The Permaculture design certificate course is 80 hours of intensive study, practicals, demonstrations, site visits and group work that serves as a foundation in permaculture design. It is an essential, energising and life changing course for most participants.
Sector39 have been delivering these courses since 2006 reaching 100’s of people and in many locations and venues. The most tried and trusted format for this course is the two week residential course, that literally immerses participants in the permaculture ideas and practices and is designed to create a personal shift from ideas to action. I always like to say permaculture is much more something you do than something to talk about and the whole purpose of the course is to create a momentum or tipping point that propels people from aspirations of change to really making that happen.
However, for many two weeks is a prohibitively long time to take time out from work/ life commitments and increasingly it is hard for our facilitation team to commit in advance with many other commitments competing for attention. I have been thinking hard about how to get around this and to make the courses accessible to all, as well as wondering how to make the most of the great facilities and working permaculture projects and examples we have in our area here in Mid Wales.
4 Part rolling PDC:
The idea is to plan a rolling on-going course, spread over 4 long weekends a year that can serve as a refresher, an introduction or form part of a full PDC process. Sessions will run from Friday to Monday with a weekend in the middle that is open to all comers and will be themed around site visits, demonstrations and practical work as well as slots for people to present on their own projects, develop ideas and recruit participants.
A typical weekend might look like this:
Friday: 10.00 am to 6.00 pm. PDC sessions covering core syllabus areas working towards the certificate.
Friday evening, all Saturday – up til Sunday 4.00 pm: Permaculture action weekend. Open to all, past graduates and potential future participants.
Participants can therefore join at any stage of the course and those completing all 4 units will be awarded their Permaculture Design Certificate.
We are very keen to receive feedback and interests regarding this new proposed programme. Please get in touch
For more effective humanitarian, refugee and international development programmes, please join Chris Evans, Gisele Henriques and Guests for the 5-day Permaculture for Development Workers (P4DW) course on 11th-16th September 2018 at Applewood Permaculture Centre, Herefordshire, UK:
Permaculture is the conscious and ethical application of ecological principles in the design of sustainable human habitats. This course aims to introduce the use of permaculture design to improve the appropriateness and effectiveness of “development” through the application of ecological principles and design processes to programme design, planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation.
Using case studies from different continents, and cutting edge development theory to illustrate how permaculture has been (and can be) successfully applied at all scales (household to community to larger regions), the course will provide an inspiring and pro-active set of tools to help international development-focused individuals, community-based organisations and non-governmental organisations run effective programmes.
Great to see progress at Maaji refugee and host community settlements. Of all the permaculture related innovations we have been developing and demonstrating and for good reason, the energy efficient stove has proved the most popular.
Here is a narrated slide show of progress from the second week of in field visits following on from the June 12 day permaculture training provided by the Sector39 team.
The 2 week residential course is designed to create a permanent shift in the way people think. It is an immersion in permaculture ideas to the point that the participant starts to perceive and see things differently in a way they can’t un-see them.
I sense that many who attend a residential PDC are looking to create a watershed point in their lives, where long held convictions are turned into actions. There is no doubt that completing a PDC is both a reassertion and discovery of ones own core values and convictions and a deliberate attempt to forge a pathway towards ones own stated goals and ambitions. If you really want to turn your own ideas into actions do a PDC. Not least because you are surrounded by people at a similar stage in their own development, you tend not to forget your PDC classmates, long term bonds and important connections can be made.
As a teacher of 40 full PDC’s I have started to spot the patterns and see how it really works. It is always a pleasure to see people go through this journey and I am always genuinely interested to see where they go with it and what they do next. Our most recent course, for refugees from South Sudan was taught through two simultaneous translators to a group who spoke 8 different languages. Class content was pared to a minimum and we completed 16 different practical activities over the fortnight.
Interestingly the results were exactly the same or even more powerful than our usual format we use in the UK. Permaculture really works, it is adaptable, powerful and relevant and I think it is one of the best we have to shift the mindset of humanity to a harmonious relationship with each other and our living planet.
Our next one is planned for November in Wales, staying a housing co-operative and Air B+B in the mid Wales borders.
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 extremely grateful. The following report covers this time period and the outcomes from the funding support.
Sector39 Permaculture Uganda project report for Hub Cyrmu Africa 2017 – 2018
Feedback 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 and Africa links and support work.
Present in local schools and community groups regarding this work and its wider potentials.
Create opportunities for ongoing 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 Ugandan permaculture networks and training organisations, dynamic and vibrant groups mainly populated by people much younger and less experienced than us but of course much better 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 only 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 themselves. These included a Kenyan farmer and blacksmith, 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 initiate 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 us 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 the process of developing and promoting the course S39 connected with like minded organisations who wanted 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 enabled 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 from 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 outreach: 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. This 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 out 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 principal, 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 and 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 to 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 developments 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 an 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 from this work. Happily in February whilst I was in Kampala the opportunity to meet with NRC came about. A coincidence 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 plan 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 themselves 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 classroom 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 outcomes are ongoing.
Permaculture East Africa Students Union Facebook group 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 the 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 own. They have taken the ideas and 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 long 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, Paul 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 boost 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 tranche 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 for permaculture in schools and education and to set up the next, bigger and more ambitions PDCUG18 and conference.
Building on the work of 2017-2018 we have returned to Uganda with a team of permaculture practitioners largely from 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 (Canada)
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 Ugandan and Kenyan partners and trainees we can draw from for further project work and in turn these have 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 preceding 12 months which was supported by the Welsh Government.
Visit from Honorary Rosemay Seninde
A final outcome was a visit from the Honourable Rosemay Sininde and Minister for Primary education Matthias Kasamba, East Africa legislature representative 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.
I thought you might enjoy this short video… a quick tour of Paul’s permaculture farm. Paul is a farmer and Blacksmith from Homa Bay Kenya, He came on a Sector39 permaculture course in 2016 and is now part of our teaching team in East Africa.
See the short tour of the garden using the link above
The rains have just started and the new season’s crops are in the ground, revealing the diversity and complexity of the 70m square plot that Paul began less than two years ago.
Paul Ogola came on our first PDC in Kamuli in 2016 and in his own words, ‘Was in the darkness’. He had no real plan as to what he was trying to do, basically trying his best and copying what he saw around.
He returned in 2017 and did the PDC again, this time with 3 people from his community who had already become involved in permaculture via his inspiration. They have in turn gone on to start their own projects. In 18 months since becoming involved in permaculture Paul has moved from being a farmer without a plan to a teacher, community leader and role model. Paul said to me recently that his permaculture work has made him ‘someone in the village’. He has used online funding platforms to raise small amounts of money for investment in water tanks and other infrastructure, used Facebook to recruit volunteers and students, and from a bare patch of scrub has built a productive and inspirational garden that is now helping raise the expectations of a whole community.
From the video you can see the diversity of plants, techniques and approaches Paul is using. He has built a classroom and is already running his own courses and will be returning this May to Uganda to contribute to the next PDC and to become part of the Sector39 training team currently planning to soon be working in Northern Uganda with South Sudanese refugees and their Ugandan host communities.
We believe permaculture can make a significant contribution in developing climate resilient farming systems, more stable income from more diverse sources and in the process building the confidence, outlook and achievement of many people like Paul. Imagine the collective impact of such development if we can mobilise whole communities!
Permaculture ethics, that’s easy right? Earth-care, People-care Fair-share… everyone knows the mantra, but do we remember what these things actually mean when we recite them parrot fashion?
Recently I have seen online chat suggesting they should be updated, improved if you will, the suggestion is that of Future-care being floated as an alternative to the Fair-share – which was always a bit lacking and the least understood of the three. But no Future-care really doesn’t do it for me and its inclusion would greatly impoverish the ethics model.
Let us re-trace our footsteps a bit here and roll things back the 1992 and the Rio Earth Summit when the ‘S’ word entered the lexicon in a much bigger way than it had ever been used before. Sustainability, they told us is the ability to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.
Okay, so far so good, then Toby Hemenway in his lecture, ‘How permaculture can save the world but not civilisation’ pointed out that the definition is lacking in that it fails to define what a need actually is and come to that, why are we putting meeting the needs of the present before that of the future? What is a need? Do you really need that cappuccino or another pair of shoes, when it comes to it, who gets to define what a need is? One man’s need is another man’s indulgence.
If we are not careful we are back in the finger wagging judgemental territory most criticised of environmentalists who seem to want to tell everyone else what to do whilst at the same time alienating the vast majority of the population. Telling people they can’t have the stuff they feel they need or deserve or holding one’s own virtuous lifestyle up as some master template has yet to win over the masses.
The ‘S’ word is fraught with difficulty and within a few short years of Rio we have government ministers talking about ‘sustainable growth in the car industry’ or ‘sustainable economic growth’ or various other oxymorons. The word rapidly lost its meaning being hi-jacked left, right and centre to represent a vast swathe of viewpoints.
Back to the drawing board then. Actually before we ditch the ‘S’ word entirely it has something of immense value to offer us and this emerged in the mid 90’s with the idea of the triple bottom line in business. This was environmental sustainability, social sustainability and economic sustainability. Sustainability is a three-legged stool is the metaphor and it needs all three to stand up. Yes to environment and society but what if we can’t afford it? How can we pursue goals that fail to endure economically? Somewhere in this lies the key to understanding the permaculture ethics especially the much maligned third ethic of Fair-share.
Full disclosure; I studied economics, not in its pure theory but within the context of sustainable development (yes that tricky ‘S’ word again). I studied economics and ecology at the same time and I have always understood that permaculture lies at the intersection of these two disciplines. Economics is about how we meet needs from available resources, ecology is about how we access those resources within an understanding of the mechanism of the living biosphere of which we are all a part. So balancing the needs of people and those of the planet; the earth and people care prospectively is the origin of the first two ethics. I think everyone gets that, although some go further and say screw people, the planet comes first but that is a hard sell in today’s consumer paradise. I think most people are with us on the People and Planet aspiration but the key question as ever is how do we achieve this finely balanced mix.
This is where the third ethic comes in to play and I strongly believe it is the key one… you can take the first two ethics as read… I really want to drill down into what this tricky third one is all about.
Yes it is about economics, it is about choices, it is about priorities and the ‘Fair-share’ epithet doesn’t do it for me. It is a handy mnemonic for sure but it fails to convey meaning and sounds dangerously like a naïve socialist doctrine, leaving us once again with the challenge of who gets to decide what is fair exactly?
Bill Mollison never explained it that way anyway, fair-share was a late arrival, an upstart if you will, one that could have come from a branding agency. The real meat on this bone is about setting limits to consumption, yes my friends at the heart of permaculture is the most radical idea of all, that there is such a thing as enough. In a world where consumerism is touted as an end in itself and conspicuous consumption is worn on the sleeve one might be forgiven for forgetting the setting limits to consumption bit, I guess this equates to Fair-share but still it goes so much deeper.
David Holmgren can help us here, I refer you to principles three and four of his set of twelve. Principle four being about setting limits and three is about meeting needs, obtain a yield, ‘You can’t work on an empty stomach’. It is not in any way selfish to meet one’s own needs, in fact it is essential, without breakfast you are no good to anyone, and can’t do a full day’s work. Anyone who has been on an airplane knows that in the safety demo they always tell you… ‘in the unlikely event of the cabin de-pressurising an oxygen mask will descend, take care to put yours on first before assisting others’. There you have it, you might be a great altruist with only your fellow passengers’ concerns at heart, but at the moment you go blue in the face and pass out you are no good to anyone, in fact you are now a burden to those around you. Meeting one’s own needs first is the first rule of survival for all. It is not selfish it is self empowering.
So with these ethics I would also argue we actually put them the wrong way round, from a permaculture perspective the process of empowerment and enabling positive change begins with meetings one’s own needs, whilst ensuring there is still a surplus for investment. This reinvestment of surplus turns out to be the key, the thing, and most likely to be overlooked. The reinvestment of surplus is the how, it is the mechanism that empowers us to achieve the people and planet aspiration.
The rule is you meet your own needs, setting limits and realising there is such a thing as a enough… only you know what is enough for yourself and this should and can be constantly re-evaluated. Where we set the line for cappuccinos or shoes is a personal choice and no one should be telling us as individuals what to do. However we need to know that if we go into deficit meeting our supposed needs we will never have the faintest chance of being sustainable or doing permaculture effectively.
Sustainability is the meeting of core needs whilst retaining a surplus for reinvestment back in the system. What we do with surplus is what defines us. I argue in my public speaking and teaching that what you choose to do with that bit left over after survival is the key decision each and every one of us makes. Reinvestment of surplus in social and ecological ends guarantees a world of constant improvement, an expansion of possibilities, sticking it away in the Cayman Islands for some possible rainy day is the thing that drains the life blood of any system and constantly impoverishes it.
We were chatting about this on Facebook recently and someone asked what if there is no surplus? Then of course the preconditions for sustainability in this case are not being met and changes have to be made, this rule holds true for all. If there is no surplus then changes must be made and a redesigning is in order.
I am an enthusiastic advocate of co-operatives, they are vastly superior to a PLC and I will tell you why. PLC’s are owned by shareholders who appoint directors to maximise the return on investment. Profits are siphoned out of the company to channel towards personal ends, tax havens and consumerist endeavours. Co-operatives exist to benefit their customers, users and members and any surplus is used to reward loyalty and is reinvested in the co-operative so that it can continue to benefit its stakeholders. Co-ops reinvest surplus, PLCs extract it and put it elsewhere.
This is the key difference and this is why to my mind Bill Mollison is absolutely right to state the ethics are… set limits to consumption and reinvest surplus, for the enablement and betterment of other people, society and planet i.e. people care and the environment.
Put simply, as an example, I live in a housing cooperative. We set our rent at a level that covers our bills and responsibilities and returns a small surplus we can spend on improving the environmental performance of our home, insulation, heating etc. and allowing us to choose socially responsible alternatives for our food, services etc. So I am sorry if it does not scan as well, or make a great t-shirt but these are and will forever be the permaculture ethics… saying Future-Care… as I have seen proposed, tells us nothing, it is already covered by the first two anyway.
The third ethic gives us the mechanism by which to achieve our ambitions of not just sustainability but regeneration and genuinely sustainable growth; one that builds soil, stores water and nutrients and protects and enhances biodiversity, the very tools we need to sustain our own needs.