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Agoras as Small-Scale Regenerative Organic Centres
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'We need to change course radically; not simply by reforms which won't get us where we need to be; nor by wholesale revolution which most people don't want and is far too risky. Rather, we need to bring about a renaissance - a rebirth. We must start again from good principles, though building on the good things that already exist - of which, mercifully, there is a great deal. In particular we need an Agrarian Renaissance. But since the people in power are thinking along quite different lines, we - all of us; people at large - have to do what needs doing for ourselves'.
-Colin Tudge, Six Steps Back to the Land: Why We Need Small Mixed Farms and Millions More Farmers
'Indeed, small scale-farming is the ultimate bundle of art, science, skill and labour of love in relating with the world, and that inherent validity claim will be vindicated in bioregional civilization.'
-Eileen Crist, 'For Cosmopolitan Bioregionalism', 2020
Agoras conform to the cornerstone of Eco Pax Mundi Agora; agoras are the organisation's institutions. They are basically small-scale organic farms run by the principles of regenerative organic farming and permaculture. However, agoras go far beyond a site where a technique for growing food, fibre and feedstock in an eco-friendly manner is deployed. Rather, agoras turn into hubs where nature meets community and both merge in synergistic myriad possibilities. Agoras are the centres around which the social life of the community to which the agora is associated revolves. Similarly, a good portion of the economic life of this community is also rooted in the agora. In the following, the salient tenets of these small-scale regenerative organic centres are described.
Small-Scale Frees Up Space for Biomass Production and Rewilding and is Highly Productive
Agoras conform to small-scale organic farms, that is to say, agoras consolidate the necesary change of scale, in favour of microagriculture, to take Mother Earth to a post-ecocidal era. Since permaculture facilitates the yield of vast amounts of produce in a small space, the agora is easier to fertilise than a large monoculture. It is therefore possible to obtain exceptional soil upon the agora with virtually no external inputs.
Added to this, the microagriculture practised upon the agora frees up space for other uses including the production of biomass that can benefit the cultivated area upon the agora by assisting it in achieving self-fertility. Moreover, growing food, fibre and feedstock in a compact area as it is done upon the agora leaves ample space for rewilding, which conforms to a key initiative to the advancement of an ecological ethic to which Eco Pax Mundi Agora is committed.
Last but not least, microagrculture has been proven to be more productive than the highly mechanised large plantations common in the agribusiness model. [Further elaborate]
Small-scale is Low-tech and thus Low-cost and more Labour Intensive
Growing crops organically entails using technologies based upon ecological knowledge instead of chemistry and genetic engineering. The agora relies upon the free resources from nature. Working by hand or with animal traction employs the energy of the sun stored in the plants and the animals nourished upon the self-same agora. The small-scale organic agora is thus low-tech, which, in turn, renders its operability far more low-cost than the large plantations run by agribusinesses that rely upon highly sophisticated technological machinery and an attendant colossal infrastructure necessary to export, process, distribute and retail the produce. The latter is put into place by states with the revenue raised from the taxpayers.
The small-scale agora is exactly the opposite: Most of the work is done manually by farmers, often exclusively aided with draft animals. This renders the smallholder organic farm far more labour intensive than the agribusiness monocultures where the artificial, man-created homogeneity of the field allows for mechanised tillage fully dependent upon oil. This labour intensity generates a larger pool of jobs. Moreover, the jobs undertaken upon the agora in the form of artisanal trades, which includes food processing, renders these far more meaningful and fulfilling than sitting upon a tractor and repeatedly going up and down a monotonously homogeneous field and further managing the farm, in the form of a commodity, from behind a computer screen trying to meet an ecoefficient target as it occurs in the agribusiness model.
This means that the transition from an expensive and ecocidal method dependent as it is upon the combustion engine, to the clean, sun-based approach that the agora supports is far easier than would be converting small-scale farms into agribusinesses models. The agora therefore, complies with SDG 2 as it 'promote[s] sustainable agriculture'.
Small-scale Distributes the Land Among a Larger Pool of Smallholders (SDG 1)
Moreover, these small-scale agoras further comply with SDG 1 that promotes to 'end poverty in all its forms everywhere' and SDG 8 that encourages 'full and productive employment and decent work for all', since our food, fibre and feedstock needs are met by distributing the land amongst a far larger pool of smallholders and usufructuaries away from the agribusiness model that concentrates the land into a few landlords or transnational corporations.
No-Till Farming Retains the Carbon in the Soil Enhancing Self-Fertility
Regenerative organic agriculture is largley a practice inspired by the observation of nature's ways. Wild areas know no ploughing. Rather, they become aerated and fertilised by myriad life-forms. By the same token, regenerative organic farming abstains from tilling the land to respect earthworms (that already Aristotle aptly characterised as the intestines of the earth) and allow for humus creation and thus soil self-fertility. No-till, therefore, is in line with SDG 15 that encourages to 'halt and reverse land degradation'.
In sharp contrast, ploughing and digging favours crop growth in the short term a the farmer loosens the soil, removes weeds and allows that a massive inflow of oxygen accelerate the work of bacteria and, thus, the mineralisation of organic matter. However, in the medium and long term tillage runs counter to productivity since it negatively interferes in the natural tendency of soils to increase fertility. Added to this, the import of nutrient shortages is required. These often take the form of chemical fertilisers. Moreover, tillage and machines introduce significant amounts of oxygen into the soil. The presence of this oxygen accelerates the combustion of organic material and the carbon that used to be retained in the soil, which is so vital to the mentioned fertility, is released back into the atmosphere in the form of carbon dioxide, rendering conventional agriculture one of the major causes of anthropogenic climate change. It must be further noted that when the soil becomes deficient in organic matter, it becomes more vulnerably exposed to leaching and erosion.
The Multiple Benefits of Multistrata Agroforestry
One of the additional techniques used upon the agoras is multistrata agroforestry. This technique mimics natural forests in structure since these are organised in layers. This method combines an overstory of taller trees with an understory of one or more layers of crops, thereby maximising horizontal and vertical space alike. The blend of plants respects the native varieties of the region, but, as the Drawdown project publicises, the spectrum includes macadamia and coconut, black pepper and cardamom, pineapple and banana, shade-grown coffee and cacao, as well as rubber and timber.
The benefits of these method are akin to those of a forest. Multistrata agorsoresty prevents erosion and flooding; recharges groundwater and in so doing it meets SDG 6 to 'ensure availability and sustainable management of water'; it further restores degraded land and soils, supports biodiversity by providing habitat and corridors between fragmented ecosystems, thereby complying with SDG 15 to 'halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss'; finally, it absorbs and stores carbon and so it abided by SDG 13 to 'take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts'.
Another common practice in the agora turned into a small-scale organic farm is intercropping. This technique consists in crop and plant associations to take advantage of the land. The idea is to interplant the next crop before the previous one has been completely harvested.
F Arisanal food processing generates jobs
G. Agritourism and slow food provides meaningful socialisation
H. Ecoliteracy advances an ecological ethic
These smallholdings grow food and fiber and raise livestock chiefly to attain food security. However, some surplus produce may be generated, which is then sold in farmers' markets, thereby securing some income to the co-stewards.