by Stephen Bartlett
July 20, 2017
Garifuna children on beach in northern Honduras, photo: Steve Pavey
From where does hope spring in the times of war on the peripheries and corruption in the center? From the very biosphere of Mother Earth, that’s where, and from people living in direct and intimate contact with that biosphere. I have witnessed the potent force of nature to recover from infertility, fire, drought, plague. I understand the harmonious ways people can live upon the land, with their light carbon footprints. If farmers and ranchers could be allowed to walk the path of ecological farming, then we could sequester the lion’s share of the CO2 already emitted into the atmosphere, while restoring the health and economies of communities across the globe. As it is now, that lifestyle looks counter cultural, even though it is the lifestyle that has allowed humanity to survive and thrive for millenia.
Experiences of abundance and the restorative powers of nature.
Farmers, foragers and foresters the world over do not need to be convinced of the powers of nature. We live them intimately each waking day.
- On 1/3 acre of fertile ground, we can produce enough maize, beans and squash to feed several families for the year. Considering the vast acreages of land devoted to feed and fuel corn, humanity is no where near its ultimate holding capacity. But only if we change our ways soon and steward that fertility better for the long term.
- Over the course of 27 years on 10 tropical acres, through use of living fence lines, timber tree production and pasturage improvement, we have sequestered an estimated 1,500 tons of additional carbon. Only a margin from want and hunger can allow farmers to invest in the future and farm the land in a way that increases fertility over time.
- A friend near Berea, Kentucky, Susana Lein, has made what was once a barren ridge side into an arable acre of abundance that provides for her and her farm apprentices. She does this without plowing, by clever use of cover crops, straw mulching and direct seeding, inspired by the vision of Masanobu Fukuoka the “Natural” farmer of Iyo, Japan.
- The MST, or Landless rural workers mouvement of Brazil, has agricultural cooperatives that developed on lands recovered through agrarian reform and land occupation, has organic rice production, combined with aquaculture of fish in the irrigation channels. They barter rice with nearby settlements that specialize in grape/wine production. Their cups literally run over. The agrovillages of the MST are idyllic places to live, examples of hope in the midst of mass landlessness and land concentration into the hands of the 1%.
In Vallecito, Honduras Garifuna youth from cities learn to produce food for their communities, as with this plantain near the outdoor kitchen.