Visita del Dr. Seaton (Seaton Associates) a la Finca El Mato el 13 de noviembre de 2014 al calor de los encuentros LASOS-Cátedra de Resiliencia (CDR) de la Universidad de La Laguna.

 A raíz de dicha visita el Dr. Seaton remite un informe en su calidad de Asesor Científico del proyecto Europeo COMPLEX (Knowledge Based Climate Mitigation Systems for a Low Carbon Economy).

 The visit enabled Dr Seaton to ask a wide range of questions about the detailed operations and performance of this 1 ha permaculture site. Finca El Mato represents a pragmatic example (action research) of experimentation with sustainable food production although the permaculture movement as a whole also has significant socio-cultural features. Finca El Mato is involved with a range of social and therapeutic activities. Food production on this site is firmly based on promoting a soil ecology in the top 20 cms or so of the soil which not only provides nutrition pathways and mechanisms but also retains the carbon cycle intact. Insufficient attention is paid in much sustainability literature to this key foundation of long term food security. The spatial juxtaposition of food plants, other complementary plants, water accessibility and so on has been evolved in different ways to provide a significant and continuous output of vegetables and salad ingredients. Animal husbandry is also practised alongside the plant production.

Visita del Dr. Seaton a la Finca el Mato

Some initial thoughts from that day suggest interesting issues that arise from this visit:

  1. The role of the farm (at the smallest scale within a range of possible scales) in the exploration of option spaces for secure food production
  2. The quantity and nature of the food produced, its nutritional values (trace elements, vitamins etc.) per gross unit area. Temporalities of start-up and of input-output cycles. Water dependency and use.
  3. The nature of scaling up and how such sites would, if developed in large numbers, fit into the wider food production, logistics and economic systems and thence into the wider Sustainability/Disaster Management strategies. Implies a need to know the carrying capacity of each island and of the Canaries Region.
  4. The site’s function not only as a source of innovation but also as an example of craft based knowledge generation and transfer as distinct from innovation by design. How to shift from empiricism to design in order to extend the range of exploration of configurations.
  5. The role of diversity in the soil ecology and the distinctions between the role of species in different ecological niches and how this would vary with topology and other boundary conditions.
  6. Modelling of spatial and temporal properties at this scale using recently developed land-use activity analysis techniques – with the aim of understanding scaling up problems within a wider range of physical contexts

There will certainly be other topics. Those above are, however, linked at different scales and focus. The central issue is how such ways of producing food would contribute to food security in the face of climate change, carbon neutral futures and global population growth.

There would be benefits from developing a systemic perspective on this type of activity.  It is proposed that this involves adding systems thinking to the repertoire of those involved.  This can be very practical though based on deeper conceptual underpinnings so that it is usable by practitioners as well as researchers. Such education has been widely developed – in the UK by the Open University – and should be experienced largely through workshops and activities. An example is referenced here – much of which Dr Roger Seaton has had experience of teaching. ( Experience shows that almost anyone can grasp essential features of complexity and apply systems concepts to practical problems. This would aid the integration of practitioner knowledge in the exploration of the relevant practical and strategic issues.

One strategic issue Dr. Seaton mentioned is how we could “scale-up” agro-ecology as a food production system; another is how transferable the thinking is, and also what are the social, societal and other benefits of such enterprises.  Also linking to LASOS is which risk attributes and at what scales does agro-ecology contribute to. Associated with that is what is the carrying capacity of, say, Tenerife under different food/energy/water regimes. For instance, what population could Tenerife support (with balanced imports/exports or zero carbon constraints) at what proportions of agro-ecological farming.

He also acknowledges that ecological farming (depending on criteria for that) has a strong socio-cultural dimension which may be idiosyncratic to regional or national cultures thus reflecting diversity social and cultural values.

A raíz de la visita se sigue indagando en los potenciales puntos de confluencia entre el proyecto ADP-FEM, y por extensión el proyecto LASOS, y los proyectos en los que está inserta la Cátedra de Resiliencia.