Regenerative agriculture: three videos

With climate change, both floods and droughts are becoming more extreme, resulting in soil degradation and desertification.

In this blog post, we look at three inspiring videos about solutions that people are using in Saudi Arabia, India, and Germany.

A common theme is that even in dry regions, there is enough water, but the ground doesn’t retain enough of it. Therefore, in each case, people have found ways of improving the ground’s ability to store water.

The effects are dramatic: Near-deserts are becoming green landscapes again.

The Story of Al Baydha: a regenerative agriculture in the Saudi desert [20 min]

The Al Baydha area is located about 50 kilometers (20 miles) south of Mecca in Saudi Arabia.

The Al Baydha project was founded in 2009 in order to create “an economy for the inhabitants of Al Baydha that is socially, culturally, environmentally, and economically sustainable.”

The area once had trees and a rich fauna, but was slowly becoming a desert. Rain is rare and when it comes, it results in floods. That is common in mountainous deserts.

Barriers and trenches were created in the mountains so that, during a flood, water is spread across the landscape, slowed down and seeping into the ground. This system is low-tech and passive and based on a mix of Incan and Nabataean techniques.

Complementing these measures was the development of a silvopasture system:

  • Ecosystem resilience is ensured via trees.
  • Grazing patterns of livestock are changed to become sustainable.

Many trees were planted. They picked 10 species that had both economic and ecological benefits. Four of them survived the long periods of drought in the area. To get started, drip irrigation was used, with water that was sourced from a local well and desalination plants.

A suspenseful moment of the project was reached in 2016: Funding was reduced, which led to the decision to cut the irrigation. And then it didn’t rain properly for 27 months. This was the first test for the project: Would the system survive on its own? You can watch what happened at 9:52 in the video.

India’s water revolution #3: from poverty to permaculture [13 min]

In this video, Andrew Millison visits two locations in India that practice regenerative agriculture:

In Sunra, Purulia, he looks at terraced ponds that are placed high up and have two benefits (among others):

  • Fields below them can be irrigated using only gravity.
  • They provide water for the surrounding lands via sub-surface seepage.

In Gholkund, Purulia, he examines the “30-40 model”:

  • The goal of the model is to collect as much runoff water as possible on a flat ridge in a hilly landscape.

  • A grid of mounds is created. Each cell of that grid is 30 ft by 40 ft (9.14 m by 12.19 m) – hence the name of the model.

  • When there is rain, the mounds keep the water in place. They are assisted by one soakage pit per cell that collects water and makes the plants in the cell independent of outside water for a longer time.

Berlin is becoming a sponge city [4 min]

The many sealed surfaces in current cities are becoming an issue:

  • During rainfall, most of the water runs off and can result in floods.
  • They cause higher temperatures compared to rural areas – usually by 1–3°C (1.8–5.4°F) (source). That is problematic when it’s hot.

In Berlin, they are starting to change that and creating more open areas that retain water (like a sponge). Apart from reducing floods, the retained water is evaporated by plants when it’s hot, which has a cooling effect.