How Permaculture is Creating A Skilled and Low Carbon Footprint 'Next Generation'

Steve Jones - Sector39
Thursday, 24th June 2021

Could taking inspiration from Africa take us out of the ecological disasters humanity is facing? Steve Jones from Sector39 shares his thoughts.

I have the belief that the world needs leadership from Africa to take us out of the ecological disaster we have created; they have experts in low impact development ready to get to work! 

Solving the ecological and climate crisis will take the co-ordinated effort by many millions of people; luckily, this process has already begun. As much as we accelerate towards our collective eco-armageddon, it is now well established what reversing the climate crisis will require, including bringing our depleted soils back to life on a massive scale. We are required to draw down something in the region of 450 billion tons of carbon as quickly as possible, whilst re-engineering the global economy to run on 1/8th of the emissions we currently use – according to the Paris Agreement. This is only a small part of what needs to be achieved. It is a mammoth challenge, and we all need to feel the scale and pace of change required. Hence the importance of permaculture design, and its ability to co-ordinate actions so we can be sure we are all pulling in the same direction. 

Sector39 began in 2005 as a collection of permaculture enthusiasts with the objective of finding and supporting future teachers, leaders and activists; the hardy pioneers of permaculture. Formally registered in 2014 and some 40 PDCs later, our work has broadened widely, taking in many other areas of interest and in January 2020, supported by the Arkleton Trust we launched the S39 Academy of Permaculture, with an eye on East Africa as perhaps the most rewarding area of the globe to work in. 


Sector39 began working in Africa in 2016, after a study tour of projects in Uganda connected to development support from Wales in 2014. It was a lightbulb moment; to have its greatest impact, permaculture needs to be firmly established where the fastest growing populations are, and where development models are still evolving. Some of the most rapid population growth in coming decades will be in Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia, and DR Congo. Median age in Uganda currently stands at 14, that is both a potentially huge human resource base but also a massive ecological challenge depending on the development paths chosen. 

Population is perhaps a sticky issue for some, but when you know that the poorest 50% of the world produce only 10% of the emissions, you realise that it is not simply a numbers game. Additionally, if the new members of society, trained in permaculture, have a net negative emission then they will become a positive benefit on the ecology of the whole planet. Africa already knows how to do low impact lifestyles, adding permaculture to the lexicon of ideas could create a whole new set of possibilities, along with food and livelihood security. 

Peer to peer learning

Sector39 Academy of Permaculture is a network not a place, it joins permaculture students, enthusiasts, mentors, teachers, and subject specialists and facilitates peer to peer learning and support between them. It is early days, but we have established demonstration and training sites in three East African countries and are linked to several others already in existence, we have been inspired to respond to the drive and enthusiasm of our own PDC graduates from the series of training programs we have delivered since 2016. We hope it is something that will have the ability to grow and create a whole generation of permaculture leaders from Africa. 

Winning this prize would be a wonderful vote of support for this work and will enable us to kickstart a permaculture enterprise micro-credit scheme, to aid project development. We are grateful for any support for this work. 


Sector39 is a finalist in the Permaculture Magazine Prize:

Useful links

Also from Steve Jones: Taking permaculture to schools, communities and those in need