Syntropic Farming: A Game Changer for Modern Agriculture

December 31, 2023

By Misheck Nyirongo

CONVENTIONAL agriculture practices have made soil processes increasingly vulnerable to extreme weather events, which are predicted to intensify worldwide in the face of climate change.

However, among the different types of agroecology practices to address climate change due to the deforestation, is the Syntropic Agriculture (SA), which is the type of agroforestry that blends scientific and traditional knowledge and is based on the philosophy that humankind and nature are integrated and interdependent.

In this context, this article will explore the potential of Syntropic Agriculture, a successional and process-based form of agroforestry, to improve soil water and temperature resilience in agricultural production.

The Syntropic Agriculture, a form of regenerative agroforestry driven by the power of natural succession which is beyond organic and beyond sustainable, it produces abundance. Natural succession is the tendency for nature to rehabilitate land, taking it from barren to fertile and densely vegetated.

The term ‘syntropy’ refers to the concentration and accumulation of energy, resulting in differentiation and complexity of biological organisation structures; and the syntropy governs the biological world, making that ‘life feeds on negative entropy.’

Annie Chikanji, a founding Director of Ubuntu Learning Centre Trust, explains why promoting, Syntropic Agriculture, “Getting more from your land, Zero tillage, disturb less the land; and water harvesting by allowing air to flow in the pathways,” instead of inputs.

During the learning tour to Ubuntu Learning Centre Trust, a Permaculturist, Roland Vaan Reennen also visited the syntropic garden at Munda Wanga and Botanical Garden said, “The river at Munda Wanga game resort did run dry due to extended droughts caused by deforestation.

However, the Syntropic agro forestry is internationally known for its ability to restore water cycles and the goal of this wonderful green project is to get the river full with water again by planting food the syntropic agriculture way.”

A Permaculturist, RolandVaan Reennen with a team visited the “Syntropic Garden” at Munda Wanga and Botanical Garden in Chilanga.

What may appear as competition or destruction in a natural environment is really an attempt to create balance for the benefit of the whole system. With this perspective in mind, the farm is seen as a unified, intelligent, living system which is meant to evolve over time.

When these cooperative relationships are promoted correctly by the farmer, the farm develops into a strong, healthy, living system. To do this, the farmer grows some forms of vegetation, which do not produce any usable crops, but that contribute positively to the farm. These are called “biomass” plants and trees. The farmer also “tucks in” plants and trees that produce a valuable harvest. These are called “target” plants and trees.

This combination of vegetation is grown together closely, in a way that is mutually beneficial. The farmer also has a deep understanding of how the vegetation responds positively to pruning and cuts it back at strategic times to promote rapid growth.

After a few years, the system becomes partly autonomous. It can provide its own irrigation, fertilizer, crowd out undesirable plants and resist disease. It works like healthy gut flora. When humans have a strong community of healthy microorganisms in their gut, there is no room for harmful agents to take hold. The same is true for a healthy farm system.

“A planting scheme is complicated because it takes into account the future vision of the farm. It does so in a way to optimally produce waves of harvests, one after the other, first starting with veggies and then later with fruit and wood from trees,” Annie Chikanji explains.

As mentioned before, some of the vegetation will be grown for harvest, while other vegetation will be grown solely for the purpose of pruning and driving succession forward. Syntropic farming can be used to rehabilitate degraded “dead” land or introduced to existing farmland. It can even be used to turn wild jungle into a food forest.

“In the first three years you build biomass by using dry matters to cover the area throughout the year. We grow grasses such as rice, maize, sorghum, wheat, millets etc. in the grass areas to be used as biomass for mulching in the vegetable lines and in the tree lines,” Annie Chikanji explains.

“Within a short time, one is able to start harvesting from either the vegetable lines or from the tree lines. Succession is the best story; you always have your cassava in the tree lines because you leave the main root in the soil; the permanent farming, harvesting all the year round from a small piece of land.

Ubuntu Learning Hub Trust is in forefront, “We love moving with people and demonstration of Syntropic is done at the Centre where people come to look and learn and plant something, done in communities where the surrounding communities can also learn from,” Annie noted.

“The Syntropic farming is always done with many people so this makes it easier to be followed by many people; as it is possible with big team to demonstrate the planting of every crop according to the needs of the owners of that field.

Indeed, to address the global deforestation, and a loss of 420million hectares of forest, there is an increasing need to create more environmentally friendly agricultural practices, to empower farmers and give them more control over their own destinies, and to create technologies that has more just socioeconomic implications.

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