A Call to Action, #permaculture #africa

permaculture africa
Promoting Permaculture and Organic soil health in East Africa

Around the world people are facing up to the huge set of challenges of tackling climate change by addressing its many causes.

  • Creating a sustainable food supply by transforming agriculture into a force for environmental restoration is at the heart of the response.
  • Africa is ready for permaculture as it brings together environmental restoration, food security and local economy.

“Permaculture resonates perfectly with traditional knowledge and practices, permaculture is the African way.”  Eston Mgala, Malawi

Here in Wales are working closely with East African partners to significantly raise the profile of permaculture across the region. Partners from Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda are working with us to create the first East Africa Convergence, following on from a 60 place PDC at Sabina school and orphanage in Central Uganda next May.

We are linking pioneering education with food security, education, public health and government outreach. We are working with a key regional school as well as the ministry for education to create a learning hub for permaculture in Central Africa.

We are open for donations, sponsorship, contributions in any form to help us make the event a huge success.

Final Document, please share

PDCUG18-final document

PDCUG18
Permaculture East Africa Document PDF download

World on fire – time to send the fire brigade

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Is it Portugal, Spain, California? Right now it feels that the parts of the World not under water are on fire.

How many super-storms does it take before we notice something deeply terrifying is happening?

There is a shit storm of consequences coming our way and precious little we can do about it sat at home on the sofa. We have 30 years of change before us and the sooner we start the better. I think a great many people are now feeling an increasing sense of alarm as the symptoms of the climate crisis present themselves with increasing regularity.

This is what J H Kunstler calls a clusterfuck.

  • Un-seasonal weather, cycles of deluge and drought stress the forests and create conditions where whole landscapes become vulnerable to outside forces.
  • Austerity strapped authorities cut back on essential maintenance and services, staff and resources are trimmed from budgets.
  • Hurricane and gales of a ferocity never seen before sweep in, turbo-charged by the extra warm oceans, reaching areas never before exposed to such forces.
  • Be it  the firestorm that just engulfed central Portugal or the deluge that drowned Houston or the ferocious winds that destroyed whole island nations such as Puerto Rico, the scene is set for catastrophe.

We have to learn to think and plan differently.

We will need to realise that authorities and services will not be there if they are not invested in and trained for new challenges. Time and time again we see essential services breaking down or overloaded when these events happen, consequently the first thing we need to prepare ourselves for is partial or temporary systems collapse.

The key word is RESILIENCE, community resilience is our first line of defense to help us overcome whatever catastrophes might be waiting for us.

Tesco’s distribution centre might get carpet bombed by the Taliban, three feet of snow may cover the nation for a month or maybe a freeze so hard every pipe bursts – we don’t know where the next challenge might come from. In a world where we are not much more than three meals away from social breakdown, the just in time delivery model of the highly specialised modern world does not stand up well to external shocks.

How do you create clean drinking water or cook from basics? How long can we live without power or internet? Could we manage for long without proper sanitation? How long would it take us to recreate a more local food economy? Addressing these and a great many more issues through training, skills sharing and innovation is becoming an imperative.

Puerto Ricans are being told it might be a year before normal service is resumed, what if another super-storm happens in the meantime?

The world is not having a run of bad luck, it has entered a new reality; a climate changed reality where extreme weather events not only become more common but they join together to create monster catastrophes that we might struggle to ever fully recover from.

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What comes next? Ecological development

Yes we have to organise to build resilience from the ground up but we also need to pursue a new long-term strategy. Lets call it ecological development for now. China have already embraced this model; recognising that development has to complement and enhance the living world not just be slightly less damaging than before. This really is new thinking for a government and they are dead serious about it as well.

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Cities that can capture CO2 and clean the air, whilst providing water filtration and wildlife habitat, food and waste processing.

We call that Permaculture design

Shiny new green cities aside, as sexy as they are may not be the full solution. Most of our cities are already built, suburbs too, and the greater challenge is to redesign and repurpose the resources we already have invested in.

There isn’t a simple solution but we need to find a consensus of what is happening to us and use that to formulate a bigger plan. Here at Sector39 we are looking for the teachers, leaders, innovators and change makers who can help create new options and build that consensus.

We have been teaching and demonstrating permaculture in many ways since the 1990’s and much of that experience has been channeled into our groundbreaking courses.

Our PDC is ground breaking and life changing, bringing together teachers and practitioners, projects and enterprises. We keep our charges as low as possible and offer a life changing experience that for many is the start of a new direction in their own lives.

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We would love to hear from you if you are interested in being part of this course. Together we can build a new reality and create new possibilities.

Chester dues

Permaculture at the Cathedral. Fascinating evening in Chester last night and hopefully laying the ground for our next permaculture design course with our partners at the Cathedral.

Surely the church could be leading the way in the fight against the ongoing impacts of climate change with its ability to mobilise a great many people and resources. I for one would welcome the sight of key institutions moving in the direction of promoting climate change mitigation and adaptation as a strategic priority. We are unprepared for the many changes climate change will bring as well as the economic shocks that will accompany it. Can the church find itself a key role at the heart of re-energised and resilient climate ready community?

At the same time the Cathedral is hosting a major art exhibition including works by Damien Hirst, resulting in a striking visual impact (pics by Lachlan Mckenzie). To my eyes the golden calf, the focus of false adulation in the Old Testament times powerfully represents the false gods of consumerism and distraction we now worship so readily!

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Bold and ambitious education project seeks £35k investment

We are calling it the Permaculture Academy, it is a peer-to-peer learning programme that sets its sights on tackling climate change, vastly increasing social and economic resilience and directly helping refugees from Southern Sudan, DRC and elsewhere in Uganda and Kenya.

Sector39 is a small organisation based in Wales that has until now survived through trading, running courses on permaculture design and developing community focused food growing projects and housing co-operatives.

Almost no one invests in local subsistence farming in Africa, yet those vulnerable farmers could be the key to climate resilience and carbon sequestration. We have learned how to directly benefit those people, through permaculture education.

In the last 2 years, in partnership with a local Welsh charity we began running our courses in Uganda, wanting to support sustainable farming initiatives in the Eastern Region there. The work has really taken off, exceeding our wildest expectations and we are left wondering how to build on this momentumpermaculture-is-7

  • Step one: We are planning larger courses in May 2018 with Ugandan partners that will also kick-start a teacher training programme for East African permaculture teachers.
  • Step two: We are following our May 2018 course with a permaculture conference drawing in political and regional supporters, focusing on links with Schools.
  • Step three: We hope to launch our Permaculture Academy initiative in 2018 and it is for this we are seeking funding, investment or donations. The need is to put together a local team of permaculture professionals who can support this work and to cover the core project costs over the coming three-year period.

We are looking at AID agencies and other funders but we are ready to begin the work now and have built an amazing network to help us deliver this. abraham If you can help us achieve this then please get in touch, we can supply much more information about the outcomes and beneficiaries of this work but will spare the details here.

We find ourselves in a fantastic position to be able to facilitate long-term benefits through education and have an established network of partners and practitioners to enable us to do this… all we need is the investment to get on our way.

It feels like a shot in the dark, asking in this fashion and we will pursue existing avenues for funding… but as the saying goes, if you don’t ask you don’t get… and those with money to invest often have more than they need, so here goes, please consider helping us if you are able!

Contact Sector39 please

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This is a climate emergency and it requires a response from everyone

There is nothing to say really. USA’s 4th largest city drowned by 4 feet of rainfall. India and Bangladesh are also experiencing catastrophic flooding. Millions of people’s homes and livelihoods are at stake and this is just the beginning.

Once in a 1000 years weather events are now happening regularly, crisis is the new normal. This is no joke and it is not an overstatement to call it an emergency, or as JH Kunstler calls it The Long Emergency because we are going to be facing these challenges long into the future.

These super storms are pushed into overdrive by the warmer sea waters. Warmer seas = more energetic storms. This is climate change and there is much more like this and more to look forward to, this problem is not going to go away until we have applied a great deal of effort over a great deal of time.

paris climate targetsWe really must act and to be able to act effectively, we are going to need a really good plan.

The Paris Accord gives us the targets we have to aim for but gives us no idea of how we are going to get there.

The best responses to face such future uncertainty are not immediately apparent and also whatever we come up with we are also going to have to be able to afford. Climate change adaptation and mitigation have to become central to our thinking in all that we do. It will take long term planning and a clear strategy to enable communities to coordinate their efforts effectively.

I am convinced that permaculture design is the framework we can work around to achieve these aims and we here in Mid Wales are planning to work across our community to produce a realistic vision for 2050 and how we might get there.

The Paris Accord

The targets the nations of the world signed up to kick off in 2020, meaning the race to implement our plan begins in earnest, whilst we must prioritise building the tools and training the people to implement it.

One School One Planet are proposing a community wide permaculture plan that allows us to build a vision for 2050.

2050 because that is the Paris Accord target date to be carbon neutral and on our way to a carbon negative economy. Doing this by 2050, we are reminded still only gives us a 66% chance of avoiding climate breakdown and catastrophe, we have to do a lot better really.

Competition

We announced our design competition last week and here is my attempt to come up with something… let me know what you think… Or much better still send me your ideas.  We want to find the best ideas out there to help communicate this vital message.

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One school one planet logo idea
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Enter the competition here

Defining permaculture

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Ethics and principles of permaculture

Permaculture can be hard to pin down in a tight definition.. although its meaning is quite precise. Hard to pin down perhaps because it is a process not a thing..

“permaculture is a regenerative design science”

Nature, on which permaculture models as a design strategy is complex and dynamic, hence the slippery nature of its definition. My preferred encapsulation is this below image, first presented to me by Chris Dixon, a permaculture pioneer and designer from North Wales. This pattern shows the relationship between permaculture’s guiding ethics and the principles and design tools that  enable strategy and action.

permaculture definition by Chris Dixon
Permaculture is founded on principles observed from nature and guided by a set of ethics

As part of our One School One Planet project we are working to bring permaculture design principles into the core curriculum. This challenges us to come up with some concise definitions that can be understood and worked on by students of all ages and abilities.

I have come up with a series of memes that might help and I am keen to try them out to see how people react, if at all.

Permaculture teacher Graham Wood posted this on his Linkedin profile recently, this is about the best longer definition I have seen.

Originally Permaculture began in Australia during the 1970s as an idea put forward by Bill Mollison, and it has since gone on to inspire millions around the world.

Bill Mollison (who died in 2016 aged 88) originally viewed permaculture as an agricultural system that works with, rather than against nature, on the basis that the natural world holds the key to stable and productive systems. So the term was first coined from his “permanent agriculture”, but it has evolved over the years to encompass a much wider range of environmental concerns and human cultural issues so is now most commonly defined as “permanent culture”.

Permaculture is now seen as part of a global solution: a system or way of thinking that enables us, as human beings, to live in a way that can allow us, other species, and our planet to not just survive, but thrive. The Permaculture movement and design thinking is now a part of the global activity, that is slowly being implemented at a local level around the world, to help us transition into a sustainable future ethically and with intelligence.

Permaculture is a philosophy and a design process, but more than that, it is also a practical guide for life. It helps us to design intelligent systems which meet human needs whilst enhancing biodiversity, reducing our impact on the planet, and creating a fairer world for us all. People across the globe are transforming their communities with permaculture. It has given us a range of design principles by which we can arrange our lives.

Bill Mollison developed the permaculture concept with three key ethics:

  1. Care of our planet
  2. Care of humankind
  3. Return of surplus into the system.

These central ethics have then been further distilled into twelve principles of design, outlined by David Holmgren.

The principles are:

  1.    Observe and interact
  2.    Catch and store energy
  3.    Obtain a yield
  4.    Apply self-regulation and feedback
  5.    Use and value renewable resources and services
  6.    Produce no waste
  7.    Design from patterns to details
  8.    Integrate rather than segregate
  9.    Use small and slow solutions
  10.    Use and value diversity
  11.    Use edges and value the marginal
  12.    Creatively use and respond to change

These twelve principles can be applied to a wide range of aspects in our modern lives, from our homes and gardens, working lives, commercial businesses, even to politics and social-activism. Today in thousands of projects these simple principles are being designed in and applied giving a range of practical solutions for individuals and communities who wish to live in a sustainable way.

Mollison and Holmgren wanted to spread these ideas and methods, so decided to set up and teach a series of informal two-week courses in permaculture. They went on to devise a full curriculum for a Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC) and shared it with their PDC students who grew in confidence as they taught similar 72-hour courses, and after just 10 years of touring and teaching with the help of the network of affiliated teachers – they had spread the permaculture ideas across five continents.

Although his original principles remain in place, the PDC courses have evolved to expand beyond agriculture and into areas such as design, engineering, sustainable energy, systems thinking, construction, architecture, and social resilience all based on a sound ecological approach.

Graham Wood.

Permaculture memes

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But is it sustainable?

graphic produced by Llanfyllin High school student
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 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.
www.permaculturedesigncourse.co.uk
@misterjones2u