Turning Rainforest into Sugar - is this the best we can do?

Steven Jones
Tuesday, 5th July 2016

Steve Jones is working with Dolen Ffermio in Uganda, exploring permaculture alternatives to sugar plantations that can provide food and fibres and protect and restore rainforest.

Uganda is at a pivotal stage of its evolution as a nation. With an average age of under 18 and with a whole generation of the population now emerging from education, Uganda is all about the future. The people there are hungry for opportunity and the choices they make now will shape the emerging nation for many decades to come.

Uganda’s troubled history is now fully in the rear view mirror as the equatorial nation slowly emerges from the trauma, stress and mayhem of that period into a rapidly changing world. Economically Ugandans are still caught in the primary-producer economic stage, witnessed by the huge sugar cane plantations currently gobbling up the remaining rainforest at a frightening rate in a race to generate revenue for the government and their corporate friends.

Hauling sugar from remote parts of central Africa for global markets, the impact is absolute!

Contrast the breathtaking ecology of equatorial rainforest, with its 200 species of birds, 100 of butterflies, without forgetting the massive canopy of huge and diverse trees and climbers that is the core of the forest to that of the sugar cane field. Whole ecologies are being consumed to please foreign markets; the price being paid is absolute destruction of pristine habitat. Never has the economic paradox appeared more clearly as a stark choice between ecology and economy.

You know there has to be another way! There must be an economic model where ecology and economy are intertwined, where economic transactions create positive environmental and social benefits, where one is not at the cost of the other, well there is and we call this permaculture. At the heart of permaculture is a set of values and design tools that steer outcomes towards those which are mutually beneficial, ones that mimic nature, rather than consume it. Nature is diverse and interconnected, constantly changing and responding to new opportunites, it is dynamic and self steering; permaculture takes this model and uses it as a design template.

The Sector39 team of four, all from the Llanfyllin and Llanrhaeadr area in Wales, delivered 120 hours of training over 12 days to 15 full time students and numerous guests and visitors during their three week visit to Uganda. Those completing the course were certificated and can now progress towards becoming permaculture teachers in their own right as they gain experience and develop insight working with the ideas themselves.

2 week permaculture course held in Kamuli by the Sector39 teaching team

The team concentrated on a design project focussed on the 30 acres of land on the banks of the Nile, funded by Dolen Ffermio that serves as a training and demonstration farm. It was tremendously exciting to be able unleash permaculture design thinking on such a place and the resulting presentation was witnessed by local teachers, the head teacher from Busoga high school, the regional environment minister anda range of community members. We hope to be able to return to deliver a series of courses in the area over the coming years. Strong friendships and working relationships have already been formed and we look forward to building on them.

Anyone interested in finding out more about permaculture please contact Steve Jones via sector39. We are planning to offer a full two week PDC course this September as well as a two day introduction weekend at Dragons co-operative in Llanrhaeadr.


Please support Paul Odiwuor Ogola, a Kenyan community leader whose mission. He needs to train with Sector39 to bring permaculture to his region. https://www.gofundme.com/Paul_Odiwuor_Ogola/

Title image: Grey-cheeked mangabey (Lophocebus albigena) in Mabira Forest Reserve, Uganda. Credit: earthonthewing.blogspot.com

Further resources

Organic farming in Africa

Developing regenerative enterprises in rural Kenya