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A Bold Agenda for Treating Land as a Commons

A Bold Agenda for Treating Land as a Commons

The privileges of land ownership are so huge and far-reaching that they are generally taken as immutable facts of life – something that politics cannot possibly address. A hearty salute is therefore in order for a fantastic new report edited by George Monbiot, the brilliant columnist for The Guardian, and a team of six experts.  The report, “Land for the Many:  Changing the Way our Fundamental Asset is Used, Owned and Governed,” lays out a rigorous, comprehensive plan for democratizing access and use of land.  

“Dig deep enough into many of the problems this country faces, and you will soon hit land,” writes Monbiot. “Soaring inequality and exclusion; the massive cost of renting or buying a decent home; repeated financial crises, sparked by housing asset bubbles; the collapse of wildlife and ecosystems; the lack of public amenities – the way land is owned and controlled underlies them all. Yet it scarcely features in political discussions.” (The six report coauthors are Robin Grey, Tom Kenny, Laurie Macfarlane, Anna Powell-Smith, Guy Shrubsole and Beth Stratford.).

The report contains recommendations to the British Labour Party as it develops a policy agenda in preparation for the next general election. Given that much of the world suffers from treating land as a speculative asset, the report could be considered a template for pursuing similar reforms around the world. (Monbiot’s column summarizing the report can be found here.)  

For me, the report is quite remarkable:  a rigorous, comprehensive set of proposals for how land could be developed, used, and protected as a commons. 

There are succinct, powerful sections on making land ownership data more open and available; ways to foster community-led development and ownership of land (such as a “community right to buy”); and codifying a citizen’s “right to roam” on land for civic and cultural purposes. One effective way to curb speculative development and revive farming and forestry is by creating community land trusts and curbing tax privileges and subsidies.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Polyculture Market Garden Study–Results From Year 4–2018

THE POLYCULTURE MARKET GARDEN STUDY – RESULTS FROM YEAR 4 – 2018

HERE ARE THE RESULTS FROM THE FOURTH YEAR OF OUR MARKET GARDEN POLYCULTURE STUDY. THIS STUDY LOOKS AT THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN GROWING ANNUAL VEGETABLES AND HERBS IN POLYCULTURES VS GROWING THEM IN  TRADITIONAL BLOCKS.

In this post you will find an overview of the trial garden and the polycultures we are growing, a description of what we record and the 4th year results from the trial. You can find results from previous seasons here.

First of all we’d like to say a huge thank you to the team of volunteers that joined us for the study this year and that make it possible for us to carry out our experiments and research. It was a pleasure to work together with you. Thank you Victoria Bezhitashvili, Angela Rice, Malcolm Cannon, Elise Bijl, Alex Camilleri, Daniel Stradner, Emilce Nonquepan, Ezekiel Orba and Chris Kirby Lambert.

It was a great a mix of people from all over the world including university students, a crypto fund manager, ex-nintendo web editor and market gardeners. Thank you all for your valuable input, it was our pleasure to host you and we look forward to seeing you again some day.

The Polyculture Study 2018 Team

GARDEN OVERVIEW

Location: Bulgaria, Shipka
​Climate: Temperate
Köppen Climate Classification – Dfc borderline Cfb
USDA Hardiness Zone: 5b – 7a
Latitude: 42°
Elevation: 565 m
Average Annual Rainfall: 588.5 mm
Prevailing Wind: NW & NE
Garden Name: Aponia – Polyculture Market Garden

 

The six longer beds in the left hand corner of the photo on the right (the Aceaes) are the trial beds, the focus of this study.You can find the location of the Polyculture Market Garden on google maps here (labelled as Aponia on our Project map)

Garden area: 256.8 m2
Cultivated beds area: 165.6 m2
Paths: 50 cm wide – 91.2 m2
Bed Dimensions – 23 m x 1.2 m  Area – 27.6 m2 per bed
Number of beds: 6

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

5 HA Polyculture Farm Design–Suhi Dol Revisited

5 HA POLYCULTURE FARM DESIGN – SUHI DOL REVISITED

Paul Alfrey from Balkan Ecology Project shares with us his observations and thoughts in regards to a visit he made to a farm he designed and how it slowly developed into a polyculture of fruit trees, aquaculture and vegetable gardens. 

Last week Dylan and I set off on a road trip to discover the flora and fauna of the North East of Bulgaria. Our first stop was to Catherine Zanev ‘s farm in Todorovo, North Bulgaria. As those of you familiar with our project may recall, this was a farm I designed in 2013. I had not visited the place for some time and was very excited to see how the plans had emerged into reality.

Catherine’s goals for the plot were to create a polyculture farm with focus on producing fruit for juicing, to include vegetable production for a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) scheme and to experiment with dye plants. The design was complete by 2015 and implementation began that year.

The 5 ha polyculture plot Suhi Dol on the right, locally practiced intensive monoculture farming on the left

The design concept for Suhi Dol was to create an agroforestry system of “Belts” that are comprised of mixed species fruit trees, soft fruits and nitrogen fixing shrubs planted in “Rows” under-storied with support plants, herbs and perennial vegetables. Between the rows are the “Alleys”. The Alleys have potential to be used for growing hay, cereals, vegetables, herbs or rearing pasture raised poultry such as chickens or turkeys. Integrated throughout the belts and around the perimeter are various beneficial habitats to enhance biodiversity. The designed system is an elaboration of Alley Cropping and is based on tried and tested models of our small scale forest garden systems scaled up.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

How to Green the Desert: Europe’s Heatwave and Some Holistic Suggestions

HOW TO GREEN THE DESERT: EUROPE’S HEATWAVE AND SOME HOLISTIC SUGGESTIONS

In the Northern Hemisphere, the balance of light is turning ever more towards darkness as we approach the Autumn Equinox. This is following a summer which in many places was unusually hot and dry(1, 2). This is perhaps not unexpected; climate change scientists have been predicting extreme temperature spikes for a number of years(3). However, it seems that a lot of farmers were nevertheless unprepared and many crops have been lost(2). Such occurrences can be seen as unfortunate; but can also serve as lessons for us. When you look at the factors exacerbating aridity, it seems clearer than ever that industrial farming is ill-equipped to deal with adaptation. This article will explore a little what happened in the heatwave, particularly in the UK and look at an example of a permaculture site which survived unharmed.

Dry continent

Throughout Europe, rainfall in the summer of 2018 was so low that many places were reported as having droughts. While some of the affected areas of the drought were wild places, such as the forest fires which swept through the coniferous forests of Norway and Sweden in June and July(4), the main losses were from the farming industry. Both Lithuania and Latvia declared national states of emergency in July(2, 5). Germany and Poland were reported as experiencing severe losses in wheat production(2), with many farmers in Germany resorting to destroying their crops since they did not have the resources to continue watering them(2). Many cattle farmers, such as in the UK, had to use their winter supply of animal food to feed their cows(6), since the grass had all withered and dried, creating a temporary solution and more problems in the months to come.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Russia Offers 2.5 Million Acres Of Farmland To China, Amid Worsening Trade War

China and Russia recently announced a new age of diplomacy between the two countries, at a time when President Trump is targeting both with precision-guided economic warfare.

China finds itself reeling under trade disputes with the US, as the next round of tariffs on $16 billion worth of Chinese goods is expected to start on August 23.

Earlier this week, Russia offered to bail out China from the trade war with Washington. Moscow offered 1 million hectares (2.5 million acres) of arable land available to Chinese farmers to meet its large-scale demand for soybeans — and of course, prevent a massive soybean shortage that would lead to political/social upheavals across the country.

Maybe, the US trade war on China should be interpreted as a piece in a much larger chessboard: A war on Eurasia integration,or the One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative.

Nevertheless, some analyst and experts are skeptical about the quality of the plots available. As reported by South China Morning Post, several Chinese investment firms have shown a keen interest in solidifying an agreement with Moscow.

Valery Dubrovskiy, director of investment for the Far East Investment and Export Agency, a non-profit organization, said on Tuesday that Chinese, Russian, and other surrounding countries have already expressed tremendous interest in the farmland. “We expect most of the investment to come from China,” he said. “We expect 50 percent from China, 25 percent from Russia and 25 percent from other countries, like Japan and Korea.”

Dubrovskiy said that all of the 3 million hectares of farmland in Russia’s Far Eastern Federal District is now available to farmers, adding that the region could become a hotspot for dairy farming or the growing of crops, such as soybeans, wheat, and potatoes.

Inadvertently, Trump’s trade war with China could be a game-changer for Moscow, as it expects foreign investment to flood the region.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Save Our Soils

IMG_9379 feat

SAVE OUR SOILS

Less than thirty per cent of the world’s topsoil remains in fair or acceptable condition. The fragility of this vital layer can be illustrated through a simple comparison: if one imagines the earth as an orange, the extremely thin topsoil layer is no thicker than the shine on the skin of that orange. An astonishing variety of creatures rely on this ‘shine’ for all of their basic necessities.

Our growing knowledge about soil has formed the basis of new soil services, soil analyses, and many well-intended soil conservation attempts, yet we are still losing soil at an ever-increasing rate. If this trend continues for much longer, our current form of society will eventually collapse – and mainly as a result of practices as simple as over tilling.

At the same time, soil is being damaged irreparably by salinisation, for example resulting from the clear-cutting of forests that are often far away. There are only a few places in natural systems in which soils are well conserved: uncut forests; under shallow lakes and ponds; native grasslands populated by perennials; and mulched and non-tillage agricultural production systems.

Image Courtesy of Nadia Lawton
Image Courtesy of Nadia Lawton

A SUSTAINABLE APPROACH

Although this situation may seem extremely gloomy, there is hope in the form of numerous sustainable approaches to soil reconditioning, maintenance and rehabilitation. Surprisingly, amateur gardeners and farmers – not scientists with big fancy labs and federal research grants – are doing most of the real research. Moreover, these people are achieving results: creating high quality soil through water control, modest aeration, and the assemblage of specific plants and animals. And this is done with careful consideration of the sequence of these treatments.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

These 7 Things Are Better Than Paper Money In the Bank When the Economy Collapses

These 7 Things Are Better Than Paper Money In the Bank When the Economy Collapses

So you’ve done the hard work of getting your finances in order and now you’re looking to invest your hard-earned surplus into things that will protect or grow it.

Keeping your savings as fiat currency in the the banks may not be the safest way to store your wealth. Banks are beginning to give concrete evidence of actually penalizing you for keeping your money with them … and that’s if they don’t outright confiscate it via bank bail-in.

It would be prudent to look at investments that offer the dual purpose of getting around the banking system, while also offering ways to stockpile the tangible items that should fare much better in any economic collapse situation.

Here are seven investments that will hold value far better than cash if the current trends continue.

Food

We are beginning to see in real-real time what a collapse in the food supply could mean. One look at Venezuela should prove that even though most people believe “it could never happen here” or even that they have enough money to get what they need no matter what, this is not the case.  Even the supposedly wealthy in Venezuela are waiting in long lines with everyone else.

While things are still relatively stable, it makes sense to build a food stockpile slowly but surely. You can  pick up a few key food items each week at the supermarket to build up your food bank without having to spend thousands in bulk food acquisitions. It’s best to keep your storable food bank list simple and concentrate on common foods that you already consume regularly. We wrote an article geared toward foods that have long shelf lives but are also practical for most diets, so please read “10 Best Survival Foods At Your Local Supermarket.”

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Beginners Guide To Selecting, Stockpiling And Defending A Survival Retreat Part One

The Beginners Guide To Selecting, Stockpiling And Defending A Survival Retreat Part One

It should be no more than three hours of driving to from where you live. It must be large enough to grow your own food, and steps should have been taken well before the disaster occurs as to what to do to get it livable and defensible. The first and most important thing to do is to make the purchase or at least be in the process of purchasing the land. A deed in hand is better regardless of what happens later than to be a squatter on land that belongs to someone else.

Put it in the name of a gun club or some such entity to account for the occasional gunfire that may be heard by a passerby. Choose your retreat carefully, you’ll need an adequate water supply on the land, and if it is a sizable stream or artesian water source that would be best of all worlds. You’ll also need an adequate wood supply if it looks like the stay there will be longer than a few months.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Farming: A Not-For-Profit Enterprise?

Farming: A Not-For-Profit Enterprise?

I am just musing now, as in a-muse, not advocating and criticizing. What if the economics of money profit and loss, under capitalism, or socialism, or a monarchy or any other system, doesn’t really work for farming. Maybe growing food is supposed to be a not-for-profit enterprise, a part of our personal duty, like bathing and brushing our teeth. Or a sport like amateur golf done for fun not for money.

The usual reaction among farmers when I bring up this notion is a chorus of snickers and joking agreement that the best to be said for farming is that you die rich so the kids have something to fight over. And there’s more than a little truth in that. So why am I considered supremely naive to just come right out and say that maybe owning land is a good investment and is the only way farming is profitable financially. Even when farms are huge and seemingly sure-fire moneymakers at least some years, they continue to rely heavily on subsidies to make ends meet.

Not-for-profit farming would be based on a different economic model for farmland. “Profit” would come from the satisfaction and enjoyment and recreational value of possessing or owning land, not squeezing it to death for money profit. Then the land and the farmer’s life on it would not be subject to money manipulation and would not need the highest yields or the biggest machinery to survive.  It would just need more not-for-profit food producers.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

 

 

 

The Law of the Land

The Law of the Land

Land is—or should be—invaluable, perhaps even sacred. It is not only a place to live, but also a source for food, for water, for fuel, and for sustenance of almost every kind. Land management choices have profound impacts on our ecosystems and environment, and thus on our health, well-being and collective future.

Hence the politics of land access, and the laws that emerge from it, fundamentally shape our lives, our world and our legacy. Yet in Britain, something is radically wrong. As Simon Fairlie bluntly describes in The Land magazine, “nearly half the country is owned by 40,000 land millionaires, or 0.06% of the population, while most of the rest of us spend half our working lives paying off the debt on a patch of land barely large enough to accommodate a dwelling and a washing line.”

Such consolidated land ownership also engenders the uniform, large-scale, mechanised agriculture that is gradually becoming our mental image of “a farm.” Yet with the UK population having swelled by four million over the past decade, it becomes ever more pertinent that this model has long been known to produce far less food per acre than traditional smaller holdings—quite apart from its oil dependence and wider environmental impacts.

Meanwhile, many dream of using land truly sustainably by developing small-scale agroecological smallholdings that provide satisfying livelihoods, healthier ecosystems and not just more food, but healthier food. Some even purchase land and start planning to build their home before being blocked and frustrated at every turn as they engage with the legal intricacies and often perverse rulings of the planning permission system; the same system that is all too happy to give land over to a proliferation of supermarkets and identikit housing estates.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

 

 

Conflicts in the food, energy, land and water nexus

Conflicts in the food, energy, land and water nexus

There is growing concern over future food production and increas­ing competition for resources in the food, energy and water nexus are reflected in a new interest for investment in land and water. “I cannot farm myself out of this water problem,” says Mark Shannon, a farmer who in 2010 had to let his land in the San Joaquin valley be converted into a solar power field. This is a vivid illustration of the shortage of resources that will be a permanent feature in the future, and how land, water and energy interplay.

Eagle Ford in Texas is one of the fastest-growing shale oil and gas plays (a group of fields in the same geological zone) in the United States. It is also located in one of the driest parts of the country. Following the severe drought of 2011, concerns are mounting that oil and gas extraction is competing with irrigation for scarce water supplies. Drilling and fracturing rock formations to release oil and gas (fracking) uses enormous quantities of water: according to most estimates, each well in Eagle Ford consumes between fifteen to nineteen million liters of water. The economic returns from using groundwater for fracking are enormous and easily outstrip the returns of agriculture, so frackers can easily outbid farmers. If the groundwater owner can claim royalties on the output from oil and gas wells, using groundwater to frack wells could earn more than two thousand times more than growing maize.[i]

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

 

 

New Report Urges Western Governments to Reconsider Reliance on Biofuels

New Report Urges Western Governments to Reconsider Reliance on Biofuels

Western governments have made a wrong turn in energy policy by supporting the large-scale conversion of plants into fuel and should reconsider that strategy, according to a new report from a prominent environmental think tank.

Turning plant matter into liquid fuel or electricity is so inefficient that the approach is unlikely ever to supply a substantial fraction of global energy demand, the report found. It added that continuing to pursue this strategy — which has already led to billions of dollars of investment — is likely to use up vast tracts of fertile land that could be devoted to helping feed the world’s growing population.

Some types of biofuels do make environmental sense, the report found, particularly those made from wastes like sawdust, tree trimmings and cornstalks. But their potential is limited, and these fuels should probably be used in airplanes, for which there is no alternative power source that could reduce emissions.

“I would say that many of the claims for biofuels have been dramatically exaggerated,” said Andrew Steer, president of the World Resources Institute, a global research organization based in Washington that is publishing the report. “There are other, more effective routes to get to a low-carbon world.”

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

 

Olduvai IV: Courage
In progress...

Olduvai II: Exodus
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