GRASSROOTS INPUT TO ENVIRONMENTAL DEBATES
Reflections at the end of 2016
By Chris Henggeler, Kachana Station, January 2017
Why invest time, labour and capital for no direct monetary returns?
Chris Henggeler, Kachana, December 2016
“Identify the trend whose premise is false and bet against it.” - George Soros
How realistic are politically correct and socially placating assumptions if they do not align with how nature seems to work?
In 1812: 1,ooo,ooo,ooo…
By 1912: 1,5oo,ooo,ooo…
Then in 2012: 7,ooo,ooo,ooo modern humans
We are supposed to stabilise at nine billion.
We are all in this together…
Nature includes dynamic patterns and undercurrents that blend and influence each other in complex ways…
As I understand things, we have reached a point in time where the difference between living with reactive options, rather than pursuing proactive alternatives could mean the loss of two to four billion human lives by the end of this century; possibly even more.
In all probability there will be more wars. But our real challenges lie beyond national politics.
What sort of a world do we leave behind for the descendants of the now 7,000,000,000 people?
As the bigger picture becomes more obvious, speculation about scenarios of where, what, when, how and in what order, lose relevance.
The need for water-security now supersedes the need for food-security.
(Neither body builder nor cancer patient survives ongoing stress without water. Neither fertile well-managed farms nor arid landscapes, will sustain life in the long-term, if soils are gradually dehydrating. Rehydration of critical landscapes is paramount.)
Even as a God-fearing person, I very much doubt that God (nature, chaos, randomness, science, money, humanity or whatever we choose to place our faith in) will put on hold the “law of the harvest” and other wonderful processes that brought forth and maintain the way nature works. We appear to be clever enough to cut the umbilical cord that connects us to our biological existence on this planet. Will we find the humility and wisdom to realise that this is not a good idea? - Will we take effective action?
To me at least, it appears that civilisation as we know it has reached tipping-points.
Some trends may already have reached a point of no return.
Production can be measured in conventional commercial equations; the value of water-security cannot. Any attempts of city-based communities and irrigation-based agriculture to place monetary values on water fall woefully short, because they tend to focus on direct influences on production and consumption. Little or no monetary value is placed on reliable ecosystem processes as a foundation for all biological activity (and therefore also productivity).
LADH and FINAB are two related projects that I have committed to (“Locally Adapted Dairy Heifer” breeding program and “Farm in a Box”). I believe they offer the social empowerment as well as the skill-sets required to commence a radical ecological turn-around in rural communities (close as well as far away from larger human concentrations).These projects do this without a confrontational challenge to those conducting “business as usual”.
LADH is and needs to remain within the realm of commercial reality.
FINAB, on the other hand, addresses root-causes ranging from empowerment of key players at grassroots-levels to their performing of critical environmental services at an increasing scale.
Such objectives and results are not being quantified in conventional commercial equations.
As a consequence FINAB is unattractive for the conventional investor.
If we are to begin to address the challenges we face, at the rate required, vision, long-term thinking and creative investing are our only hope.
This is our vision:
We inspire and facilitate the building of an ever increasing number of holistically managed small-scale livestock and mixed cropping farms in Southern Africa* which are the catalyst for more sustainable farming methods in the region. To realize this vision we set ourselves the following mission: To be a leading catalyst in Southern Africa* to disseminate in a first phase the best method for producing milk from locally adapted cross-bred dairy cows and in the second phase to build up a network of numerous highly profitable small-scale farms which are managed in line with their local holistic context.
Triple-bottom line revisited
Aspects that will give FINAB traction can in the first instance only fully be measured by the participating farmers themselves and their families.
Commercial justification can be calculated with proof of concept, but the necessary spark to ignite the enthusiasm will need to come via seed-capital that will not see monetary returns in the conventional sense.
For this project to float, the triple bottom line looks like this:
- Social acceptance: small farm families wanting to farm and sustain themselves according to nature’s templates – start-up facilitated via micro-credit concepts
- Ecological restoration: by learning about and adopting regenerative practices, ecosystem processes are enhanced, biodiversity improves, water-security improves, landscape productivity improves with flow-on effects
- Financial justification: as the land becomes healthy enough to sustain the people who live and depend on it, it begins to allow surpluses to be generated that can be bartered or exchanged for cash
The true value of FINAB lies beyond the wellbeing of the individual farm-families who participate.
Bees making honey is the result of their important role in the pollinating of plants.
Similarly FINAB-farmers, whilst providing for their families, begin the restoration of ecosystem-function surrounding cities, towns and national parks… with flow-on effects that benefit the broader landscape.
For most people worst-case scenarios seldom become a reality.
Then again best-case scenarios hardly ever just fall into place.
A good friend of mine often points out that I have a vivid imagination…
I’d rather imagine a holistically sustainable scenario and work towards that, than watch as nature brings about a new equilibrium that threatens civilisation as we know it.
Investing with the aim of rebuilding ecological bank-accounts may not be as silly as it might sound.
*Why Southern Africa?
- We already have ties there as well as local knowledge. Africa seems the obvious place for us to begin.
- Anybody who visits our website will appreciate that LADH and FINAB do not need to be restricted to Southern Africa.
LADH and FINAB can be replicated in any seasonally dry community on the planet. It requires local partners prepared to arm themselves with appropriate knowledge, skills and capital to design locally relevant models.
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“Nuts & bolts” of FINAB and the implications for communities and the broader landscape:
- Stockmanship: managing and influencing herbivore-behaviour (point of influence)
- Grassfarming: drawing down atmospheric carbon / increasing photosynthetic activity (= key!)
- Soilbuilding: rebuilding and filling “carbon-accounts” in/on our soils (area of maximum impact)
- Rainfallmanagement: rehydration of soils, replenishing of ground-water and aquifers, and other beneficial flow-on effects…
- Climate: how we experience the interaction of the simple, but complex processes listed above