It takes a globally co-ordinated response to face up to unfolding climate catastrophe; here’s how we might do it. Our economy must be aligned with ecology, a new way of thinking is required and this change is right now, nature is screaming at us! Are you not listening?

How do we get out of this mess? Well first we have to recognize the emergency for what it is and make responding to that our priority, We will be required to let go of much of what we previously took for granted. These are different times, and we need very different ideas. #ClimateEmergency #Permaculture

CSU: Carbon Sequestration Uganda

Lets talk about soil (above)

Here is a set of short videos which bring soil biology to life beautifully. Getting down with soil is one of the first objectives on a permaculture design course, until we have an empathy with this extraordinary matrix beneath our feet we are yet to understand our place on this living earth. Here is how I like explain it; the only new energy coming into our planet is from the sun. You and I could sunbath all day and maybe get beautifully warm but we cannot feed ourselves from this energy, it is not available to us. Plants on the other hand can convert the sun’s energy into sugars and carbohydrates, and this is the available energy just about all other living life forms have to take advantage of. Plants also cannot live on energy alone, so they emit exudates from their roots, essentially plant sugars which soil microbes and fungi trade mineral nutrients for.

The basis of all life on earth is this essential exchange between the plants and soil biota, and much of these translations take place in soil. Soil is the matrix for exchange, it is where dead, digested old organic matter is converted and reassembled into new living matter. It also turns out that soil is the repository of a huge amount of carbon, also trapped by plants and fungi, and understanding and working with this soil carbon seems to be the likeliest route we can take to combat climate change.

The second short video is from Hawai’i, illustrating the essential nature of soil. A foundation point for our latest project idea: “CSU: Carbon Sequestration Uganda”.

The start of a piece evidencing a project idea currently under development.

WHY CSU: Carbon Sequestration Uganda?

All 5 billion hectares of cultivated and grazed lands around the world can become a carbon sink. I am focusing my attention on Uganda as Sector39 has built a network of trainers and projects there. It is a land of farmers and ones which are largely following low tillage and non capital intensive farming methods. The potential for a significant uptake of these ideas and strategies is immense, as methods quickly return benefits and that is re-reinforcing of the correct behaviours. I am working presently on a team to assemble a bid to do more field trials of permaculture techniques and to link this to educational outreach and support into the surrounding communities.

Chronicle – short piece for Tanat Valley Chronicle

It is all about soil.

Is climate optimism still real? Is it not already too late for effective action as the climate is already clearly changing? Add to that the pandemic, the firestorms, the floods, and droughts; our planet seems to be rejecting us. Seriously, just how badly should we be panicking?

Clearly emissions reduction is key, we have the Paris Climate Accord targets as guidelines, and we will have to beat them. This is something that will not go away, and the curve gets steeper with every day of inaction. Fossil fuels must stay in the ground and we must accelerate the move away from their widespread use.

However there is  an even bigger problem to be tackled here, the IPCC, NASA and other climate leaders tell us that this situation will keep getting worse so long as atmospheric Co2 levels remain above 350 ppm, and we are currently at 410 ppm, therefore eliminating emissions isn’t enough, we have to go negative.

The calculation looks something like this:  To get from 410 ppm – 350 ppm a carbon drawdown of 450 billion tons is required, is this even possible? Current research says yes and that our poor depleted soils can absorb somewhere between 10 t– 20 t per hectare per year, if managed correctly.

I am told there are approx. 5 billion hectares of managed lands, that is all farmland both arable and grazing, so therefore 100 Bn t per year is theoretically possible. Current emissions are at the 40 Bn t mark, so it would take some years to stack away those 450 Bn t but in theory the world could be in a quite different place in say 20 years. To answer my own questions then, yes a return of optimism is possible but not without significant investment in the right areas.

How would we do that? How can we return such massive amounts of carbon to the soils and what kind of effect might that have or the soils themselves? A wholesale move to organic methods is the start, a shift to minimum and even zero tillage and a partnering with the life in the soil is nothing but essential. Mycorrhizae fungi, the fungi that live in the soil and permeate not just the soil but the plants themselves is made from carbon. The mycelium itself is made from a hard form of carbon that stays around in the soil for a long time. Carbon rich soils are open and aerobic, allowing water to enter and oxygen to flow, benefiting the beneficial bacteria over the pathogens and supporting crops over weeds. Re-partnering with the life in the soil is the secret to both the climate and food security

Sector39, the Wales based academy of permaculture is currently proposing agro-forestry research projects in Uganda with partners from Aberdeen and Newcastle university, we are yet to find out if our bid for work will be successful, but researching for the work is filling my mind with the possibilities and potentials of just how we might turn this around. Whether we have left it too late or not is actually a moot point, we have no other recourse than to prioritise climate action, we will find out exactly how late we left it along the way I am sure.


AEA founder John Kempf discusses how to manage soil nitrogen and carbon sequestration for abundant microbial communities, the roles of water, oxygen, and soluble carbon in soil, the limiting factor for building biology (soluble carbon, not water, as many people believe), why carbon sequestration is important to crop performance, and which elements are needed to stabilise nitrogen in the soil.

Dragons Brew Podcast #3: Talking Dirty

Now is not a time to be a moderate… change always starts from the fringes

We are at a moment of paradigm shift, when the old and established is falling away so fast it is truly dizzying. I move between exhilaration and terror, to a sort of dull blank feeling of inevitability.

We know we cant keep burning oil but our whole global economy is built on it. We know we could have had a phased transition over the last 30 years, but we have put it off for so long. Nothing short of what will look and feel like collapse to many, will get us out of the climate nightmare headed our way.

Permaculture club requests support for sanitiser

Maybe also to help them is the cost of items:

48 ltrs sanitizers: 3,360,000

Masks: 144. 720,000

Soap: 144. 576,000

Total: 4,656,000 UGX (£1,000)

Aramadhan sent4 hours ago

Hello Steve, it’s has been officially announced that the school reopening is on 20/9/2020 for the finalist and my permaculture club of 48 pupils are all finalist in primary seven.

Therefore, I humbly remind you and it has been emphasized that each finalist report with COVID-19 requirements

Permaculture revisited

It is 25 years since I studied my permaculture design course and 28 years since I last sat down and read the permaculture designers manual from cover to cover. Maybe it is time to go back to the start and revisit the book that started it all off. Bill Mollison’s epic tome might turn out to be the most important book ever penned. OK, a humongous and not-provable claim but let us look at it like this, through the words of Buckminster Fuller.

“The world teeters on the threshold of revolution. If it is a bloody revolution then it is all over. The alternative is a design science revolution.. a design science that produces so much performance per unit of resource invested as to take care of all human needs.”

Buckminster Fuller.

This idea is illustrated beautifully below. Consider the degree of improvement in the performance of water in this model. A few simple design interventions prevents water flow from cascading directly out of this system but instead by making it travel much further it stays in the system significantly longer and has the opportunity to nourish every part of the system. The same amount of water eventually leaves the system and flows to the sea, however by simply slowing it down, the potential yield of the system and its resilience is significantly enhanced. Now imagine this multiplied over huge areas.

illustration from Bill Mollison's Permaculture a designers manual
Illustration of a permaculture approach to design; strategic interventions in whole landscape to divert the flow of water so that we may derive the maximum benefit before the water leaves the system

A policy of responsibility – to relinquish power

Living in such tumultuous times leads us to question everything and permaculture is a discipline that takes one right back to the very start, what is it that we are even trying to achieve? In this world of abstracts and disconnection our goals seem to be more along the line of how many Twitter followers we can achieve or how many 0’s and 1’s can be generated on a computer screen to represent wealth creation in some way, intangibles that in themselves are affected by so many variables that they actually have no real meaning. Going back to source, to Bill’s original worlds in Chapter 2 of the Designers Manual, we get a clear answer:

The role of beneficial authority is to return function and responsibility to life and to people; if successful design is to create a self-managed system.

In life and in design we must accept that immutable rules will not apply, and instead be prepared to be guided on our continuing exploration by flexible principles and directives. While the sun (still) burns we are in an open system, if we don’t destroy the earth , open-system energy saving will see us evolve as conscious beings in a conscious universe.

Hard science such as we apply to material systems (physics, mathematics, inorganic chemistry) studiously avoids life systems, regarding as not quite respectable those sciences (botany, zoology, psychology) that try to deal with life. Rigorous scientific method deals with the necessity of rigorous control of variables, and in life systems, indeed in any systems, this assumes two things which are impossible.

1: that you know all the variables possible before you start

2: that you can control any of the variables without causing disorder in the life system.”

It seems apparent from the opening paragraphs of this remarkable book that we have to let go somewhat. A key lesson in our relationship with nature is that we are not in control, we cannot eliminate all background variables, especially not in understanding the dynamic complexity of living systems. We can at best be steered by nature, we must learn its lessons and decode its pattern language through a constant process of interaction.

We need to understand living systems much better because quite clearly we are destroying the one we are part of.

Steven Jones

permaculture design course advert

Permaculture’s core lesson is to study and learn the patterns of nature. That no two situations are exactly the same, that we have to plan for diversity, to allow for designs to evolve, and in that process inform the designer.

Embraced within these observations is a set of tools, techniques and strategies which enable the achievement of these goals. Permaculture design is not to be confused with the tool kit. Permaculture is not forest gardens, raised beds and compost heaps, however if properly thought through and well deployed they certainly can all be components or manifestations of a permaculture design process.

Geoff goes through the whole Permaculture Designers Manual and ties it all together in one hour.

Llanfyllin Institute community growing space. Supported by National Gardens Scheme

Over the course of 2019 Llanfyllin BRACE initiative held a series of regular bi-weekly meetings along the theme of community responses to climate change and ecological emergency. These meetings brought together a range of interested people and an overlapping of us ordinary folk trying to figure out what to do with the Llanfyllin town council, with special interest groups like Severn Rivers Trust, Powys CC roads and verges, with school governors, the church, and farmers.

One of the outputs of this was a connection between the Llanfyllin town council, the public hall committee, where the town council meet, and this eclectic group of citizens wanting to channel their frustration and energy into something positive and tangible. An important note in the Transition Handbook is don’t just have meetings but make sure to prioritise creating observable, visible outcomes and changes. Having such a coalition was the genesis of this community garden project.

Previously as a community we have been able to establish Cae Bodfach Heritage Orchard in the field behind our local supermarket, so with this as a track record and new friends and connections this new space became available, an odd, steeply sloping truncated piece of land behind the public institute. It had become to be seen as a bit of a liability, not really used or productive and costing limit budget for strimming and hedge trimming. All it really takes is a bit of vision and there is always a potential for a community group to develop in a way that meets community needs.

We were exactly at that point of project genesis when the opportunity to apply to the NGS scheme came along, and we hurriedly fired off an application. Things were delayed as the national quarantine happened, so we took the plunge and ordered a few items in advance so we could be ready to hit the ground running as the new season unfolded. We were all ready with a worked out plan to get the key elements such as the raised beds in place, and make rapid progress as the season unfolded and we finally heard the grant application had been successful.

Since those early days when a small group of people was driving this project forward it has quickly grown to achieve a momentum and shape of its own. In a few short months this has come together with what is really a small injection of capital investment, but precisely enough to set something in motion that can create its own energy to become self sustaining.

We are enormously grateful to the Llanfyllin Institute and Town Council and of course the National Garden Schemes for supporting this venture and helping us get started. Next to arrive is our tool shed and that will allow us to purchase tools and other things like propagators with the remaining funds from NGS.

The biggest thanks of course to every single person who has volunteered at the garden over previous months. Tuesday mornings are the key volunteer slot and anyone is welcome.

Exporting poverty – the story behind the story

The global economic system, or predatory capitalism, the Neo liberal extremism that is tearing the world apart has to stop. Listen to these voices: these are not conspiracies but voices from inside the system who have become appalled by its brutality.

John Perkins describes the methods he used to bribe and threaten the heads of state of countries on four continents in order to create a global empire and he reveals how the leaders who did not “play the game” were assassinated or overthrown. He brings us up to date about the way the economic hitman system has spread from developing countries to the US, Europe, and the rest of the world and offers a strategy for turning this around. “Each of us,” he says, “can participate in this exciting revolution. We can transform a system that is consuming itself into extinction into one that is sustainable and regenerative.”

John Perkins, ‘economic hitman’
US security is jeopardised by assassination of our political enemies

“Let’s get our corporations to clean up pollution, regenerate destroyed environments, to create an economic system that is in itself a renewable resource.”

“Use local community power, your power to change politics, to change the laws, we have to do that, it’s our job in a democracy”.

John Stockwell left the CIA when he decided that what they were doing was endangering national security not protecting it.

John R. Stockwell is a former CIA officer who became a critic of United States government policies after serving in the Agency for thirteen years and serving seven tours of duty. After managing U.S. involvement in the Angolan Civil War as Chief of the Angola Task Force during its 1975 covert operations, he resigned and wrote In Search of Enemies, a book which remains the only detailed, insider’s account of a major CIA “covert action”.

A note on John Stockwell; I wrote my development degree dissertation on the struggle for independence in Angola, back in 1984. His book ‘in search of enemies’ caught me unawares, and made me realise all the different development models we had been studying for three years were largely irrelevant because of foreign interference, corruption and economic terrorism such as described in the first video.

Steve Jones
Once weapons where manufactured to fight wars. Now wars are manufactured to sell weapons.

Jacobsen’s 2014 book, Operation Paperclip: The Secret Intelligence Program That Brought Nazi Scientists to America[8] was called “perhaps the most comprehensive, up-to-date narrative available to the general public” in a review by Jay Watkins of the CIA‘s Center for the Study of Intelligence.[9] Operation Paperclip was included in a list of the best books of 2014 by The Boston Globe.[10] Space historian Michael J. Neufeld gave a negative review of the book: “I cannot endorse Operation Paperclip because: it is error-ridden, it produces no fundamentally new information, it is unbalanced, and its notes are poor.”[11] Jacobsen contributed to the October 24, 2019 Throughline Podcast The Dark Side of the Moon podcast episode.[12]

S39 Permaculture Academy

In partnership with Arkleton trust and the Permaculture Association of Britain.

at Andrew Kalema's bamboo farm
S39 team at Nakaseke, on a forest farming field trip visit. Andrew Kalema is a leading light in this field.

This is the beginning of a very big journey, one that we hope will create not only a network of permaculture demonstration and training centres in Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda but also train and develop the careers of the students and graduates from those centres. We are calling this the S39 Permaculture Academy and work is already well under way setting these ambitions in motion.

Title banner from the academy website
We will develop the branding of the academy as it evolves, but it all started from an idea generated in 2014 and tentatively launched at the 2015 International Permaculture Convergence. It made every sense to us to use the experience and networks built up from teaching so many PDC’s in the UK over the years and link up with our new found friends and colleagues in Africa. In 2018 we launched the idea at the first East Africa Permaculture Convergence.
Touring the 6 acre plot at Budumba where we are working to develop one for permaculture training hubs
Touring the land at Butaleja

We have identified three contrasting sites so far, each will serve as the nucleus for a training centre that over time will reach deep into its surrounding community. Experience has taught us the power of demonstration to draw in interest, the next step is to convert this into knowledge via a range of both practical and theoretical educational approaches. The centres will also serve as resource points; multiplying plants, tools and other materials so that graduates and surrounding households can replicate and learn first hand from these permaculture techniques.

plants with multiple functions
Purchasing a set of plants ready to take to the first training centre at Butaleja

Early days, and this is my first post on a three week trip that feels like a mammoth journey really, we met and connected with so many people and places, I feel we are at the start of something very interesting. The potential to accelerate the uptake of permaculture across the region seems huge. Most people if not small farmers are still very much connected to the land, there is a strong local food economy and a great need to boost productivity and income in a way that harmonises with both community and landscape. Permaculture is very close to an African way of thinking, or as S39 trainer Hellen Auyo put it, “It’s God’s way of farming.”

Permaculture design grows from the active observation of nature’s systems.
Creating a keyhole bed in Mbale as an example of a permaculture technique
Working together to create a keyhole garden in Mbale

Paul Odiwour Ogola, overseeing the work in the above picture has already proved his incredible worth when after the 2016 PDC he went home to his native Kenya and opened his own training centre. He in turn has trained many hundreds of small farmers in the Homa Bay region and is now targeting reaching thousands more. He is one of the key inspirations for the Academy and demonstrates how ongoing support work with key educators enables the spread of similar approaches to different regions:

  • Kumi, Teso sub-region, Eastern Uganda
  • Budumba, Butaleja. Eastern Uganda
  • Save School, Butare, Rwanda
  • Homa Bay, Kenya
  • Mfangano Island, Kenya

Check out for more information.

Permaculture 2020

pdc advert
Rowe Morrow talks of her plans to reach refugees with permaculture training

The work of Rowe Morrow goes on. She was one of the first generation permaculture pioneers in Australia and is leading the way bringing permaculture to refugee settlements and using it as a tool for displaced people around the world. We were very inspired by her talk at the 2015 International Convergence in London and reading her books was a great help in designing the Sector39 permaculture design course for refugees delivered in Uganda in 2018.

Sector39 PDC graduates in Adjumani 2018
Delivering a full PDC to 40 UNHCR registered refugee community leaders from South Sudan was a highlight of 2018 for the Sector39 team

“Permaculture training we had last year is really improving our life. Thanks for da support.”

Droma Isaac, Adjumani

2020 has to be a big year for change. The commencement of the Paris Climate Accord and a full speed rapid transition to a low carbon economy. Permaculture has been putting down roots and spreading its mycelium around the world for four decades and more. It is time we brought much of what has been developing in that time to fruition.

PDC advert for Dragons co-op
Outline for the 2020 PDC at Dragons spread over 6 weekends

Book here. 10% deposit secures a place

PDc Full permaculture design course in Wales

Back at Treflach Farm

S39 delivered 5 full PDC’s at Treflach between 2010 and 2012, when the farm was still at the beginning of its transition from a more traditional family-run stock farm to a hub for regenerative agriculture. In the time since we were last there they have invested in on-farm value addition, community activities, local food events and much more. The farmer at Treflach has joined the regenerative agriculture network and is exploring mob-grazing, silvo-pasture and many more initiatives. Permaculture has very much been a big part of the journey for the the farm and we are very excited to be returning there in July.

Permaculture gives you a framework to understand the much more complex patterns and processes we see in nature and society. Permaculture is essentially an introduction to systems thinking and pattern language. It is based on observation and experience and requires no prior knowledge.

The course explores themes such as:
* Principles of natural systems
* People dynamics and groups
* Basic ecology, soil and compost, guilds
* Gardens, food forests and integrated systems
* Economic systems, money, co-operatives
* Design: building consensus and how to communicate ideas

More updates soon

Pay your 10% deposit here

Fibonacci, patterns in nature

Book Launch

Heart felt thanks to everyone who came along and especially those of you helped with the book launch event in Llanrhaeadr on Oct 11th. Between the two sessions we had well over 70 visitors and so far we have distributed 300 of the 400 complimentary copies available for those resident or working in Powys.

small and slow solutions, permaculture, school  and community
The final output of One School One Planet Project, a 100 page book of practical insight into how to work with the environment.
Small and Slow Solutions, sector39
Coming together as community to face complex challenges

The book tackles the challenge of our time, how to energise and inspire people to take meaningful action on the ecological emergency. The work is framed by permaculture design, which co-ordinates actions to be in line with both community and the natural world. Combined synergistic actions could create all sorts of unexpected positive outcomes. It is via these processes, we believe, we have the potential tools to make meaningful inroads into preparing ourselves for our low carbon and climate disrupted future.

climate change generation
How we choose to respond to the climate emergency will impact greatly on the options available to the next generation.