Arguably, the most important statement made in the entire TEEB report – and an appropriate quote to open this presentation with. If the needs and concerns of business are permitted to overtake those of natural capital (i.e. – the foundational infrastructure upon which economies/systems of wealth-creation are based), then we’re doomed to failure before we’ve even begun. There is no possible way for a system of this type to be successful – because it is willing to consume its primary, most asset to make money.An absolutely fatal contradiction and erroneous premise.Quoting E.F. Schumacher, author of the seminal text Small Is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered, from Chapter 1 - “The Problem of Production”:“A businessman would not consider a firm to have solved its problems of production and to have achieved viability if he saw that it was consuming its capital. How, then, could we overlook this fact when it comes to that very big firm, the economy of Spaceship Earth and, in particular, the economies of its rich passengers?One reason for overlooking this vital fact is that we are estranged from reality and inclined to treat as valueless everything we have not made ourselves.Now we have indeed laboured to make some of the capital which today helps to produce a large fund of scientific, technological, and other knowledge; an elaborate physical infrastructure; innumerable types of sophisticated capital equipment, etc. - but all this is but a small part of the total capital we are using.Far larger is the capital provided by nature and not by man - and we do not even recognize it as such. This larger part is now being used up at an alarming rate, and that is why it is an absurd and suicidal error to believe, and act on the belief, that the problem of production has been solved.”
The top 3 factors which have historically contributed to the collapse of past societies are, as noted by physiology & geography Professor Jared M. Diamond in his book,Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed (2005), happen to all be soil-related:1. Deforestation & habitat destruction2. Soil problems (such as erosion, salinization, and soil fertility losses)3. Water management problemsDiamond identifies five factors that contribute to collapse: climate change, hostile neighbors, collapse of essential trading partners, environmental problems, and failure to adapt to environmental issues.He also lists 12 environmental problems facing mankind today. The first eight have historically contributed to the collapse of past societies:1. Deforestation and habitat destruction2. Soil problems (erosion, salinization, and soil fertility losses)3. Water management problems4. Overhunting5. Overfishing6. Effects of introduced species on native species7. Overpopulation8. Increased per-capita impact of peopleFurther, he says four new factors may contribute to the weakening and collapse of present and future societies:1.Anthropogenic climate change2. Buildup of toxins in the environment3. Energy shortages4. Full human utilization of the Earth’s photosynthetic capacityThese points are supported by findings from Vernon Gill Carter and Tom Dale’s book “Topsoil & Civilization” (1955, 1975, 1976). Quoting from the text:
Quoting from Carter & Dale:“Civilised man has despoiled most of the lands on which he has lived for long. This is the main reason why his progressive civilisations have moved from place to place. It has been the chief cause for the decline of his civilisations in older settled regions. It has been the dominant factor in determining all trends of history…How did civilised man despoil this favourable environment? He did it mainly by depleting or destroying the natural resources.”These are critical points to consider given that soil has long been considered by those who understand its importance as being the very foundation of civilization.Continuing with Dale & Carter’s explanation, they state:He cut down or burned most of the usable timber from forested hillsides & valleys.He overgrazed and denuded the grasslands that fed his livestock.He killed most of the wildlife and much of the fish and water life.He permitted erosion to rob his farm land of its productive topsoil. He allowed eroded soil to clog the streams and fill his reservoirs, irrigation canals, and harbours with silt.In many cases, he used and wasted most of the easily mined metals or other needed minerals.Then his civilization declined amidst despoliation of his own creation or he moved to new land.There have been from ten to thirty different civilizations that have followed this road to ruin (the number depending on who classifies the civilizations). – Taken from page 109 of “Small Is Beautiful; Chapter 2 - The Proper Use of Land)
At present, conventional wisdom/common practice among investors and natural capital asset holders has been to sacrifice long-term viability of natural capital for short-term gain - which has invariably proven to be an ill-fated, self-defeating asset management strategy, as evidenced by the current state and condition of global natural capital assets in the form of natural ecosystems and the services they provide.The notion that a business can be seen as viable which consumes its most intrinsically valuable capital, one that actively degrades and destroys its primary asset & means of production in an effort to generate revenue and profit – one which “externalizes” its destructive effects, needs to be challenged and clearly discredited as being, in our opinion, patently absurd.
One of the most importantreports produced to date addressing the topic of biodiversity was released this past June 2010. The UNEP compiled the report “Dead Planet, Living Planet: Biodiversity & Ecosystem Restoration for Sustainable Development” to highlight the economic benefits gained by restoring damaged ecosystems and landscapes. The data provided in this document was collected by drawing on thousands of ecosystem restoration projects world-wide, showcasing 30 initiatives that are transforming the lives of communities and countries across the globe.This report underlines that far from being a tax on growth and development, many environmental investments in degraded, nature-based assets can generate substantial and multiple returns.
Quotingthe report:“Effective conservation is the cheapest and most optimal option for securing [ecosystem] services, costing only from tens to a few hundred USD per hectare.Indeed, restoration costs range from hundreds to thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of USD for every hectare restored, or over 10 fold that of effectively managed protected areas. These numbers, however, are dwarfed compared to thelong-term estimated costs of losing these ecosystem services.Well planned, appropriate restoration, compared to loss of ecosystem services, may provide benefit/cost ratios of 3–75 in return of investments and an internal rate of return of 7–79%, depending on the ecosystem restored and its economic context,thus providing in many cases some of the most profitable public investments including generation of jobs directly and indirectly related to an improved environment and health. Ecological restoration can further act as an engine of economy and a source of green employment.“Additionally, the market and non-market based value of agricultural land using RMPs is significantly higher than land using conventional, industrial, chemical-based management regimes.
Earth Repair Work is a means by which to establish (or re-establish) functional, stable, productive, and bio-diverse natural ecosystem infrastructure through intelligent natural capital asset management using what could broadly be called Recommended Management Practices, or RMPs. The following approaches are used to establish food security by designing productive landscapes that are not only sustainable – they are also regenerative, bringing dead land back to life.Specifically, some of these Recommended Management Practices include:Permaculture (Permanent Agriculture)Regenerative AgricultureBiological FarmingCarbon FarmingHolistic ManagementKeyline DesignPasture CroppingFarmer Managed Natural RegenerationThe extensive use biologically active soil amendments, such as compost & compost teasWater-harvesting earthworksBio/Myco/Phyto-Remediation technologies
According to the UNEP, [ecosystem ] services have been estimated to be worth over 21–72 trillion USD every year– comparable to the World Gross National Income of 58 trillion USD in 2008.Loss of biodiversity results in serious reductions in the goods (such as food, medicines and building materials) and the services (such as clean water and nutrient cycling) that the earth’s ecosystems can provide and that make economic prosperity and human survival possible.
The Global Environmental & Ecological Crisis can be understood at a practical level to be a symptom of Global Natural Capital Mismanagement.The ecosystem services that are provided by the natural world form the basis of all wealth creation - an investor's true primary asset. Given this premise - from the basis of asset management - it makes little sense to degrade & destroy your primary asset in an effort to make money.Logically speaking, one would do everything possible to either save or conserve the asset's value (at the very least) or improve its condition, subsequent worth and continued productivity (which would be the ideal).If we can see how natural ecosystems and the services they provide are the very foundation of our ability to create wealth, it makes perfect sense for us to conclude that industries could be created that have as its explicitly stated goal the maintenance and improvement of these vital natural ecosystems.In short, whatever money is currently made through the destruction of natural capital assets pales in comparison to what could be generated by way of its enhancement.
We are asking an important question: Why choose to live in a world of self-imposed scarcity when you can have one of effortless abundance?...and it is a choice.
“Governments and international agencies urgently need to boost ecological farming techniques to increase food production and save the climate,” said UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Olivier De Schutter, while presenting the findings at an international meeting on agroecology held in Brussels on 21 and 22 June.Along with 25 of the world’s most renowned experts on agroecology, the UN expert urged the international community to re-think current agricultural policies and build on the potential of agroecology. “One year ago, Heads of States at the G20 gathering in Italy committed to mobilizing $22 billion over a period of three years to improve global food security. This was welcome news, but the most pressing issue regarding reinvestment in agriculture is not how much, but how,” Mr. De Schutter said. The widest study ever conducted on agroecological approaches (Jules Pretty, Professor of Environment and Society at the University of Essex, UK) covered 286 projects in 57 developing countries, representing a total surface of 37 million hectares: the average crop yield gain was 79%. Concrete examples of ‘agroecological success stories’ abound in Africa. —The United Nations Office at GenevaIn a number of articles authored by Professor Pretty, he has made specific mention of permaculture as one of the design strategies and systems worthy of attention and consideration which utilizes the agroecological approach being endorsed.http://permaculture.org.au/2011/02/25/the-need-for-sustainable-agriculture-its-so-obvious-and-inevitable-that-even-the-un-has-to-admit-it/
'The Desertification Synthesis, based on a sound summary of scientific evidence, states that desertification must imperatively be addressed to meet the Millennium Development Goals of the United Nations. Desertification must be fought at all levels, but this battle must ultimately be won at the local level. There is evidence that success is possible. All the while, this report makes it now clearer that this phenomenon is embedded in a global chain of causality and that its impact is felt far beyond the boundaries of affected areas,' said Hama ArbaDiallo, Executive Secretary of the UNCCD. "The Millennium Assessment found that dryland systems in developing countries are the regions where people are experiencing the greatest problems from the breakdown in the supply of ecosystem services. And the ecological, social, and economic impacts of desertification can affect not just the people living in drylands, but also countries far removed from those regions," said Walter Reid, Director of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment.
Land degradation is also due to extended periods of drought or climate change leading to a permanent reduction of rainfall or timing of rains. Before large populations moved into arid lands, the natural variability of rainfall and climate change caused deserts to grow and shrink. Of the two primary causes of degradation, human activity, especially political ineptitude dominates. Drought mainly amplifies the human influence.DroughtDrought is a normal, recurrent feature of climate, although many erroneously consider it a rare and random event. It occurs in virtually all climatic zones, but its characteristics vary significantly from one region to another. Drought is a temporary aberration; it differs from aridity, which is restricted to low rainfall regions and is a permanent feature of climate.From National Drought Mitigation Center's web page on What is Drought?There are several important types of drought, each of which depends on the duration of the reduction of precipitation:Meteorological drought, which is determined by the rainfall, temperature, and evaporation, including evapotranspiration. The Palmer Drought Severity Index and the Standardized Precipitation Index are both widely used indices in this category.Rainfall is usually very irregular in semi-arid regions. Rain tends to fall in some seasons, but not in others. There are large variations in rainfall from year to year.Higher temperatures cause rapid evaporation of water from the surface and from lakes. Agricultural drought, which is determined by soil water availability and plant stress. Hydrological drought, which is determined by stream flow, storage in reservoirs, groundwater levels, soil moisture, and snow pack.http://oceanworld.tamu.edu/resources/oceanography-book/aridlanddegradation.html
There have been documented rates of topsoil formation of 15 -20 tonnes per hectare per year (15 - 20 times faster than unmanaged formation) using Recommended Management Practices (RMPs). Healthy groundcover, high root biomass and high levels of associated microbial activity, are fundamental to the success of any technique for building new topsoil.If the appropriate land management (i.e. - natural capital asset management) practices are well chosen and utilized, evidence of new topsoil formation can be seen within 12 months, with quite dramatic effects often observed within 3 years. These rates of formation are very likely to be accelerated & enhanced if investment dollars are made available to those people, organizations, and businesses working on these techniques and strategies.
In addition to enhancing nutrient availability, carbon performs many other functions in soil, including the maintenance of soil porosity, aeration and water-holding capacity.For every 1% increase (in absolute terms) in the level of soil organic carbon, this equates to 168,000 litres of water that could be stored per hectare, in addition to the water-holding capacity of the soil itself (Jones 2006).The flip side is that the same amount of water-holding capacity will be lost when soil carbon levels fall. Low soil moisture and low levels of soil organic carbon go hand in hand. Soil organic carbon levels in many areas have fallen by at least 3% (in absolute terms) since the time of European settlement, This reduction in soil carbon content represents the LOSS of the ability of soil to store around 504,000 litres of water per hectare.This explains much of what we see happening with the increased incidence of floods, droughts, fires, and extreme weather do to the interruption of the water cycle.
We’ve been deluded into believing being a little less bad & marginally less destructive is an acceptable solution - as seen by all the attention paid to, and satisfaction many seem to gain from, discussing the merits of: energy efficient light bulbs and appliances, hybrid vehicles, green skyscrapers, cap & trade of carbon, and recycling. There is an urgent need for all of us to immediately become active, positive elements on the planet - instead of just ‘less bad’.At this point, conservation of ecology & biodiversity is not enough. Being “sustainable” is problematic, as well – it suggests neutrality or maintaining a constant level or state. We need ecological regeneration in a world with a growing population, and a growing demand on an increasingly degraded ecological resource base from which to operate.
A perfect example of an Earth Repair/Ecosystem Restoration Work project that more than answers questions some may have about scaleability would be The Loess Plateau Watershed Rehabilitation Project, sponsored and co-led by The World Bank’s International Development Agency.Investment:$500,000,000 USD Area Covered:35,000 square kilometres (3.5 million hectares)Investment per unit area: $142.86 USD per hectare
Soil erosion often results from the demand-driven expansion of cultivation onto marginal land. Over the last century or so there were massive cropland expansions in two countries -- the United States and the Soviet Union -- and both ended in disaster. During the late 19th century, millions of Americans pushed westward, homesteading on the Great Plains, plowing vast areas of grassland to produce wheat. Much of this land -- highly erodible when plowed -- should have remained in grass. This overexpansion culminated in the 1930s Dust Bowl, a traumatic period chronicled in John Steinbeck’s novel The Grapes of Wrath. In a crash program to save its soils, the United States returned large areas of eroded cropland to grass, adopted strip-cropping, and planted thousands of miles of tree shelterbelts. The second major expansion came in the Soviet Union beginning in the mid-1950s. In an all-out effort to expand grain production, the Soviets plowed an area of grassland larger than the wheat area of Australia and Canada combined. The result, as Soviet agronomists had predicted, was an ecological disaster -- another Dust Bowl. Kazakhstan, where the plowing was concentrated, has abandoned 40 percent of its grainland since 1980. On the remaining cultivated land, the wheat yield per acre is one-sixth of that in France, Western Europe’s leading wheat producer.http://www.grist.org/article/civilizations-foundation-eroding
For example:According to University of Illinois researchersled by professors Richard Mulvaney, Saeed Khan, and Tim Ellsworth:The net effect of synthetic nitrogen use is to reduce soil's organic matter content. Synthetic nitrogen is one of the products consider part of the agricultural global megatrend.As organic matter dissipates, soil's ability to store organic nitrogen declines. A large amount of nitrogen then leaches away, fouling ground water in the form of nitrates, and entering the atmosphere as nitrous oxide (N2O), a greenhouse gas with some 300 times the heat-trapping power of carbon dioxide. In turn, with its ability to store organic nitrogen compromised, only one thing can help heavily fertilized farmland keep cranking out monster yields: more additions of synthetic N.The loss of organic matter has other ill effects, the researchers say. Injured soil becomes prone to compaction, which makes it vulnerable to runoff and erosion and limits the growth of stabilizing plant roots. Worse yet, soil has a harder time holding water, making it ever more reliant on irrigation. As water becomes scarcer, this consequence of widespread synthetic N use will become more and more challenging.http://www.grist.org/article/2010-02-23-new-research-synthetic-nitrogen-destroys-soil-carbon-undermines-
From November 2000 (Can Organic Farming “Feed the World”? by Christos Vasilikiotis, Ph.D.):Modern industrial agricultural – which forms the foundation for biotech – ranks as such a dismal failure that even Monsanto holds them up as the evil alternative."The commercial industrial technologies that are used in agriculture today to feed the world... are not inherently sustainable,“ Monsanto CEO Robert Shapiro told the Greenpeace Business Conference recently. "They have not worked well to promote either self-sufficiency or food security in developing countries." Feeding the world sustainably "is out of the question with current agricultural practice," Shapiro told the Society of Environmental Journalists in 1995. "Loss of topsoil, of salinity of soil as a result of irrigation, and ultimate reliance on petrochemicals ... are, obviously, not renewable. That clearly isn't sustainable."Shapiro is referring to the 30-year-old "Green Revolution" which has featured an industrial farming system that biotech would build on:the breeding of new crop varieties that could effectively use massive inputs of chemical fertilizers, and the use of toxic pesticides. As Shapiro has hinted, it has led to some severe environmental consequences, including loss of topsoil, decrease in soil fertility, surface and ground water contamination, and loss of genetic diversity.Do we really need to embark upon another risky technological fix to solve the mistakes of a previous one? Instead, we should be looking for solutions that are based on ecological and biological principles and have significantly fewer environmental costs. There is such an alternative that has been pioneered by organic farmers. In contrast to the industrial/monoculture approach advocated by the biotech industry, organic agriculture is described by the United Nations Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO) as "a holistic production management system which promotes and enhances agro-ecosystem health, including biodiversity, biological cycles, and soil biological activity.“http://www.agroeco.org/doc/organic_feed_world.pdf
From Bloomberg 7 May2010:Arab countries need to invest $144 billion in agriculture between now and 2030 to meet the demand for food for their growing populations, said an Arab official.(SOURCE: Bloomberg Businessweek, 10 May 2010 – “Arab World Needs $144 Billion to Meet Food Needs, Official Says”)http://www.businessweek.com/news/2010-05-07/arab-world-needs-144-billion-to-meet-food-needs-official-says.htmlhttp://www.arabianbusiness.com/arab-world-needs-144bn-meet-food-needs-201534.htmlhttp://farmlandgrab.org/post/view/12899
From Reuters 7 April 2010:“Climate change, burgeoning populations and poor land management have contributed to accelerating desertification, exacerbating Arab countries' food supply problems. Across Arab states and Africa…investment worth at least $60 billion is needed to secure sufficient food supplies.”“We expect that if climate change and desertification continue at this pace, in the next five years, we will not have enough food to supply demand," (SOURCE: Reuters Africa, 7 April 2010 – “African land grab not a cure to Arab food concerns”)http://www.arabianbusiness.com/african-land-grab-not-cure-arab-food-concerns-155641.htmlhttp://af.reuters.com/article/topNews/idAFJOE6360F320100407
Indeed, for years now, a steady stream of reports has emerged from the development agencies calling for new directions. In 2008, the U.N. Conference on Trade and Development and the U.N. Environment Program issued a paper [PDF] called "Organic Agriculture and Food Security in Africa." It reads like a direct refutation of The Economist's claims. The report concludes:“Organic agriculture can increase agricultural productivity and can raise incomes with low-cost, locally available and appropriate technologies, without causing environmental damage. Furthermore, evidence shows that organic agriculture can build up natural resources, strengthen communities and improve human capacity, thus improving food security by addressing many different causal factors simultaneously ... Organic and near-organic agricultural methods and technologies are ideally suited for many poor, marginalized smallholder farmers in Africa, as they require minimal or no external inputs, use locally and naturally available materials to produce high-quality products, and encourage a whole systemic approach to farming that is more diverse and resistant to stress.”That same year, the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) issued a report [PDF] that echoed those conclusions. Entitled "Mitigating Climate Change, Providing Food Security and Self-Reliance for Rural Livelihoods," the report points to the Tigray area of Ethiopia, "previously known as one of the most degraded Regions of Ethiopia." There, more than 20,000 farming families saw yields of major cereals and pulses nearly double "using ecological agricultural practices such as composting, water and soil conservation activities, agroforestry, and crop diversification" -- even as "the use of chemical fertilizers ... steadily decreased." The phaseout of synthetic and mined fertilizers was key, because "most poor farmers, particularly in degraded lands and in market-marginalized areas, are not able to afford external inputs," the report states.At a conference in 2009, the FAO once again bluntly contradicted the conventional wisdom. "In the name of intensification in many places around the world, farmers over-ploughed, over-fertilized, over-irrigated, over-applied pesticides," ShivajiPandey, director of FAO's Plant Production and Protection Division, declared. "But in so doing we also affected all aspects of the soil, water, land, biodiversity and the services provided by an intact ecosystem. That began to bring yield growth rates down.“Just last week, the U.N. Environment Program yet again came out against Big Ag, this time as part of its broad Green Economy initiative. The agency released an advance copy of a report called "Agriculture: Investing in Natural Capital." It amounts to a blistering assault on the agribusiness-as-usual model. It briskly names the main problems with the goal of spreading U.S.-style industrial agriculture to the global south:Conventional/industrial agriculture is energy- and input-intensive. Its high productivity relies on the extensive use of petrochemical fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides, fuel, water, and continuous new investment (e.g. in advanced seed varieties and machinery).In place of the industrial model, the report calls for what it terms "green agriculture," characterized by low-tech, high-skilled methods like "restoring and enhancing soil fertility through the increased use of naturally and sustainably produced nutrient inputs; diversified crop rotations; and livestock and crop integration." In other words, the basic tenants of organic agriculture, which were developed by an English plant pathologist drawing on the methods of Indian peasant farmers in the first half of the 20th century (Sir Albert Howard).
The world will not be able to feed itself without destroying the planet unless a transformation on the scale of the industrial revolution takes place, a major government report has concluded.The existing food system is failing half of the people on Earth, the report finds, with 1 billion going hungry, 1 billion lacking crucial vitamins and minerals from their diet and another billion "substantially overconsuming", leading to obesity epidemics. Stresses on the food system are reflected in price spikes but the cost of food will rise sharply in coming decades, the report adds, which will increase the risk of conflict and migration."The global food system is spectacularly bad at tackling hunger or at holding itself to account," said Lawrence Haddad, director of the Institute of Development Studies and an author of the Global Food and Farming Futures report. An expanding world population combined with the need to stop over-exploiting natural resources such as soil and water means there is a compelling case for urgent action, the report states. Food is responsible for up to 30% of global greenhouse gas emissions."We need to act now," said Caroline Spelman, the secretary of state for environment, food and rural affairs, whose department co-commissioned the report from the government's futures thinktank Foresight. "Farmers have to grow more food at less cost to the environment.“The report, conducted by 400 scientists from 34 countries, found thatfood security is inextricably linked with seemingly diverse issues from poverty and economic growth, to water and energy shortages, to climate change and biodiversity loss. "The world has not recognised that this linking is essential" to meeting the challenge of feeding 2 billion more people by 2050 but with less environmental impact, said the government's chief scientific adviser, John Beddington, who oversaw the report. "It is not just science and technology, trade and prices – it is much bigger than that.“http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/jan/24/global-food-system-report
“Today, most efforts are made towards large-scale investments in land – including many instances of land grabbing – and towards a ‘Green Revolution’ model to boost food production: improved seeds, chemical fertilisers and machines,” the Special Rapporteur remarked. “But scant attention has been paid to agroecological methods that have been shown to improve food production and farmers’ incomes, while at the same time protecting the soil, water, and climate.”“We can scale up these sustainable models of agriculture, and ensure that they work for the benefit of the poorest farmers. What is needed now is political will to move from successful pilot projects to nation-wide policies,” the UN Special Rapporteur said. In conclusion, he announced that he would ask the Committee on World Food Security – what should become in time the ‘Security Council’ for food security – to work during its October session on the policy levers to scale up agroecology. “This is the best option we have today. We can’t afford not to use it.”- Agroecological farming approaches include agroforestry (interplanting trees and crops on the same parcel), biological control (controlling pests and diseases with natural predators), water harvesting methods, intercropping, green manure cover crops, mixed crop and livestock management, and many other practices. One feature uniting all of the above advances is the low use of external inputs.Olivier De Schutter was appointed the Special Rapporteur on the right to food in May 2008 by the United Nations Human Rights Council. He is independent from any government or organization.http://groundswellinternational.org/2010/06/30/the-contribution-of-agroecological-approaches-to-meet-2050-global-food-needs/http://www.unog.ch/unog/website/news_media.nsf/(httpNewsByYear_en)/8658E9837171C014C125774A004F9ED2?OpenDocument
http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/jan/13/world-hunger-small-scale-agricultureThe key to alleviating world hunger, poverty and combating climate change may lie in fresh, small-scale approaches to agriculture, according to a report from the Worldwatch Institute.The US-based institute's annual State of the World report, published yesterday, calls for a move away from industrial agriculture and discusses small-scale initiatives in sub-Saharan Africa that work towards poverty and hunger relief in an environmentally sustainable way.The authors suggest that instead of producing more food to meet the world's growing population needs, a more effective way to address food security issues and climate change would be to encourage self-sufficiency and waste reduction, in wealthier and poorer nations alike."If we shift just some of our attention away from production to consumption issues and reducing food waste, we might actually get quite a big bang for our buck, because that ground has been neglected," said Brian Halweil, co-director of the project.
For more than a century, economists have predicted the demise of the small farm, which they label "backward, unproductive and inefficient". But in fact, far from being stuck in the past, small-farm agriculture provides a productive, efficient and ecological vision for the future.If small farms are worth preserving, then now is the time to educate the world's economists and policy-makers about why we should do so.The Arguments for Small FarmsIn arguing the case for the continuation--indeed, for a resurgence--of small farms, it is important to note three key points. The first point is that, though small farmers have been driven out of rural areas across the world in their millions over the last five decades, they still persist. In many areas, such as the US, they continue to be numerically dominant. In the 'Third world', they are central to the production of staple foods. The predictions of their demise continue to be premature.The second point is that small farms are far from being as unproductive or inefficient as many economists would have us believe. In fact--crucially--there is ample evidence that a small-farm model of agricultural development can produce far more food than a large-farm pattern ever could.The third point is that small farms have multiple functions which benefit both society and the biosphere, and go far beyond the production of a particular commodity. These should be seriously valued and considered before we blithely accept yet another round of anti-small-farm policy measures handed down by the WTO and its client governments.Small-Farm Virtues in the USAPerhaps surprisingly, the US government--one of the most committed to liberalisation and corporate agriculture in the world--agrees with my analysis of the virtues of small farms. The US Department of Agriculture's (USDA) National Commission on Small Farms released a landmark report in 1998 entitled A Time to Act.  what the USDA calls the "public value of small farms" in this report includes:Diversity: Small farms embody a diversity of ownership, of cropping systems, of landscapes, of biological organisation, culture and traditions. A varied farm structure contributes to biodiversity, a diverse and aesthetically-pleasing rural landscape, and open space.Environmental benefits: Responsible management of the natural resources of soil, water and wildlife on the 60 per cent of all US farms less than 180 acres in size, produces significant environmental benefits.Empowerment and community responsibility: Decentralised land-ownership produces more-equitable economic opportunity for people in rural areas. This can provide a greater sense of personal responsibility and feeling of control over one's life. Landowners who rely on local businesses and services for their needs are also more likely to have a stake in the well-being of the community and its citizens.Personal Connection to Food: Most consumers have little connection to agriculture and, as a consequence, they have little connection with nature, and lack an appreciation of the farmer's role. Through farmers' markets and community-supported agriculture, consumers can connect with the people growing their food.Economic foundations: In various states and regions of the US, small farms are vital to the economy.Small Is Bountiful Peter Rosset / The Ecologist, v.29, i.8, Dec99http://www.mindfully.org/Farm/Small-Farm-Benefits-Rosset.htm
For example, CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) operations routinely utilize ANTS.According to a January 2005 study conducted by the Leopold Centre for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University titled "Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) in the Midwest United States: A regional characterization":"CSA may minimize some of the negative effects of more conventional systems of food production and distribution because it involves less chemical use, less soil erosion, less food packaging, fewer food miles and more crop and ecosystem diversity.""Average net return per acre for these CSA farmers is $2,467. This figure is quite high when compared to return per acre of corn ($172.11), soybeans ($134.46) and wheat ($38.10) in the United States.“ (USDA)In other words, the CSA farmer is making over 14x more than the conventional corn farmer , over 18x more than the conventional soybean farmer, and almost 65x more than the conventional wheat farmer makes per acre.Some CSA farmers routinely report returns as high as $20,000 per acre.
We are ultimately aiding in the evolution of soil formation & structure to become the foundation upon which productive landscapes are built – just as it happens in self-managing ecosystems like forests, jungles, mangroves, and grasslands.Our practical goal is to create designs that self-regulate/ self-manage - just like ecosystems do. Without pollutants. Without unnecessary extra work.The purpose of a functional & self-regulating design is to place elements or components in such a way that each serves the needs, andaccepts the products, of other elements.
The are typically characterized by biodiversepolycultures made up of mostly perennial, tree-based productive species integrated along with annual species and managed livestock. They also utilize no-till agricultural methods to benefit soil structure and carbon sequestration capabilities.2,000 Year Old Food Forest in Moroccohttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hftgWcD-1NwEstablishing Regenerative PracticesLong-term agricultural policies must be guided by three imperatives: 1) reverse fossil energy dependence and once again become a net source of energy; 2) stop erosion and begin to regenerate soil; and 3) meet human food needs. There is increasing evidence that regenerative agriculture can produce more food with less energy than industrial agriculture, while increasing the health of soils (15,16).Regenerative agriculture(17) allows natural systems to maintain their own fertility, build soil, resist pests and diseases and be highly productive. Regenerative agriculture uses the natural dynamics of the ecosystem to construct agricultural systems that yield for human consumption. Regenerative methods regenerate the soil, the fertility, and the energy consumed in semi-closed nutrient cycles, and by capturing, harvesting and reusing resources such as sun, rain, and nutrients that fall within the farm’s boundary. Other terms refer to similar principles, such as natural farming, permaculture, agro-ecology, integrated agriculture, perennial polyculture, wholistic management, forest gardening, natural systems agriculture and sustainable agriculture.Successful regenerative practices are used by small landholders capable of managing more intensive and complex systems which rely on the integration of crop-animal-human functions, use of perennial species, and the growing of multiple crops in the same field (18). Many of these practices are based on traditional cultural land-use practices, but others are newly forged systems.http://www.energybulletin.net/50316
Geoff described a biodiverse plant procession starting with leguminous and other support species, interspersed with crop sections, to create a biodiverse system of alternating crop/tree corridors – with a trellised swale running through each food forest section. He spoke of the necessary orientation of the system so the trees and bushes will protect crops from the harsh prevailing winds and afternoon sun. He described how the support species will ultimately give way to a succession of protective and productive food forest bushes and trees, which will themselves be crowned with a date palm overstory.Such a design as this allows natural soil creation processes to blossom. Leaf litter from the food forest and crop residues can combine to create humus rich soils – which in turn gives health and vitality to plants, making them less attractive to ‘pests’, and enabling the soil to hold much higher moisture levels. The plant biodiversity allows beneficial workers (insects) to take up residence and keep any of their kind from becoming ‘pests‘. Their human counterpart, the farm labourers, will also benefit from a much improved and shaded environment.A grid of swales will be fed from a tree-shaded pond (deep and narrow to reduce evaporation) that is fed from the aquifer. This pond will overflow into the swales and can be diverted through simple gates. The swale ends will have a swivel flush pipe so swales can be drained during flood events, or to pass water on to the next section.Drip lines for initial food forest establishment and for ongoing maintenance of the crop rows will be supplied from computer controlled solar-powered, batteryless pumps.Salad and other annuals and perennials can be positioned in the crop sections according to their respective shade needs and sun tolerance – with respect to the sun’s aspect over the fields.Beginning with a high proportion of ‘non productive’ support species, soil, water and humidity conditions will arise to nurse food crops into vitality – allowing these to establish and grow until the proportion of non-food plants can shrink to virtually nil.http://permaculture.org.au/2010/8/6/letters-from-jordan-on-consultation-at-jordans-largest-farm-and-contemplating-transition/The very flat landscape profiles of many deserts used for broad acre production allows for swale depth adjustment and then parallel swale lines within the appropriate area of required shelter. In this way the restriction of length also restricts the increment size for crop area repetition which is so important and necessary in such extreme environments. To achieve a sustainable stable result using mostly productive crops and mostly productive trees we need to be using smaller crop fields surrounded by these trees, especially in the effect of wind shelter and wind born nutrient harvest, reduction of evaporation, organic matter, and addition of condensation. So there is a limit to length of a sustainable crop field even one that is of appropriate width. Machinery will have to be adapted to landscape because landscape will not adapt to machinery. In the same way Allan Savory has adapted the pattern observed of the movement of natural herds of animals on dry lands being tight packed grazing off areas quickly to domestic animal grazing patterns and it is beneficial to the environment of dry lands. Observations of the patterns and size ratios of the natural banded vegetation patterns in drylands which have been studied since the 1950’s with aerial photography is useful in designing dry land crop fields and their surrounding tree belts mostly on contour for a permanent and sustainable productive landscape design.Banded Vegetation Patterning in Arid and Semiarid Environments, Ecological Processes and Consequences for Management, Ecological Studies 149, edited by David J, Tongway, Christian Valentin, JosianeSeghieri
A great example of how the use of polycultures in creating productive landscapes is provided by this article highlighting the benefits of using nitrogen-fixing Acacia trees integrated with other crops.Quoting the piece:“With its nitrogen fixing qualities, the tall, long-lived acacia tree could limit the use of fertilizers; provide fodder for livestock, wood for construction and fuel wood, and medicine through its bark, as well as windbreaks and erosion control to farmers across sub-Saharan Africa. The tree illustrates the benefits of growing trees on farms, and is adapted to an incredibly wide array of climates and soils from the deserts to the humid tropics.”http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/08/090824182535.htm
Similarly, this article notes the significant benefit to be gained by using nitrogen fixing trees by stating:“The trees bolster nutrient supply, increase food crop yields, and enhance the production of fodder, fuel and timber. These systems also provide additional income to farmers from tree products, while at the same time storing much greater amounts of carbon than other agricultural systems.For example, farmers in Malawi have increased their maize yields by up to 280 percent when the crop is grown under a canopy of one particular fertilizing tree, Faidherbiaalbida (an Acacia species)”http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/11/101102083149.htm
Here are actual examples of these systems ranging in age from 6 months to 5 years in development.
Example of food forest before planting upon preparing for installation & establishment
Growth after approximately 18-24months.
3 – 4 years into development
In total, there are nearly 2 Billion Hectares of net primary production capacity globally that is effectively unavailable, or at the very least considered far less than optimal due to Human-Induced Land Degradation. That’s an enormous amount of profit & revenue-generating potential being squandered unnecessarily.According to the UN FAO Statistical Database, there are 5 billion hectares of agricultural land worldwide. There are 1.5 - 1.8 billion hectares of cultivated land worldwide. Again, a significant percentage of that cultivated land is characterized as being moderately to severely degraded (estimated to be as high as 80%)– with annual losses of viable agricultural land estimated to range from 5 – 20 million hectares.
Permaculture in Somalia: Overview of Agroecological Natural Technology Systems (ANTS) Compiled by T. Rhamis Kent for PRI Australia (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Major threats facing the environment in Somalia include: Burning of forests and the uprooting of mature trees for charcoal to be exported for hard currency. Due to poor maintenance and fuel shortages for major water rig points that are now almost idle, nomads overpopulate areas with water wells & bore holes (etc.) leading to severe land degradation in those areas. Lack of properly graded roads leads to truckers and private cars choosing to drive on virgin land leading to hundreds of kilometres of dead, dusty, and useless land. This also contributes to the creation of dry rivers and canyons that spoil pasture land. Wildlife is poached without any mercy with most emigrating to neighbouring countries. Lack of renewable energy sources results in heavy dependency on wood/charcoal for cooking.
Major threats facing the environment in Somalia include (cont.): Heavy felling of trees by nomads for sheltering livestock. As 70% of Somalis are nomads following the rains, their constant movement increases the need for more shelters for both humans and livestock which in turn leads to more trees being felled. Foreign industrial scale fishing fleets using seabed trawling nets. The recently introduced habit of dumping nuclear and toxic waste on or close to Somalia’s shores has been too slowly addressed. Physical degradation that mainly refers to soil loss and erosion includes phenomena such as the deposition of undesirable sediments, deteriorating soil structure and increased stoniness.
“- there are no economies without environments, but there are environments without economies.” - The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) Report
Most Commonly Cited Causes of Civilizational Collapse (J. Diamond, V.G. Carter, Tom Dale) Deforestation & habitat destruction 2. Soil problems (such as erosion, salinization, and soil fertility losses) 3. Water management problems * All directly related to soil health
“The most meaningful indicator for the health of the land, and the long term wealth of a nation, is whether soil is being formed or lost. If soil is being lost, so too is the economic and ecological foundation on which production and conservation are based.” - Dr. Christine Jones, respected Australian Soil Scientist
Investment Opportunities (cont.) The Land = The Product According to the UNEP report “Dead Planet, Living Planet: Biodiversity and Ecosystem Restoration for Sustainable Development” Ecosystem Restoration:
Land = Natural Resources = Ecosystem Services = Natural Capital Assets Degraded Land/Loss of Ecosystem Services = Loss of Production Capacity Loss of Production Capacity = Loss of Revenue/Profit Symptom of Global Natural Capital Asset Mismanagement Global Environmental & Ecological Crisis =
Investment Opportunities The Land = The Product Imposed Scarcity VS. Effortless Abundance
"Research efforts in the soil science arena have concentrated on reducing the rate of soil loss. The concept of building new topsoil is rarely considered.” - Dr. Christine Jones, Australian Soil Scientist
Connection between Soil Organic Carbon & Water Soil Organic Carbon (as humus) = Water holding capacity Every 1% increase in humus = storage of 168,000 litres of water per hectare Most soil organic carbon levels have fallen 3% in absolute terms Represents a storage loss of 504,000 litres of water per hectare
“Man's work with Nature that furthers Nature's aims is the work that rewards him the best.” - The I Ching
The inescapable interconnectedness of agriculture’s different roles
Moving Beyond Conservation to Regeneration Thinking Regenerating What Has Been Lost Conserving What Is Left VS. Example: The Loess Plateau Watershed Restoration Project
The Loess Plateau Watershed Rehabilitation Project (The World Bank International Development Agency) Investment:$500,000,000 USD Area Covered:35,000 square kilometres (3.5 million hectares) Investment per unit area: $142.86 USD per hectare Results:More than 2.5 million people in four of China’s poorest provinces – Shanxi, Shaanxi and Gansu, as well as the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region – were lifted out of poverty. Through the introduction of sustainable farming practices, farmers’ incomes doubled, employment diversified and the degraded environment was revitalized. The projects’ principles have been adopted and replicated widely. It is estimated that as many as 20 million people have benefited from the replication of the approach throughout China.
Quoting Robert Shapiro, CEO of Monsanto: "The commercial industrial technologies that are used in agriculture today to feed the world... are not inherently sustainable,“ Monsanto CEO Robert Shapiro told the Greenpeace Business Conference recently. "They have not worked well to promote either self-sufficiency or food security in developing countries." Feeding the world sustainably "is out of the question with current agricultural practice," Shapiro told the Society of Environmental Journalists in 1995. "Loss of topsoil, of salinity of soil as a result of irrigation, and ultimate reliance on petrochemicals ... are, obviously, not renewable. That clearly isn't sustainable."
Benefits of Using ANTS For example, CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) operations routinely utilize RMPs. "CSA may minimize some of the negative effects of more conventional systems of food production and distribution because it involves less chemical use, less soil erosion, less food packaging, fewer food miles and more crop and ecosystem diversity." "Average net return per acre for these CSA farmers is $2,467. This figure is quite high when compared to return per acre of corn ($172.11), soybeans ($134.46) and wheat ($38.10) in the United States.“ (USDA)