Natural Wisdom - The practice of permaculture is growing

DragonsWalking down Market Street in Llanrhaedr Ym Monchnant, passers-by might be forgiven for thinking that Dragons gift and crafts is a typical, if slightly quirky, store front catering to weekend tourists. Yet, as soon as one steps through the front door, they can immediately see that gifts and crafts are but the first touch-point of a diverse and integrated effort to put permaculture principles into practice.

Dragons sells fair-trade and eco-products, Ugandan coffee and gluten-free snacks, and hosts a variety of skills workshops. And it is the public face of Dragons Housing Cooperative: a local community of activists accelerating permaculture practice in their hometown and throughout the UK.

Steve Jones, the principle at Dragons, is a farmer’s son from Shropshire, and 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, Steve sees how permaculture design can make a real impact to communities and stimulate self-sufficient thinking.

“Learning about permaculture was almost a natural progression for me, and I travelled to Zimbabwe to launch my first permaculture project” says Steve. “Kudzishandira is a self-help business start-up and micro-credit scheme, supporting villagers to establish enterprises offering services to the local community.”

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.

DragonsWhen the opportunity to buy Dragons, a former high street gallery and arts shop, opened up, it was a perfect chance to start a brand new project in Mid-Wales. On the recommendation of Radical Routes, a network of housing co-operatives based in Leeds, Steve approached Triodos Bank for funding.

“Most banks will just look at the financials of a project without really attempting to understand the vision,” says Matt Boggan, relationship manager at Triodos. “But vision is one of the first things we look at, and Dragons was an opportunity to support environmental sustainability and the local economy at the same time.”

“Our depositors want to know that their money is being put to good use and want their bank to actively choose to support environmental initiatives. Partnering with projects like Dragons is a great way to ensure that the money people save with Triodos is working harder to create a more sustainable society.”

Retaining the name and colourful storefront sign, the location is now the home of Dragons retail enterprise, which brings together artisans and consultants generating their own livelihood through collaboration, and Dragons Housing Co-operative that has three affordable housing units. It is also the base for Steve’s permaculture design course, which is delivered by his organisation Sector39. Through the courses, Sector39 accelerates permaculture practice, shares knowledge and experience and builds alliances with like-minded groups.

“Permaculture starts with you, uncovering your own motivations, values and ethics and learning how to express them in a clear and concise way,” says Steve. “Before we can fix the natural world we have to understand our place within it and empower ourselves to make deliberate and positive changes.”

DragonsFor Steve, that includes how we personally use our money and also what sectors banks invest in.

“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,” says Steve.

“With this mind-set, we can make use of money to build affordable, energy efficient housing, farming techniques that restore soil carbon and enhance biodiversity, and clean energy systems that become increasingly cheap with continued investment from banks like Triodos.”

Triodos Bank uses the power of finance to support projects that benefit people and the planet. Triodos knows banking can be a force for good, so they use their € 12 billion of deposits to create positive social, environmental and cultural change to build a more sustainable society.

If you open a Triodos account via www.triodos.co.uk/permaculture and deposit at least £100, Triodos Bank will donate £40 to the Permaculture Association.  Full terms and conditions can be found at www.triodos.co.uk/permaculture

Interest rates may change. Tax savings dependant on circumstances.