By Kofi Annan
All forms of animal life are found in the forests, from mammals to the most rudimentary invertebrates. The plant kingdom exhibits a similar diversity: there is no tendency to monoculture; the general rule is: combined harvests and mixed farming.
While science is frantically doomed to study what is the best way to use the soil in order to obtain higher yields, combat pests, weeds and other herbs more effectively -incorporating transgenic organisms and all kinds of poisons in the process-, It is useful to stop that vertigo and stop to observe to learn from someone who has been cultivating for millions of years without using any of the supposed "wonders" that emerged from the laboratory.
What are the basic principles that base the agriculture of Nature? They can be seen most easily in action in our forests and mountains.
Mixed or combined farming is the general rule: plants are always together with animals; many species of plants and animals live together. All forms of animal life are found in the forests, from mammals to the most rudimentary invertebrates. The plant kingdom exhibits a similar diversity: there is no tendency to monoculture; the general rule is: combined harvests and mixed farming.
The ground is always protected from the direct action of the sun, rain and wind. The watchword for this soil care is strict economy; nothing is lost. The totality of the solar energy is used by the foliage of the canopy of the jungle and the bushes. The leaves also disperse the rain in a fine spray so that it can be used more conveniently by the layer of animal and plant remains that constitutes the last line of defense of the precious soil. These protection methods, so efficient in their relations with the sun and rain, also reduce the force of the most violent hurricanes to gentle currents of air.
The rainwater supply in particular is stored with care. A high proportion of it is retained in the surface soil; the excess is transferred without violence to the subsoil and from there to the springs and rivers. The fine spray formed by the foliage is transformed by the layer of protective soil residues into thin films of water that move downwards, first in the humus layer and then in the soil and in the subsoil.
they have acquired porosity by two means: by creating a very marked crumb structure and by a network of aeration and drainage galleries carved out by earthworms and other digging animals. The pore space of the forest covers the maximum, so that there is a large internal surface on which the thin films of water can crawl. There is also a large amount of humus for the direct absorption of moisture. The excess is drained through the subsoil.
Runoff is very low, even in the tropical rain forest; and it is practically clear water, none of the soil is washed away, there is no soil erosion.
The slopes and rivers of the virgin forest are always perennial due to the enormous amount of water in slow transit between the downpour and the sea. Consequently, there are almost never droughts in forest regions, since most of the rainfall is retained exactly where it is needed. There is no loss anywhere.
The jungle fertilizes itself. It makes its own humus and is supplied with mineral elements. If we observe a section of forest, we find that a constant and slow accumulation of animal and vegetable remains is forming on the surface of the soil and that these residues are converted by fungi and bacteria into humus. The processes at play at the beginning of this transformation depend entirely on oxidation; afterwards, they continue without contact with the air. They are sanitary. There are no nuisances of any kind, no smells, no flies, no garbage carts, no crematorium ovens, no artificial network of drains, no illnesses due to dirty water, no municipalities and no taxes. On the contrary, the forest provides ideal sites for camping in summer; Sufficient shade and plenty of fresh, pure air. However, throughout the forest surface the transformation of plant and animal waste into humus is more intense and rapid during these summer months.
The soil always conserves a wide reserve of fertility. In Nature's agriculture, narrowness will never be felt. The reserves are stored in upper layers of the soil in the form of humus. However, any unnecessary buildup of humus will go away by automatically mixing it with the upper soil through the activities of scavenging animals, such as earthworms and certain insects. The extent of these reserves can only be appreciated when the forest is cut down and the virgin soil is used for agriculture. When plants such as tea, coffee, rubber and bananas are grown in fresh ground
cleaned, good crops can be obtained without the use of fertilizers for ten or more years. Nature, like any good manager, has strong liquid reserves properly invested. Reservations are not wasted in any way.
The crops and livestock take care of themselves. Nature never found it necessary to invent anything like the spray pump or the spraying of poisons to control insect and fungal pests.
There is nothing in nature similar to sera and vaccines for the protection of livestock. It is true that all kinds of diseases can be found among plants and animals in the forest, but they never reach large proportions. Both plants and animals can perfectly protect themselves, even when parasites appear in their environment.
The norm of Nature is to live and let live.
* Excerpted from An agricultural testament, 1940 - Published in El Ambientalista and in