Learning about syntropic agriculture with Ernst Götsch

From April 1 – 8, 2016 DFE participated in a practical ‘Agroforestry and Syntropic Farming Course’ in Northwestern Spain. The course was taught by the legendary Ernst Götsch, who has, for the past 40 years, practiced syntropic agroforestry in Brazil as well as in Switzerland, southern Germany and Costa Rica. On his land in Southern Bahia, he has transformed 500 acres (approx. 200 hectares) of degraded land into highly productive agroforestry systems dominated by cocoa and bananas, along with annual and perennial crops and wood trees. Each of these components fulfill a specific role in the agroforestry system.

Götsch’s main principles for his agroforestry systems is to imitate processes within natural forest succession and to build production systems based on consortiums of species. This function to restore soil fertility and allow production with a minimum or no inputs of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. This soil restoration process is sped up by imitating forest succession, strategically planting essential forest layers based upon species selected for their consumption and ecological properties. The planting is done in rows and straight lines to ease access for (mechanical) management and harvest.

Pruning is at the center of system function and maintenance – both to control the amount of sunlight available to the lower production layers as well as to add biomass for ground cover and natural fertilization to regenerate the soil. The biomass also helps retain the moisture in the soil. This is what Götsch calls a ‘disturbance forest’. The human’s main task is to keep pruning the trees to prevent the canopy from closing in order to get the highest possible abundancy production.

These principles can be adopted to different geographical locations. In Spain, we planted a system that included willows, poplar, fruit trees, berry bushes, nitrogen-fixing grains and grasses, strawberries, and vegetables such as potatoes, carrots, salad, and onions. The systems thereby has potential both in a tropical, Mediterranean and Nordic context. For more inspiration click on the link that shows Götsch’s work in Brazil: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gSPNRu4ZPvE


Below you will find some pictures of the workshop.