"A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.
Regenerative Agriculture (RA) is an approach that combines Agroecology and Livestock farming, while regenerating topsoil and fostering biodiversity.
Includes different techniques: Agroecology, Organic Farming, Permaculture, Holistic Management, Pasture Cropping, Cocktail Cropping, No-till agriculture and Keyline design.
It was born as a discipline when Australian and North American farmers were pushed to the limit by the conventional farming systems. They could see that the yields did not compensate the rising operational costs and the soil was being increasingly depleted. On the verge of bankruptcy, were forced to explore alternative ways to regenerate the soil without buying external inputs. In open dialogue with scientists, biologists and soil experts... and inspired by the relecture of vernacular examples, they took a bold approach, gradually quitting from chemical fertilizers and pesticides, and exploring alternative no-till cultivation and pasture cropping methods. As Pioneer Robert Rodale stated: “By marching forward under the banner of sustainability we are, in effect, continuing to hamper ourselves by not accepting a challenging enough goal. I am not against the word sustainable, rather I favor regenerative agriculture.”
(Img: Van der Sym: From sustainable to regenerative design.)
What was born incidentally, was already implemented at different parts of the globe from Asia, Africa and Central and South America. Different cultures on different climates had been able to find a way to produce food while increasing biodiversity and protecting the soil. The Forest Garden, the Japanese rice paddies that combine rice production with fish, ducks and vegetables, or the mayan Milpa cultivation system, planting corn, green beans and squash together, are examples of clever combination of different plants and animal inputs. These and many other examples showed the way for a major shift, one that eventually gave birth to new agricultural proposals like Intercropping ,keyline or holistical management.
Every day, 216000 net newborns (births-deaths) increase the rampant rise of world population. Since conventional agriculture has already pushed productivity, the potential of improvement is poor. On the other side, the use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers (N,P.K) kills the soil micro and macrofauna (soil biota) including earthworms. Therefore, we need to create 35.000 new acres...daily...to feed the newcomers. After only one year, this largely surpases the total acreage of Holland...every year...
A FAO paper remarks that the next generation will not be able to feed the world. Of course what it means is that...the current agrobussiness model...will not be able to feed the world.1/3 of total food production - 1.3 Billion tones/year- is lost or wasted.
As if that were not bad enough, Climate change is going to increase average temperature 2ºC worldwide. But this figure is an average. When we focus on the mediterranean basin, "our" increase will be...far beyond 2ºC. Since scenaries beyond +3ºC increase are unknown territory, we can only predict that while England and Germany will enjoy mild weather , we will have North African temperatures. Desertisation and short, heavy rains will have a big impact on food production. Cities suffer from an extra +2ºC increase due to the prevalence of hard surfaces (terraces, walls, asphalt...)
Three strategies may contain the key to survival on the mediterranean:
1) Building SOM ( Soil Organic Matter): Our soils average 1-2% SOM, while a virgin forrest can have as much as 6-10%. For every 1% increase in SOM, soil water retaining capacity doubles. Furthermore, a worlwide 1% increase in SOM would offsett al agricultural Greenhouse gas emissions. SOm enhancement is not only the key for food production but also for carbon sequestration.
2) Tree Canopy: how can you survive and create food in the desert? Look for an Oasis. Tall trees(palm trees) protect medium trees ( orange, plumb trees) that in turn shade vegetable gardens full of plants, roots and vines. Here you have the Forest Garden framework.
3) Urban Farming: Oil Peake does not come alone. We also have water peak and fertile soil peak. Altogether provide the perfect storm. With 75% or world population living in cities by 2050, we urgently need to grow food where we consume it. Thus, Urban Farming is crucial because not only is part of the solution, but because de-invisibilize the food issue to the urbanites. With the proper techniques of intensive agriculture, yields on small spaces, including planters, are very high, and almost 100% is consumed (Conventional farming and transport generate average 30% losses in the producer-importer-wholesaler-retail-citizen chain. The icing in the cake? during the last two weeks, the fruits anf veggies receive a strong shot of minerals and enzymes from the plant. Conventional systems, take those crops too early from the plant or tree, because they need those days to reach the markets. This is why produce at the supermarkets tend to be fairly tasteless and odourless, because it was taken before it was ripe.
Soil enhancement, planting a tree and growing tomatoes on a terrace are things everybody can do tomorrow, today, right now. These are ready-to-go strategies. We do not need money or authorisations, only the will to act. So what are we waiting for?