are still in recovery from the terrible loss of life, creativity and human resource but are well on track to have the situation fully under control by 2030. Modern drugs have massively reduced the mortality rate, it is no longer a death sentence and people are open about their HIV status. That said there are still many orphans in the region and a great deal of work to be done to compenstate for the terrible effets of the epidemic.

sabina permaculture garden

Sabina students in the school’s forest garden. Bananas, avocado, pumpkin, jack fruit, there is food everywhere!

The 2-day conference is intended to both bring permaculture practitioners, students and pioneers together as well as creating a platform to celebrate and showcase achievements to inspire and demonstrate possibilities for new and interested parties. There wil be talks, demonstrations, a permaculutre futures forum and a school partnerships proposal Launch.

As well as site tours and demonstrations at Sabina there will be a chance to visit The Permaculture Research of Uganda, (PRI-UG) which has an ecological farm and demonstration site less than an hour from the intended venue and that is en route for anyone travelling from Kampala. The day immediately before and after the actual convergence will be open days for the site with guided tours and discussion forums planned.

grace and charles

Grace an ex pupil from Llanfyllin High school with Charles an ex Sabina pupil with some of the current juniors.

Political persuasion.

Permaculture belongs in schools. Imagine the anxiety for young adults when confronted with the fact that the next 30 years of their lives is going to dominated by climate change, a dwindling oil supply and the possibility if never-ending resource wars accompanied by ceaseless waves of refugees.

Currently it feels like no one in the main stream is offering solutions or ways forward they are battoning down the hatches and tightening border controls. We need to offer more than vision of a sustainable future, we need to provide the mechanism for change and pathways for empowerment and inclusion in that process and where better to begin than at school?

We have the support of the minister for education for Buganda and the national minister for education was a founding force behind Sabina school where the event will be held  so there exists a solid foundation to link the event to movement on a political level. When arrived in Kampala some 6 weeks ago our first meeting was with Mr Mula, permanent secretary to the Vice President of Uganda, he offered us his full support and strongly endorsed the work of Charles Mugarura and partners BEU Permaculture. We are looking to the younger generation to take the lead he emphasised.


Launch of BEU permaculture, Uganda’s most dynamic permaculture team and partners with Sector39 delivering this event

Sector39’s education team have since began work on 12 educational units for use in school that will introduce permaculture’s key principles to the curriculum, not as a subject but as cross curricular themes.

The East African Convergence gives us a timeline now to develop and profile this work. We have a key partner school in Wales to develop and trial the materials with as well as an emerging school network in Uganda so we are absolutely ready to take this work to the next level.

Pre booking and sponsorship packages are available to help us develop these potentials and we are also reaching out to teachers and educators to help realise these ambitions.

Delivery Partnership

  • The Sector39 education team are taking a lead role in organising this event, please contact us for bookings, sponsorships and other offers of help. There will be volunteering and internship opportunities as well.
  • On the ground logistics, site development, volunteer hosting plus marketing support and branding services are being provided  by BEU Permaculture, Kampala.
  • PRI-UG are offering demonstration visits, networking a practical support fir workshops and site development.
  • PermoAfrica centre and K5 community permaculture are linking us to on the ground community permaculture practical work in Kenya and will be profiling their 2 years of developmental experience for the conference.
  • Key note speakers tbc. We are  inviting a leading Author on East African botany, a leading agronomist and politician in the educational field to outline the key themes of the conference.

Meeting the head and agreeing on outline plans for the coming event


via PermoAfrica Centre

Yes my friends, Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?

Me as apermaculture knowledgeable person i will connect skilled individuals in the communities who can help each other through permaculture knowledge /idea result to effective channel to achieve a wider reach, which they wouldn’t have been possible without technology but that can happen through having good friends which resemble a connection to life – a tie to the past, a road to the future.

i thank my friend Felix who come to learn how to make compost manure with locally available material in the permaculture project site. —

One School One Planet

Sector39 and partners have been working on this project for nearly a year now. We won funding from the EU and Wales to develop educational strategies and resources to deal meaningfully with climate change in schools.

We began from the stand point that you can’t just talk about the unfolding climate crisis without responding to it. Talking without action totally undermines the message: when turn up to talk about planetary emergency,  then leave in your big car and nothing changes it simply undermines the message.

There really is no time to waste, as CO2 levels continue to soar the world is in desperate need of some different economic strategies. Business as usual is clearly not an option.

We knew from the outset we had to link the work to action. It is education so much of that action could be in terms of pupils forming and developing ideas as well as communicating, sharing and networking those ideas with other students and schools.

However for the project to make a real impact we also want to create visible changes in school culture as well as on the ground action. We are seeking to develop a clear sense of engagement and responsibility with the subject matter rather than just passive observation. We are after all going to have work together to fix this.

The climate crises will not go away until we resolve it and the Paris Accord is telling us it is going to take 30 years of increasingly hard work to do so.

Someone needs to set the example and take the lead and it struck us a couple of years ago that it might just have to be us. My own increasing sense of exasperation and impatience was at boiling point so I thought we may as well bight the bullet and go into full on project development mode and try a develop a project that allows us to address the climate issue head on.

I had spent the previous 5 years with Cwm Harry a waste management company that made compost from food waste and we had put together a community garden development team utilising their output. Having built a demonstration garden behind their factory in Newtown we had then won a three-year project bid to build an organic horticulture training centre by Newtown college and a series of community gardens.

The final one of these was a community orchard and food forest for Llanfyllin. We undertook the initial design, consultations and plantings for this before the project funding ran out. Our intention from the outset  had been to evolve the project into an enterprise beyond funding but when it came to it the reality was that I was based in Llanrhaeadr and my main collaborator was based in Llanidloes so geographically starting a joint enterprise in Newtown didn’t make sense.

I took out a business development loan from Robert Owen Community Bank and hired the services of Jemma Dixon, one of the brightest of our recent PDC graduates and sat down to write a series of funding bids with the intention of creating a more locally focussed project that built directly on the previous experience.

First thing we learned is that writing bids if difficult, long-winded and uncertain. It was a gamble. I went through cycles of elation and depression as each bid was completed then returned unsuccessful but we were getting nearer each time.

This was my thinking, climate change is a global problem to which there is no solution as such other than a complete overhaul of our food, energy, land management, social and economic systems.

Education is going to be the key to bring the next generations into this new reality, yet we are still behaving like this massive looming problem isn’t happening. It’s that old adage the educators are guilty of preparing the pupils for what just gone rather than what is before them. Well this time this can’t be allowed to happen. The students of today need to be the climate leaders of tomorrow, this the core assumption of the project.

Permaculture design tells us to start small and to start local. We had already begun our community orchard in Llanfyllin so this seemed a good start point build active relations with school and community but I also knew we had to have a global perspective too.

My personal permaculture journey began in Zimbabwe and I have been in love with Africa ever since. When I discovered back in 2011 that Llanfyllin had strong links to Uganda via a local charity, Dolen Ffermio my ears had pricked up and I readily offered my services to help host a visit of 6 key Ugandan partners to Wales later that same year. I made the return visit in 2014 on a study tour there and now I was sure there had to an African component to our own project ambitions, especially as it built directly on already existing Wales / Africa links. A bid was written to Hub Cymru Africa only to be returned through lack of evidence of need or measurable outcomes. So Sector39 bit the bullet again and self funded for a small team to go out there to deliver our first African PDC through Dolen Ffermio and their partners Busoga High School, Kamuli.

Students at Sabina School, central Uganda in their school’s forest garden. Why isn’t every school surrounded by an oasis of fresh healthy food? These 13-year-old permaculture Students want to help Welsh schools achieve the same. Reducing carbon emissions, building fertile soil, it’s an outside class room and play area that contributes to food security and tackling poverty, what is there to not like about that?

Finally the jigsaw pieces were falling place: the goals and process were becoming clearer and I could see who the right partners and funders should be and how to approach them. It took 9 months to complete the EU application and we were on almost starvation rations by the time the project began in August 2016. They kept us guessing to the last-minute be finally we got the positive answer we so badly wanted
The other project dropped into place a few months later when we finally won £10,000 to develop the African component of the project based on the evidence we returned from our trip with. 

The way we respond to climate change, it is increasingly clear to me is to deliver on the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals. We have to tackle poverty in all its forms and the injustice and discrimination that underpins it.

Question: How do we do that you may well ask?

Answer: Permaculture design offers a design mechanism for change. Bringing permaculture into education and empowering to more actively shape their own destiny provides an achieveable to affet this kind of change.

It’s all linked, the war waged on the planetary ecosystem is waged against mankind as well, solve one and we solve the other. There is everything to play for here!

Permaculture is a design system for sustainability. It gives us the ‘how’ in terms of the method and process to achieve the gargantuan task before us. Really it is a win  win situation, something tht is self-reinforcing.

Many people are wondering where the jobs and opportunities are going to come from for the next generation when the answer is right there before us.

Fix poverty, fix climate and create masses of new opportunity at the sane time; humankind needs to innovate, invent, create, communicate like never before. Thi si swhere future employment is going to come from.

The next generation are literally giong to have the opportnity to save the world!

This needs to be the golden age of creativity and the educational tools to allow this human scale evolution need to be in the hands of those who are going be most affected by these changes. Education needs to embrace permaculture as the tool that an empower it pupils to create a sustainable future for themselves.

I strongly believe we can do this, it is definitely going to be a bumpy ride but once we are focussed on the challenge before us there is no reason why we can’t transform the world in the only way that will give us stable future.

We are excited and optimistic as we plan for year 2 of the project. It becomes ever clearer how to bring permaculture into school and with realisation that responding to the threat of climate disruption is an opportunity to create positive change for everyone.

Permaculture in Central Africa

Things have moved quickly over the last 3 weeks. Uganda is in shock, first a crippling drought in a place where drought is not known then the maize crop is devasted by the army worm.. a new pest from Soth America that attacks especially the F1 maize hybrid varieties.

In UK permaculture is still seen as an interesting idea, in Africa it is being seen as essential. A vital approach that speaks to African tradition yet embraces design and global vision. Traditional yet modern and fresh. Permaculture can revitalise innovation in an Afrocentric way.

We have been fortunate, we have won senior misisterial endorsement this time. From the office of the Vice President and from the minster fir education for Bugandan kingdom. 

“We want to be leaders in permaculture for Central Africa” Mary Kabanda Babirye MP. 

The Sector39 team were invited to address 60 head teachers from the central region yesterday and we presented for a full hour on our permaculture work in Wales and Uganda to the assembed group before being whisked away in the ministerial mercedes to  5 star lunch at Masaka’s top hotel.

I sense big potentials ahead. Watch this space. 

Below.. forest garden nursey in Jinja where we sourced many of the plants for recent school garden project.