It is possible to regenerate the Earth’s commons, and it is happening all across the Commonwealth in a variety of manifestations.
These pioneering projects are leading the way. They demonstrate that by working with the unique qualities of places and the people who inhabit them, it is possible to unlock chains of cascading ecological, social, and economic benefits.
Common Earth provides a learning laboratory for these projects: showcasing and analyzing how innovations, technologies, and ancient wisdom can all work together to restore and regenerate ecological and social health.
Combating Poverty and Climate Change Foundation, Pakistan
CPCCF is dedicated to converting atmospheric carbon into soil carbon through provision of training, monitoring and consulting services in elementary techniques of Regenerative Organic Farming. While CPCCF’s services will be available to all those who require them, a special focus of CPCCF’s effort will be to target these services at smallholder farmers through an extensive program of training internships without cost to them. Increase in soil carbon leads to greater land productivity that will combat poverty at the same time as reduction in atmospheric carbon lowers carbon dioxide to combat climate change. Elementary regenerative farming techniques have the potential to quickly double incomes of small holder farmers, providing strong motivation for rapid spread of the program to Combat Poverty and Climate Change in Pakistan.
CPCCF is working with the Savory Institute and others to identify and implement strategies to extend forest cover and grazing pastures throughout the 75% of Pakistan classified as drylands. This will rebuild “Soil Carbon Sponge” and restore the capacity of water cycles to cool the climate, preventing the incidence of extreme climate events capable of causing widespread destruction.
Our first project has been to establish an Accredited Hub of the Savory Global Network in Pakistan. This was established in October 2017. Our first demonstration farm for this Hub was established by way of a Pilot Project at the University of Veterinary and Animal Sciences in Lahore in December 2016. The purpose of this project was to demonstrate that application of Holistic Planned Grazing raises land productivity and enhances profitability of livestock farming. This has been successfully demonstrated after a Preliminary Evaluation of the Pilot Project in February 2018.
Beyond this first project, CPCCF is working to create an institution to teach regenerative farming methods to small farmers of limited education to raise small farm incomes by 100% through short internships. Regenerative methods that have been identified as appropriate for this program, include: (i) biochar making; (ii) mulching and composting; (iii) remineralization, inoculation and bio-stimulation of lands; (iv) seed-saving by farmers for growing nutrient-dense foods and (v) systematic crop intensification. Dissemination of some of these methods has begun recently from a small demonstration farm that is currently being established with a small grant from UNDP.
The third project CPCCF has begun in April 2018 is to create a Curriculum and Teacher Training Program for introduction into high schools catering to small farm families. The purpose of this project is to make students aware of the urgency of dealing with climate change issues; and how caring for soils may resolve climate change issues, while also improving economic prospects for the students themselves and their families.
Baviaanskloof, South Africa
Large opportunities lie in restoring the Port Elizabeth catchment area. The area in South Africa covers 500,000 hectares and consists of the Baviaans, Kouga, and Krom catchments. These catchments supply 70% of the water to the one million inhabitants living in the city of Port Elizabeth, and the areas surrounding the Kouga and Krom are crucial for food production for South Africa.
However, the catchments are suffering from the effects of decades of overgrazing and unsustainable land management, leading to decreased water absorption by the land. Along with the changing climate and invasive plants and trees, this overgrazing and unsustainable land management has accelerated the impact of droughts and floods, both in the catchments and downstream in Port Elizabeth. This has led to loss of carbon capture, biodiversity, and soil fertility – all of which reduce agricultural potential. It puts farmers, the existing industry of Port Elizabeth, and the employment of local people at risk.
Commonland’s local implementing partners Grounded and Living Lands have been working together with the farmers, local business and government partners and identified a number of opportunities to contribute to the restoration of the Baviaans, Kouga and Krom catchments, with a business case. A business was established with the farmers to transition from traditional goat farming to more sustainable and profitable farming practices, a partnership was created to identify business opportunities for improved water security through ecosystem restoration on a large scale, and a large corporate partner has committed to support the active restoration of degraded hillsides through planting trees. This builds on the areas that have already been restored in collaboration with the South African government over the past years.
The partners worked with Commonland’s holistic restoration approach that combines and connects 3 different landscape zones (natural, combined, and economic) delivering 4 returns (return of inspiration, return of social capital, return of natural capital, return of financial capital).
Eden Project, UK
The Eden Project transformed an abandoned china clay pit in Cornwall, England into a world-famous attraction and educational facility that connects people with each other and the living world. It has attracted more than 20 million visitors since opening in 2001 and has contributed more than £2bn to the Cornish economy. It was built to demonstrate the potential for transformation in even the most unpromising of damaged landscapes, and its greatest feat was in creating 90,000 tons of soil to turn a sterile mine into a fertile Eden.
Here, under the largest conservatories ever built dedicated to the humid tropic and Mediterranean biomes and set in a wide range of temperate gardens, is collected the greatest collection of plants useful to humans ever assembled. Why? To tell stories about our capacity to heal the soil as well as damage it, to make science accessible to the widest possible audience, and to provoke and stimulate aspiration to ask what it means for us to be citizens of the world—not simply passive consumers. The world will not be transformed through the addition of new facts, it needs stories that excite us to reimagine a future that remains ours to make.
Eden is an attitude not simply a place and, has embarked with partners on creating Eden Projects on damaged ground on every inhabited continent, starting in China, Australia, Dubai and the USA. This family of projects will link Wild Edens in Aldabra, Costa Rica and the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California with the visitor destinations to demonstrate that humankind can heal but that nature, with a little help, can do it even better.
Eden is committed to developing a new generation of aspirational agronomists and leadership programmes to Project Manage transformation projects around the world; and its student faculty is attracting a wide range of ambitious new entrants tired of what is offered elsewhere.
Maya Mountain Research Farm, Belize
Maya Mountain Research Farm was founded in 1988 and is one of the oldest Central American permaculture projects. The farm is located on 70 acres of land and spread over the ruins of a classic-period Maya site. Local Mayan communities are working to regenerate exhausted land once used to farm cattle into a multi-strata food forest, in the process growing a fertile landscape, hurricane proof buildings, bio-fuel driven electricity, drinking water, irrigation systems, and sanitation.
Much of the cultivated area was severely damaged cattle and citrus land. Permaculture practices have since greatly repaired the ecosystem. The farm manages over 500 species of native plants and animals, has an aquaponics system, and maintains strong agroforestry practices including fruit, leguminous and medicinal trees, herbaceous perennials, coffee and cacao.
The farm serves as a place of research and demonstration of practices attuned to the local context of southern Belize, lowland humid tropics, and its specific challenges such as limited road access, limited grid electricity, extreme wet and dry seasons, and hurricane potential. Maya Mountain Research Farm ensures food and economic security by drawing out culturally-appropriate, high-value components that can be integrated into an agro-ecological system while maintaining the traditional indigenous lifestyles of the region.
Debt-for-Nature Swap in Seychelles Mission, Seychelles
Seychelles is an archipelago nation of 115 islands in the Western Indian Ocean about 1,000 miles off the coast of East Africa and north of Madagascar. Its “Blue Economy” is based on tuna and tourism, which, along with its low-lying island geography, makes its people and economy particularly vulnerable to the threats of climate change.
Island countries, such as Seychelles, and coastal nations the world over are bracing for threats already underway—more severe storms and rising sea levels are battering coastal areas that attract important tourist dollars to their economies; warmer ocean temperatures are diminishing ﬁsh stocks; and increasing ocean acidity from rising carbon levels are destroying coral reefs that not only buffer the force of storms but also provide vital nurseries for numerous marine species.
The Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation led private-sector investments to support the Nature Conservancy in the world’s first debt swap aimed at ocean conservation and climate resiliency. The deal increases protection for the Seychelles’ waters from less than 1% to more than 30% and supports the creation of the second largest Marine Protected Area in the West Indian Ocean, an area equal to 400,000 square kilometers. Half of this area will be designated as “no-take” zones to protect fish breeding sites and scientifically identified priority biodiversity areas.
Together, the parks cover 15% of the Seychelles ocean and the government will double this by 2021, putting it far ahead of an international target of 10% by 2020. The parks resulted from the first ever debt-swap deal for marine protection in which $22m of national debt owed to the UK, France, Belgium and Italy was bought at a discount by The Nature Conservancy (TNC), the NGO that has assisted the Seychelles.
Additionally, to balance the growing demand for development with the need to preserve the Seychelles’ marine environment, the project will develop a comprehensive, nationwide marine management plan. The debt swap will also generate funds for local priority marine conservation and climate adaptation activities and create a permanent endowment to sustain these activities over the long-term.