How permaculture in the Caribbean can help mitigate climate change

Soil. Image: CIAT

Maintaining and improving soil health is an integral aspect of sustainable agriculture. Not only are healthy soils more productive, they also help to mitigate climate change by absorbing greenhouses gases from the atmosphere. As Daphne Ewing-Chow, writing for Forbes, explains, this is why regenerative agriculture, which reverses land degradation and restores soil health, should be an important part of Caribbean approaches to climate resilience:

In the Caribbean, the interconnectedness between soil quality, climate change and agriculture is viewed through a narrow lens. It is widely accepted that healthy soil is required to grow bountiful crops and that the quality of soil and crops is negatively affected by (climate change induced) droughts, floods and storms. This unidirectional understanding disregards a major element of the dynamic— the impact of healthy soil on climate change through the removal (or sequestering) of carbon dioxide or CO2 from the atmosphere.

Because soil sequesters more carbon than the atmosphere and vegetation combined, and can hold onto it longer, enhancing soil carbon levels provides a major opportunity to reverse current global trends of atmospheric accumulation of CO2.

According to the FAO, the practice of conventional agriculture has substantially depleted soil carbon stocks, through deforestation and poor land management practices. Regenerative agricultural practices like permaculture and agroforestry seek to restore degraded lands and improve soil conditions, thus enhancing the soil’s capacity to absorb carbon dioxide:

Regenerative practices include organic farming (with composting and crop rotation), managed grazing (systematic rotation of grazing animals), silvopasture (integrating trees, forage, and the grazing of domesticated animals), planting of perennial crops (crops developed to reduce inputs) and agroforestry (agriculture incorporating trees). According to Terra Genesis International, these practices and principles have the cumulative potential to remove significant amounts of carbon from the atmosphere each year.

A major objective of regenerative agriculture is to convert economically viable and oftentimes degraded land into a socially and environmentally responsible resource. 

There is great potential in the Caribbean for the restoration of degraded lands and enhancement of the extensive types of soils encountered here. Regenerative agriculture can profitably bring the region to carbon neutral status while improving food security and reducing the negative impacts on water supply (healthy soils require less water to produce the same amount of food).

Ewing-Chow highlights some regenerative agriculture best practices in the Caribbean, including Walkers Reserve in Barbados and Durga’s Den in Jamaica. Find out more in the full article, The Caribbean Has A ‘Dirty’ Solution For Climate Change.

[Image: CIAT]

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