One of the most destructive activities on the environment is agriculture. Unsustainable farming practices can lead to deforestation, soil degradation, wasteful water consumption, pollution, and erosion. But there is a rise in regenerative agriculture, or farming which seeks to heal the natural systems on which we rely. Swiss farmer Ernst Gotsch has developed a new technique to transform degraded land into lush forests. He calls his system “syntropic” agriculture, because it is the opposite of entropy. All interactions help promote a positive energy balance in the system. Gotsch developed his technique so that anyone can replicate it in any part of the world, regardless of climate, soil condition, or acreage.
In 1984, Gotsch purchased 1,200 acres of deforested land on the edge of the Brazilian rainforest. At that time, the land was completely arid and unproductive. But through his new method of syntropic agriculture, he was able to reforest the entire area. Now, it is healthy and brimming with biodiversity. The land resembles an oasis amidst fields that have suffered from agro mining and fires. They key to his method is intensive pruning to return biomass to the soil. Gotsch’s focus on pruning supplies the system with plenty of organic material, so there is no need to bring in outside compost. Syntropic agriculture embraces the forest’s natural dynamics, rather than working against it. When harvest time comes, the soil will be better than it was at planting. This is contrary to any type of traditional farming, organic or not. Gotsch’s method is truly the path towards regeneration and abundance.
Economic, Social, and Environmental Benefit
Syntropic agriculture provides significant environmental benefits. Not only does it have the potential to regenerate deforested land, but it also can play a role in combating (and even reversing) climate change. By rebuilding organic matter through pruning, the system can draw down carbon from the atmosphere and sequester it in the soil. Thus Gotsch’s method leads to healthy soil that produces high quality, nutrient dense food while simultaneously improving, rather than depleting land. Ultimately, syntropic agriculture leads to productive farms and healthy communities and economies. To learn more about Ernst Gotsch’s work, take a look at this short film “Life in Syntropy.”