Andrew Kalema, PDC graduate from our 2016 Permaculture course, bamboo expert and ex journalist put it best in a recent Facebook post,
Someday we might all be refugees, how we treat them is how we wish to be treated.
Resource wars, climate change, collapse of the old economic order.. we would be foolish to think we are immune to catastrophic change. If displacement were to come to you then you could do a lot worse than arrive in Uganda. The Central African nation has accepted over a million displaced people in recent times, putting many other nations to shame.
International agencies have stepped in, UNHCR, Norwegian and Danish Refugee councils are visibly engaged, but it is the Ugandan government and people that has extended a welcoming hand by releasing land enabling the refugees to become settlers. I first became aware of the enormity of this situation in a BBC Radio broadcast ‘Crossing Continents’ maybe a year ago, highlighting the crisis. Congolese and South Sudanese people have been pouring across the border in search of refuge in huge numbers.
Experience shows these awful situations take time to resolve and by that I mean some years. Boredom, depression, loss of hope and human violation follows in the tracks of hopelessness, there is a great vulnerability and need for constructive action; so turning camps and places of containment into settlements and places of potential is a significant step forward.
Uganda is showing great compassion to its troubled neighbours, not only have the new settlers been given ID cards and land they are also being offered vocational training and that is where we come in.
AID agencies tend to work in departmental bunkers. Roads. Water and sanitation. Farming and enterprise. Education. Housing. Energy. There is little cross departmental strategy, so to even think about Permaculture in this context is an almost heretical departure from the norm.
Houses catch water, waste becomes compost, roads channel surface water in a way that can either accelerate or slow soil erosion. Tackling food and resource issues through community engagement is education, so to my mind Permaculture should be at the heart of resettlement and enterprise development, especially in these fragile spontaneous communities.
I heard that radio 4 program and realised the huge potential that was being overlooked but how was I to capture the attention of these huge NGO’S? I fired off a few emails to no response. After all Sector39 is a tiny training enterprise in a little Welsh village, hardly well placed to win the attention of international agencies or equipped to work at such scale.
Chance is a strange thing and it turns out the head of the Norwegian Refugee Council’s African operations did a Permaculture course in Wales 12 years ago. S39 began teaching PDC courses in Uganda after a 2014 study tour here visiting innovative farming projects with a local Welsh farmers support Charity, Dolen Ffermio. A course graduate and friend from our 2017 PDC attended a conference in Nairobi this January and whilst at lunch permaculture quickly came up in the conversation around the dinner table between my friend and the woman seated beside him. Turns out the lady concerned was operations director for the Norwegian Refugee Council Africa and they both knew me as their permaculture tutor. She announced that there was growing interest in permaculture as a strategy to develop community resilience in the settlements where they are working. She remembered me well and through my friend invited me to get in touch with the Uganda program director who was also keen on Permaculture.
I was coming to Kampala in February already to speak at the university and to prepare for our next PDC here in May, so I agreed to meet the Uganda project head and on arrival they immediately whisked me off to Bidi Bidi, currently the world s largest refugee settlement.
They couldn’t offer me the work directly as it had to go out for competitive tender but I drafted a training program and budget and in April was invited to submit a bid. I gather there were 100 applications from all over the world but we did win a 6 month opportunity to pilot a permaculture for refugees program that hopefully might become a template for future work. An amazing opportunity for Sector39 and permaculture in general.
We started training 40 participants from both refugee and host communities plus staff, whereby each participate would in turn be expected to train and support 5 family groups.
I write this as we speed home along bumpy roads, crossing the mighty Nile en route having completed 2 weeks of the phase 1 of the training. It has gone well. I am humbled and honoured to have worked with these people.
Everything I ever thought about refugees has changed. The dizzyingly huge numbers turn people into statistics. I couldn’t really imagine how to find common ground with cattle herders and subsistence farmers from Central Africa, Maadi, Dinka, Kakwa people speaking languages I hadn’t even heard of let alone had a grasp of. Through simultaneous translation, demonstration and the magic of permaculture we have found a common language. We have become friends. True connection has been made. I look forward to returning in September, we will give active support in the interim but as we part I can say my new friends and colleagues are inspired, empowered and ready to lead their communities. I will genuinely miss many of them and I know the same is true in return.
Through our own needs, food, soil, energy, enterprise and design we all have much more in common with each other than we realise and the differences are trivial and are what keeps life interesting. Permaculture unites us. Peace.
I have much more to say.. And will do so over coming days.
The development of Sector39’s East African Permaculture work has been funded by Hub Cymru Africa as part of the Wales for Africa programme. This funding covered the period of April 1st 2017 to March 31st 2018. This has been invaluable support and for which Sector39 are extrememntly grateful. The following report covers this time period the outcomes from the funding support.
Sector39 Permaculture Uganda project report for Hub Cyrmu Africa 2017 – 2018
Feed back and outcomes regarding the £10,000 of support given to Sector39 in March last year to be used between then and March 31st 2018.
Develop Sector39 as a leading supplier of permaculture education and facilitation in both Wales and Africa
Deliver a full permaculture Design course for 25 participants in Kamuli Uganda, May 2017
To use the course to develop strong networks in Uganda and across East Africa to reach both individuals and organisations that can help further these objectives.
Create opportunities for permaculture practitioners from Wales to gain experience and to develop as teachers
Disseminate information about this work in Wales and to raise awareness of Wales Africa links and support work.
Present in local schools and community groups regarding this work and its wider potentials.
Create opportunities for on going developmental training and work experience for African permaculture practitioners to develop and acquire teaching skills knowledge and experience.
The grant obtained from HCA has been utilised largely as planned and as outlined in our project bid so I don’t have any major changes to report. What I do want to report and forgive me for stepping outside the structure of the report form is that our feet have hardly touched the ground since began our project in May 2017. We have found East Africa to be very fertile ground for permaculture and have had a great deal of success in meeting these objectives.
-I am currently in Uganda having just completed another successful round of training and realise I don’t have the final report form blank available so I am submitting this full report instead and will be posting this on the project website as well for reference.
Sector39 have been teaching permaculture in the UK since 2005 and in 2014 we came out to Uganda with Dolen Ffermio (Wales/ Uganda farmer’s support charity, based in our community) on a study tour which prompted us to explore the possibilities for working in Uganda, teaching permaculture and building on the links we gained through our trip out with Dolen Ffermio.
We did submit a bid in 2016 to HCA but were unsuccessful as we had not fully identified the beneficiaries and how we would measure the outcomes.
Instead of funding Sector39 took out a business development loan and proceeded to run our first full permaculture design certificate course (PDC) in Kamuli Uganda using connections we had made via both Dolen Ffermio and by using social media.
This experience allowed us to write a fuller bid for 2017/ 18 which was successful and it is this I am reporting on now.
Full permaculture design certificate course in Kamuli Uganda.
The May PDC reached 25 participants and Sector39 took out a team of 6 trainers from the UK as well as working with 2 Ugandans and 1 Kenyan we had met via the first course. This was the first big development for us, in that we connected with the Uganda permaculture networks and training organisations, dynamic and vibrant groups mainly populated by people much younger and less experienced than us but of course much netter connected to the grass roots of permaculture in East Africa.
Several of the graduates from our first course were keen to return and to contribute to the teaching and running of the course as well as having met teachers and community leaders who were keen to introduce permaculture into their own schemes of work. So not did the numbers involved grow, we found ourselves reaching far beyond the networks we had originally worked with right into remote and much harder to reach groups.
Training team from Wales of 6 people gained experience in teaching in this context and many insights and new connections were made.
25 Course participants completed the 14 day training, these drawn mainly from Uganda with 4 from Kenya. Our strategy was to recruit trainers, or people who were very active in their own communities. We wanted to identify participants who would in turn train others, start projects and demonstration plots and amplify the benefits gained from their training.
We also understood that in this circumstance we needed to work with English speaking individuals with a degree of education behind them so they could benefit fully from the opportunity we were providing. The design to reach much harder to reach groups could be achieved indirectly through the work of the course graduates.
Via connections and past students from our previous course
Following on from PDCUG16 we retained those people who were most likely to develop as teachers and project initiators them selves. These included a Kenyan farmer and black smith, Paul Ogola who had since started his own demonstration plot in his home community and who returned with 3 individuals who had been inspired by his work and wanted to follow his example. A school teacher from Busoga High, Kamuli who wanted to initiated a student support project by developing growing and micro income initiatives within the school and who can connect us to regional educators.
New contacts recruited via social media.
Social media opens up the possibility to easily develop a dialogue with pro-active individuals who are keen to learn and keen to disseminate information. Through the Sector39 website and social media we identified several really keen and able individuals who demonstrated a keenness and aptitude for permaculture that convinced is of their potential to enable us to meet our project goals
Those who can be recruited and funded for course fees by other organisations with similar objectives. In process of developing and promoting the course S39 connected with like minded organisations who wanted to to access training for their stakeholders. These included Dolen Ffermio from Wales and Kumi Orphans project. Kriegskinder, from Germany supporting child soldiers and those training and supporting vulnerable people in conflict zones.
The single most successful strategy to monitor outcomes from the PDC has again proved to be that of utilising social media and blogs to enable graduates to report on their subsequent work and to document their successes and challenges. This has also enable a cross fertilisation of experience between graduates from the course, using Facebook, WhatsApp and blogs mainly as communication tools.
The PDC itself was reported on daily via the blog at
This Facebook group East Africa Permaculture Students union is populated by our PDCUG17 graduates and has been a highly effective way to maintain contact with graduates and see the outcomes of their work
Graduates form PDCUG17 who initiated projects of their own include:
PermoAfrica centre Kenya – Grass roots permaculture education in Homa Bay Kenya (FB and blog)
K5 village permaculture (FB). Omito Abraham Owiour
Nyero School Project, Godfrey Opolot
Nateete Urban permaculture project: Ali Tebandeke (FB)
Busia region Kenya Uganda out reach: Prince Sebe Maloba (FB)
Busia region farmers and villagers training: Aramadam Mutebi, Send a Goat foundation
Busoga high school forest garden and permaculture project Kamuli, Connie Kauma. (blog)
PRI-UG network. S39 signed a partnership agreement with the Uganda permaculture network, which subsequently has linked us to PRI-Kenya and PRI-Zanzibar. Which has challenged us in turn to convene the first East African permaculture conference, which is planned to follow on from our May 2018 PDC.
BEU Permaculture, Charles Mugarura has developed its focus on permaculture following on from the PDC and has been working with UG partners to link Sector39 to educators, politicians and grass roots activists.
Following on from the PDC in May 2017 the Sector39 team carried a series of visits until late June, following up contacts we have generated through the training. These included:
Mr Mula, permanent secretary office of vice president,
We were invited for a meeting on education and enterprise and development in Uganda with the OVP. Interesting the P.A. to Mr Mulla who was present at the meeting followed up the session by researching into permaculture which she followed by attending the 2018 PDC at Sabina school that we have just completed. The intention of the meeting was to seek support for permaculture at a political level and we have been offered support in any way needed as an outcome of the meeting.
With Gerald Jagwe, course participant and key staff member at PRI-UG, we were invited to meet Mr Bakka on whose land is based the demonstration and research farm for the Permaculture Research Institute of Uganda. We had a site tour and discussed future collaboration. A Memorandum of Understanding was signed and we agreed to collaborate on future ventures. I have since been invited to act as a trustee for the organisation and we are still discussing this. Mr Jagwe is now working with Sector39 on our follow on project with the Norwegian Refugee Agency and he has proved to be an excellent contact.
Hon. Mary Kabanda, MP
Mary is the patron of St Jude’s school Masaka as well as the minister for education for the region. S39 were invited to the school where we met the principle, staff and pupils before been given a full site tour. The purpose of this visit was to promote permaculture as a learning tool in schools and as a site management strategy to increase food yields and reduce waste at the school.
We were invited to present at a regional head teachers conference the next day for 38 regional head teachers from both primary and secondary schools. I showed a full slide show for an hour followed by questions, the slides covered the PDC training in Kamuli and practical work we had done with Busoga High School where we had designed a planted an Agro-forestry/ food forest garden for the school.
Following on from the head teachers conference we were invited by Charles Mugarura (BEU permaculture, Kampala) to visit the school/ orphanage where he had been a pupil and had grown up. Sabina had been founded as an orphanage and school as it was central the area with the highest HIV- Aids infection rate and consequently high orphan rate. Links to the World bank had led to an international team coming to the school in 2008 where a permaculture course had been held and subsequent design being implemented.
I met with Jude the head teacher and we discussed the possible placement of volunteers from Wales at the school, to help maintain and renovate some of the original design work and the possibility of their hosting a full PDC and conference there in 2018.
BEU permaculture agreed to sponsor and oversee three Ugandan placements at the school in a build up programme to the 2018 course and this would support the 2 volunteers from Wales who would join the team in late March. The flights and costs to bring the two volunteers out (Nina Duckers and Grace Maycock) were met from the HCA funds.
I returned to Uganda in February, utilising funds from HCA to further these develops and firm up plans for the volunteer placements, the 2018 PDC and conference and to report to other contacts we had generated on the previous visit.
Sector39 had been invited to present at Makarere University business school conference to around 150 students and future leaders in business. As 5th top business school in Africa this was n ideal opportunity to network and promote permaculture to future leaders.
Steve Jones with some of the BEU team as well as some of the participants at MakarereBusinessSchool Feb 2018.
I was also invited to return to the Office of the Vice President to report on developments. Further offers of support were extended
A visit to Sabina School, (Ssanje, Kyotera district) confirmed the May PDC and set up the permaculture internships for Grace and Nina (both ex Llanfyllin High School pupils) and we developed a plan to establish permaculture gardens to demonstrate the key principles of organic cultivation.
Norwegian Refugee Council
This is a very interesting an unanticipated development to come form this work. Happily in February whilst I was in Kampala the opportunity to meet with NRC came about. A co-incidence is that our new colleague Charles Mugarura attended a conference in Nairobi and was seated next to the head of the NRC and they chatted about permaculture. Sarah King from NRC commented she had done a full permaculture course in Wales back in 2006, with Sector39 so of course Charles mentioned my name as his permaculture tutor and mentor so the connection was made. The Ugandan head of NRC operations is also very interested in permaculture so a meeting was planned.
Following on from several skype calls and a Kampala meeting I was invited to travel to Western Nile district to visit the South Sudanese Refugee settlements and to help write a proposal to bring permaculture into the refugee resilience programme as a tool for training and developing action plans. I spent three days in the settlements and then followed this with meetings in Kampala with various representatives of the organisation.
In April I was invited to submit a bid for the work pan I had helped develop and Sector39’s bid was successful, beating a great many other applications (over 100 I was led to understand). This work commences in June this year and Sector39 have been able to recruit and train a team to lead on this work drawing directly on the contacts and training generated by the HCA funded work.
Grace and Nina placement at Sabina school
As placements in Sabina school in advance of the 2018 PDC Nina and Grace travelled to Uganda on 27th March 2018 using the last of the HCA funds to establish them selves at the School.
We have planned and hope that this opportunity can be extended to future participants as well, now that the precedent has been established.
Other Outcomes from the HCA supported training and network
This is a training centre created directly as a result of the training delivered by S39 in Uganda. It is in Homa Bay Kenya and was directly inspired by the PDC training.
The class room pictured was crowdfunded, using skills learned on the course. They are already running regular courses and Paul Ogola the project initiator has already become an adept permaculture teacher.
Students from the course set up this Facebook page to record their subsequent work, it stands as a great testament to the training and the outomces are out going.
Permaculture East Africa Stuents Union Facebook has proved a successful way to keep track of some of the outcomes following on from the course.
You will see contributions from Prince Sebe Maloba, one of our graduates, he and colleague Ramadan Mutebi are reaching very remote and poor regions in Uganda Kenya border area, extending the reach of our training work way beyond anything we could have anticipated. The key thing is that they are making the work their won. They have taken the ideas an concepts we gave them and adapted them to suit different circumstances. Really this is permaculture in its true form.. Infinitely adaptable and flexible to many situations
One technique for integrated farming demonstrated and taught on PDCUG17 was that of the banana circle. Using a mixture of ground profiling to catch rainwater, a mulch pit to promote water retention, composting and nutrient availability this mix of perennial and annual plants creates a more stable plant guild that can be both highly productive and restorative to degraded soils. A second technique demonstrated on the course was that of making and using biochar as a soil additive. Creating high quality charcoal with all the volatile oils driven off by heat enables a pure carbon soil additive to be used that both increases water infiltration into soils, boosts habitat for soil microbes and remains stable in the soil for log periods of time. You can see it being added here in the image above.
What has been noteworthy is that course graduates, esp Prince Sebe Maloba, Pual Ogola, Godfrey Opolot and others have taken these ideas and made them their own. They have experimented with different biochar making retort kilns, different inoculants to boosts fertility in the biochar, different planting combinations in the tree guilds as well as different shapes and sizes of the circles themselves. Permaculture encourages the adaptation of ideas and techniques to suit local conditions, materials availability and cultural preference. Literally a hundred or more of these have been planted since the training in May 2017 and we have received numerous photos and reports back on the progress of the idea as it continues to morph and evolve.
The final tranch of the HCA funds, as mentioned before were utilised in Feb in a follow up visit to Uganda by project leader Steven Jones who lectured at Makarere business school on this and other work, visited the vice President’s office to report on potential s for permaculture in schools and education and to set up the net, bigger and more ambitions PDCUG18 and conference.
Building on the work of 2017-2018 we have retuned to Uganda with a team of permaculture practitioners largely form from Wales, all taught by Sector39 giving them opportunity to develop professionally and gain new and valuable experience in the field. Together with our African partners we have been able to deliver a much larger course, embedded at a key regional school followed by a permaculture conference bringing people from the wider East Africa region
Steven Jones (Wales)
Grace Maycock (Wales)
Han Rees (Wales)
Nina Duckers (Wales)
Dan Grove (Wales)
Steve Jagger (Wales)
Richard Stephenson (Wales)
Sofia Fairweather (Cananda)
Angela Polkey (Wales)
Gerald Jagwe (Uganda)
Charles Mugarura (Uganda)
Paul Ogola (Kenya)
Tom Yaga (Uganda)
Barbara Carbon (Belgium/ Wales)
Helen Wright (England)
We now have a network of Uganda and Kenyan partners and trainees we can draw from for further project work and in turn these has broadened again to include Tanzania, Rwanda, Congo, Zanzibar, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
All of this experience has led to S39 winning a highly competitive bid to take Permaculture education to the Western Nile region to work with South Sudanese refugees. S39 will be working with another welsh partner Jack Hunter PhD in Llanrhaeadr Ym Mochant to share this experience with schools in the area, namely Llanfyllin High School and also to develop teaching resources in Welsh, English and Arabic to share the experience and insight of permaculture in both locations.
We helped develop this website and host it on our own server. BEU is a training and enabling enterprise in Kampala who are supporting our longer term objectives for permaculture education in East Africa.
The May 2018 PDC has now been completed, with 42 participants and 18 staff and trainee teachers.
This was followed by a 2 day permaculture conference, which drew participants from 12 countries and was the first East Africa permaculture ‘Convergence’.
This event was funded by selling places on the PDC’s donations from supporters in the UK, US and elsewhere and was made possible by the groundwork in the preceeding 12 months which was supported by the Welsh Government.
Visit from Honary Rosemay Seninde
A final outcome was a visit from the Honourable Rosemay Sininde and Minister for Primary education Matthias Kasamba, East Africa legislature representite who closed the PDC and expressed great enthusiasm for the achievements of this work.
We are excited for what may happen next.
Sector39 and partners would like to thank Hub Cymru Africa and the Wales for Africa network for their support, without which we would have not been able set this work and its many outcomes in motion.