AGROFOREST

The light of the Agroforest shines on Montado do Freixo do Meio

The Montado we benefit from is, certainly, the most expressive and significant agroforest system today. It is our sustenance, as well as our inspiration.

Motivated by evidence of the distance of this system from key factors of the natural system, like tree stratification, in 2017 we promoted at Freixo do Meio an international and collective debate under the theme «The New Montado», from which came out a clear strategy regarding the way forward in building a future relationship with the natural system, one more dignifying for all those involved. To this path we called New Montado.

To that path we called New Montado XXI. It rises fundamentally from the thought of restructuring the relationship with the space around starting from a fundamental axis – the dynamic succession stratified forest. This concept was introduced in Montado do Freixo do Meio by Ernst Gotsch in 2018. This vision presents a foundational milestone on the «agricultural» approach, by bringing Man closer to the natural reality of the succession of the ecosystems, as well as other basic principles.

The succession agroforest systems are dynamic ecosystems that permanently include men, trees, primary plants, animals, as well as beings from the different kingdoms, which may perform the functions required by the system. This in a way that it evolves to allow its ultimate stage of climax (abundance), and the fruition of its surpluses by the whole community without conditioning its natural dynamic.

There are, however, multiple visions on how to interact with the «Ager», the space, keeping in it the tree as key part of the system. They all contribute positively to the cause at hand, none of them perfect or completely wrong.

Although we know our ancestors interacted with the forest for millennia, becoming part of it and extracting the resources they needed, the concept of agroforest was only formulated apparently in 1973 by John Bene, from Canada, by identifying the need to revert the overriding tendency to remove the trees from all agricultural systems.

The succession agroforest systems are dynamic ecosystems that permanently include men, trees, primary plants, animals, as well as beings from the different kingdoms, that may perform the functions required by the system.

However, the concept is older, being the first written work on the subject, «Tree Crops», published in 1929 by Russel Smith, an American. Today, in tempered climates, there are six great key concepts for the characterization of agroforest systems, and every one of them can and should be articulated with the others.

  1. Systems of aligned crops (Alley Cropping): the space is structured in a way to surround lines (straight or curved) of tress with one or more non-arboreal crop developing on adjacent terrains.
  1. Riparian and upland buffers. Consisting of relatively narrow agroforest systems bordering non-forest terrains along rivers, water lines, lakes, swamps, or ridges.
  1. Agrosilvopastoral systems. These are systems combining tree populations with agricultural secondary vegetations, and pastures, from which our Montado is probably one of the best examples.
  1. These are systems using complex communities of trees and other plants, aligned in bands of variable widths to reduce the impact of the wind.
  1. Forest farming. Systems where agricultural crops are developed on the sub-soil covered by trees.
  1. Edible forest garden. This is perhaps the oldest occurring approach. It was practiced by the Jomon people in Japan at least 10 000 years ago. It’s a more complex concept where, in a planned way, trees, smaller plants, fungus and animals are combined.

One last issue regarding the definition of these systems is natural succession. All of them are, obviously, ecosystems, and therefore subject to succession whether we want it or not. However, these systems have variable performances on various stages of succession. Some are better adapted to the installation phase, other to the accumulation phase and others to the climax. The concept introduced by Ernst  Gotsch connects in a new way the use of the dynamics of natural succession in the effective implementation of systems of Forest Gardens.

Our project brings to life, in the model of the Agroforest, the visions of agroecology, permaculture and food sovereignty, to approach the present and build the future.

A way focused on the conservation of the ecosystems and sustainable food production, without using processes and concepts alien to the natural system, to approach, among other factors, the challenges of mitigating climate change.

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