The journey to owning his part of Dragons Cooperative has taken many years in the making, and for Steve it began a long time ago.
A farmer’s son from Shropshire, Steve has always been fascinated by the relationship between people, land and the environment. With a degree in Sustainable Development and a PGCE in Business Studies & Economics – it’s clear that sharing his knowledge and skills is a great passion of his.
“Learning about permaculture was almost a natural progression for me, and I travelled to Zimbabwe to launch my first permaculture project; Kudzishandira is a self-help business start-up and micro-credit scheme, supporting villagers to establish enterprises offering services to the local community.
Seeing the project come alive made me see how permaculture design can make a real impact to communities, and can stimulate a process of thinking which is self-sufficient”
“What is there not to like about affordable, energy efficient housing, farming techniques that restore soil carbon and enhance biodiversity, and clean energy systems that become increasingly cheap with continued investment?”
On returning to the UK, Steve spent two years researching co-operatives and permaculture on a greater scale. Through the Centre for Alternative Technology, he met the people who enabled him to establish the permaculture community he envisioned whilst still in Zimbabwe. This was Chickenshack Housing Co-op – founded in 1995 on a five acre holding with four dwellings in Mid-Wales.
“I refer to this period as my seven year eco-apprenticeship; building all of the necessary skills and gaining an extraordinary body of knowledge, contacts and insights from across the environment sector.”
When the opportunity to buy Dragons Cooperative; a former high street shop with building space came on the market, it was a perfect chance to start a brand new project in Mid-Wales. On August 2015, the collective moved into the four bedroom house. For Steve – the Cooperative is a base for his permaculture design course, which is delivered by his organisation Sector39.
“The in-depth permaculture design course can be delivered three-five times throughout a year, and Sector39 exists to accelerate permaculture practice, to share knowledge and experience and to build alliances with like-minded groups.
“The vision from the outset which remains today is to develop the ability to communicate permaculture ideas, to bring practitioners, enthusiasts and teachers together. Put simply, permaculture design is how we get ourselves out of this terrible mess we have caused for our planet.
“Permaculture starts with you, uncovering your own motivations, values and ethics and learning how to express them in a clear and concise way. Before we can fix the natural world we have to understand our place within it and empower ourselves to make deliberate and positive changes.”
The philosophy which Steve has spent years understanding and incorporating it into every aspect of his life, is something he passionately wants to share. By building the permaculture design course, it gives him the chance to promote both the skills and way of thinking.
“I regularly keep in touch with some of my former students, and it’s great to know that they are bringing permaculture design principles to different communities. I recently spoke to a former student from the Czech Republic who has been sharing his experience’s learning from Sector39 with people locally – and it’s our aim to keep this philosophy growing.
“The study of natural wisdom and the application of those insights to our own communities is the only route we have to take us to a restored and resilient biosphere – and it’s making a difference to people’s lives and communities. What is there not to like about affordable, energy efficient housing, farming techniques that restore soil carbon and enhance biodiversity, and clean energy systems that become increasingly cheap with continued investment?” concluded Steve.
words: Chris Yong
Steven Jones and his team at Sector 39, a permaculture teaching partnership, have set up Dragons Housing Cooperative in Llanrhaeadr, North Wales.
At Dragons, they aim to tie together their interest in housing cooperatives, community enterprise, social economy and permaculture education. It will provide affordable housing and a space from which to run projects, as well as a shop which can act as a window on their work and an outlet for local crafts and produce.
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