Benson introduces Sam Parker Davies (both Australian) to tell us about how the group has been tweaking earthworks to capture water and recharge the landscape with organic material. It’s only just rained for the first time in over a year. They’ve created a diversion ditch to capture a little sheeting runoff coming from a nearby landform. The ditch leads to a berm, both of them lined with rocks to prevent erosion. The berm has been planted to Leucaena and pioneering species to create a biological wall knitted together with roots. This, Sam tells us, is how we can begin to tackle one of the biggest environmental problems we face: Loss of soil to water erosion. The group has also been chopping and dropping an overcanopy of prosopis, a spiky and rugged pioneering species, to allow sunlight onto the berm. We are soon joined by Saeed (Pakistan).
The group moves on into the project site to investigate a swale at the top of the property, the spot where water is being diverted to. A swale is a ditch on contour that captures and soaks water into the landscape rather than carrying it away. Last night when it was raining, Saeed tells us, the swale was full, but it has now soaked into the property, at the top of the landscape, from which it can permeate down. Sam informs that Geoff Lawton’s original design of the GTD Project put in three stone-backed swales to help regenerate the landscape. Joshua (Florida), the group’s tree expert, points out some of what has been growing. There are lots of citrus trees, surviving and thriving in harsh, alkaline environs. Pollarded Leucaena and other pioneering species, like albizzia, have been the trees that have helped to make the soil suitable for those productive species. They are fast carbon pathways, sinking both carbon and nitrogen into the soil, to create the perfect condition for growing productive trees, like date palms and olives.
The pioneering trees are chopped and dropped, the foliage cut and left on the ground as mulch. This is how with careful design abundance is possible even in a harsh environment. We end the tour near the primary animal system on site: the chicken tractor on steroids (watch: https://vimeo.com/168769025). Compost is being made via a variation on the Berkeley method. The chickens are turning and adding manure to compost as the piles are worked downhill and ultimately out into the site. Nearby, Joshua points out a moringa tree, one of the most nutrient-dense terrestrial plants on the planet. The whole thing, he explains, is edible—bark, roots, leaves, flowers, drumsticks— and it is used as medicine as well. Benson finally sends us off with an aerial view of the site, both before and after the canopy has been chopped and dropped, an annual chore interns undertake — visit Bensons Instagram account for reference images, here: https://www.instagram.com/p/B5-344spY8G/