Most aid, development and charity aims to relieve−or at best eliminate−poverty. As direct sponsors, we aim higher. Our goal is to live in abundance. In learning permaculture principles by applying them to their own communities, our recipients go beyond mere financial survival and become free from the debt cycle that modern agriculture encourages.
Watch a video on Permaculture Principles in Application by Geoff Lawton
So instead of becoming dependent on cash crops to earn money to pay for essentials, with all the dangers that involves (price fluctuations, crop failures etc), they provide all their actual needs directly from their land. From these solid foundations of self-sufficiency they can explore a huge variety of business ideas and choose what suits them best, without fear of a failure endangering their basic livelihoods.
Permaculture is not about techniques; it's about the principles that give rise to techniques. Techniques are taught in permaculture courses only to illustrate the principles. We don't require anyone to change their way of life; the principles can be applied anywhere, and human diversity is enhanced by them.
The more advanced countries are a good indicator of where modern agriculture is leading. In these countries, small farmers have been virtually wiped out, and that process is continuing. Modern farming doesn't bring freedom or abundance; ask any of the small farmers who are left.
If we solve (for example) the drought problem alone, we create an opportunity for increased debt and other dependencies, because the region will become more fertile and thus more attractive to predatory influences like banks. This has happened everywhere else with agriculture so it would be irresponsible to just ignore it. Agriculture alone does not and cannot eliminate poverty.
Modern agriculture facilitates debt, the proof is all around us. For example, the National Crime Records Bureau of India reported 13,754 farmer suicides in 2012. The chief cause is debts they cannot repay. Many of those farmers were recipients of previous "aid" initiatives. As responsible sponsors, whose advice our recipients initially rely on, we have to offer something better.