Felipe Pasini – Trees bring water so when in doubt plant more trees and complexify

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Felipe Pasini, the co-founder of Life in Syntropy, joins us to discuss the astounding capabilities of systemic tree planting coupled with many other agroforestry systems and the role of syntropic agroforestry in gaining back the forests we once had. 

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Felipe Pasini, co-founder of Life in Syntropy, is one of the pioneers in the dissemination of Ernst Götsch’s work with the film “neste chão tudo dá”, in 2006. Since then, he divides his efforts between the journalistic profession and the plantations on the farm that later would become a Syntropic Farming training center, in Rio de Janeiro. He closely follows Ernst Götsch in projects in Brazil and abroad, and the result of this intense interaction is translated into texts and videos published on “Agenda Gotsch” and “Life in Syntropy.” 

We all say very often we want to farm with respect for nature. But what does this actually mean? What does nature actually want? How do we build agriculture systems at scale, where we can still harvest enough to sustain ourselves in a truly sustainable system? What does it take to scale syntropic agroforestry?

Reimagining What Forests Should Be

People may imagine ‘forest’ as a place with lots of trees, but it’s definitely more than that, and we are facing problems with planting trees because of our distorted image of ‘forest.’ This is rooted from the start of civilization, when annuals, biennials, and even perennials started replacing actual forests. Forests should be a place that’s dense with lots of vegetation and trees. In order to get our forests back, layered and stratified vegetation is key, and many can prove that, scientifically, this approach works. 

“All the forests are very much connected with the circulation of air, moisture and everything else, and we know that there’s so much information about this.” – Felipe Pasini

How Trees Don’t Deplete Water  

Because people, in general, are competitive, we see competition everywhere else, including how we should plant trees. Trees, instead, when planted synchronised with others, help, protect, and feed each other, making them low maintenance. Hence, as land stewards, our role is to provide a ‘natural place’ for trees where they don’t have to compete for water. If we do this, plants would exude moisture rather than need moisture, which can really revolutionize how we plant trees nowadays. 

“There shouldn’t be anything more important to do on this planet than trying to figure out how things work.” – Felipe Pasini

How Stratified Vegetation is Key 

Strategically mixing and matching which species should be in a consortium should not be a challenge, as most plants can live in this kind of environment. Succession coupled with stratification could help get rid of uncovered soil as well as improve photosynthesis. Some of the great combinations include banana, grass, citrus, and eucalyptus, among others. To keep the soil uncovered and to create a moist environment that will not trigger any fire during the summer, there should be about 220% plant density from the ground all the way to the top.   

“We have so many examples that it influences the quality of the product because when you put the tree in just the right position where it wants to be, it gets no stress.” – Felipe Pasini

Mechanization is Key to Scaling 

People tend to believe that places like the Sahara and the Tibetan Plateau exist because of some cosmological phenomenon, but there are studies suggesting that they could’ve been made through men’s intervention. And now, there are places that are at risk of desertification because of trees’ low survival rate. Hence, scaling of agroforestry systems is critical at this point. Felipe believes that scaling is possible through mechanization, although it is a challenge because of machine companies’ disinterest to invest. Nevertheless, Felipe believes that technologies (for planting, pruning, cutting grass, etc.) will enable and empower farmers and landowners to vastly improve their farming practices.    

“Don’t be cheap; we are all the same. We are all in the same boat. We are all facing the same problems.” – Felipe Pasini

Other Points Discussed 

Koen and Felipe also talked about: 

  • How we should just forbid any monoculture of annuals;
  • How we should not be cheap in trying to find solutions for our real actual problems that we know exist; 
  • Educating the current and newer generation of farmers can help them find better solutions;
  • People shouldn’t be reluctant in including trees;
  • Scaling can be very difficult, but there’s hope.

To know more about Felipe Pasini and Life in Syntropy, download and listen to this episode. 

LINKS

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