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Convergence Day 3



Wadi Rum formations

All images © Christopher List Photography

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By the third day I was feeling rather tired, which meant that I missed a couple of really interesting lectures. I have high hopes that Craig will still put up videos though!

Investment Opportunites for Global Earth Repair Work and Ecosystem Restoration: Rhamis Kent

The first lecture I attended was by Rhamis Kent: Investment Opportunities for Global Earth Repair Work and Ecosystem Restoration: Making the Case (click the link to download the 4.6mb PDF).

Rhamis opened the talk with the following quote by Dr Christine Jones, a respected Australian Soil Scientist.

"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."

Rhamis Kent

Rhamis spoke about how fertility, productivity and stability is dependent upon the intelligent management of Natural Capital Assets achieved via Recommended Management Practices (RMPs) and the re-establishment of living systems.

After all he says, if people can make money out of repairing old houses, why not do it with land regeneration. In agriculture, we destroy the land to create the product. But the land is the product!

Thus, Natural Capital Asset Management approach must be based on the latest understandings of the integrated utilisation of ecology, entomology, soil science and hydrology, while also being focused on the development of processes, strategies and techniques, not products, resulting in Higher Benefit-to-Cost Ratios and Returns on Investment (ROI).

The Land = Natural Resources = Ecosystem Services = Natural Capital Assets.
Similarly, degraded land/loss of ecosystem services = loss of production capacity = loss of revenue/global profit, and therefore the environmental and ecological crisis is a direct symptom of global natural capital asset mismanagement!

He continues with a quote from the The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) Report:there are no economies without environments, but there are environments without economies.

Rhamis tells us that there is a constant battle between speculative value (a quick way of making money) vs. Functional wealth (land-based investment). He refers to Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, which place our basic needs for air, food, drink, shelter, warmth, intimacy and sleep as the most important.

If these needs are not being met, Rhamis states, crime is the result.

Rhamis refers to the UNEP report Dead Planet Living Planet: Biodiversity and Ecosystem Restoration for Sustainable Development for some impressive statistics comparing the economic benefit of ecosystem restoration and organic farming.

The benefit/cost ratio of ecosystem restoration is between 3 - 75% while the Rate of Return is between 7 - 79%. In fact the comparative ecosystem services value of organic vs. conventional agriculture is 21 - 25% higher for organic (market-value) while the non-market value (eg health, environment) is 76 - 89% higher for organic!

A recent article in the Guardian entitled World Hunger best cured by small-scale agriculture attests small-scale agriculture has numerous benefits.
Still unconvinced? Rhamis presents some statistics to show the benefit of small-scale agriculture.

Table 1: Farm Size versus Output in the United States, 1992

Median Farm
Size Category
(Acres)

4
27
58
82
116
158
198
238
359
694
1364
6709

Average Gross Output
($/Acre

7424
1050
552
396
322
299
269
274
270
249
191
63

Average Net Output
($/Acre)

1400
139
82
60
53
55
53
56
54
51
39
12

Source: U.S. Agricultural Census, vol. 1, part 51, pp. 89-96, 1992.

From the data above it's clear that small farms almost always produce far more agricultural output per unit area than larger farms. This holds true whether we are talking about an industrial country like the United States, or any country in the Third World.

The smallest farms, those of 27 acres or less, have more than ten times greater dollar output per acre than larger farms.

According to Peter M. Rosset, Ph.D, author of The Multiple Functions and Benefits of Small Farm Agriculture In the Context of Global Trade Negotiation, this is in large part due to the fact that smaller farms tend to specialize in high value crops like vegetables and flowers, but it also reflects relatively more labor and inputs applied per unit area, and the use of more diverse farming systems.

Another video well-worth watching is that of the Dervais family, who practice small-scale urban agriculture from their home, managing to not only feed their family every year with 6000 pounds of fruit and veg grown on 1/10th of an acre, but the community as well.


 

Rhamis brings up China's Loess Plateau Watershed Rehabilitation Project, funded by the World Bank, which was documented since 1995 by filmaker John Liu in a film entitled Hope in a Changing Climate (click the link to watch or view the youtube video part 1 of 6). This project covered 35000 square km and helped lift more than 2.5 million people out of poverty within the four poorest regions of China.

In fact, this entire project was accomplished with an investment of USD 500,000,000, which covered an area of 35,000 square kilometres (3.5 million hectares) - equal to USD 142.86 per hectare.

He compares this to some of the projects located in the Middle East.For instance, Abu Dhabi's Masdar City, which has invested USD 22,000,000,000 for an area of only 6 square kilometres (600 hectares), equal to USD 37 million per hectare.

Instead of benefitting 2.5 million of the poorest people, Masdar will home some 45,000 - 55,000 people and 1,500 businesses, primarily commercial and manufacturing facilities specialising in “environmentally friendly” products.

What's more, it's projected to be finished in 8 years, and it is unknown how much more money has gone into this project.

Meanwhile, Dubai's Burj Khalifa, covers 464,511 square meters (approx. 46.5 hectares) with an investment of USD 32.26 million per hectare, will create 30,000 homes, nine hotels such as, 3 hectares (7.4 acres) of parkland, at least 19 residential towers, the Dubai Mall, and the 12-hectare (30-acre) man-made Burj Khalifa Lake.

We need to move beyond conservation to regeneration thinking.

Rhamis quotes Jared Diamond, author of Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed and Topsoil and Cultivation by Vernon Gill Carter and Tom Dale by warning that the most common sources of civilisations' collapse are:

  1. Deforestation and habitat destruction
  2. Soil problems (erosion, salinisation, soil fertility losses)
  3. Water management problems

What's more, all of these are related to soil health.

Big business is waking up to this new economic reality. “Farmland is going to be one of the best investments of our time,” philanthropist George Soros (and one of the richest men in the world) claimed a couple of years ago. But that's not necessarily a good thing.

According to the Earth Institute, Saudi is buying or leasing arable farmland in several countries, including two of the hungriest regions in the world, Ethiopia and Sudan. Daewoo has leased an African plantation in Madagasgar and countless investors are now fighting to buy land in some of the world's poorest countries.

Unfortunately, investors and multinational corporations are still thinking of profits, of feeding their vast hunger for money. And big corporations are stuck in monoculture thinking (single crop farming) or even worse GM crops which, again leads to ecological crises and land degradation.

Says a Korean farmer on the Daewoo/Madagascar land deal "It is really bad for Korean companies like Daewoo to occupy the land of foreign peoples like neocolonialists. Daewoo is bound to earn the same reputation as Monsanto or Cargill from such practices."

Beyond Zero - Biochar and the Carbon Cycle: Albert Bates

Next up was the talk by Albert Bates: Beyond Zero - Biochar and the Carbon Cycle (click link to download the 47mb PDF or right-click to save for faster results).

Albert Bates

Unfortunately I missed the bulk of the talk, but I'll upload any video footage as soon as I get it!

Entitled Water and Transformation in Dryland Systems - Resilience Science and Keyline Application: Owen Harblutzel

Owen Harblutzel's presentation on how we can achieve regenerative, resilience farming, using the property he has been working on in the USA, Whirlwind Farm, as a case study, was intriguing.

Entitled Water and Transformation in Dryland Systems - Resilience Science and Keyline Application, his presentation is well-worth watching so check out the video below.


Planting seeds of hope in occupied territories - Marda Farm: Murad Alkuffash

Murad Alkhuffash then took the floor, owner of Marda Permaculture, the farm in the West Bank, Palestine, where I did my second PDC. Palestine has always held a veiled charm, propagated by ever-elusive reports of what's happening on the ground.

Murad Alkuffash

Marda is located in the Salfit District, shadowed by one the largest Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Murad's work in this arid region, threatened by soil depletion, environmental degradation and the continuing occupation and annexation of fertile land, as well as marauding wild pigs who destroy crops, is testament to permaculture in practice.

Check out the video below for more:


Or download the presentation.

International Permaculture Day: Gillian Kozicki

Next up was International Permaculture Day by Gillian Kozicki (click the link to view or right click and save to download). Held on the first Sunday of May (6th May 2012), International Permaculture Day aims to inspire people to get involved and to get connected. She encourages us to go to www.permacultureday.info to find out more.

IPC10 group

The last day of the convergence, it would be impossible for me to do justice to everything I learnt and the fantastic people I met.

Being surounded by the majestic beauty of Wadi Rum, making friends with Ryan Harb, Guy Wauters, Roberto Perez, Tony Watkins and so many more, dancing in the desert, meditating for World Peace Day, hugging total strangers that were closer than friends, singing and marching to the beat of the same drum and sharing, learning and absorbing information - this was IPC10.

In the same democratic spirit, the next IPCs were agreed upon - Cuba in 2013 and Hong Kong in 2015.

Inspired by the work of permaculture pioneers who are regenerating degraded land, I left committed to spreading the permaculture word, to reversing the cycle of poverty and starvation in Africa, to enrich soil and empower communities wherever I am. We can all make a difference. Together, we have the power to change the world!

Return from Convergence Day 3 to Eco-friendly Africa Travel


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