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.

~~~~

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Permaculture Plus
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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 32: Vegan Permaculture & Grow Biointensive Gardening

This is the World Organic News Podcast for the week ending 12th of September 2016.

Jon Moore reporting!

This week we begin with two quotes:

Vegan Permaculture: Is It The Future? – Little Green Seedling

Quote

Since the farm is vegan, no animals are kept. Manure is not used, and neither is bone or any other animal product. This is known as stock-free farming, and gives an insight into how farming could look in a future when animals are no longer exploited. Everything is grown organically, without the use of pesticides or chemical fertilisers. Despite this, the plants in the polytunnel were almost untouched by pests – aside from the kale, which was very popular with the slugs!

End Quote

Beginner’s Guide to Veganic Gardening | gentleworld.org

Quote

Vegan-organic gardening avoids not only the use of toxic sprays and chemicals, but also manures and animal remains. Just as vegans avoid animal products in the rest of our lives, we also avoid using animal products in the garden, as fertilizers such as blood and bone meal, slaughterhouse sludge, fish emulsion, and manures are sourced from industries that exploit and enslave sentient beings. As these products may carry dangerous diseases that breed in intensive animal production operations, vegan-organic gardening is also a safer, healthier way to grow our food.

End Quote

Vegan Permaculture. Is this a contradiction in terms? Whilst reading the early permaculture works one particular idea struck me. Plants and animals have evolved in union. Now I understand the philosophical underpinnings of the vegan movement. As a sentient species were have a responsibility to care for and not to exploit the lives of other sentient beings on this planet. The place where this philosophy and mine intersect is in an abhorrence of factory farming. The caging of any animal is degrading to the both the animals and the humans.

I hear the arguments against even free range animals from the Vegan movement. This is where we separate. The biointensive method of gardening developed by John Jeavons does not use animal manures but instead, composts or green manures 75 to 80% of the plants they grow to feed the soil. This seems… counter intuitive to me. Feeding this 75% to stock in a rotation across the landscape, feeds the soil, the animals and the plants. It is possible to eat, at least, a vegetarian diet and keep animals. Less ideologically, lacto-vegetarian and/or ovo-vegetarian options are available. That is, vegetarian diets with dairy and/or eggs. In these systems the animals live till they don’t. 

I can hear the cries of disdain from my vegan friends. Keeping animals is slavery. And on this we are just going to have to agree to disagree.

I keep returning to the thought which struck me during my early permaculture readings: Plants and animals evolved together. I attempt, not always successfully, to mimic the cycles and flows of Nature. 

Which leads me to a dichotomy I spotted years ago in a different field of human activity: Personal Growth.

In this field there are basically two broad schools of endeavor. Those reaching up to the esoteric and those reaching down into the soil. Both broad schools end up achieving the same end but draw different individuals to their methods.

I see the Vegan/Omnivore dichotomy in the same vein. The Vegan/Vegetarian approach places humans into a special category somewhat above and apart from Nature. It calls upon humans to act differently because we are humans. The alternative position sees humans as a part of Nature. True enough, there is the huge bulk of the population which has no view on this but instead simply eats what is put before them without thought, without reflection. It is this vast uninformed, disinterested mass of people which makes possible the confined animal feeding operations, that is feedlots, battery hens, caged sows and GMO corn. I liken GMO corn and super hybridised corn as nothing but the equivalent of battery hens. Identical plants, sprayed with chemicals and harvested at exactly the same level of ripeness. This is no different in essence from the millions of chicks, laced with antibiotics and all harvested at the same time to feed the processed chicken industry.

So while I see the arguments against factory farming and monocultural plant production, I do not see humans as above or separate from Nature. Therefore I have no qualms against meat consumption. 

I also accept, without judgement, that some people hold a view contrary to mine. The two posts quoted above provide a way forward for those who make that choice. Check out the posts and see what you think.

Now as I have a double major in archaeology, the post from Ancientfoods, Two groups spread early agriculture, was of particular interest to me. Seeing where we came from is a good starting point to understanding where we are now. It is only in the understanding of where we are now that we can move to where we need to be.

It would appear, from the evidence, that two groups of farmers arose in the fertile crescent. They farmed in two valleys, side by side. The western valley people migrated into Europe. The eastern valley people migrated to the Indian sub-continent. 

The story of domestication of cereals and animals is a complicated one which has always fascinated me. It’s not a weekend project, to quote the post. Indeed it takes some time for us to get our heads around. Firstly we have to realise these people had no idea of farming. It simply did not exist. Everyone was living some variation of the Fisher-Gatherer-Hunter continuum. There did not exist departments of Agriculture within the non-existent universities of the time. I would argue as have others, we were trapped into agriculture and I will publish a supplemental episode on how I think we were domesticated by wheat soon. 

I find it fascinating that we can trace early Indo European agriculture back to two separate peoples living in valleys next to each other. I would encourage you to read the post. A link is in the show notes.

And that brings us to the end of this week’s podcast.

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