Observation, contemplation, inquiring and enjoying our own mistakes...
Skills we must develop to conduct our system!!
Can we improve Syntropic Agriculture Education?
There is no doubt that education is, and will play, an increasing role to changing the status quo, after all, as we’ve heard long ago, we must approach our current problems with a different mindset to the one that has created it. Thus, our education must plant the seeds of this new mindset, so it can grow to become the creator of new solutions.
Syntropic agriculture education is no different. But for many years I have experienced and witnessed an educational approach that is failing us.
As an example to this problem, I’ve recently received the following message from a Facebook friend, who had attended a Syntropic Agriculture course with Ernst Gotsch somewhere in Europe.
My name is Monica (fictitious name) – I saw one time your comment where you’ve said that people are so worried about designing the perfect system and that it is through management and observation that one begins to understand the system and the macro-organism.
I really understand your point and you are right.
But, on the other hand, my ignorance is very big, so I have to somehow first ensure that I have designed something that has a chance to work.
I am wondering if you could take a look at my system and give me some feedback. I want to plant 500m2 and this will cost all my savings, so I also want to ensure it has some kind of chance of making it...”
I could certainly feel and relate to her enthusiasm as I was once in this exact position of having come across a very powerful knowledge and just wanting to get things done … let’s solve the problem!!
I can only assume the difficulty of writing this message to someone that you barely know, but I must say that I was very glad that she had done, and I wish I’d had someone to have asked some questions before spending thousands of dollars in my first system.
To her message I’ve replied:
Thanks for reaching out, I am happy to help!
However, I think that we should start with a chat… So I can better understand your context and suggest possible pathways”
We then had a lovely chat the next day, to which I’ve found out that she was holding many assumptions, including (but not limited to):
Again, I could relate to these assumptions as I remember coming back to Australia after attending my first course in Brazil in 2016, and I was super-enthusiastic to get things growing, but had absolutely no understanding of how, and most importantly, why things were done in a particular way…
I am sure that Monica and I are not alone in wanting to manifest what we’ve learnt, especially when it is done so impressively through a communal effort of planting a large syntropic system, where you can almost see and hear the plants growing and cooperating together. This must be the way, right?
Well, yes and no….
I have no doubt that this is the way – through agroforestry, but the way to approach it needs to be changed. We cannot afford to send the few people that are keen and have some resources to act into a dark pathway of bankruptcy, even though there will be many lessons on their way.
So, what problems can you see here (and/or perhaps have you experienced), and where is syntropic agriculture education failing us?
From my experience, these are some of the problems being reiterated in most of the courses that I’ve attended, and which seems to continue to be repeated throughout the world:
These limitations, as I see it, stream from the fact that we are working with memorised concepts and cold rationales rather than being comfortable with the ever changing reality of the natural world.
This approach then portrays a simplistic view of syntropic agriculture, one that excites newcomers but leaves them naked in the face of uncertainties. Consequently, the number of people who are literally and/or possibly going bankrupt (as could have happened with Monica if she had spent all her savings in a 500m2 system) or mentally crazy, are increasing.
We, humans, must understand and be comfortable with the fact that we don’t know much, and that it is unlikely that we will know much if we continue to play the game as spectators rather than participants. From the outside in rather than from the inside out.
Education must encourage and empower us to become ever more comfortable with the unknowns of reality, so we can participate in it with our creativity and freedom – gifts that no other being in the natural world has been given the luxury and responsibility of!!!
We need to stop over-emphasising the “tangibles” of our systems like digging, planting, designing and putting plants into neat categories, and encourage the germination of our less tangible skills, the ones that will allow new (and old) practitioners to be resilient and make approximately right decisions, such as observation, context understanding, imagination, theory application, participation and the freedom to make mistakes.
YES, the freedom to make our own mistakes…so we can observe, participate, change and LEARN!!!
As for the students, I would like to suggest a few things to consider that might help your experience to be more realistic and productive.
Well, I really hope these thoughts encourage a healthy discussion and attitude towards improving Syntropic Agriculture education. It is a missed opportunity when a student goes back home very enthusiastic but without any understanding of the fundamentals and completely lost on how to make autonomous decisions.
We need to encourage and support more humans to use their freedom and creativity to solve our current problems, and syntropic agriculture provides a very powerful and tangible platform to put these skills to the test and foster their potential.
Much love to all and please share your thoughts,
PS: if you are wondering about Monica, she is well and taking it slowly, and she will be attending my next online course…
By Victor Pires
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However, while its practices seem to be travelling across the globe, its foundational principles and overarching philosophy, that is, what anchors those practices, have not. And as a result, early adopters have struggled to make their own decisions, and have to rely on "experts" to tell them what they should do, or what is happening on their land...
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The question “what is Syntropic Agriculture?”, is perhaps one of the most asked in today’s regenerative agriculture scene. But, in my understanding, answers to it often provide an incomplete picture. Usually focusing on its techniques and concepts (i.e. succession, stratification, selective weeding, systems of accumulation, etc.) rather than on its essence – Human(s) interaction with nature.
By Victor Pires
A very enjoyable and informative conversation with Poldi and his quirk podcast.
Here are some of the things we've talked about:
Hope you enjoy it
Looking forward to working and growing with you...
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