Conventional agriculture is one of the biggest threats to ecosystems and therefore to the survival of mankind.
The conventional food production system we rely on today has set off a cascade of interrelated problems. The most prominent marker of its consequences is the erosion of soils on a large scale: in 2014, the United Nations estimated that we are left with less than 60 harvesting cycles until all valuable topsoil is gone if we continue as we do at the moment.
Erosion is one of the most striking consequences of the practices of conventional agriculture. Nature’s remedy are plants that we ironically call "weeds". These can grow where other plants can’t: they draw nutrients from the depth of the soil to the surface and as they die, they make them available to more delicate plants. The answer of conventional agriculture, however, is to poison them with ever stronger herbicides, setting off the vicious cycle illustrated above.
Thus, the above-mentioned problem of soil loss is systemic in nature, which means that it is embedded in a whole set of other interconnected problems that can be summed up as ‘environmental degradation’. This leads to the loss of eco-services as basic and essential as clean air, clean water, soil fertility, climate stability and recreation.
Trying to solve these problems individually is an uphill battle which we are currently about to lose. As the above illustration shows, we have to solve the root problems, such as lack of education, poverty and population growth: this is the starting point to turn the vicious cycle we created into the virtuous cycle through which nature has been sustaining herself for almost four billion years.
Think global, act local
While we aim to understand and tackle the challenges we face on a global scale, we develop concepts which can be implemented locally. We contribute with a set of concepts which, through their combination, provide a solution for the interconnected problems on community level:
From monocultures to food forests
We developed a concept to convert palm oil monocultures into biodiverse polycultures – so-called ‘food forests’ – that are profitable, and which have a positive impact not only on the environment but also on the community. In our design, we aim to follow the structures and patterns through which naturally-grown forests sustain themselves.
Permacultural education center in La Gamba
We envision the establishment of a permacultural education and consultation center in La Gamba. The long-term goal is to plant a seed for the creation of a fully sustainable ecovillage: through education, we want to encourage the community to regeneratively cultivate their land, which improves food security, health outcomes, and quality of life in general.
Conservation and reforestation
Conserving intact natural habitats and actively restoring disturbed or destroyed ones is a crucial step to keep our ecosystem, and therefore human societies, alive. To do so, we developed solutions which are grounded in the same principles as the Refugio itself: we imitate strategies observed in nature and recombine them to allow habitats to recover as quickly as possible.
We are working with our community, the government, and NGOs on making agriculture sustainable.
Ministry of the Environment and Energy
We work with national and local representatives of Costa Rica’s Ministry of the Environment and Energy.
Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock
We work with national and local representatives of Costa Rica’s Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock.
Society for Ecological Restoration
Alexander Tinti was a guest speaker at the globally active Society for Ecological Restoration.
Osa Conservation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting the biodiversity of the Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica.
National Parks Foundation
The National Parks Foundation is the Costa Rica’s biggest organization protecting and developing wildlife areas.
We are member of Restor, a data-science-driven network of restoration experts globally.