S39 Academy of Permaculture
27th September 2021

S39 team message for 2021

A message for the team - plans for 2021 & 2022

We have endured a challenging year, and I feel we will all benefit from better and clear communication. I am writing to the team because we have a good opportunity through creating our academy of permaculture that we may work together more effectively. We have some basic funding to help us achieve this but have less than 2 years to achieve our goal.

With the Corona virus we have struggled to make plans and not being able to travel and be with you all has made it harder to develop our project.

Please read this carefully and then come back to me with questions, I am trying to map out a plan for us all over the next two years in a way we can all understand and have the opportunity to be involved. The only aim is to make us a more effective team to teach permaculture.

Steve Jones
S39 Director

This messages is for S39 team members:

  • Steven Jones
  • Elizabeth Westaway
  • Paul Ogola
  • Ireene Aturinde
  • Godfrey Opolot
  • Vicky Akello
  • Gerald Jagwe
  • Stella Amuge
  • Hellen Aanyu
  • Rose Nibagwire
  • Ali Tebandeke
  • Clovis Ntafakabiri

There are other people we want to involve, of course but at this stage I will limit it to 12.

A page from our trainers manual

Academy of Permaculture

  • This is an invitation to be part of creating our Academy of Permaculture
  • The ambition is for us to build on what we have achieved through working together since 2016/ 7, what can we do next?

12 Feb 2021

Dear S39 family and team,

A whole year has elapsed since I was with you in Africa last. This wasn’t the plan of course, but events have overtaken us with the corona virus.

I won’t be able to come out again until it is safe and in the UK the virus is very bad. Just last week we were up to 1,800 deaths in a single day, horrific, hospitals are full to bursting and bodies are piling up in freezer trucks as they have nowhere else to put them.

Things such as this show us all how vulnerable our globalised and interconnected world really is, and I think it re-enforces the need for permaculture. I don’t dare make a prediction but after May there might be opportunities for me to travel and get things really moving again, we will see.

Some background, how we got here – it has not has not been easy

Before we map out where we might be going, let us look at how we got there.

I was invited to visit Uganda in 2014 with a Wales – Africa charity, one which links farmers here in Wales with those in Uganda, in Welsh its called Dolen Ffermio. I met some inspirational people on that visit and loved what I saw of the country. I also instantly realised the huge potential permaculture design could have in this context: in a nation with a mainly young, mainly rural population, potentially receptive to new ideas and where it was clearly needed.

In 2016 I took out a business development loan from my bank in UK to kick start Sector39 and to create the possibility of working in Africa, which is something I really wanted to do. I had been teaching permaculture for years already in UK, more as a hobby than my main job however in 2015 I decided I would try concentrating 100% on permacutlure and to be more ambitious with Sector39.

This is how the first Kamuli PDC came about, it was a risk, but we managed to cover most of the costs and the experience made me want to try and build. I had tried to get funding but had been told that we did not have enough experience or evidence of our work, but that doing this first course would help for future projects.

In 2017 we managed to win some funding from the Welsh Government, based on what we achieved in 2016 through their Wales for Africa program, and this is what allowed us to deliver the 2017 PDC, and to plan for the 2018 PDC and the EA convergence together, having that funding in place gave us the seed money to make our 2018 plans happen. This is also how the opportunity with NRC came about as we were already planning to be in Uganda in May 2018, and that work followed on from that. It really helps to be able to see a further ahead.

I started asking around for advice in UK (I have written several funding bids which have not been successful), it takes a lot of hard work and is disappointing when they get knocked back. The last one was rejected simply because priorities had changed to Covid relief.

Doing these courses has not made S39 any money as such but we have managed to pay our costs, or most of them anyway. It has been worthwhile and has been a good investment as we have built this team and we have trained many people along the way. We should all feel proud, and rightly but really our challenge is to build on this and perhaps create an organization or network which allow us to be much more effective.

On advice from a friend with more experience than me I approached a charitable trust called Arkleton, they are very small but they are very keen to support the sharing of knowledge, especially across countries, which is exactly what we do. Not especially permaculture, but they like what we do and in fact one of the advisors to the trust, also called Steve actually did a PDC with S39 in UK 10 years ago. That helps as it means they understand what it is we are doing. So from that has come a really interesting opportunity when they agreed to support us over three years to develop an Academy of Permaculture.

In January 2020 we began 36 months of funded work to develop this idea, basically a network between us all, where we can support students, develop project ideas, teach courses, and also learn to be better teachers ourselves. Also I think we could gain  formal permaculture teaching qualifications, tt is a chance to invest in ourselves.

For clear information, the funding we have does not pay me a wage, so I must find other paid work to survive. We were able to offer some subsistence payment to the EUPO team, but this was only on the build up to their PDC, but no body is on wage at this point.

The funds we have do allow us to run 4 PDC’s in different locations and to use this experience to develop links between the people and places involved.

The money from Arkleton is not a lot, our challenge and our opportunity is to make the most out what we have, and in the process create an enterprise/ organization that can stand on its own two feet commercially or win better funding, within 2 years.

New members

I want to expand a bit on the role of Stella, in S39 and I want you all to welcome her into our team because she is performing an important function in terms of project evaluation. A charity like Arkleton needs to show to its donors and the Charitable Trust that it is doing what it out set to do, achieving its goals. Although they do want to see things like receipts for what we spent their money on, what really want to know is:

  • Are they getting good value for money?
  • Are we as a team achieving the goals that we have set for ourselves?

Our goal is to use permaculture education to improve people’s food and livelihood security, as well as complement the natural world of course. But how to you measure that, and know that you are being successful?

We can only know this by doing proper follow up and evaluation, before and after our training events. The Trust are very keen to hear that feedback as that guides them and allows them to build up trust in us, in S39. Stella is not a teacher, and is only just beginning to learn about permaculture, she is not competing with you for opportunities, she is helping create future opportunities by conveying information back to the funders about our progress. She is professionally trained in this so we are fortunate to add this skill to the team.

Stella came to us through a part of her degree studies in project evaluation at Makarere university. I agreed to take her on as a student in-turn for some weeks and she did an excellent job. Working with us helped her complete her degree. She has become an important team member in the process, and she has earned her place on the team.  Collecting feedback and measuring the outcomes is really something we have not been able to do before and the Trust who are supporting us expect that from us. This role will grow, if other team members have these skills they will be invited to contribute. I think we all need to support each other to be more effective at collecting evidence and feedback for evaluation.

Kumi Happy Home Feedback: https://academy.sector39.co.uk/?p=5125

This link is to the feedback collected 6 months after the Kumi PDC, and what we have is positive. So in spite of all of the challenges we faced on that course we still have been effective. Not with everyone, some people have not taken it up, but the ones that did take it on board have influenced and helped train many others around in their communities; this has taught us that it doesn’t matter if we fail to reach everyone, because the ones that do become active go on to support and train many others. So very well done to everyone on that PDC. It is clear you have given enough skills for the participants to replicate it for themselves. The success of that and these outcomes will create future opportunities for us all, I am sure.

How funding works

The other thing I want to make clear about this funding is I submitted an outline plan and budget at the beginning of the project, we are allowed to make changes t it, but only with permission from the trust in advance. So please don’t hit me with thousands of ideas and side projects, because we are not able to fund these things… not yet anyway. The more we can stick to the original plan the better

This is just a sketch of idea, but the academy will be made of a team, with different people in different roles, the work of one will benefit all. As we raise our profile and become more professional, I believe we will create more opportunities for ourselves and for permaculture and in that way we can support as many people as possible in East Africa and Wales.

I am writing all of this now because I have a meeting with the Trust this week and they are really keen to know our plans. It has been so hard to make plans, with so much uncertainty but I feel that now is the time to develop the idea and start sharing the vision with everyone on the team.

As we move forward our network will grow and we will make new partnerships, as I see things now, it is a good starting place for us to begin the next phase of the project.

Diagram of our team at the start of this phase

academy structure diagram
Exploring the connections within the academy

I have asked Dr Elizabeth Westway in UK to be my academic mentor, so I have support. She also knows a lot about East Africa. I am hoping she will become a long-term team member. I also want to invite Gerald to part of the management team, and he will also be there for any Africa team members to communicate directly with if you have any problems, need advice or have strong ideas.

The plan we won funding for is for 4 regional hubs, each supported by a PDC

  • Teso region, through the EUPO team – this we have completed the first phase of, and hope to build on through Hellen and Godfrey
  • Southern District Rwanda, building a network around Rose, who is based in a local high school and has developed a forest garden which we will use as a basis to teach a PDC from
  • Homa Bay Kenya, working with Paul Ogola,  to progress his achievements since his  PDC in 2016
  • We have plans for another hub in Uganda and are discussing this still with the trust. The original plan was a very rural place call Budumba, we have looked at a place in Karamoja and also Ali has started a training centre in Butambala. This plan might still change or evolve and that is what i am meeting the trust about this week.

Homa Bay Permaculture research centre.

The final thing I want to share with you is about Paul Ogola’s project in Northern Kenya, he is near the lake, south of Kisumu. He has developed his own training centre there and has trained 100’s of farmers around the area. He has also built a network of 30 villages that he has connections to, all in the Homa Bay county region. It is a remarkable achievement and one that it makes sense for us to build on.

We have been talking to Paul about the idea of using his place as a training hub for the duration of this project and it will have two important functions.

  • Teacher training. To formally qualify to be an international permaculture teacher you need to complete a Diploma in Permaculture Design. I don’t think many people in Africa have done this and It could have real value.

    To do a Diploma it takes about 2 years and it involves writing and evaluating and reflecting on 10 pieces of permaculture work you have done. They can be both big and small, and some in early planning stage. It can include designing a PDC, a garden, your own study pathway. Normally you have a tutor to work with and you build your portfolio one design at a time.

    You can do a lot of this work alone maybe, but also I think I could be good to dedicate some time to really getting more experience in permaculture teaching and outreach work.

    I have this idea of peer- peer mentoring, in other words we all support each other to learn and be better at permaculture, teaching and project development. By a mentor I mean you support someone, give them advice etc and allow them to discuss issues with you. This is different form being a teacher, which is a different kind of role. At times we are both students, mentors and teachers. So as we form friendships and develop relationships with course participants our relationship with them might develop also.

  • Rolling program of PDC type courses, but also shorter training focused on one subject at HomaBay Centre PermoAfrica

The idea is to create an opportunity where people may go and stay at PermoAfrica, Paul is adding new rooms to his house to make this possible, Small groups from our training team, and the better students along the way get the chance to go there for 2-weeks or 2 months even. But to have the opportunity to run a series of training sessions both at the centre and in surrounding villages. You will learn so much and see so much and it will give you many ideas to take home.

We could provide support for those wanting to do the diploma.. I haven’t worked that out yet.. this is the basis of the plan. Paul is keen to work with us all to shape this into something that can rally work. Running lots of trainings in Paul’s area is going to assist him in his mission to eradicate poverty in is area, and will give many opportunities for our team members or best of the new students to really develop their permaculture skills.

That is it for now.

Read this through a few times, have a think about it and discuss it. I am not clear on everything myself, so the plan can evolve. If you feel I have left something out, tell me, or if you have an idea to develop the plan, also please share. We are team and this is a common vision for us all.

This is a Wales – Africa partnership project we will have to have good communications. In my longer term dreams I hope we can create opportunities for extend these teaching/ study visits to include coming to UK, and UK students to Africa, but that is a next step. Thank  you everyone.

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