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Agriculture & Farming Archives - Terra Genesis International

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Agriculture & Farming, Carbon Farming, Regenerative Supply

By Michael B. Commons, first published at Regeneration International

In my collaboration with Terra Genesis International, I have been given space and support to investigate what we may call “Regenerative Pathways” looking at real life examples of functional farming systems that we can identify as being on the “Regenerative Agriculture Pathway.” While these farms/farming systems might be called “Regenerative Farms,” we see regeneration more as a long term process and continuum that we can evaluate through indicators such as soil health, water retention, biodiversity, community health and more. Of particular interest for us is to look at farms/ systems that are producing “key economic crops” as so much of our land area is now dominated by “economic crops” and these crops’ link to larger trade systems. With such a link there is the possibility to develop collaborative relationships to support regenerative practices and systems between farmers, consumers and intermediaries.

My wife and I, for many years, have been active members of the Thai Wanakaset (Agroforestry and Self-Reliance) network, which has a number of farmer members who live at the edges of natural forest reserves with wild elephant populations. For most Thais in this situation, as well as farmers with whom I have spoken from Sri Lanka and Bhutan, this relationship and interaction is much more confrontational. Generally, forest and wild areas are being reduced and transformed into farming monocultures, while the Thai wild elephant population is actually increasing seven percent a year, according to a recent Thai PBS article. From my own observations living in this area around the Eastern Forest of Thailand, most all of the small marginal wild areas that served many species of wildlife have been removed in the last decade (converted to farmland or other uses). Therefore, the elephants are increasingly going out of the preserves and national parks to farms for food. From what I have learned talking with those who live in and around the elephants, these four-legged beings are incredibly intelligent and adept learners, so they have learned and adapted to eat many new foods, like pineapples, corn and rice. My colleagues have told me that elephants can choose to politely harvest from fields rather than to destroy them. Yet for most Thai farmers, they don’t accept any such sharing of their harvest. Thus, the greater focus has been on converting to crops that elephants don’t like to eat, or using measures to prevent their entry or scare them away.

The Wanakaset members of Pawa subdistrict, Chantaburi, have taken a very different path. They have developed diverse forest garden systems that allow space and place for wild elephants. Their farm environments have many different plants that the elephants can eat without needing to take or destroy the family’s key crops. The stories these farmers tell are also quite amazing and inspiring. It seems that the elephants are completely aware of what the forest gardeners are doing and the lands they manage. They hold this coexistence in regard, coming regularly into these shared spaces and largely respecting the crops the humans ask to be left alone, while they enjoy other crops and places provided for them. In my deeper vision of “Regeneration,” I believe we need to heal the divide between humans and non-humans, and that humans can be stewards of lush gardens that provide valuable yields for humans and food and habitat for other living beings. As elephants are such a key species with great power, including the power to destroy, that we can find examples of a peaceful, balanced co-existence, gives much hope. Thus I decided to embark on a journey to learn more from my farmer colleague, Ms. Kanya Duchita, to understand and share with others.

Kanya Duchita and her parents are students of Pooyai Viboon and practitioners of “Wanakaset,” the philosophy and system of organic agroforestry and self-reliance that he taught. Wanakaset, like permaculture, is a design system that reflects the land, situation, needs, skills and interests of the people involved. The process should arrive at some form of an integrated forest garden system that meets the needs and interests of the farmer/gardeners who live in it and who guide its evolution. The land and climate of Pawa are favorable for wet tropical fruits (durian, mangosteen, langsat, rambutan) and rubber. Kanya’s family land sits very close to Khao Chamao National Park, a healthy forest with a large number of resident wild elephants.

Michael Commons (MC): “Kanya you once told me that you practice Wanakaset because you are a lazy person. Can you really be lazy and practice Wanakaset (forest gardening)?

Kanya Duchita (KD): “The work of Wanakaset is light work all of the time, compared to conventional farmers who need to work very hard in periods, having to rush to complete their work. As forest gardeners we just need to do some light work and observation all of the time.”

“As we work a bit all of the time, you might say we are not lazy, and we can choose to do more management and get better yields and returns, but at the same time our trees take care of themselves. If we just leave them alone they will be fine and we will still be able to harvest from them.”

“We also have many diverse resources in our forest gardens during the whole year. Herbs such as bamboo grass (for heavy metal detoxification), Chamuang leaf (Garcinia cowa for heart disease and weight loss), we can harvest and process any time. That is, if we want to spend the time to harvest and process them. Even with fruits which are seasonal, we can sell fresh, but also process them for more value.”

MC: “As I see most tropical fruit orchards are integrated and have durian, mangosteen, langsat, and rambutan, how does your garden differ?”

KD: “As forest gardens we integrate more, like fiddle head ferns, pak wan pa (Melientha suavis) and different types of gingers and herbs that can live under the shade of these trees. We also plant pepper vines (black and long pepper) to directly climb up our trees. Most farmers would plant these separately, but we just let them grow up our trees and don’t provide any other care. This is methodology derived from laziness.”

“Most fruit gardeners don’t like to have other trees around their durian trees as it can make harvesting (catching) the durian difficult. But we have observed that with this mix the soil quality is better and holds moisture much longer—meaning in dry season we need to water much less than conventional farmers, and when tropical windstorms come through we don’t lose branches from our durian trees.”

“Wild elephants are a big part of the reason we choose to practice forest gardening, if we only grow fruits (that we harvest and sell), then the elephants often come and eat this fruit and damage the trees. But in our very integrated system, we have many other trees with foods that elephants also enjoy to eat at the edges of our land, like bamboo and fishtail palms, which we do not mind at all if they eat. We have learned a lot from experience what is the best way to garden that can work for us and the elephants who are our neighbors and also come into our gardens.”

MC: “You grow rubber as well, which we normally see only as a monoculture, but you have it in a very integrated garden system, does this affect yields?”

KD: “The yield (in rubber) per tree is not really different than in chemical plantations, but very different in terms of costs (much lower). In transitioning (to organic) we used manure for four or five years but since then did not need any fertilizer at all. Many older wild plants and trees came back after we stopped using herbicide. This includes wild vegetables, wild fruits, herbs and hardwoods. These produce valuable yields for us on top of the rubber. Now we are expanding our focus and cultivation of Mapram—a wild forest fruit related to mangosteen—which does very well in the shade of the rubber and is increasingly valued. (probably Garcinia hombroniana)”

“So in some cases we have allowed the forest to come back under our rubber plantations—now rubber forests—but we also have planted rubber along with other species in integration from the start: sator beans (Parkia speciosa), boon nak, jantana (wood used for incense), dipterocarpus and ginger species, in between the rows of rubbers. In this case the rubber production is good for the whole year except for a break in the driest months, and then we have other valuable yields, such as sator-tree beans. My older brother also harvests many seeds for propagation as seedling trees to sell. The rubber yield is as good as others obtain with no use at all of fertilizer (including organic fertilizers beyond the first years). This rubber forest is still organized in rows and easy to enter and harvest.”

MC: “How about native biodiversity and wildlife?”

KD: “All three of our gardens have good edible mushrooms growing with them, mycorrhizal and termite mushrooms. There are many birds everywhere and of many different species. These birds also help us in propagation—they have seeded rattan and pak wan (a delicious edible perennial vegetable) all around and brought some unusual varieties to our garden from afar. We also have many squirrels who do eat and sometimes damage our fruits. While many other gardeners shoot squirrels, we just leave damaged and unattractive fruit for them on the trees.”

MC: “What about snakes as I have heard many rubber growers say that snakes are a threat harvesting in the very early morning?”

KD: “While snakes can be scary, I don’t really feel we have more snakes, and maybe even less problem as it seems they have their own space to live and be apart from humans (in our garden) and don’t bother us.”


With Kanya, we see three gardens types showing three different pathways to integration.1. Fruit forest, with rubber and herbs. This was their existing tropical fruit orchard—still with strong valuable productive fruit trees like durian. In some areas, they then added rubber trees into this mix as well bringing in and allowing many smaller herbs, vines and more to be under, on and around the trees. While there is ample space for access (and even to allow elephants through) the rubber is not at all in rows and the feel is like a mature forest.

2. Rubber forest: Let the rubber plantation evolve into a rubber forest—allow herbs, wild fruits and trees to come back. This seems like the easiest path towards regeneration, allowing Mother Nature and her helpers to take to the task. It is clear from what Kanya explained that there are seed and root reserves under and around always, so just by stopping the use of herbicide and allowing the forest to come back, it will. Birds also clearly play a key role in propagation. Then the gardener just manages to allow and support what comes, and removes what is not convenient or of particular interest or ready to be harvested.

3. Strip intercropping: Plant rubber trees in rows (7-8 meters between rows—according to best practices such a distance is needed for good production in any case—being closer creates too much competition between the rubber trees and less yields) and in between plant a row of different forest and fruit trees that do well in a garden forest environment and provide yields that the farmer/gardener knows how to use. This seems like the best path if starting fresh, however; Kanya and her family have developed a lot of knowledge and experience both in what grows well together, and in the different uses of many different species of trees, fruits and herbs. While the Duchita family shares their knowledge freely and encourages other to practice forest gardening, even someone without such contacts and with little experience can try and plant different trees and herbs that are interesting and may do well, but then observe, learn and evolve (with) his/ her forest garden over time.

From an economic basis, this system wins on many levels: less cost, less work, no less yield in the key economic crops (rubber and tropical fruits), and far greater diversity of total yields. While there are many other indicators, just the peaceful co-existence of the wild elephants in these forest gardens is proof of their ecological success. Most farmers do not appear to be prepared to accept living in and around diverse forest systems with wildlife; adoption is quite low. However, the third method explained above could be easier to accept and adopt for someone who wants an organized and orderly system.

Another Wanakaset farmer who lives not too far away, Ms. Kamolpatara Kasikrom, explained to me more about elephant behavior. She said that resident elephants are territorial and spread out to different areas to feed. For a given territory, about one to three elephants will manage and eat from it. It seems clear that the forest gardens are considered by the elephants to be part of their managed territory, whereas most all farms where humans try to keep elephants out are not part of their territory. The greatest damage from elephants can come when a large herd transmigrates. Resident elephants will protect their territories from such herds and the damage they can bring. No such protection is offered to an unfriendly parcel. While elephants are exceptionally intelligent beings, I believe this may touch to the very core of both our problem and the solution. Here we see that if we consider our land not to be exclusively ours, but also to belong to the many other lifeforms, and we manage it accordingly, these other beings will come to hold the same vision and practice, also working to manage the land for sustainable health and productivity.


About the author:

Michael B. Commons lives with his family in Chachoengsao, Thailand where they practice Wanakaset (forest gardening and self-reliance) and are active in the Wanaksaet Network. For over twelve years he has worked with Earth Net Foundation to support small-scale farmer groups and associated supporting organizations from South and Southeast Asia to develop organic and fair trade supply chains, regenerate ecological and community health, and build their resilience capacity. Two years ago he joined Terra Genesis International to use his skills to help link and assist concerned and innovative companies, their consumer networks and farmers’ groups to collaborate in developing regenerative pathways together.


1. March 13, 2017 “Thai elephant population is rising at 7 percent a year” THAI PBS

2. From a personal interview in 2017 with Somchai Saman who was awarded best farmer of the Central Region and 2nd best of all Thailand. He and his wife manage 100 of acres of rubber in Sanam Chaikhet, Chachoengsao, Thailand

– End –


Agriculture & Farming, Blockchain, Carbon Farming, Regenerative Business, Regenerative Principles, Regenerative Supply

The Emerging Crisis of Trust

Centralized failures of management of resources resulting in cascading ecosystem failures, increases in surveillance of citizens by unaccountable agencies as well as corporate actors, behavior and social manipulationthrough media and social media, and engineered mistrust intersect to form a general crisis of trust. Even trust in neighbors is undermined as polarized views and media is used to divide and conquer. This all forms into the necessity of revisiting trust as a fundamental layer for social interactions and the basis of our social contract. is built to grow the capacity to focus on common interests and empower all stakeholders to hold those resources in trust as stewards of both outcomes and verification of those outcomes, providing a remedy to the generalized malaise of rightful distrust of centralized, opaque and degenerative governmental, economic and social structures.

Machine Learning

The rise of AI, big data and machine learning is already having huge impacts on society. Many of the impacts are visible in the earlier mentioned crisis of trust and incomplete machine learning algorithms are used to manipulate behavior of citizens as consumers. The larger debate about the safety of AI ranges from Elon Musk’s alarmist stance and public statements that AI should be governed and humans augmented, to enthusiasts who are blindly investing billions of dollars and significant human resources to feed the growth of “artificial” intelligence. Whether or not machine intelligence is truly artificial is not the focus on this conversation, however it warrants further discussion. AI is an important emerging disruption to our reality and, as such, warrants significant design consideration in any Information Technology project. aims to grow the capacity of machine learning and attend deeply to the subtle nuances and complexities of ecological dynamics, health and regeneration, and to create a space for a deep human-machine partnership with the biosphere. This dynamic partnership is essential for all three elements of the whole to thrive.

Ecosystem Collapse

The rapid acidification of oceans, increasing rates of soil loss, accelerating loss of biodiversity, warming climate, environmental toxicity, and global scale degeneration of living systems is all emerging faster on a wider scale than humans have had the capacity to deal with. Humans are notoriously bad with exponential foresight and decision making. Apparently calculus is not our strength, and most of us, especially in governance decisions, have very short aims focused into the sharp point of survival instincts gone awry in the form of greed, optimization of financial liquidity at the expense of eco-social health. This collapse is passing our ability to attend to and respond to with centralized and glacial scientific structures. The structure of academic peer review is broken and mostly used to maintain positions of status instead of increase the capacity of the learning community to understand complex systems. The perverse economic and bureaucratic incentives of centralized power must be removed as obstacles and the ability of business, community, and individual initiative must be unleashed to find creative solutions to regenerate ecosystems around the world. will start with terrestrial agriculture and expand to other lands, mariculture and ocean management as quickly as the creative genius of communities around the world can be unleashed to solve for peer-to-peer monitoring and verification and baseline calibration solutions for ecosystems.

Money Eats the World

Whether the destructive power of hyper liquidity in financial markets ripping away the foundation of living capital and turning it into financial instruments, or the massive energy weight of running proof of work consensus to avoid coercive centralized currency issuance, it is plain to see that money is literally eating the world. While we believe that the transparent costs of a proof of work cryptocurrency is far preferable to trust we all have in the continue ability of the US military to control the worlds metro-resources that makes the dollar the global currency, Bitcoin’s designed decentralized inefficiency is still world eating. It is less bad, but not good enough, and needless to say it is certainly not regenerative. The imperative to generate a decentralized currency system based on regenerative utility, that is a real use that increases the health of ecosystem through use is essential to a healthy functioning economy, and the maturity of the cryptocurrency and blockchain community which threatens to teeter into a war between crypto kitties and hyper liquid financialization instead of fulfilling the philosophical promised and potential of what the distributed ledger and decentralized economy can bring.

The Distributed Economy

Distributed ledger technology, sharing economy (both real and pseudo-sharing economy), micro transaction networks, token economics, and the new decentralization and distribution of technology and fungibility of decentralized cryptographic network tokens that represent various forms of assets unlock the potential for a new economy optimized for cooperation, evolution of diversified niche economic roles, and massive participation in a non-coercive mutualistic network economy. This emergence is not a minute too soon. Massive experimentation is now underway and many DApps and platforms are being born. is designed to be a network and platform that serves to accelerate decentralized innovation to reconnect human economy with living systems and the imperatives for biological and ecological health. This is accomplished by providing the framework for the exchange of verified ecological data as the basic currency for a new regenerative, bioregionally-sourced, global decentralized economy.

Regenerative Agriculture

The growing movement to leverage the potential of soil to sequester carbon including governmental and business initiatives globally, also has deep strategic and ethical imperatives. As noted in the previously published Levels of Regenerative Agriculture white paper (Soloviev, Landua 2016), Regenerative Agriculture goes far beyond simply soil carbon sequestration. Soil Carbon Sequestration represents a regenerative outcome, but all levels of the value stream from soil to the human consumer of a product and back to the soil are part of the regenerative imperative that is now growing into a movement. Individuals and businesses are increasingly motivated to explore how to participate in a co-creative and regenerative economy where human needs are met in style while ecosystem health is increased and the capacity of the system itself and all members of the system to evolve more robust vitality and viability is grown.


Agriculture & Farming, Blockchain, Carbon Farming

A network for planetary regeneration. The first step toward a local, regional, and global carbon drawdown economy. to use Reverse Mining to actively restore health of the planet through token generation process.

Cancun, Mexico — Amidst the incredible energy at devcon3 emerges is a decentralized ecological knowledge network that will reverse climate change by incentivizing regenerative agriculture. Agriculture is both the single largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions historically, and the most significant carbon drawdown mechanism available to us today. coalesces a broad array of partners to bring the planet’s agricultural land back to health.

At the core of this process is a mechanism called Reverse Mining. Conventional agriculture, and capitalism as a whole, has been dominantly extractive in nature, liquidating ecological and community capital for financial yields, i.e. mining the planet for wealth. Reverse Mining turns this on its head by actively restoring the health of the planet in a token generation process. is focused on regeneration, which draws down carbon from the atmosphere through biological methods in a verifiable way. This results in an economy that is more equitable for farmers, healthier for eaters, and brings humanity back into a relationship with the land that ensures a livable planet for generations to come. Utilizing a variety of data sources (satellite, agricultural sensors, smart phones, drones, climatic, and geological), will be able to monitor and verify carbon sequestration on a per-farm per-annum basis through a process called Proof of Regeneration. This mechanism will control the creation of new tokens via algorithms tied to an index of regenerative metrics including carbon sequestration. is a network upon which other Decentralized Applications can be built. The two primary markets currently foreseen that could stack on top of this network are for carbon markets and consumer product companies. Carbon markets are already in the billions of dollars in trade volume. With the passage of the Paris Climate Agreement, well over a hundred countries are scrambling to find quality mechanisms for accounting for their carbon drawdown, and will be able to provide the premier in this regard: Verified Regenerative Carbon Sequestration. On the consumer product front, many corporations, large and small, are looking for better superlatives than Organic and Fair Trade to describe their supply webs. Utilizing our on-farm data, will be able to offer Verified Regenerative Supply. Both of these services will be paid for in Regen coin. plans to launch their pre-sale in the first quarter of 2018 through their Swiss Foundation (currently in formation) and will have a Token Generation Event in the second quarter of 2018.

About Foundation, will be a legal Swiss Foundation. It was born out of years of conversations between numerous stakeholders surrounding the US-based LLC, Terra Genesis International and a group of blockchain developers.

For more information or to join the conversation: or


Agriculture & Farming, Carbon Farming, Regenerative Supply

Greening the way – welcome to the COP22!

[this article was written during the 1st week of the COP22 in Marrakesh in November 2016]

It’s 7pm – closing time at the COP, the hoovers are already whizzing around me, cleaning up the carpet floor inside the tents, as I’m enjoying a glass of Riesling that I gleaned from the stand of the Austrian chamber of commerce and taking some time to reflect on my impressions of this event. TGI has been invited by Regeneration International, a new partner organization, to join a side event of the international climate conference COP22 in Marrakesh, one year after the famous COP21 in Paris. Before I launch into a personal report from this global event: Is everyone clear on what COP stands for? Conference of Parties. Parties to what? To the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). And why 22? Well, it’s the 22nd of their annual meetings. That already sets the scene quite nicely: since 1995, the member states try to agree on concrete measures to reduce or limit climate change. Reversing climate change, which is the ambitious goal of actors involved in global regeneration like TGI, has not been on their agenda until now, but as you will see – there is hope! And to introduce myself quickly: my name is Anselm Ibing, I’m a new consultant working with TGI – so new that the pdf of my business card only came through a day before I left to Marrakesh and I had no time to get them printed properly – well, I guess the TGI website written on neutral old cards of mine will have to do for now! My intentions for this mission to the COP22: explore the state of the international conversation on agriculture and soils with regard to climate change, look out for organisations TGI might want to partner with or join in order to raise the level of this conversation, identify and approach potential clients, and feel my way into how I would like to bring my unique gifts to this global conversation and how TGI could support me doing so.

How to imagine the COP22?

You might have seen some images on the news: rows of huge white tents covering a fallow just outside the old Medina of Marrakesh (surrounded by an even more larger parking lot). This fancy tent town is divided into two: the green and the blue zone. The latter is guarded by the UN blue helmets and is an extra-territorial zone, i.e. once you step in, you’re no longer on Moroccan soil (or dust in this case). This is where the official UNFCCC negotiations are happening, accessible only to delegations of countries and observer organizations. While TGI is not (yet?) a UN observer organization, we have quite a few friends inside, both from Regeneration International (who are part of the IFOAM delegation) and from the Global Ecovillage Network (GEN). The green zone on the other hand, is open to the public and includes a tent with conference rooms, a restaurant tent and three large tents that are basically nothing other than a trade show. The actors presenting themselves in the green zone (both through stands and conferences/panel talks) are companies, trade organizations, geographic regions (e.g. of Morocco) and civil society actors (from the academic, research and NGO sectors mostly). And maybe you can imagine the show… everyone puts on their ‘sustainable dress’ and brings out the green paint. Although I have lost all faith in the word ‘sustainable’ years ago, there are still some wonderful surprises… some of the nuggets (related to agriculture) are posted on our Instagram channel. I imagine that the more interesting stands are in the blue zone tents, but the green zone can certainly keep you entertained for a day.

Insights from the blue zone

Having a good source of free alcohol in a Muslim country is always useful… tonight this helped me to attract one of our elders to come and share a glass of beer with me at the generous Austrian stand (that was before the Riesling, needless to say): Albert Bates, co-founder of GEN and The Farm in Tennessee. He had just spent 3 days in the blue zone this week and took a few minutes to share some of his insights. I was aware that he was part of a team that had been asked to design the Commonwealth countries’ strategy for the COP22 negotiations (read his great article on this epic assignment). During that meeting, the top representatives of the Commonwealth nations agreed that simply reducing emissions wasn’t enough – aiming for a level of CO2 in the atmosphere of way below 350ppm is what is needed! They also admitted that artificial carbon sequestration and storage or clean coal techniques were not working and they understood that the only way to really sequester carbon effectively is good old photosynthesis: trees, soils, compost, biomass, biochar etc. This falls into the mitigation category and Albert was telling me that the fight is on in the blue zone about funding for such endeavors. Apparently the G77 countries (the so-called developing world) presented earlier this week a plan for how to use the Green Climate Fund’s finance: 100% on adaptation, 0% on mitigation, by which they mean, according to Albert, moving cities threatened by rising sea levels and developing biotech “solutions” like drought-resistant corn varieties. The EU jumped in saying ‘wait a minute – last year in Paris we agreed on 50/50 for mitigation and adaptation!’ Negotiations began. The next day the G77 announced: ‘we’re not ready for a compromise – we want 100% funding on adaptation.’ Without having to say it, both Albert and I both thought of the economic interests that might be influencing the developing countries to hold that position… Negotiations are ongoing and we shall see what comes out of this.

Meet the big players

With regards to agriculture, there are two clear tendencies of the stands here in the green zone: very small and very big. Hmmm, does that remind anyone of real life in the agriculture sector? The small stands were mostly local Moroccan initiatives for sustainable rural development, women cooperatives, urban farming or start-up social enterprises etc. The largest two stands in the whole green zone are operated by two actors with nice, simple abbreviations: OCP and AAA. They are two separate stands, but not so separate as I found out. OCP stands for Office Chérifien des Phosphates – it is one of the world’s 10 largest fertilizer companies, and the world’s largest phosphate exporter, owned by… hmm, let’s just say private Moroccan interests. While the OCP has an elaborate and incredibly spacious stand, its name only appears quite small on the outside of the stand. If you miss it and you’re inside, you wonder where you are, who all this is about, because all you see is ‘green’! Sustainably increasing productivity, “climate-intelligent” agriculture, soil fertility, supporting small-holder farmers… you name it. Big screens, fake parquet flooring, funky wall illustrations of African soil data and alarming numbers of world population rise and the pressure to drastically increase food production (“reasonably” fertilized of course) – the old discourse.


Just opposite the OCP is the other mega-stand: AAA – the Initiative for an Adaptation of African Agriculture. I had been recommended to go see this stand by a friend, so I was curious – could this initiative be interested in really improving small-holder farmers’ livelihoods and ecosystem health? And could AAA fund a large-scale implantation of our “village hubs” in Africa? (The “village hub” is a concept developed by a coalition of 24 partners, led by TGI’s Mary Johnson. Read more about it here.) An even bigger and fancier stand than the OCP, the AAA initiative’s stand is divided into four sections:

  1. a lounge area with a reception desk and an information stand,

  2. an auditorium space for conferences,

  3. a zone for private meetings, with comfy couches and a snacks & drinks table – but alas, it’s guarded by a smiley security man who raises a hand and says “yes, can I help you?” if you approach,

  4. lastly, about half of the stand surface is dedicated to a tour through 4 rooms, a bit like in an amusement park.

I look at all that and immediately think: who is behind this? Who paid for all this? And without further ado I march to the reception desk and ask this very question. “Sorry, we are only working here during the COP22, we don’t really know.” Nevermind.I decide to do the “ghost train” tour to find out more. Of the four rooms, the first three have one thing in common: the only source of light comes from large screens and the rest of the room is painted black.

The future room – imagine the year 2040 and listen to all that AAA has achieved in the 20 past years since COP22, through the mouths of hologram characters in the middle of the dark room, surrounded by three man-sized screens allowing panoramic projections of beautiful agriculture landscape


The data room – dozens of screens of varying sizes and backlit panels, displaying photos, infographics and videos, selectable on touch screen tables, giving you the feeling that you’re operating a NASA space mission


The testimony room – again large screen walls, this time with talking heads – statements about the magnificent impact AAA will have on Africa by partners, members and associates of the initiative: ministers of many African countries, AGRA (Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa), UN groups, IFDC (International Fertilizer Development Centre), Avril Group (French agro-industry giant) and many others.

The fourth room is white-walled, open and vast: the projects room – yet more screens and wall posters, showcasing a few dozen agricultural projects from all across Africa… development of high-yield seeds; making rain by shooting ions into the atmosphere; inoculating compost with micro-organisms “of agricultural interest” (GM biopesticides) etc. Hmm, I wonder: AAA was only created mid-2016. Whose projects are these? And again: who is AAA – who initiated this? I very naively ask a young man in a suit, who looks official. He also only works there for the COP, but he voluntarily shares an interesting piece of information: AAA was initiated by the Moroccan Ministry of Agriculture at the demand of and with support from… guess who? The Office Chérifien des Phosphates – the OCP. This rather crucial information is not visible in any of the printed or online communication of AAA and certainly nowhere on the stand, unless you look out towards the neighboring stand and connect the dots.


For further information the honest young man points me to a lady holding a phone in one hand and a laptop in another – she actually works for AAA. She tells me that AAA is mostly going to be a platform connecting investors from agro-industry and other sectors with project leaders or entrepreneurs. The projects highlighted inside the stand are only examples of what some of the already affiliated future investors (Avril group for example) have recently invested in on the African continent, demonstrating the types of projects AAA imagines promoting. I verify the information about the OCP being the initiator of AAA with her and immediately her eyes light up in alarm: “No no” she said, looking uneasy, “it was started first by Morocco’s Minister of Agriculture, then supported by the OCP.” I thank her for that precision and wish her a good day. As I move on, I see her swiftly walking to the young man I had spoken with before. She does not look amused as she talks to him in a directive manner and just before I turn away, I see her pointing her finger at me. This young man had clearly been too honest and needed to be put in his place. A few random observations at the end:

  1. Because of all the high-level dignitaries present, the Marrakesh police has received massive reinforcements from all over the country – sometimes streets are practically lined with army or police and at least one well-dressed traffic policemen stands at every major junction.

  2. For the same reason it is not uncommon that a big road or a whole street block is closed off temporarily – then you either sit and wait for a quarter of an hour, watching the flagged, black limousines whizz past, or you do massive detours through residential areas or tiny streets of the Medina.

  3. There is a WiFi network in the green zone unabashedly called “FBI Surveillance”

  4. Apart from having received a brand new coat of paint, Marrakesh has also taken some precautions to reduce the culture shock for delegates: some grubby or run-down parts of town (especially between the airport and the COP zone) have simply been boarded off from the street, the boards displaying green dreams.


Agriculture & Farming, Carbon Farming, Design, Regenerative Business, Regenerative Principles, Regenerative Supply

The term “Regenerative Agriculture” has recently experienced a meteoric rise in public interest, through discussion and promotion by both corporate and non-profit entities. This explosion of excitement and engagement has great, positive eco-social potential for individuals, farms and businesses. However, some uses over-simplify, banalize, or fragment Regenerative Agriculture, instead of engaging with it as a whole and viable discipline.

To expand and uplift global conversation and action, Terra Genesis is glad to release our new White Paper, Levels of Regenerative Agriculture. We aim to support practitioners, organizations, decision-makers and investors to radically transform Earth’s agriculture as a step on the path to an ecosystemically vibrant, socially equitable, culturally diverse, and spiritually meaningful global system of regenerative potential. To download the paper, go to our learn page.

Regenerative Agriculture Cover

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Agriculture & Farming, Carbon Farming

In 2014 Ethan Roland, TGI founder and international expert on regenerative agriculture and permaculture design, gave the following talk on carbon farming at Tufts University. In his presentation, Ethan explores how carbon farming can enhance productivity, increase profitability, and combat climate change. Drawing on best practices from holistic management, keyline design, agroforestry, living soils, biochar, permaculture design and restoration agriculture, Ethan demonstrates that carbon farming offers a whole toolkit for agricultural earth regeneration.


Agriculture & Farming, Design, Markets, Regenerative Supply

Published in InPractice by Holistic Management International, Mary Johnson

Tools for Effective Financial Planning

I frequently talk with a room full of permaculturists or farmers and ask them questions like: “Are you happy with your current financial situation?” and “What goes into your financial planning?” I usually find myself looking out at a roomful of blank stares, or worse, getting loud sighs or judgmental groans in response to my questions. If you yourself are having a similar gut reaction, I challenge you to take a minute to suspend any feelings of distaste that you may be struggling with.  Also, if you think you already know enough about how to manage your life and finances, give yourself this quick quiz and allow yourself the opportunity to perhaps even make some profound and empowering changes in your life, I guarantee you will be happy you did.

Financial Literacy Quiz

  1. What information does a gross profit analysis give you, and how can it help you evaluate an enterprise? Why is that important?
  2. What is the purpose of doing a cash flow budget and how can the information be used in managing a project or business?
  3. Why calculate both a beginning and a projected ending net worth in the financial planning process?
  4. What elements could comprise an increase in the net worth of a farm or business?
  5. Describe the difference between being profit oriented versus production oriented?

Feeling confident, or does this all sound like Greek to you? Unless you are living the life you dream of and feel relatively confident that you will be able to sustain that lifestyle into the future, you may want to ask yourself these questions:

“What financial decisions did you make in the last year?”

“Do you think you had the best tools to make those decisions in a sound way?”

“Do you feel confident that you were using your precious time, money and energy in the most effective way?”

“Did your decisions lead you towards achieving your overall goals for your life in the best way possible?”

“Did the decisions support your deepest values?”

If you are still feeling good, you probably have a sound basis in financial management already. If your answers to any of these questions come up short, or leave you feeling a little uneasy, maybe it would be a good time for you to take a Financial Planning course or refresher.

I have been working closely with some of the Beginning Women Farmers from the Northeast that are part of HMI’s USDA-funded program, both as a mentor and as an instructor of some of their sessions. Just to give you a flavor of the diversity in the group, one woman has run a successful computer company in the D.C. area for the past decade, after having spent her early years working as a migrant laborer in the fruit industry.  Now she has invested a sizable nest egg into renovating a New England fruit orchard.  Recently I was at her farm working on developing her holistic goal with her husband, and testing some major decisions they were facing in the operation.  After 700K of investment in the start-up, they were trying to decide if they were really committed to the costly vegetable operation that was taking up a lot of their time, but not adding to their quality of life as they were both really more interested in the fruit side of their business.  Another woman, after raising nine children and coaching them through various 4H projects for years, decided to turn their goat experience into an organic micro-goat dairy.  She sells organic herbs and veggies to a Whole Foods just outside of Boston, MA.  All the women have similarly amazing stories about what led them to farming. I have watched their excitement and frustration and listened to their unique viewpoints as they have diligently tackled homework assignments and made the long drive across the state to visit each other’s farms and grapple with the new concepts, sometimes with tears, often with lots of laughter and vociferous conversations that make teaching a challenge at times.

Already, they are beginning to integrate the concepts into their busy lives as business women, farm owners, mothers and wives among the million other hats they wear on a day-to-day basis. All seem to agree, it’s not easy stuff, but the thought of being able to make better financial decisions ahead of time, and know they are on track to making a profit, is worth the extra effort. Finding the discipline to do it, now that’s the real challenge. Their mentee groups and the regular meetings help them stay committed.

Reinvestment Strategies

As a permaculturist I have noticed how the financial weak link test ties in with the Permaculture Principle of Obtaining Yield—a surplus is a natural part of a well-designed system. Holistic Financial Planning helps us understand what a healthy surplus is, and where it will come from in a well designed business and identifies how best to catch and store that surplus and even how to redistribute it based on the values you define as important to you in your holisticgoal.

Once you have the profit, you plan how you will use it – maybe to increase your net worth by shrinking debt, or add to savings for retirement, or just for spending on an overdue vacation that will improve your quality of life and increase the sustainability of your business by reinvigorating you and your family. Knowing what you will spend the profit on are the carrots and the sticks that keep you moving on the plan from week-to-week, and that force you to make the tough decision so you don’t let that profit slip away from you.

Mary Johnson is a Permaculture Design & Holistic Management consultant and trainer working with Terra Genesis International. She works with farmers and business owners in the U.S. & internationally using concepts from both Permaculture and Holistic Management to help families, businesses, and organizations. You can read more about Holistic Management and International Permaculture on Mary’s blog at

Benefits of Holistic Financial Planning

  • Planning for & achieving a triple bottom line profit, one that is socially, financially and environmentally sound.
  • Planning for Profit. Once you know how much profit you need and want, then you brainstorm all the ways that you can think of to create that profit by the end of the year.
  • Prioritizing expenses to maximize investing in the areas that need it the most ex. focusing on wealth generating expenses first, and addressing the weakest link in the production chain, capping other unnecessary expenses and sticking with the plan so profits aren’t eaten up.
  • Analyzing your enterprises against each other (Gross Profit Analysis) and in relation to how they help cover overhead expenses and generate return on investment so you can maximize profit.
  • Monitoring your plan (usually monthly) and proactively making necessary changes along the way so you get where you said you want to be by the end of the year.

Agriculture & Farming

Foreign groups help PHILIPPINES to rehab forests

DAVAO CITY — Foreign groups have joined the Presidents call to a greener country by launching a P150-million permaculture project to rehabilitate Sarangani’s remaining pristine rain forest.

The project is a partnership between Bentley House International Corp (BHIC), WeForest.Org, Terra Genesis and Jimi Hendrix Foundation.

This, after BHIC received a letter from Datu Edmund D. Pangilan, provincial chieftain of the 74,000 hectare ancestral lands of the Blaan and Tagakaulo tribes requesting them to establish a project in his area to employ thousands of Lumads that live on the poverty line.

Jonathon Bentley Stevens, founder and president of Bentley House International Corp. (BHIC), said their project in Malungon Sarangani would reintroduce dozens of species of native bamboo, rattan and some varieties of fruit-bearing trees where At least 10,000 local residents in several villages in the municipality is said to benefit from the project.

“This is not another empty pledge. We have already received funds from WeForest and the Jimi Hendrix Foundation,” said Stevens, who was baptized Datu Matatao ug Mabuligon (Chief who brings knowledge and assistance) into the Manabo Tribe in 1996.

Malungon was once one of the richest forests in the world. But today, logging and illegal deforestation has paved way for its natural resources to become very vulnerable to degradation.

The project involves initially planting five million endemic/indigenous trees within three thousand hectares identified in Malungon.

One of the objectives of this project is to work with the B’laan and Tagakaulo tribes to help them replant their native lands, said Stevens.

Permaculture, the rehabilitation approach that would be employed in the project, is geared to encourage the return of birds, animals and insects — providing the ecosystems services which set the stage for the natural regeneration of truly diverse and healthy forest.

“Creating and supporting opportunities for local people to recreate a balanced environment that support them in a myriad of ways is the objective of WeForest globally so it is an honor to become part of this wonderful project in Sarangani,” said Christian Shearer, CEO of Terra Genesis International.

For reference:

Jonathon Bentley Stevens
Bentley House International Corp


Agriculture & Farming, Markets, Regenerative Business, Regenerative Supply

Roberto Muj is an agricultural trainer and community organizer for CIEDEG in Guatemala (

He travels widely for work and designed a home food production system based on perennial crops that could survive his frequent absences. We taught a permaculture training together in January 2010 and I was amazed by his deep and wide knowledge of permaculture plants and systems. His home is one of the finest examples of perennial market gardens that I have ever seen.

The farm is in what is considered a chilly area as they sometimes get light frosts. Avocados grow but only some kinds of citrus will survive. Elevation is about 2200 meters. Most of the year is dry, with a 4-5 month rainy season in our summer.

Here is Roberto with his 10-year old perennial beans growing on firewood trees.

Much of the farm is laid out as a perennial alley crop system. Rows of productive trees alternate with perennial herbaceous crops.

Trees include citrus, avocado, sweet gum, alder, mulberry, fig, macadamia, and giant yucca.

Herbaceous crops include aloe, alfalfa for chicken fodder, perennial beans, perennial kale, and many cut flowers including lot of Alstromeria. The cut flowers and fruits are sold in local markets, with most of the production currently being in flowers and soon to shift to fruits as trees mature. We brought asparagus seed at his request as it is hard to produce in Guatemala but there is a huge market. Roberto wants to extend this production model to more of his acres which are currently producing corn – perhaps a macadamia-avocado-alder-asparagus type of system.

Roberto’s alley cropping system:

This polyculture is in the very back corner. Rather than weeds as one might expect, every plant is useful. The large elephant ear is a Xanthosoma, not an edible clone but instead used for pesticides to kill whiteflies, a significant pest for Roberto.

The living fence is izote (Yucca guatemalensis), which has excellent and valuable edible flowers. The trees (genus uncertain) are used for firewood. Climbing them is chayote or guiskil (Sechium edule), a perennial vegetable cucurbit, and perennial beans (Phaseolus coccineus).


Agriculture & Farming, Design, Regenerative Supply

Every time Benneth Phelps (Mosaic Farm) and I (Ethan Roland) prepare to give this talk (this time at the 2010 Northeastern Organic Farm Association Summer Conference) we end up tearing it apart and redesigning it completely. Here’s a sample polyculture from the talk:

This time, Benneth drew on her recent experience creating a complete business plan for her venture Mosaic Farm in the Connecticut River Valley of western Massachussets. We articulated a new design permaculture process for farmers, who need to focus on specific marketable crops along with the larger landscape patterns necessary to support and maintain them. For a summary of our new design process, keep reading