Wednesday, 28 September 2016

The permaculture community in England (#journal)

Examining Innovation for Sustainability from the Bottom Up: An Analysis of the Permaculture Community in England

This article examines attempts by the permaculture community in England to interact and influence the Agriculture Knowledge System of the mainstream agro-food regime. Strategic Niche Management and Communities of Practice theory are combined to examine the ways in which the permaculture community has evolved and has sought to develop its agro-ecology message and influence the agro-food regime. Evidence of second order learning and networking with stakeholders outside the community of practice is limited. A tension between internal activities that reinforce a boundary between the permaculture knowledge system and the wider Agriculture Knowledge System are evident. Some external activities designed to cross boundaries are noted. However, activities designed to translate permaculture ideas into mainstream agriculture have had limited success. This reveals the way that beliefs, values and epistemologies make the process of sustainability transition challenging and complex, particularly when different knowledge systems clash with one another.

Markets for agroecology (online video)

What type of markets support agroecological and sustainable food systems?
The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations organizes Technical Seminars/Webinars on Agroecology and related issues to foster an inter-disciplinary exchange of knowledge and field experience on topics that are relevant to sustainable production systems and agroecology. Here is a two hour video of their latest seminar, held on 10th June 2016. Within the seminar, 4 speakers present their research projects, each taking about twenty minutes.

Co-creation in agroecology (online)

Knowledge building is central to agroecology rooted in family farming. But why? What type of knowledge, and whose knowledge is mobilised? This issue of Farming Matters explores what we really mean by co-creation of knowledge in agroecology, why it is so essential for today’s challenges, and how it takes place around the world.

A European vision for sustainabilty (report)

Europe becomes aware of the limits of the Blue Planet and of the need for a fair share for all, notably the rapidly growing developing nations and the younger generation. Europe needs to rediscover social market economy principles, including solidarity, and to match it with planetary boundaries to create an inclusive society for all Europeans. Having achieved peace among the European nations, the European Union must secure economic success, social peace and peace with nature: that is the challenge of sustainability. This report seeks to assess the stakes, argues for new forms of governance and addresses a limited number of sustainability hotspots.

Towards an agroecological world (report)

From uniformity to diversity: A paradigm shift from industrial agriculture to diversified agroecological systems

Today’s food and farming systems have succeeded in supplying large volumes of foods to global markets, but are generating negative outcomes on multiple fronts: widespread degradation of land, water and ecosystems; high GHG emissions; biodiversity losses; persistent hunger and micro-nutrient deficiencies alongside the rapid rise of obesity and diet-related diseases; and livelihood stresses for farmers around the world. Many of these problems are linked specifically to ‘industrial agriculture’. What is required is a fundamentally different model of agriculture based on diversifying farms and farming landscapes, replacing chemical inputs, optimizing biodiversity and stimulating interactions between different species, as part of holistic strategies to build long-term fertility, healthy agro-ecosystems and secure livelihoods, i.e. ‘diversified agroecological systems’.

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Climate change technolgy wiki (online)


ClimateTechWiki offers a platform for a wide range of stakeholders in developed and developing countries who are involved in technology transfer and the wider context of low emission and low vulnerability development. It offers detailed information on a broad set of mitigation and adaptation technologies.Registration is free and registered users can add technology case-studies and participate in forum discussions.

Share your research online

Share and promote your research online

ResearchGate is a social networking site for researchers to share papers, ask and answer questions, and find collaborators. It is the largest academic social network in terms of active users. People that wish to use the site need to have an email address at a recognized institution or to be manually confirmed as a published researcher in order to sign up for an account. Members of the site can upload research output including papers, data, chapters, negative results, patents, research proposals, methods, presentations, and software source code. Users may also follow the activities of other users and engage in discussions with them.

Here's the actual toolkit for forest gardens!

Forest garden Archetypes

A few weeks ago I shared Candela Vargas' work developing a tool kit for creating forest gardens. This post has proved very popular. Unfortunately the link provided did not include the actual toolkit itself. Candela has very kindly supplied me with a link directly to the toolkit; and here it is! The booklet identifies a number of forest garden archetypes based on the values of the forest gardener, the key features, the uses of the garden, the layout, the kinds of plants and the buildings on site. It then encourages each forest gardener to think about which archetype is their ideal, and gives help, advice and case studies for helping to achieve it. A fantastic resource and a great read!

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

700 posts and going stronger than ever!

This is the Digest's 700th post. Four years ago when I came up with the idea, I never  imagined it would get this far. Nor did I imagine the size of the audience; as of today we have had 89,074 page views, 1,813 in the last month alone. The audience is a truly global one, with people in over 70 countries using the Digest and more than half the audience now outside the UK and the US, a welcome new development this year. Our most popular post to date has had 398 views.Thanks to everyone who takes the time to read the posts, I hope you find them useful. As ever your feedback is most welcome.

Zen and permaculture design (book)

Zen in the Art of Permaculture Design

Do you wish to creatively engage with the wickedly complex problems of today, while not adding to the mess? Do you want to consciously act with clarity and grace whilst living on a thriving planet? Do you want a fair society, where people care for each other, their children and grandchildren? Stefan Geyer shows how permaculture, infused by insights from the Zen tradition, can be a modern method of liberation from our society’s present woes.
Permaculture is a new regenerative culture, and permaculture design is the method to get there. It offers emancipation and emboldens us to think in joyfully expansive, daringly experimental and creatively caring new ways. This book is full of inspiration that you can carry with you anywhere. Each page explores a permaculture idea or theme. These are not the last word on the subject but catalysts for new thought.

Food sovereignty and feminism (#journal)

Struggling for food sovereignty in the World March of Women

This contribution focuses on how food sovereignty is being re-signified as a feminist issue by a non-peasant transnational feminist network, the World March of Women. First, we review the feminist literature on women, gender and food sovereignty and make suggestions regarding how to conceptualize the latter to better analyze feminist struggles on this terrain. Second, we highlight the variety of discourses and practices through which food sovereignty is appropriated in the different spaces of the March. Third, we identify the uneven deployment of food sovereignty among the national coordinating bodies of the March. Our conclusion stresses the role of discursive articulations and of internal and external alliances as processes through which food sovereignty is diffused and transformed, and draws some implications for the larger scholarship on food sovereignty.

Coloniality in US agricultural policy (#journal)

The coloniality of US agricultural policy: articulating agrarian (in)justice

Drawing on participatory action research with La Via Campesina’s US member groups, this paper traces the coloniality of US agricultural policy. The framework of coloniality conjures history, contextualizing US Department of Agriculture (USDA) racism within long legacies of subjugation, while paying homage to historical resistance. It raises the stakes regarding the neo-imperialism of agribusiness monopolies, while highlighting divide-and-conquer strategies and the colonialist mentalities that linger on despite reform. The discursive impact of coloniality builds upon existing, grassroots articulations of the need to decolonize agricultural policy. Calling out the coloniality of US agricultural policy echoes global revalorizations of peasant agriculture, while overcoming the constraints of the term ‘peasant’ in US-English-speaking contexts.

Perennial staple crops in Malawi (journal)

Ratooning and perennial staple crops in Malawi. A review

The management of staple crops as perennials is a historic legacy and a present-day strategy in Sub-Saharan Africa, yet perenniality is rarely an agronomic subject. Farmers in Malawi cut annual crops, such as pigeonpea and sorghum, to extend production for more than one growing season. Cassava, a perennial food crop, has a proven track record of abating hunger. Here we review ratooning, a method of harvesting a crop which leaves the roots and the lower parts of the plant uncut to give the ratoon or the stubble crop. This review is completed with interviews with Malawian farmers. The management of staple crops as perennials is underserved by research. The literature and interviews indicate that pigeonpea and sorghum have high productive potential when well managed in ratoon systems.

Cover crops in perennial agriculture (#journal)

Cover crops to increase soil microbial diversity and mitigate decline in perennial agriculture. A review

Perennial agriculture is prone to declining productivity due to negative plant-soil feedback. Although cover crops are already used in these systems for other reasons, their capacity to influence soil biota is unexploited. This article examines the role of plant diversity and identity on plant-soil feedback. We conclude that (1) increasing plant diversity increases soil microbial diversity, minimizing the proliferation of soil-borne pathogens; (2) populations of beneficial microbes can be increased by increasing plant functional group richness, (3) brassicas suppress fungal pathogens and promote disease-suppressive bacteria; (4) native plants may further promote beneficial soil microbiota; and (5) frequent tillage, herbicide use, and copper fungicides can harm populations of beneficial microbes. Non-crop vegetation management is a viable and cost-effective means of minimizing crop decline in perennial monocultures.

Coffee agroforestry management (#journal)

Agroforestry coffee production increased by native shade trees, irrigation, and liming

Agroforestry systems usually include shade trees, providing a large diversity of fauna and flora. Shade trees are, however, being removed to increase crop production in many tropical regions. We evaluated the importance of shade tree management for crop production in the context of management practices. Management practices included fertilization, liming, coffee pruning, weeding, and irrigation in 113 coffee agroforests in Kodagu, India. Results show that a rise of 100 shade tree per hectare increased production of berries by 5.6 % and bean size by 6.25 %. Irrigation and liming increased berry production respectively by 16 and 20 %. These management interventions offset the relatively small effect of reducing shade density.

The Hidden life of Trees (book)

The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate-Discoveries from a Secret World

 Are trees social beings? In this international bestseller, forester and author Peter Wohlleben convincingly makes the case that, yes, the forest is a social network. He draws on groundbreaking scientific discoveries to describe how trees are like human families: tree parents live together with their children, communicate with them, support them as they grow, share nutrients with those who are sick or struggling, and even warn each other of impending dangers. Wohlleben also shares his deep love of woods and forests, explaining the amazing processes of life, death, and regeneration he has observed in his woodland. After learning about the complex life of trees, a walk in the woods will never be the same again.

Rooftop production of vegetables (#journal)

Rooftop production of leafy vegetables can be profitable and less contaminated than farm-grown vegetables

Urban agriculture may solve issues of feeding urban populations. It has been estimated that the total rooftop space in China is about 1 million hectares, some of which can be converted for rooftop farming. This article present here a feasibility study of hydroponically grown vegetables in a rooftop screen house in Guangzhou, China. None of the roof hydroponic vegetables exceeded the maximum residue limit for lead, arsenic, cadmium, chromium, mercury, or nitrate. In contrast, 5 of 98 market vegetables were contaminated by exceeding the maximum residue limit for lead. Similarly 3 were contaminated for arsenic, 23 for nitrate, and 2 for organophosphate or carbamate insecticide. Compared to high-end vegetables sold on the market, rooftop-grown vegetables were competitive in cost and quality. Given that many countries have limited arable land to feed a large population, the widespread adoption of rooftop hydroponics could help expand the total area available for food production.

Crop-livestock integration betwen farms (#journal)

Crop–livestock integration beyond the farm level: a review

Paradoxically, the number of crop–livestock farms is declining across Europe, despite the fact that crop-livestock farms are optimal to the sustainability of agriculture. To solve this issue, crop–livestock integration may be organized beyond the farm level. For instance, local groups of farmers can negotiate land-use allocation patterns and exchange materials such as manure, grain, and straw. Development of such a collective agricultural system raises questions about how to integrate crops and livestock among farms, and the consequences, impacts, and conditions of integrating them. This article reviews the different forms of crop–livestock integration beyond the farm level, their potential benefits, and the features of decision support systems (DSS) needed for the integration process.

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

A toolkit for developing forest gardens (thesis)

Forest gardens are spreading around the temperate world with a diversity of goals, strategies and spatial structures as practitioners implement these needed systems. Tools and frameworks to advance the research of forest garden methods are a basic requirement. A toolbox booklet was developed through participatory action research. Gardens in the UK and Denmark were studied. The final output is the Forest Garden Archetype booklet, created through participatory action research and showing tools that may be used to strengthen the forest garden discipline.

Here is a direct link to the booklet itself:

Monday, 12 September 2016

Macro-economics for permaculture (report)

For the past few years, Capital Institute has been on an evolutionary learning journey…searching for a path that will lead beyond our current unsustainable economic system and the finance-dominated ideology that drives it. They call it Regenerative Capitalism. Ex-Wall Street economist John Fullerton writes in his introduction:

'My most startling discovery  was that the modern scheme of economics and finance formed the root cause of these systemic crises. My struggle to find a credible alternative framework for economics and finance sharpened my interest in the intellectual and scientific underpinnings of “systemic” or “holistic” approaches. I began by studying how we might apply the lessons of living systems to economic systems...I then discovered that scientists were turning the rules by which living systems sustain and regenerate themselves into empirical principles of systemic health and development, which applied as much to nonliving systems, including economies, as to ecosystems and living organisms.'