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Trails of Regeneration: Agroforestry Works With Nature, Uses Trees to Grow Food

BRUSSELS, BELGIUM – In our latest “Trails of Regeneration” episode, we explore the roots of agroforestry and how industrial agriculture has pushed aside ancient farming practices that produce healthy food while also caring for the environment. 

The old saying “nature knows best” rings true when it comes to agriculture. Working with nature instead of against it is a mindset that dates back early in human history when farmers relied on ancestral knowledge and traditions to grow food. 

Our new episode, “Agroforestry Today Part 1: A Brief History of Agroforestry,” features Patrick Worms, senior science policy advisor for the Nairobi-based World Agroforestry Centre and president of the European Agroforestry Federation.

Agroforestry is a form of agriculture that incorporates trees and shrubs with food crops. It puts nature first and is one of the most ancient forms of farming. Agroforestry considers the natural landscape and the integration of trees to create a food system with environmental, social and economic benefits. 

Worms has spent decades researching and developing agroforestry systems around the world. He is one of a handful of political and scientific agroforestry lobbyists in Brussels and elsewhere in Europe where he lends his expertise on agricultural policies.

Agroforestry: The art of reading a landscape to enhance agricultural productivity 

In a Zoom interview with Regeneration International, Worms explained how the introduction of modern technology in the agricultural sectorthink pesticides, synthetic fertilizers and farming equipment such as tractors, plows and combineshas in many ways brought thousands of years of agricultural evolution using trees to a standstill. 

The bright side is that as the limitations of industrialized agriculture become more obvious, we are rediscovering the wisdom of ancient agroforestry knowledge, said Worms. 

At the World Agroforestry Centre, Worms is working on new ways to implement agroforestry systems worldwide and in regions faced with food shortages and the impacts of climate change and desertification. 

Trees have proven to be an important resource through human history. Trees provide food and fuel, help fertilize soils and protect farmland from pests, diseases and extreme weather conditions. 

Combining trees, shrubs and grasses with food crops and livestock creates a functional ecosystem that’s efficient at producing a variety of healthy foods. In the featured video, Worms explains that natural landscapes where fruits and grasses grow together almost always have trees in them. 

Farmers learned early on the benefits of growing food alongside trees

Farmers who saved and planted seeds harvest after harvest learned early on that trees are beneficial when grown with certain food crops, said Worms. A good example of this exists in the high plateaus of Papua New Guinea, an island researchers believe is where the banana was first domesticated

Humans first settled in Papua New Guinea about 50,000 to 60,000 years ago. Despite the cool-to-cold climate, agriculture was in full swing in the region’s highlands by 7,000 B.C. The environment, dotted with swamps and rich in flora and fauna, helped make it one of the few areas of original plant domestication in the world. 

Early foods systems such as those in Papua New Guinea are prime examples of ancient agroforestry, said Worms, adding: 

“If you look at those landscapes, they are typical agroforestry landscapes with multi-strata gardens, annuals on the ground, vines climbing along with trees, mid-level shrubs and taller trees with animals and crops in between.”

Agroforestry is practiced throughout ancient human history

Examples of agroforestry systems span the globe throughout human history. From the domestication of the cacao tree in Central and Latin America, to the fig treewhich originated in southwest Asia and is one of the oldest fruits eaten by humansagroforestry systems have produced some of today’s most popular foods.

Early humans that practiced agroforestry developed successful farming systems not because they had scientists in white lab coats, but because they had a constant process of trial and error. The good things were adopted and passed on, and the bad things were abandoned, said Worms, adding: 

“But modernity has swept that away. Knowledge that was painstakingly gained by millennia of our ancestors has completely disappeared.”

Replacing farming practices based on thousands of years of ancestral knowledge with chemical-dependent industrial agriculture has degraded the soil, eliminated biodiversity, stripped food of essential nutrients and enslaved and indebted farmers to major agriculture corporations. 

The good news is that a return to agroforestry and the scaling up of organic and regenerative agriculture systems can reverse the damage caused by industrial agriculture. 

Environmentally focused food and farming systems can improve the social and economic livelihood of farmers, rebuild soil health, promote biodiversity and clean watersheds, produce healthy food and mitigate climate change by drawing down and storing carbon in the soil. 

As Food Tank: The Think Tank For Food wrote so eloquently in October: 

“If we are going to protect our planet and keep healthy food on our table, agroecology is the way forward.”

To learn more about agroforestry and some of today’s best practices, stay tuned for the next episode, “Agroforestry Today P 2: Today’s Good Practices,” in this two-part series.

Oliver Gardiner represents Regeneration International in Europe and Asia. Julie Wilson, communications associate for the Organic Consumers Association (OCA), contributed to this article.

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Regeneration Movement Will Hold Scheduled COP25 Events in Chile, Also Send Delegations to Madrid

Regeneration International, Savory Institute, Organic Consumers Assoc. among other regenerative organizations committed to supporting the Regeneration Movement in Latin America

Contact:

Latin America: Ercilia Sahores, ercilia@wordpress-409503-1481076.cloudwaysapps.com, +52 (55) 6257 7901

US: Katherine Paul, katherine@wordpress-409503-1481076.cloudwaysapps.com; 207-653-3090

SANTIAGO, Chile – November 11, 2019 – In a show of solidarity with the growing Regeneration Movement in Chile and throughout Latin America, Regeneration International today announced it will hold the regeneration network’s annual general assembly and related global climate events in Santiago and regions, as planned, despite the recent announcement that Chile has pulled out of hosting the COP25 Global Climate Summit.

Regeneration International and key partners will also send delegations to the official COP25, which has been relocated to Madrid. 

“This is a historical and deeply symbolic moment for Chile,” said Ercilia Sahores, Regeneration International Latin America director. “Our decision to proceed with the meetings we’ve spent months organizing on the ground with Latin American civil society organizations reflects our commitment to ensuring that citizen voices, not just institutional voices can join forces and have a platform at COP25. We believe that the Regeneration Movement offers hope, in the way of practical, environmental, socioeconomic and political solutions to the systemic crisis occurring now in Chile and other parts of the world.”

“Regeneration International is inspired and energized by the unprecedented upsurge of grassroots resistance and regeneration spreading across the globe, said Ronnie Cummins, Regeneration International co-founder and steering committee member. “The recent uprisings in Chile, Hong Kong, Moscow, Lebanon and other nations, and the rapid growth of the Sunrise and Extinction Rebellion movements in the U.S. and Europe, are calling for system change as the only way to address the Climate Emergency and the related political, social and economic crises bearing down upon us. Regeneration International and our allied NGOs look forward to traveling to Santiago in December to participate with our Chilean and Latin American partners in building up a strong network throughout the Americas for a transcontinental Green New Deal with a strong focus on regenerative food, farming, reforestation and ecosystem restoration.” 

“The time we expected has arrived, years of training and active experimentation for eco-social regeneration in our hands, hearts and minds,” said Javiera Carrión, co-founder of El Manzano Permaculture, a Regeneration International affiliate. “The context has changed rapidly and violently here in Chile, as is happening in other parts of the world“. These are interesting and uncertain times. It is also time for the Regeneration Movement to gather and re-strategize. We have much work to do, and are grateful to have the support of Regeneration International at this critical moment.”

“Savory is excited to join forces with Regeneration International,” said Daniela Howell, CEO of the Savory Institute,” in both Chile and Spain during COP25, with our Hub leaders in South America and Europe joining in an expression of our committed support to the regenerative movement in these regions and globally. We look forward to participating as a united front in key sessions to advance the support for regenerative agriculture and the global 4×1000 initiative, as well as shared time of inspiration and friendship.”

Regeneration International will hold its General Assembly in Santiago December 9-10.

Regeneration International is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated to promoting, facilitating and accelerating the global transition to regenerative food, farming and land management for the purpose of restoring climate stability, ending world hunger and rebuilding deteriorated social, ecological and economic systems.

Can Organic Cotton Become as Mainstream as Organic Food?

Author: John Ewoldt | Published on: March 25, 2017

MINNEAPOLIS | Organic cotton textiles register no more than a footnote in the world’s cotton production, but Vishal Naithani wants to change that.

His company, Sustained Organic Living in suburban Minneapolis, selects certified organic cotton grown in India with non-GMO seeds. The products are made using only fair trade labor on the farms and in the factories.

The challenge for Naithani and his company, which is known as Sol Organics, is to be able to create the level of interest among consumers for organic apparel that has been generated for organic food. For now, his chief weapon is price: He aims to price his products significantly lower than his online competitors and on par with high-quality bedding that is not fair trade organic.

“Every family should have access to affordable organic cotton just like they have access to affordable organic food,” he said. “It shouldn’t be only the wealthy who can afford premium products.”

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