It is not easy to define Syntropic Agriculture. It starts as a set of theoretical concepts but focuses on applying those principles in a tangible way.
Through a transdisciplinary approach that encompasses areas such as biology, chemistry, physics, ecology, and anthropology, it seeks to build a deeper understanding of nature and its natural processes.
The word “Syntropy” comes from the Greek “syn” = together, and “tropos” = tendency. It is then “the tendency towards energy concentration, order, organization and life,” as noted by the mathematician Luigi Fantappiè.
Through the understanding of the principles of life, a Syntropic farmer will work to replicate and accelerate the natural processes and harness energy from life itself. Recognizing and honoring the fact that each species plays its own role in the ecosystem, harvesting and regeneration become a consequence of this process.
Agroforestry systems are not a recent practice since indigenous and traditional populations already integrated many of those components in their crops. Despite getting inspiration from the ancestral knowledge, particularly in terms of the philosophy and main principles, Gotsch approach brought some differences. The main one is the application of scientific research and techniques that focus on the biogeochemical cycles.
Ernst Gotsch, the creator of Syntropic Agriculture. Source: Agenda Gotsch
Ernst Gotsch, a Swiss farmer and researcher, is known for developing the concept of Syntropic Agriculture. He migrated to the Brazilian state of Bahia in the early 1980s, and there he bought the “Olhos d’Água” farm. Before he started developing his works, the land was completely degraded due to intensive logging and abandonment.
Since that time, the farmer has developed principles and techniques that combine food production with natural forest regeneration dynamics. Ernst Gotsch carried out hundreds of experiments based on trial and error until elaborating the concept that now we know as Syntropic Agriculture.
He started by planting 500 hectares of forest, completely transforming the area. A decade later, the technicians of the Brazilian Institute for the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (IBAMA) were intrigued to see a “green explosion” on the old unrecognizable deteriorated area.
When asked how he could create such a transformation, he replied, “Working with nature and not against it, (…) through strategies that look like the way natural ecosystems work.”.
By restoring the vegetation and the quality of the soil, Gotsch triggered the cycles of renewal. This process revived the water springs and brought back the rain to the once dry land.
Aerial view of the rich and dense forest inside Gotsch’s farm. Source: Agenda Gotsch
Syntropic Agriculture has shown to be beneficial to the environment, allowing fast restoration of the forest, namely in highly degraded areas, and, also, for being a cultivation method based on natural processes without the need to use chemical elements.
It is also a socially fair and economically viable methodology, as it produces a large amount of food at low production costs, given the absence of machinery.
This model may represent an essential solution to meet a crucial challenge of the XXI century – the reconciliation between sustainability in food production and environmental sustainability.