Episode 188. Grasslands and Attacks on Agroecology

This is the World Organic News for the week ending the 30th of September 2019.

Jon Moore reporting!

Decarbonise the air, recarbonise the soil!

Grasslands are a somewhat ignored sector of the environment. This is not surprising, especially in the English speaking world. Not until European colonisation did English speakers come into contact with large areas of grassland so the previous understanding of grazing country underpins our understanding of these niches.  Continue reading “Episode 188. Grasslands and Attacks on Agroecology”

Episode 184. 20 Years and More, We Knew!

This is the World Organic News for the week ending the 2nd of September 2019.

Jon Moore reporting!

Decarbonise the air, recarbonise the soil!

I still get surprised when it happens but sometimes I run out of podcasts to listen to myself. During this last week I went looking for some content and stumbled upon and old series that ran for 40 years on the BBC World Service. I thing called The Farming World. I flicked through the listings until I found something which peaked my interest. Agroforestry Success Stories. It contained the usual matter. Planting trees works. A mix of tree lines and cropping works, livestock under trees works. All fairly straightforward stuff. It was when I heard the presenter say: “As we approach the millennium…”  that when my ears really pricked up. I hunted through the material available to discover this gem of an episode was from…. 1996. 23 years ago! Even then the results had been proven. Less water use, greater productivity, improved soil health and as we know now, much improved soil carbon.  Continue reading “Episode 184. 20 Years and More, We Knew!”

Episode 177. Agroecology and SALT systems

This is the World Organic News for the week ending the 15th of July 2019.

Jon Moore reporting!

Decarbonise the air, recarbonise the soil!

Today I’m looking at some variations on the regenerative model. Agroecology and a thing called SALT, sloping agricultural land technology or Simple Agro-Livestock Land Technology.

Firstly to agroecology:

From the site: Common Dreams comes the piece: Agroecology as Innovation.

Quote:

Agroecological sciences offer just the kinds of innovations small-scale farmers need to increase soil fertility, raise productivity, improve food and nutrition security, and build climate resilience.

End Quote

The key to this is the ecology part of agroecology. We all have a vision of what agriculture might look like or even what it looks like now. The addition of an ecological approach makes much sense. Especially for small scale farmers. The “get big or get out” idea of industrialised agriculture comes with too many costs. 

The current glyphosate legal actions are but the tip of the iceberg. Imagine a township or city taking legal action against those who advocated, promoted and subsidised the industrial systems which wrecked a local water supply. This sort of legal action would make the Monsanto/Bayer legal issues look like a Sunday School picnic.

The answer, as I’m sure we’re all onboard with, is to farm in a manner that utilised natural systems rather than brute force attempts to meld Nature to our ways. The latter works for a little while, in geological terms but the costs are enormous.

It appears the UN, of all institutions, is on board with this.

Quote:

Recently, the High Level Panel of Experts of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) released its much-anticipated report on agroecology. The report signals the continuing shift in emphasis in the UN agency’s approach to agricultural development. As outgoing FAO Director General Jose Graziano da Silva has indicated, “We need to promote a transformative change in the way that we produce and consume food. We need to put forward sustainable food systems that offer healthy and nutritious food, and also preserve the environment. Agroecology can offer several contributions to this process.”

End Quote

Apart from the older idea of sustainability which is now no longer an option, we need to regenerate natural, life sustaining systems, the quote points to some hopeful options. 

The basis of agroecology is agriculture which utilises those natural systems I have been banging on about for years now. This means utilising what is on hand right now. It means planting and grazing with appropriate plants and animals to increase the biological activity within the soils. 

As an aside, this used to be fairly common knowledge and practice. Despite the fact that he was preparing native Australian soils for an evolved fertile crescent grain, James Ruse, the first colonial settler to be given both land and a commission to grow wheat in the colony of NSW went through a process of adding organic matter to our thin old soils. He planted, grew and ploughed into the soil, six or seven wheat crops before he actually harvested any grains. The soil simply could not support the crop until the organic matter content was sufficient.

We have vast areas of agricultural land with diminished soil biology requiring attention.

Some of the techniques of agroecology, this in an African setting are:

Quote:

 

  • Biological pest control – Scientist Hans Herren won a World Food Prize for halting the spread of a cassava pest in Africa by introducing a wasp that naturally controlled the infestation.
  • Push-pull technology – Using a scientifically proven mix of crops to push pests away from food crops and pull them out of the field, farmers have been able to reduce pesticide use while increasing productivity.
  • Participatory plant breeding – Agronomists work with farmers to identify the most productive and desirable seed varieties and improve them through careful seed selection and farm management. In the process, degraded local varieties can be improved or replaced with locally adapted alternatives.
  • Agro-forestry – A wide range of scientists has demonstrated the soil-building potential of incorporating trees and cover crops onto small-scale farms. Carefully selected tree varieties can fix nitrogen in the soil, reduce erosion, and give farmers a much-needed cash crop while restoring degraded land.
  • Small livestock – Reintroducing goats or other small livestock onto farms has been shown to provide farmers with a sustainable source of manure while adding needed protein to local diets. Science-driven production of compost can dramatically improve soil quality.

 

End Quote

It all seems so obvious, especially when contrasted with the high input, read high cost, alternative of industrialised ag. I’d recommend a full read of the article. It is an inspiring piece.

Now to the SALT systems. When I first encountered this technology I was looking at two things: alley farming and a block of land that was far from level. The SALT system, as it was originally developed, was implemented in the Philippines. It is a system well suited to the 60% of agricultural land in that country described as “uplands”. 

What’s involved?  

First hillsides are marked out along contours. Quick growing trees are established along these contours to produce alleys running across the slopes. These slow water run off, reduce soil erosion and produce a number of products: fire wood, fruits, fodder. Once the soils are stabilised the alleys can be planted out to crops or run as pastures with supplemental feeds coming from the alley ways. The hedge rows on the contours can be become a chop and drop operation where the contour lines of trees can be increased in size to become bunds. These further slow the pace of water across the landscape while being able to support larger tree communities.

This system is a quite remarkable response based on local knowledge and with very little outside inputs. There’s a link in the show notes to a great seven page pdf explaining why and how. Highly recommended.

SALT 2 is but a variation on the SALT system but it more fully integrates livestock into the system. Predominating small ruminants, sheep and goats but with room for swine, I’m sure.

The link in the show notes is to a goat specific approach which would be a good option too. I would recommend a full read of this too.

I’m firmy of the opinion this sort of alley farming would bring great benefits to not just sloping land but all degraded landscapes. The distance between tree rows would, possibly, have to be a little wider on flatish land but necessarily. 

The whole idea seems to be a great way to introduce biodiversity, plant and animal, to farming systems. With the right choice of trees, the options mentioned before: fruit, firewood, fodder and “chop and drop” mulch, a smallish farm could become nearly self sufficient in these areas. Even in larger backyards smallish contour following low hedgerows, of say dwarf fruit trees, could work. 

We are simply limited by our ingenuity in this matters. We are the thinking ape, so let’s stop thinking we have all the answers and start thinking about how we can incorporate the systems of Nature with a few billions head start on us, into our food systems. It is not that hard, really, it takes a little internal fortitude and decision to make a change for the better.

So if you’re interested in finding a way of bringing some regeneration to where you live, may I suggest you have a look at our upcoming online conference Living Soils ~ Backyard Regen, running from the 16th to the 18th of September. For AUD$67 you receive access to over 6 hours of material from people who have had their hands in the soil, PDF summaries of the presentations and access to the closed Facebook Group where you can discuss the topics covered by the conference and interact with like minded people out to change the world for the better.

And on that note I’ll draw this episode to a conclusion.

Decarbonise the air, recarbonise the soil!

Thank you for listening and I’ll be back next week.

~~~~

LINKS

The RegenEarth 2019 Online Conference ~ Living Soil

email: regen@regenearth.net

Transcript HERE

Facebook Page:  World Organic News Facebook page.

WORLD ORGANIC NEWS No Dig Gardening Book: Click here

Permaculture Plus

Topical Talks

Agroecology as Innovation

https://www.commondreams.org/views/2019/07/10/agroecology-innovation

SLOPING AGRO-LIVESTOCK TECHNOLOGY (SALT-2): A GUIDE ON HOW TO RAISE GOATS UNDER THE SALT SYSTEM

http://www.pcaarrd.dost.gov.ph/home/momentum/afin/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=416&Itemid=314

154. Agroecology in Senegal and New Hope From Old Ideas.

Agroecology in Senegal and New Hope From Old Ideas.
This is the World Organic News for the week ending the 4th of February 2019.
Jon Moore reporting!
Decarbonise the air, recarbonise the soil!
We begin this week with some good news out of Senegal. From the site News Ghana comes the piece entitled: President Sall announces that Senegal will adopt agroecology.
Quote:
The chairman of Enda Tiers-Monde’s international network, Marième Sow, is delighted. The call that civil society organizations have made since the 1970s has finally been heard. The appropriation of the principles of the agro-ecological transition had been their workhorse for decades. This emblematic figure of clean agriculture salutes the awareness of the authorities to move towards a model of agricultural production that does not degrade our forests or our soil, and that does not pollute our groundwater and surface water. Indeed, in his message to the nation of December 31, 2018, President Macky Sall announced a preparation of Senegal, Sahelian country, to the ecological transition through the “Pse Vert”.
End Quote
Reading further into the article and I would encourage you all to check this source, link in the show notes, the underlying problems in Senegal sound very much like the underlying problems wherever industrial agriculture has come to town. Polluted water, polluted soils, falling fertility and deforestation. As in many places, the voices calling in the wild for a better system have their roots back in the 1970s.
Enda Tiers-Monde is one such organisation. There’s a link in the show notes. The site is is French and google translate seems to have some difficulty translating but if your french is up to the job have a look. Mine is a far from up to the job.
From the piece again:
Quote:
In fact, agro-ecology borrows a lot from known agricultural techniques in Africa. That’s why, since the 70s, Enda Tiers-Monde campaigns for the popularization of agro-ecology. Experts believe that the sustainability of the agricultural production system depends to a large extent on this “alternative”. “The agro-ecological transition is to bring back to life the land, our forests, the microorganisms that are in the soil. On the basis of pesticide residues analysis in the soil, Enda Pronat has initiated farmers’ organizations to use other cultivation techniques, “says Sow, who praises the president’s vision of Republic to make the agro-ecological transition a strategic axis of the Pse. it’s about to bring back to life the land, our forests, the micro-organisms that are in the ground.
End Quote
This return to older ways is a theme. In the same way that John Seymour’s Complete Book of Self Sufficiency was a look back to the high farming tradition of the British Isles, I suspect much of the techniques promoted by Enda Tiers-Monde are in the same mould but from an African standpoint.
The problem we face is that these older methods are a step back along the evolution of farming that led to the industrial system we are suffering under today. With the popularity of the “Green Revolution” of the 1960s, many of the best and brightest in the agricultural field drank the Kool Aid and went into developing this form of agriculture.
We have counterexamples.
Seymour, of course, but also Jeavons, Fukuoka and Mollison. Aside from their interest in organic techniques, the other thing they all have in common is facial hair but I digress. These individuals, the  organisations they created and Enda Tiers-Monde have for many decades been preaching to the converted. It is only as the realities of both industrial agriculture and it carbon effects have become so obvious that the lobbying efforts of the corporations supporting industrial ag have faced real competition that the mainstream is starting to see another way.
I recall, I think, from the hour long film on Permaculture featuring Bill Mollison, “In Grave Danger of Falling Food”, Bill’s comment along the lines that stopping the destruction of old growth forests was important but more important was the rehabilitation of already damaged ecosystems. He was pleased to see so many, then, young people doing that work, unheralded, that he thought the future was in good hands.
We are at cross roads, probably we are beyond the cross roads and need to map our way back to the other paths we could have taken. The work of Enda Tiers-Monde in french speaking Africa, the outreach of the Fukuoka, Seymour, Jeavons and Mollison created organisations are making a difference.
An older model but one that has many adherents, especially, it seems, in the wine growing sector is biodynamics. This too is based upon keeping soil healthy and most other things will look after themselves. Episode 117 covered this system with Mark Rathbone from Save Our Soils explained how he uses this system to rehabilitate pasture by growing vegetables.
Now because of who the founder was, Rudolf Steiner there can be some, esoteric matters that do not always sit well with some people. Mark’s site and as he discussed during episode 117 is focused upon the rigorously tested, evidence based techniques. So do not be put off by the esoteric. After all much of Isaac Newton’s life was spent in alchemy trying to find the philosopher’s stone. What we find useful nowadays is his work on gravity and calculus. Take what works and leave the rest seems like a plan.
For a final word I’ll go back to the original post.
Quote:
“The success of the ecological transition depends on managing the management of our land assets. And, we must accept that this resource is used to satisfy both the agricultural needs and the restoration of vegetation cover. We must also control the governance of our water resources. We can not grant land to multinationals that are agro-business, using all kinds of chemical inputs and claiming to arrive at the agro-ecological transition.“
End Quote.
Wise advice.
And on that note I’ll draw this episode to a conclusion.
Remember: Decarbonise the air, recarbonise the soil!
So with all the above in mind and the fact we live in the twenty first century, I’m opening up applications for a Regenerative Agriculture Mastermind group. It will be limited to twelve people, we’ll meet weekly, online to discuss our successes, challenges and decisions. The wisdom of the crowd applied to this necessary field of endeavour. You can have a look at the intro page and click through to the application at worldorganicnews.com/mastermind-application There’s also a link in the show notes.
Of course the podcasting checklists are still available over at mrjonmoore.com
Thank you for listening and I’ll be back next week.

~~~~

LINKS
PODCASTING CHECKLISTS CLICK HERE
Transcript: Here
Facebook Page:  World Organic News Facebook page.
WORLD ORGANIC NEWS No Dig Gardening Book: Click here
Permaculture Plus
http://permacultureplus.com.au/
Topical Talks
President Sall announces that Senegal will adopt agroecology
https://wp.me/p4gyiO-2b5
Enda Tiers-Monde
http://endatiersmonde.org/instit/
Biodynamics
Seymour
Jeavons
Fukuoka
Mollison

Episode 153. Silvopasture Industrial Agriculture and Bill Mollison’s Response

This is the World Organic News for the week ending the 28th of January 2019.

Jon Moore reporting!

Decarbonise the air, recarbonise the soil!

A little housekeeping. Some of you have noticed the website is still down. I’m still in discussions with my host about appropriate levels of performance and hope it will be back up soon. In the meantime I’m posting things to the Facebook page if you’re interested. And now to the show.

From the site Civil Eats come a piece entitled: Silvopasture Can Mitigate Climate Change. Will U.S. Farmers Take it Seriously? A fair question!

Quote:

Steve Gabriel curls back a bit of flimsy net fencing and shakes a plastic bucket of alfalfa pellets. Immediately, a sweet-faced, short-fleeced mob of some 50 Katahdin sheep pull away from a line of young black locust trees on whose leaves they’ve been snacking and swarm around him. The sheep race after Gabriel as he strides across nibbled grass and out from the fencing, around a dirt path’s shallow curve, and into a shadier, overgrown pasture dotted with long standing black walnut and hawthorn trees.

End Quote Continue reading “Episode 153. Silvopasture Industrial Agriculture and Bill Mollison’s Response”

Episode 38: Urban Farms & The One Straw Revolution

This is the World Organic News Podcast for the week ending 31st of October 2016.

Jon Moore reporting!

We begin this week with a reminder! The blog The Unveiling of The Hidden Knowledge reminds us of a UN report on Small Scale Organic Farming.

Quote:

Drawing on an extensive review of the scientific literature published in the last five years, the Special Rapporteur identifies agroecology as a mode of agricultural development which not only shows strong conceptual connections with the right to food, but has proven results for fast progress in the concretization of this human right for many vulnerable groups in various countries and environments.

End quote. Continue reading “Episode 38: Urban Farms & The One Straw Revolution”

Episode 34: Vale Bill Mollison

This is the World Organic News Podcast for the week ending 26th of September 2016.

Jon Moore reporting!

It is with a heavy heart I must report this week on the passing of Bill Molison. Bill, with his graduate student, David Holmgren, developed Permaculture. Bill is rightly called the father of Permaculture. His vision of a permanent culture, truly sustainable, abundant and resilient is based as much upon an understanding of the natural world as it is upon re-training the human mind. I will be producing an obituary supplemental episode for later this week.

Food production in a world of growing population is the constant excuse for the use of chemical based monocultural agriculture. The blog Eco Snippets published a piece on how to double production: Want To Double World Food Production? Return The Land To Small Farmers…  Continue reading “Episode 34: Vale Bill Mollison”