Let’s be positive about climate change

Climate change is happening, irrespective of what we as the human species is doing or not doing… we might be experiencing accelerated climate change, yes, manifested as droughts, desertification, rising temperatures and sea levels, huge storms, food insecurity, etc.

South Africa in particular is seen to be very vulnerable to these changes, but also very attractive in terms of the available natural and human resources to counter the onslaught.

And then there is Covid-19… While we are currently under national lockdown due to the virus, it is a good time to reflect on this event that is so drastically impacting on our lives.

It seems to be inevitable that such epidemics will occur; the question is what lessons are we learning now to prepare for similar events in the future.

People with healthy lifestyles, in particular healthy eating habits, seem to be much more resilient to overcome the probable infection by and death from the Covid-19 virus.

The body’s natural anti-viral protection systems are likely the best protection that is around.

Prevention is better than cure. Building “herd immunity” as fast as possible, while protecting the most vulnerable in society from dying, seems to be a workable strategy to neutralise the threat of Covid-19.

So how can we as a society ensure the production and distribution of affordable, healthy, nutrient-dense food and feed while neutralising and reversing the negative aspects of climate change?

One possible answer to this question is what we will be pondering about in the rest of this article.

Not so long ago the grassland prairies of the world, such as the Great Plains in North America and the Highveld and Groot Karoo in Africa, were teeming with herds of millions of bison, springbok, blouwildebeest and other herbivores.

It was a largely sustainable environment, because the herds followed the best grazing and left the grazed areas to recover.

Their manure and urine were left behind to enliven the hoove-tilled recovering landscapes.

Atmospheric carbon was captured by these great plains and forests, and after veld fires and grazing the carbon stayed and accumulated in the soils when roots died back to rebalance the plants.

Can we recreate through biomimicry (mimicking nature) this idealistic picture in modern times?

Not easily, because the great plains have been cut up into privately-owned farms and camps, and fencing prevent the free roaming of big herds of cattle and wildlife.

The answer is counter intuitive; it is to increase stock density and not to decrease it. Not in an uncontrolled way, in a well-managed and orderly way.

The farming method is called ultra high-density grazing, and it has been shown all around the world that landscapes can actually be regenerated by using it mindfully.

Here are three case studies to provide working examples of this concept:

The work of Allan Savory and the Savory Institute: see https://www.savory.global/ and Allan’s TED Talk at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vpTHi7O66pI.

Holistic management concepts, ultra high density grazing and large-scale landscape regeneration projects are proposed and practised in South Africa and globally. For a critical review of Allan’s work read more here: https://www.fcrn.org.uk/research-library/holistic-management-%E2%80%93-critical-review-allan-savory%E2%80%99s-grazing-method.

Spier Biodynamic Farm and the work of Farmer Angus near Stellenbosch: successful integrated farming operation near Stellenbosch. Boschendal Farm in the Drakenstein valley is also doing the same kind of work. See https://www.farmerangus.co.za/tag/biodynamic-farming/.

PolyFace Farms and the work of Joel Salatin: see http://www.polyfacefarms.com/, the model that is being followed by Spier, from integrated farming operations in Shenandoah Valley, Virginia, USA.

“We became better grass farmers as a result of Savory’s tireless efforts. Meanwhile, we’ve seen our organic matter go from an average of 1 percent to about 8 percent. We’ve seen water runoff reduced, earthworm castings increase exponentially, and animal carrying capacity jump from 20 cows to 120 cows on the same acreage. The beauty of this paradigm is that it does not put ecology and economy in competition; it puts them in symbiosis. And that’s pretty awesome.” – Joel Salatin

Gaia Landscape Regeneration as a private company will invest in farms that have high regeneration viability potential. These farms will be stocked with appropriate selections of cattle, sheep, and game in ultra high-density grazing systems (electric portable strip grazing fences).

The project aims to work with nature and to utilise biodynamic agriculture and permaculture principles as well as land healing modalities to establish symbioses between the needs of the landscape, the herds and the farmers’ needs.

Once the landscapes have been successfully regenerated and have a high level of resilience, these farms will be for sale as turn-key fully functional ecologically sound food production systems.

The landscape regeneration team and management can continue to run the farm or the new owners can undergo the necessary training to understand and maintain the systems themselves.

For further information and a more in-depth presentation of the Gaia Landscape Regeneration Project, readers are welcome to contact us directly.

Charl Pienaar lives in Paarl, and holds a Master’s degree in agricultural science, and an MBA, and can be reached at charl@transformus.co.za or 083 233 4294.