“It is only through the recovered soil that poverty is overcome. It is only though eradicated poverty that the environment is under control and our planet saved.” (Ana Primavesi)

‘Healthy soil, healthy plant, healthy human being’ is an old saying, but a truth that transcends time and cultures. On planet Earth, everything is interconnected and interdependent.

On the Day of the Soil, celebrated today, April 15, we remember the importance of perceiving the cycles of nature and the role of the soil in maintaining terrestrial life, especially at this time, in which agriculture and conventional livestock husbandry threaten the balance of those cycles.

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Collective work in the Figueira Light-Community, MG.

“We destroy the soil through deep plowing, which frees huge quantities of carbon dioxide through the explosive decomposition of the organic matter and the traffic of heavy machinery. We also destroy it through burning, which kills the organic matter. [We] destroy it through adding nutrients that cause an imbalance in all the rest, through monoculture and herbicides,” explained Ana Primavesi (in memoriam), an agronomist specializing in soil and one of the pioneers of the agroecological movement in Brazil.

There is an enormous number of species in the soil. In a hot and humid climate, there can be up to 24 thousand kilos of living organisms per hectare. These are beings that help in the initial breaking down of organic and mineral matter, to then carry out the decomposition. The use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers kill these beings, diminishing the quality and the fertility of the soil.

Soil compaction, resulting from the degradation process, deregulates the groundwater levels, which can cause flooding and/or droughts. The imbalance extends to all levels of the ecosystems. In decaying soils, plants become diseased due to the low amount of nutrients, causing malnutrition and disease in human beings. It’s all a cycle.

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Regenerative agriculture works in favor of nature.

In her studies, Ana Primavesi was accustomed to affirming that “there are two alternatives: either we treat our soils with love and caring, recovering them and producing healthy food, or we try to exploit them even more and we die due to deforestation, a lack of water, and the pesticides in the food, the air, and the water.”

Care of the Soil

In the Light-Community of the Brotherhood, in Argentina, the regeneration of the soil is one of its principles and it is a practice that is done through the Agroforestry System (AFS) and is under the guidance of the permaculture person, Bento Cruz. After putting into practice what was learned in the first module of training on AFS, the focus of which was horticultural products, the team is currently beginning to set in place another agroforestry area, with a focus on extensive cultivation.

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Taking care so as to maintain the life and richness of the soil

The group work in union with the Kingdoms of Nature brings about significant results and reflects the mission and the values of the Fraternity – International Humanitarian Federation (FIHF). “The union created during these moments is a great learning experience. Everybody works for the same purpose,” affirms the monk of the Grace Mercy Order, Friar Bernabé.

“We nurture the soil with green fertilization, the pruning of trees, and rotation of crops. Now we just have to answer the challenge of not letting this soil become poor, but rather getting more and more rich, alive, uncompacted and permeable,” explains the monk.

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Working with the soil in the Fleur de Lys Light-Community, Portugal

“When we choose agroforestry systems and regenerative agriculture, we are working in support of nature and with it, which is contrary to what is done in the “traditional” model of agriculture, that ends up destroying the soil and all the life in it. We do not demand more than what the earth can give and in exchange, we feed it and the beings that live in it; we nurture them and take care of them. It is a cycle that aims at achieving a system of abundance, like the natural systems we are familiar with. It is not necessary to fertilize or water a forest,” concludes Friar Bernabé.