Sustainable Agriculture

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Witzenhausen on Wednesday afternoon

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Fish and Brissel SproutsI am just sitting down to a lunch of fantastic dense German bread with Matjes and brussel sprouts, listening to ‘Coastal Ecology’ a mix from Cap. Andrew Peterson given to me before I left Bar Harbor. The sailing shanties, folky-contra music and old-time-american remixes meet this cold humid air to make me feel a nice warm nostalgia about Maine and life on the island.

Anyway, I wanted to write about the classes here in Witzenhausen now that they are in full swing. (The specifics of hours and course load are pretty standard: minimum of 5 classes at 6 credits each per semester.. roughly 180 hours of work per course.) The professors are very attentive and generally quite engaging – I find that I am quite well trained for Masters Level studies by the interactive classwork experiences at COA. We International Organic Agriculture students do more talking than some of the professors and I find this deliciously satisfying.

As an example I will talk about the class last Thursday with Professor Andreas Bürkert with a lot of interesting questions about Organic Agriculture production, how to fed the world, how to grow food in arid conditions, and many specific examples from him about his research in oasis conditions in Oman and in desert conditions in west Africa. The world produces roughly 600 million tons of the three major grains Rice, Mais (Corn) and Wheat. – Just two of those would be enough to feed everyone of we were all vegans and required no other nutrients. That is to say that the average need for calories per day and that would be met for 6.5 – 7 billion people today just through the production of the major grains (not to mention the other large crops being produced). This proved to be a major support for the diets of the vegans and vegetarians in the room but raised some more complicated questions about what is actually happening with all those calories and what sorts of steps are being taken to get those calories into the bellies of the 1 billion hungry people in the world.

We went on to talk more specifically about some of the issues with the idea behind sustainable agriculture and how even in Organic systems we find that sustainability is not necessarily met. In all types of cultivation systems the tendency is for loss of nutrients and carbon. This is not necessary but it does tend to be true. His work in Oman in oasis conditions (http://www.oases-of-oman.org/) was insightful for us to look at the tendency even for some very traditional agricultural systems to degrade and ultimately deplete the natural resources of the soil. The richness of Egypt for instance is built on the loss of nutrients in Ethiopia many thousands of years ago.

So, the point is that there is a lot of work for enthusiastic Human Ecologists here in Witzenhausen, and there is a whole lot to talk about. People need to eat, bioregions need to be protected, global climate change needs to be seriously addressed and this is your opportunity to plug in to an agricultural faculty and an amazingly productive learning community where will get close to and possibly even find and implement some real solutions.

Check out the home page of Professor Andreas Bürkert http://www.agrar.uni-kassel.de/opats/?language=en&c=21

More about Uni Kassel in Witzenhausen: http://www.uni-kassel.de/fb11cms/

More about Göttingen in Witzenhausen: http://www.uni-goettingen.de/en/104381.html

Author: C. Whitney

I am an Independent consultant working with Organic farmers, wild collectors and conservation oriented communities in SE Asia. - Organic Consultant and Researcher, PhD candidate, Couchsurfing Ambassador, MOFGA Member, IFOAM Member, Organic Group Manager...

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