You’ve Heard of Offsetting, but What in the World Is Carbon Insetting?

These days, paying to plant trees or investing in green projects as a way to balance out your carbon emissions is a pretty standard method of easing your environmental conscience. Known as carbon offsetting, the process has spawned a thriving business making billions of euros every year as companies trade carbon credits to reach climate change goals.

You can now even offset to undo your own personal environmental damage, with airlines and organisations offering to help you take full responsibility for your residual emissions. For a small fee, of course. Increasingly, however, this sustainability solution has come under fire from activists as being little more than greenwashing. Critics have compared it to the practice of selling indulgences in the ancient Catholic church; you can live how you want as long as you have the money to buy off your sins.

What if, instead of making environmental protection a side issue, businesses made these kinds of carbon-absorbing projects a part of the new normal?




Cows and Cropland to Help Save the Planet

The calls to shift to a plant-based diet to help mitigate climate change are getting louder. Farmer Daniel Slabbert and their supporters, however, look at it differently. They believe cows and cropland can help save the planet.

In South Africa, there are still plenty of grasslands or veld. Farmers such as Slabbert are practicing regenerative agriculture, farming, and grazing that rebuild soil organic matter and restores degraded soil biodiversity.

The practice, according to Slabbert, is just like trying to mimic nature. He rejuvenates the land by increasing the cattle herd. Herds are enclosed in a rectangular patch of grassland with a low-voltage wire. The herd consumes all the grasses they can find before the wire lifts, and they move to a new section as it replenishes the land. Eventually, crops are planted in the grazing area.

Cows contribute to 145 of all global emissions. A single cow, according to researchers at UC Davis, can belch around 220 pounds or approximately 100 kilograms of methane each year.



A Green Reboot After the Pandemic

NEW YORK – The COVID-19 coronavirus has forced entire countries into lockdown mode, terrified citizens around the world, and triggered a financial-market meltdown. The pandemic demands a forceful, immediate response. But in managing the crisis, governments also must look to the long term. One prominent policy blueprint with a deep time horizon is the European Commission’s European Green Deal, which offers several ways to support the communities and businesses most at risk from the current crisis.

COVID-19 reflects a broader trend: more planetary crises are coming. If we muddle through each new crisis while maintaining the same economic model that got us here, future shocks will eventually exceed the capacity of governments, financial institutions, and corporate crisis managers to respond. Indeed, the “coronacrisis” has already done so.

The Club of Rome issued a similar warning in its famous 1972 report, The Limits to Growth, and again in Beyond the Limits, a 1992 book by the lead author of that earlier report, Donella Meadows.


Salvar la naturaleza: es ahora o nunca

El mundo está en una encrucijada. El futuro de la vida en el planeta (nuestro futuro) está en peligro. La humanidad fue demasiado lejos buscando riqueza. Los datos muestran que hemos alterado más del 75 por ciento de las áreas libres de hielo del mundo. Más de la mitad de la superficie habitable del planeta se está usando para producir alimento, y las tierras vírgenes constituyen menos del 25 por ciento del total.

No le fue mejor al océano: en los últimos cien años hemos extraído del mar el 90 por ciento de los grandes peces, y hay sobrepesca.

Para colmo de males, la emisión de gases de efecto invernadero (GEI) procedentes de la industria, la agricultura y la deforestación aumentó considerablemente desde 1970. La aceleración del calentamiento global antropogénico hace imposible ignorar la pérdida de áreas naturales o la amenaza del cambio climático.

Ya sabemos que si de aquí a 2030 no reducimos la conversión de tierras y las emisiones de GEI, será imposible limitar el calentamiento global a no más de 2 °C por encima de los niveles preindustriales, como prevé el acuerdo climático de París (2015).


Restoring Soils Could Remove up to ‘5.5bn Tonnes’ of Greenhouse Gases Every Year

Replenishing and protecting the world’s soil carbon stores could help to offset up to 5.5bn tonnes of greenhouse gases every year, a study finds.

This is just under the current annual emissions of the US, the world’s second largest polluter after China.

Around 40 per cent of this carbon offsetting potential would come from protecting existing soil carbon stores in the world’s existing forests, peatlands and wetlands, the authors say.

In many parts of the world, such soil-based “natural climate solutions” could come with co-benefits for wildlife, food production and water retention, the lead author tells Carbon Brief.

Ground up

The top metre of the world’s soils contains three times as much carbon as the entire atmosphere, making it a major carbon sink alongside forests and oceans.

Soils play a key role in the carbon cycle by soaking up carbon from dead plant matter. Plants absorb CO2 from the atmosphere through photosynthesis and this is passed to the ground when dead roots and leaves decompose.


Natural Solutions to the Climate Crisis? One-quarter Is All down to Earth

Joint research conducted by the Nature Conservancy and the Kunming Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences, calculated the carbon-storing power of global soils and showcased approaches like agroforestry designed to capitalise on untapped potential.

A critical, nature-based approach to mitigating  has been right at our feet all along, according to a new study reporting that soil represents up 25% of the total global potential for  (NCS) – approaches that absorb CO2 from the atmosphere and lock it into landscapes, including forests, croplands and peatlands.

Representing the first time soil’s total global potential for carbon-mitigation across forests, wetlands, agriculture and grasslands together has been cataloged, the study provides a timely reminder not to neglect the power of soils and the many benefits these ecosystems can deliver for climate, wildlife and agriculture.

Published in the journal Nature Sustainability, the study is titled “The role of soil carbon in natural climate solutions.” The research also argues that a lack of clarity to date regarding the full scale of this opportunity and how to best capitalize on it has restricted investment.


Activists Share Powerful Stories at Bangkok Climate Meeting

BANGKOK, Thailand – Days before the United Nations COP25 Climate Summit, Regeneration International took part in “The Inner Dimensions of Climate Change,” held at the UN building in Bangkok.

The event, organized by the Global Peace Initiative of Women and the Dharma Drum Mountain Buddhist Association, gathered young environmental activists from five continents. The activists came together with one common message: “If we want to reverse the current climate catastrophe, we must reconnect with nature.”

“The Inner Dimensions of Climate Change” kicked off without the usual science and policy experts who typically dominate the conversation at climate change conferences. Instead, it ceded the floor to youth activists working on a range of issues, including biodiversity, indigenous rights, gender equality, regenerative agriculture and deep ecology.

“Many of these activists often work alone and we think it’s important to bring these young people together to build a global trustworthy community where they can build on each and others’ knowledge and inspiration,” said Marianne Marstrand of the Global Peace Initiative of Women.

I attended the conference with my partner, Hsu Zin Maung, to share Regeneration International’s work around developing agricultural projects in Myanmar, and around promoting regenerative organic development worldwide.

We met with people of different faiths, cultures and realities—activists who are working in areas of the world where ideologies on environment and social justice are often new, and sometimes misunderstood, concepts.

All of these individuals shared powerful stories about what brought them to the role they embrace today. Here are just a few of the youth activists who inspired us that day:

Riddhi Shah (India)

Shah is 28 years old. She works in rural areas of southern India plagued with severe water scarcity. She launched a program across an entire region to build swales and channels to increase ground water seepage. After four years, her work lead to the replenishment of a dry lake that is now supporting a local community all year round.

Riddhi Shah, Activist Education in India

“To address the climate crisis, we just need to see how beautifully nature is being a facilitator and fall into its process,” Shah said.

But Shah doesn’t stop at land. Her passion for education and for linking social and environmental justice has led her to become one of India’s top philanthropical consultants. She has become an empowerment catalyst for regenerative projects all over India.

Ramphai Noikaew (Thailand)

Noikaew lives in a community at her Pun Pun Organic Farm located in Northern Thailand where she enjoys sharing her knowledge on seed saving and indigenous herbal medicines from the Mekong region.

She and her husband volunteer their time to educate people about organic farming, deep ecology, place-based living and community development. She recently launched an organic farmers market in Bangkok, where the Pun Pun farm community is expanding its knowledge.

“Climate change is happening and we have to change with it, so we grow diversity to ensure that whatever the climate ,we have something to fall back on when one crop fails,” Noikaew said. “And we teach people seed saving so that they know to use the seeds, and how to grow and share them.”

Ying Liang (China)

Ying Lian runs the Schumi Learning Garden (SLG) and Organic Farm, in Zhongshan, a traditional village at the foot of Wugui Mountain, in southern China. SLG is a transformative learning center for adults based on three pillars of education: Community living, Connection with self, others and nature, and Right Livelihood.

The center also serves as an incubator for community livelihood projects, such as a Weekend Farmers’ Market to revitalize the local economy.

“I am most inspired by forest eco-systems, where life flourishes and all elements nourish each other, where life and death are circular processes,” Liang said. “I am working to re-create this kind of system and to manifest it in human society to help enhance socio-ecological resilience.”

Gao Heran (China)

Heran is the founder of Citan Village Nature School in Hainan Province, China. This initiative, is designed to teach environmental and nature education programs and games to village children and urban families mainly coming from Beijing.

The focus of the curriculum is environmental stewardship, local biodiversity, nature conservation, permaculture practice in the field and village team building.

The school also organizes weekend village trips for city-based families to encourage rural-urban environmental educational exchanges and partnerships.

“We are nature but being in the city we often live like caged animals,” Heran said. “My work is to get city families out into the countryside, especially the younger generations.”

Crystal Foreman (USA)

Foreman is a certified permaculture designer and certified Baltimore City Gardener. She works to improve food justice, food sovereignty and organic food access.

Crystal Foreman, a certified permaculture designer and certified Baltimore City Gardener

Foreman teaches people how to cook healthy meals and how to use food they might not be familiar with, while working hand-in-hand with local organic growers and teaching people how to forage in both urban and rural areas.

Foreman recognizes we have the power to make environmental and societal changes by carefully choosing what we put on our plate.

“Food inequity, poor food quality and inhumane labor can be traced to conventional farming that causes extreme environmental harm,” Foreman said. “I want to teach people how to be self-sufficient with food choices. Teaching people how to live with the land and how the land can nurture us is very important to my mission.”

Inner Dimensions of Climate Change

Regeneration International took part in the Inner Dimensions of Climate Change, a global gathering of young climate leaders at the United Nations in Bangkok. Their message? If we want to avoid climate catastrophe, we must reconnect with nature.Video via Oliver Gardiner

Posted by Regeneration International on Friday, 10 January 2020

Oliver Gardiner is Regeneration International’s media producer and coordinator for Asia and Europe. (With thanks to the Global Peace Initiative of Women). To keep up with Regeneration International news, sign up for our newsletter.


You Don’t Have to Go Plant-based to Save the World

There has been a lot of buzz recently about switching to a meatless or fully plant-based diet, not only for sustainability reasons but also for health benefits. Livestock production encompasses 14.5% of all human-related greenhouse gas emissions, with cattle making up for well over half of those emissions. Thus, eliminating the consumption of meat, or red meat specifically, to be more sustainable has been an easy push for climate change advocates. Additionally, a 2012 study revealed that red meat consumption is associated with an increased risk of certain chronic diseases, driving the movement against meat consumption.

However, the urge to completely eliminate meat from our diets is both quixotic and unwarranted. For anyone who enjoys eating meat and is considering eradicating it from their diet for health and or climate change reasons, you may be happy to hear that might not be the best solution.

Instead of forcing people to radically change their consumption habits, I argue that we should focus on sourcing meat sustainably and finding creative ways to reduce, but not eliminate, mass meat consumption through institutional food providers.


Seis reglas para organizar una revolución de regeneración de los movimientos de base

Durante las últimas cinco décadas he tenido la oportunidad de viajar y trabajar por gran parte del mundo. Lo he hecho a través de trabajos y actividades como activista por la alimentación, la salud natural y el medio ambiente, los derechos humanos, como organizador del movimiento contra la guerra, y periodista. Estos viajes han sido inspiradores y desafiantes.

Quizás la lección más importante que he aprendido a través de mi trabajo es que las personas responden mejor a un mensaje positivo y que se enfoca en las soluciones. Los mensajes negativos y pesimistas, los que no ofrecen una solución plausible, generalmente no inspiran a las personas a involucrarse o a tomar medidas.

Eso no significa que debamos subestimar la gravedad de nuestra situación actual. Nos enfrentamos a amenazas de vida o muerte sin precedentes. Nos enfrentamos a grandes obstáculos políticos, económicos y culturales. Debemos continuar destacando y criticando, con pasión, hechos y ejemplos concretos, las personas que han actuado mal, las prácticas y políticas que nos han llevado al borde de una crisis global.

Dicho esto, creo que el principal obstáculo que debemos superar, en los EE. UU. y en todo el mundo, es que la gran mayoría de las personas están atrapadas en situaciones desalentadoras que les causan un sentimiento generalizado de desesperanza. No es que no quieran cambiar. Pero desafortunadamente, la mayoría de las personas realmente no creen que las cosas puedan cambiar.

No es mi caso. Creo que podemos cambiar la conversación global sobre alimentos, agricultura, política, salud y clima, que hasta ahora se ha basado en la desesperanza, y convertirla en un mensaje esperanzador. Creo que podemos empoderar a los movimientos de base para que se alcen y actúen, tanto individual como colectivamente.

En mi último libro, “Grassroots Rising: A Call to Action on Food, Farming, Climate and a Green New Deal”, describo lo que llamo “reglas para regeneradores”, una hoja de ruta para alcanzar un cambio positivo. En mi libro, analizo cada regla en profundidad, pero estas son las 6 reglas a grandes rasgos.

Regla 1: buscar y enfatizar lo positivo

Ante el colapso del ecosistema global y la corrupción corporativa y política generalizada, debemos pensar en estos términos: la hora de mayor oscuridad del día se da justo antes del amanecer. Eso significa que no debemos perder de vista el hecho que se acerca el amanecer, por lo que debemos centrarnos y prepararnos para ello.

En lugar de pensar en lo negativo, debemos buscar, resaltar y promover tendencias y prácticas positivas. En la escena contemporánea, hay muchos signos de cambio y poderosas tendencias opuestas al status quo degenerativo, no solo en los EE. UU., sino en todo el mundo.

Tenemos que centrarnos en estas tendencias que cambian el mundo, en vez de quedarnos atorados en la tristeza y la fatalidad.

Regla 2: conectar con las preocupaciones principales de las personas primero y luego enlazarlo con otras cuestiones

El mundo está lleno de personas diferentes, que viven en diferentes situaciones, con distintas perspectivas, pasiones y prioridades. Eso significa que no podemos aplicar una solución única para resolver todos los problemas.

En cambio, debemos integrar nuestros mensajes de justicia verde y regeneración con los problemas y preocupaciones específicos más importantes para los movimientos de base. Luego, diseñar una estrategia, usando un lenguaje cotidiano, que ayude a las personas a comprender que sí podemos resolver los problemas que más les preocupan, al mismo tiempo que solucionamos otros problemas urgentes.

Solo si empezamos en el punto donde se encuentran las personas y luego lo conectamos con otras cuestiones, podemos captar la atención y la imaginación de una masa crítica de movimientos de base mundiales y hacer que comiencen a pensar en cómo pueden participar en nuestro nuevo movimiento y nueva economía.

Regla 3: dejar de organizarse en torno a problemas únicos aislados

Las campañas globales y el activismo tienen tendencia a centrarse en problemas aislados y esto ocasiona movimientos divididos y grupos de electores fracturados.

Para lograr una verdadera regeneración, o incluso para aprobar una nueva legislación general regenerativa como el Nuevo Acuerdo Verde, no debemos dividirnos ni fracturarnos, sino unirnos, ser inclusivos y tener un enfoque y comprensión holísticos de la crisis global que enfrentamos y del camino hacia la resolución de problemas

Con demasiada frecuencia escuchamos que “mi problema es más importante que tu problema”, “mi distrito electoral o comunidad está más oprimida que la tuya” o “mi solución es la única solución”.

Ese tipo de pensamiento no nos llevará a ninguna parte. Nuestro movimiento de regeneración global debe basarse en el principio de que todas los problemas de los movimientos de base y todo el electorado son importantes. Tenemos que ayudarnos mutuamente a reconocer que los temas candentes que afectan a la política a nivel global: cambio climático, pobreza, desempleo, deterioro de la salud, corrupción política, control corporativo, guerra y otros, son síntomas interrelacionados de nuestro sistema degenerativo enfermo.

Regla 4: dejar de pretender que las soluciones o reformas parciales provocarán cambios en el sistema

Los activistas a menudo caen en la trampa de la mala praxis cuando consideran soluciones o tácticas parciales como soluciones sistémicas. Uno de los ejemplos más alarmantes de esto es la noción de que alcanzar el 100% de energía renovable resolverá la crisis climática.

Esta teoría es engañosamente esperanzadora y peligrosamente errónea. La energía renovable no nos llevará a emisiones netas cero para 2030 o incluso 2050, a menos que esté acompañada por una reducción masiva (de más de 250 mil millones de toneladas) de carbono en exceso de la atmósfera a través de alimentos, agricultura, uso de la tierra y comercio regenerativos.

Ambas cosas, la energía renovable y la reducción del carbono, deben llevarse a cabo simultáneamente durante los próximos 20 años.

De manera similar, la ingenuidad y la estrechez de miras podría llevarnos a creer que la reforma financiera propuesta en una campaña, o la elección de este o aquel candidato, resolverá la crisis nacional e internacional caracterizada por la dominación de la élite y la corrupción política, o que, en general, el cambio en una comunidad o país puede resolver lo que esencialmente son problemas nacionales y globales.

A menos que podamos levantar la cabeza, conectar los puntos y luchar por unificar los cambios sistémicos, cualquier cambio que hagamos no será lo suficientemente efectivo.

Regla 5: actuar y organizarse localmente, pero cultivar una visión global y solidaria

Para que la civilización sobreviva, necesitamos reconstruir sistemas de alimentos y agricultura saludables, orgánicos y relocalizados, y reparar y restaurar nuestros entornos locales.

Hacer esto requerirá que los regeneradores den prioridad a la educación, acción y movilización local y regional, en nuestras vidas personales y hogares, así como en el mercado y el terreno político.

Al mismo tiempo, tenemos que aplicar o integrar una perspectiva nacional y global en nuestro trabajo de movimientos de base local y construcción de comunidad. La batalla contra el cambio climático severo, la destrucción del medio ambiente, el deterioro de la salud pública, la pobreza, la corrupción política y la alienación social se librará y ganará en función de lo que miles de millones de nosotros, consumidores, agricultores, administradores de paisajes, funcionarios públicos, propietarios de empresas, estudiantes y otros, hagan (o no hagan) en nuestras millones de comunidades locales como parte de un despertar global y un cambio de paradigma.

Debemos pensar, actuar y organizarnos localmente, al mismo tiempo que cultivamos una visión y una solidaridad globales.

Regla 6: convertirse en un ejemplo positivo de regeneración

Lo personal es político. Las personas escuchan no solo el mensaje manifiesto de lo que decimos o escribimos, sino también nuestro mensaje subliminal, es decir, nuestra presencia, comportamiento y actitud.

Solo esforzándonos por encarnar los principios de regeneración (esperanza, solidaridad, creatividad, trabajo duro, alegría y optimismo) en nuestras vidas y prácticas cotidianas (es decir, nuestro trabajo, comida, ropa, estilo de vida y cómo tratamos a los demás y al medio ambiente, qué votamos, cómo gastamos nuestro dinero, invertimos nuestros ahorros y usamos nuestro tiempo) podremos inspirar a quienes nos rodean.

En la década de los 60 teníamos un dicho: “solo hay una razón para convertirse en un revolucionario: porque es la mejor manera de vivir”. Creo que este eslogan es tan relevante ahora como lo era entonces.

Una de las cosas maravillosas de la regeneración es que no solo es nuestro deber y nuestra posible salvación, sino que también puede convertirse en nuestro placer. Como dijo una vez el granjero-poeta Wendell Berry:

“El cuidado de la tierra es nuestra responsabilidad más antigua y digna y, después de todo, nuestra responsabilidad más placentera. Apreciar lo que queda de ella y fomentar su renovación, es nuestra única esperanza legítima”.


Ronnie Cummins es el director internacional de Organic Consumers Association (OCA) y miembro de la junta directiva de Regeneration International (RI). Su Nuevo libro“Grassroots Rising: A Call to Action on Climate, Farming, Food, and a Green New Deal” salió a la venta en febrero de 2020. Para mantenerse informado de las noticias y alertas de RI, regístrese aquí.



Grassroots Rising — A Call to Change the World

In this interview, Ronnie Cummins, founder of the Organic Consumers Association, discusses his new book “Grassroots Rising: A Call to Action on Climate, Farming, Food and a Green New Deal.”

“Much of the book talks about how we need to transform our food and farming system, not only in the United States but worldwide, if we’re going to solve a lot of these problems that we’re seeing — environmental pollution, health problems, the climate crisis and the fact that we have so much poverty in rural areas …” Cummins says.

Regenerative Organic Farming Is the Answer to Many Problems

The transformation Cummins calls for is a transition to regenerative organic farming, which has the ability to solve many if not most of these problems simultaneously.

For example, one of the primary arguments for genetically engineered (GE) crops and foods was that it was going to solve world hunger. Reality, however, has demonstrated the massive flaws in this argument.

GE agriculture actually does the complete opposite, by destroying our soils and making food more toxic and less nutritious. Regenerative farming, on the other hand, has demonstrated its superiority with regard to yield and nutrition, all without the use of toxic chemicals. As noted by Cummins:

“The way we have traditionally grown food for the last 10,000 years and the way we’ve raised animals the last 20,000 or 30,000 years is really organic and pasture-based.

This wild experiment that industry unleashed on us since the second world war, using toxic chemicals, synthetic fertilizers, genetically engineered seeds and animal factory farms has proven to be a disaster, not just for the farmers, the animals and the land, but our public health has also suffered considerably.

Part of our long-term call to take charge of your health, take charge of your diet [is to] take charge of our environment and really our whole economic system [and] transform this degenerative food, farming and land use system into one that is organic and regenerative.”

Four Drivers of Change

In his book, Cummins details four major drivers of any given system, be it, as in this case, the degenerative system we currently have, or the regenerative system we would like to have:

  1. Education and awareness raising — This also includes putting the information into practice, meaning, every time you pull out your wallet, you’re considering whether your money is going to support a degenerative or regenerative system. True change comes when people act out their beliefs in the marketplace
  2. Innovation — This includes innovation of farmers, ranchers, people who take care of our forests and wetlands and people who are innovative in terms of educating the public
  3. Policy changes — This includes policy changes all the way from local school boards and park districts to the White House. At present, our policies favor corporate special interests like Monsanto, Dow, DuPont, Big Pharma and Wall Street. Once we get policies that support organics, regenerative agriculture and natural health, scaling these areas up will be much easier and faster
  4. Funding and investment — This includes both private investors and public monies

As noted by Cummins, “Education, innovation, policy [changes] and investment are the four things that drive this change of paradigm.” Change, however, is often slow, and one of the reasons Cummins wrote “Grassroots Rising” was to inspire optimism and hope.

“Obviously, we are still in a degenerative phase, but we can move out of this,” he says. “I think this year, 2020, is going to be the beginning of a pretty enormous global awakening.”

Scaling Best Practices 

Cummins is co-director of an organic research farm and conference center outside of San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, where he coordinates a regenerative agricultural system that integrates organic vegetable, seed and forage production with regenerative holistic management of poultry, sheep, goats and pigs. He and others are constantly on the lookout for best practices that can be successfully scaled up and implemented on millions of farms. Cummins explains:

“We have been, for 10 years, running a research and teaching farm [Via Organica] outside of San Miguel de Allende, right smack in the middle of Mexico. It’s the high desert area …

If you look at the statistics, 40% of the world’s surface is characterized as semi-arid or arid, and that’s the type of area we’re in here, so it’s not unusual for the global landscape …

What’s difficult as a farmer or rancher, if you live in the semi-arid or arid parts of the world, is that not only is rainfall seasonal and you don’t get a whole lot of it, but that it is almost impossible to raise crops on a lot of this terrain.

What people have done for hundreds of years is graze livestock on these degraded semi-arid, arid lands. The problem is that they have overgrazed much of this 40% of the world’s surface.”

Simple Innovations Can Solve Serious Problems

During one of Cummins’ workshops on organic compost, two local farmers approached him saying they’d developed a remarkably simple technique using the agave plant and mesquite trees to produce incredibly inexpensive yet nutritious animal fodder.

These two plants, which are naturally found clustered together in arid and semi-arid areas, do not require any irrigation, and the photosynthesis of the agave is among the highest in the entire world. It grows rapidly, producing massive amounts of biomass, and sequesters and stores enormous amounts of carbon, both above ground and below ground, while producing inexpensive, nutritious animal feed or forage and restoring the earth.

As noted by Cummins, the fact that agave plants and mesquite (or other nitrogen-fixing trees) grow together naturally is nature’s way to repair eroded landscapes. The roots of the mesquite tree can reach down to 125 feet, fixing nitrogen from the atmosphere into the soil, and absorbing minerals from deep in the ground.

Agave, meanwhile, adds huge amounts of biomass to the land every year, drawing down excess CO2 from the atmosphere. It pulls nitrogen and other minerals from the ground in order to support its rapid growth, but when grown next to a nitrogen-fixing tree, you’ve got a biodiverse system that will continue to grow and thrive on a continuous basis..

Fermented Agave Is an Inexpensive Animal Feed

The fermented agave animal feed produced in this system costs only 5 cents per kilo (2.2 pounds) to make. The key is fermentation. Raw agave leaves are unpalatable and hard to digest for animals because of their levels of saponins and lectins, but once fermented, they become digestible and attractive to the animals.

The fermentation also boosts the nutrition. I was so impressed with Cummins’ story that I harvested about 10 gallons of aloe plants and applied the process to see if it will convert to great food for my six chickens. A summary of the process is as follows:

  • Cut some of the lower agave leaves off the tree and crudely chop them up with a machete. One of the farmers, Juan Frias, invented a simple machine that grinds the leaf into what looks like coleslaw.
  • Place the cut-up agave leaf into a large bucket, tamping it down once filled half-way to remove oxygen. Continue filling the bucket to the top. Tamp down again and put a lid on it. (As explained further below, adding mesquite pods at an optimum rate of 20% will approximately double the protein content of the final product.)
  • Let it set for 30 days. The fermentation process turns the saponins and lectins into natural sugars and carbs. The final mash will stay fresh for up to two years.

Cummins and other Mexican organic farmers have tested the agave forgage on a variety of animals, including sheep, goats, chickens and pigs, all of which love it.

“The importance of this is, first of all, if you’re a small farmer, you can’t afford alfalfa, and you can’t afford hay during the dry season. It’s too expensive … It makes eggs and meat too expensive in the marketplace for people to buy.

When you start looking at … reducing feed costs by 50%, or even three quarters with this stuff that costs a nickel or a dime, then I don’t need to overgraze my animals. They’d still graze because it’s good for them … but you wouldn’t have to have them outdoors every day, overgrazing on pastures that are not in good shape.

This is pretty amazing stuff … Lab analysis of just the fermented agave [shows] it’s about 5% to 9% protein, which is pretty good. Alfalfa is more like 16% to 18%.

What these farmers, who are also retired scientists, figured out is if you put 20% mesquite in your fermentation, the pods of the mesquite trees, it’ll shoot the protein level up to about 18% — about the same as alfalfa.

There’s a lot of other things too that make it better than alfalfa. One of the things about alfalfa is it takes a lot of water … The agave plant uses one-twenty-sixth the amount of water to produce a gram of biomass as alfalfa.

These desert plants have evolved over millions of years to utilize water and moisture in a really efficient way … The opening in the leaves, called the stomata … only opens at night, after sunset.

These plants literally suck the moisture out of the air all night long, and then when daybreak comes, the stomata closes up … They can go years with no rain, and they can survive pretty harsh temperatures … [and] there’s not one chemical required in this whole process. This whole process is inherently organic.”

Added Benefits

An organic certifier is now evaluating one of the operations using this agave feed process, which may go a long way toward creating less expensive organics. For example, rather than spending 45 cents per kilo for organic chicken feed, chicken farmers can cut that down to between 5 and 10 cents per kilo.

In the end, that will make organic free-range chicken and eggs far more affordable for the average consumer. Ditto for pork, sheep and goat products.

Additional benefits include improved immune function in the animals — similar to that seen in humans eating a lot of fermented foods. What’s more, about 50% of the fermented agave feed is water, which means the animals don’t need to be watered as much.

Cummins and other organic farm advocates are now trying to convince the Mexican reforestation program to get involved as well. This would solve several problems. First, it’s difficult to reforest in arid climates, which includes 60% of Mexico, as even mesquite trees need water in their first stage of development until they’re established. Growing agave in locations in areas that already have mesquite or other nitrogen-fixing trees would speed the process and lower the water demands.

Secondly, growing agave and mesquite together for reforestation purposes, while incorporating facilities to create fermented agave feed for sale, farmers who aren’t willing to grow their own can still benefit from this inexpensive feed alternative. Thirdly, such a project would also help reduce rural poverty, which is what’s driving immigration into the U.S.

“If people weren’t so darn poor, which leads back to if they didn’t live in such dry, degraded landscapes, they wouldn’t be seeking to come to the U.S. except for a visit,” Cummins says.

“We can solve this immigration problem. We can solve this problem of rural poverty. Many of these small farmers, they can’t even afford to eat their own animal, like the lamb, on a regular basis.

They have it for celebrations, but they should be able to eat lamb burgers on a regular basis in the rural countryside. Now, they will be able to. In the long run, if we restore the landscape, things like corn, beans and squash will grow again …”

Yet another little cottage industry is also starting to grow around agave. Its fibers are very strong, so people are now starting to make lightweight construction blocks or bricks from it.

Lastly, Cummins estimates that with 2.5 million agave plants planted on 30,000 acres over the next decade, they’ll be able to eliminate all greenhouse gas emissions created by San Miguel county right now.

More Information

To learn more about how regenerative agriculture can help solve many of the problems facing the world right now, be sure to pick up a copy of “Grassroots Rising: A Call to Action on Climate, Farming, Food and a Green New Deal.”

“This regenerative practice in dry lands is a game changer,” Cummins says. “There are practices in wetlands and in the global North, [where] we’re already seeing things like a holistic management of livestock and biointensive organic practices.

It’s all these practices together — the best practices from the different parts of the world, different ecosystems — that are going to make a difference.

It’s you the consumer, it’s you the reader, that needs to spread these good news messages, and I hope you’ll consider buying a copy of my new book, ‘Grassroots Rising,’ where I try to paint a roadmap of how we can regenerate the world’s landscapes as quickly as possible so that we can get back to enjoying life.”

Reposted with permission from