GSR's Newsletter is a collection of news, reflections, innovations and ideas that our team has
found important enough to write down and share with you. We hope you'll be as excited as we
are with all the latest developments around the world and what it means for us all.
Dear GSR Newsletter Subscriber,
Due to the lack of success from GSR’s
crowdfunding campaign, we’ve had to go through a
serious restructuring in our organization. This will
regrettably be the last newsletter that GSR will be
publishing for a while. Additionally we will be
moving all materials from our website to our blog:
All of these changes are due to tight budget constraints, which we hope to
resolve soon. In the meantime please note that we will continue to provide you,
in a timely fashion, the very best information on agriculture, rural development,
innovations and sustainability through our monthly blog posts and daily social
media connections. Join us today on Facebook and Twitter.
David Dawes, CEO
Green Self Reliance, Inc.
There has been a major shift in the
way internationaldevelopment community
views successful agricultural
programs. Focus has shifted away
from capital input towards
supplementing the family farm
model. This paradigm shift focuses
on the strengths of rural
communities in the developing world.
The family farm is the bare bones
unit of the communal farming model
and presumes a set area has at its
immediate disposal a lot of cheap labor but a lack of capital. Communal farming
is beneficial for small farmers since it permits family and neighbors to create a
network to pool labor and resources wherever and whenever it is most needed.
This is a model that substantially benefits the local economy and society and is
the most cost-effective development route for rural communities.
Why are family farms successful as a model for communities that lack capital?
GSR has pondered the relationship between this model and optimal success and
we’ve asked the experts about their thoughts. Family farms have several
advantages that mechanized plantation sized farms in developing nations cannot
advantages that mechanized plantation sized farms in developing nations cannot
· Reduced overhead – Small farms can become highly profitable without
the extremely high overhead costs represented by large scale mechanized
plantations. Small farms can make their own organic pesticides and
fertilizer at almost no cost. Instead of expensive farm equipment, small
farmers can achieve high productivity using draft animals and hand tools.
Distance, travel time and transportation costs from the workspace to local
markets is reduced to nil. Thereby locally grown organic crops are highly
price competitive in local markets since transportation costs will continue
to increase dramatically in the medium to long term, the advantage of
local sourcing of food will increase in importance.
· Stable employment – There is little need to develop sophisticated
programs to enhance worker productivity. The independent small famer
works for self-interested benefits – like a small business and more
income. Small farm families are closer knit work groups because they
must cooperate to build their small farm into a viable enterprise. Home
life and work life are also one and the same.
· Reduced crime rates – On a small farm, work life and family life are one
and the same, leading to less role conflicts. When the agricultural sector is
dominated by large scale plantations, workers tend to be seasonal and
migratory – going wherever the harvest comes next. Small farms
therefore lead to a stronger social fabric.
· Less pandemics and STDs – giant factory farms have labor or
workcamps which concentrate high density populations in decrepit
conditions. Family farms dispurses workers in terms of kin and nuclear
family relations, housing is
well apart and far less
squalid than workcamps.
· Built in labor incentives –
Small farmers enjoy far
better working conditions
than plantation seasonal
laborers. This enables small
farmers to work longer
hours (related to time and
distance for travel, but also
includes other incentives)
· Higher annual income – GSR’s small farm cooperative experience
corroborates increases income. Organic farming practices tend to be
labor intensive (which means they are well suited to small farms than to
plantations) but at the same time, result in a greater crop productivity and
profitability per acre.
The family farm model can sidestep many of the hurdles associated with
conventional models of the factory farm. Its low input farming approach makes
for sound sustainable practices while its greater social cohesion and group
solidarity within a rural community, reduces the stress of workload and gives
farmers a more satisfying sense of fulfillment in life.
Sustainable Restorative Agriculture (SRA)
As recently as 100 years ago many
festivals revolved around farming,
and it was among the primary
sources of cultural heritage and
enrichment. Now the small family
farm is little more than a distant
memory. Industrial sized and highly
mechanized plantations have taken
root and use unsustainable means to
drive food markets for the quickest
buck and the lowest cost. This leads
to depletion of nutrients in soil,
inevitably turning breadbaskets into wastelands. This vicious cycle must stop or
human civilization is doomed on a collision course to self-destruction. Every year
millions of more small family farms are losing the battle and leaving the farm
that their great grandparents derived a good living and a happy life. GSR is
dedicated to empowering small family farms around the world to outcompete
the conventional agri-business model with many post-industrial innovations in
techniques and technologies that can make farming on the same plot of land
almost indefinite. Long lasting prosperity can only be won through adaptation of
sustainable restorative agriculture methods.
GSR uses a hybrid approach to ensure that small family farms not only sustain
agricultural productivity but steadily improve fertility of soil. These techniques
are tried and tested cost-effective agricultural innovations, (techniques and
technologies) from around the world including permaculture, organic farming,
appropriate technologies and restorative agriculture. All of these methods of
farming have a common vein of trying to complement naturally occurring
processes and work well with budgetary constraints of small family farms,
especially in the developing world.
Permaculture is the result of a movement that began in the 1970’s when
Australia began experiencing drought conditions. Most of the farming techniques
are meant to conserve water and allow of robust harvests. Overtime
permaculturalists have began experimenting with other ways to improve
farming all around including techniques to decrease soil erosion (i.e. contour
farming and no-tillage farming) and planting in extreme heat or cold conditions.
Organic farming has many
forms, but the main consensus
is avoidance of the use of
pesticides which through
biomagnification lead to severe
health risks overtime. Although
some may consider organic
farming as a throwback to the
past (and hardly scientific)
there are many agronomists
who devote hours of research
to perfect new breeds of crops
(to improve biodiversity) that
can resist all kinds of pests and
weather conditions. The largest benefit of organic farming is the emphasis on
producing natural fertilizer with local sourced material. There have been great
strides in bio-digestion technologies in recent years aimed at allowing farmers to
sustain adequate to high levels of nutrients in the soil. Soil naturallygets depleted
if the same crops are planted in the soil year and year. Laboratory testing
indicates that “tired soil” produces “tired produce” – fruits and vegetables that
have only a fraction of the nutritive value of crops grown on soil using
restorative agriculture techniques.
Lastly sustainable agriculture is a set of techniques and principles that help
farmers stick to the equilibrium point of economic growth and local carrying
capacity. To put this into prospective, farmland gets depleted if the same crops
are planted in the soil year and year. After a while the land will have to be left
fallow (as is the case for conventional farming). However, in sustainable
agriculture we forsake the old monocrop model and work with typically 30+
crops on a plot of land. If we rotate the crops in a cycle that permits the nutrients
depleted to replenish, a farmer could indefinitely farm the same plot of land.
That conscientiousness is the crux and aim of sustain agriculture.
Restorative agriculture practitioners
gradually become expert in determining
which restorative agriculture techniques to
use on a particular piece of land yet it
requires a level of sophistication and
organization that is unprecedented for
rural communities in developing nations.
As yet they do not have access this
information or capital to jumpstart the
system. GSR aims to be that bridge that can
connect their world to the global marketplace of innovation and prosperity.
Nutrient Cycling in Agriculture
We often talk about the benefits of organic farming to conventional agriculture.
The basis for our arguments rests with the facts surrounding the nutrient cycle
and health. Without getting into the scientific detail we’d like to look at the
nutrient cycle and why organic farming can be considered a viable form of
sustainable agriculture. Sustainable implies that the process or technique is
stretched out and prolonged over a set duration of time, in this case
agriculturalists I referring to the productivity of a set area of farmland. In
addition to this simplistic of prolonging productivity, sustainable also means to