Steve Cran is a Permaculture Aid veteran, teacher, social activist, climate change resilience specialist, and a very handy guy to have around after a natural disaster. With a 30-year career in Permaculture, Steve has developed effective, sustainable, recovery solutions for communities affected by natural disasters, war, or long-term poverty.
Steve takes on the challenge of assisting people living on the edge of survival, to rebuild their communities. Steve has developed projects in war zones, post-disaster zones, poverty zones and in many difficult areas on this troubled planet where most people would not dare go.
Steve is a faculty member and Instructor with the International Permaculture Education Center – PermacultureEducation.org
“There is a lot written about so-called community development but in the field, most of it doesn’t work or it doesn’t last,” says Steve. “Permaculture Aid gets real results by helping people restore their own community using local resources. They grow their way out of poverty. Conventional aid creates aid-dependency. Permaculture Aid creates self-sufficiency and earth-repair simultaneously”.
Steve focuses on building productive working models and training the trainer from whatever community he’s working with. The best results come from local people training local people to motivate the rest of the community. “The world’s problems grow at an exponential rate so I design projects that solve problems at an exponential rate”.
“Most poverty is brought about when a county’s, city’s, or community’s ecosystem is depleted or destroyed. True sustainability can only be achieved with a fully intact, productive ecosystem. Repairing the ecosystem, as well as the people’s lives, has to be the main aim of a sustainable aid project,” says Steve.
Steve’s first Permaculture Aid work began in 1993 in Wilcannia, NSW, a troubled Aboriginal community in the outback drylands of Australia. Written off as a basket case by the press, Wilcannia had the highest crime rate per capita in 1993 in Australia. Bill Mollison the father of Permaculture, and the NSW government worked together to create the world’s first “Permaculture Project Officer”, Steve Cran, to train the community to solve its own problems.
Engaging the unemployed people of Wilcannia and with virtually no external funding, Steve helped the people repair their town. The town got a facelift including a Permaculture Park, the schools gained organic garden plots, and the people began to create sustainable livelihoods. Hundreds of small projects added up to the wave of change that transformed Wilcannia. In 1996 the crime rate had dropped 90% due to that permaculture project. Permaculture Aid had proven its worth.
In 1999 Steve went to war-torn, impoverished Timor Leste to train Timorese in how to adapt permaculture to their culture and solve their poverty and environmental degradation problems. The Timorese have lost 75% of their infrastructure to the conflict there and the country was in desperate shape. Building Permaculture Field Schools and training trainers Steve formed an effective Permaculture training network, which he co-developed with the Timorese over 5 years. This network continues to grow today.
Steve returned home to Maleny, Queensland, Australia in November 2004 for a well-earned rest. A month later the great Asian tsunami wiped out over 200,000 people in several countries. The world’s largest recorded disaster couldn’t be ignored. Steve’s holiday was over.
Steve’s field experience was called upon to set up a project in Aceh, Indonesia, the epicenter of the earthquake that triggered the tsunami. Working with a Balinese NGO funded by international expats, Steve’s mission was again to bring permaculture education to one of the most difficult places on earth. “This is a tricky project as we have earthquakes every week, possible further tsunamis as well as a protracted guerilla war in our area, not to mention the poverty that was here before the tsunami. The deck is really stacked against these poor people here”, says Steve from Lamsujin, 45 kms Southwest of Banda Ache.
Steve joined IDEP to build the “Greenhand Field School” in Ache, in of the worst affected areas hit by the tsunami. The Greenhand Field School was a training center to train trainers in sustainable community development best-practice. The Greenhand Field School focused on food security, organic farming, community agro-forestry, appropriate technology, and local solutions for the tsunami survivors. The trainers being trained were mainly Acehnese and the Greenhand Field School was designed so the best trainers run their own facility after 12 months.
In January 2010 Steve was engaged to go to northern Uganda and work with the Karamajong people to restore food security and assist in ending violence and conflict in an area plagued by war and poverty for over 40 years. Aid dependency had robbed the people of the ability to grow their own food and the youth were sucked into a cycle of violence in cattle raiding with the abundant supply of automatic weapons available in East Africa. These youth were known as “the Warriors”.
Working with IOM, International Organization of Migration (UN), Steve trained 75 of the Warriors to become “Green Warriors” and return to their communities and introduce self-sufficiency through permaculture. Steve was able to prove that the Karamajong people were more than capable of growing their own food and the “food-aid” was having a negative impact on their culture and health. Many communities that were written off by the government and the UN produced crops and converted barren land into farmland using basic hand tools and non-hybrid seed. The “Green Warriors” of Karamoja provided previously unheard of new role models for the people of Karamoja. The project’s effects continue to this day.
Steve has also conducted projects in Ethiopia, the Philippines, the USA, Malaysia, and Hong Kong. In each country, he teaches and in each country he learns. “I’m always the teacher and the student combined,” Steve says. “Every culture has it’s best-practices and I share what I learn with all cultures I work with.”
Based in Taiwan, Steve Cran is now consulting and conducting training throughout Southeast Asia on Permaculture-Aid field skills as well as training the trainer.
Steve is also working as an advisor to create resilience strategies for communities in the face of climate change. Apart from training people, Steve has a creative intellect for solving problems and designing sustainable systems that can handle the challenges of climate change events in our current world. Steve believes he can stimulate that same creativity in people through his training.
Transferring his hard-won skills to young people wanting to make a difference in this world, Steve’s courses are challenging and instructive. “These are the skills in the field you can’t learn from books”, says Steve. “Getting your hands in the soil and working in real live situations drives home the training to create the kind of people that can make a real impact in the field of aid”. In the world as it as at present we are seeing disasters and climate change events of a magnitude never before seen in recorded history. Every country is going to need Permaculture Aid at this rate”
He adds, “The aid industry is starving for good field technicians and we aim to fill that void. From building a base camp to planting a community food security garden this training will give anybody entering the aid industry a head start.”
“My current aim is to train the trainer and work with the youth. Our youth have been weakened by poor nutrition, low-quality education and the oversupply of artificial information. Addicted to technology our youth have become useless and weak as well as dim-witted. It’s not the old people that will save our world. Given the right skills, it will be the youth who regenerate our planet. World governments are failing the youth in regards to education. It’s a bad recipe for future generations. Our hands-on training methods restore the youth’s mind, body, and soul and give them a toolbox to fix the world’s problems.”