Drylands are a major climatic zone and contain a large portion of the worlds population on planet earth. These rain sparse areas are rapidly expanding due to man-made disturbance
in the landscape and the subsequent fluctuating climatic conditions. This is a worrisome fact on this Blue and Green Planet that is taking on a new hue of brown when we look down from space. The deserts are growing at exponential rates leaving billions of people marginalized as dry areas get drier and eventually succumb to desertification. This has huge implications throughout the world from developed countries like Spain, Portugal, Greece, Italy (notice the trend with the fallout of the 2012 context of economic crisis in southern Europe) and also underdeveloped Nations like Sudan, Bolivia and Uzbekistan. Then there are emerging countries like China and India who have huge development issues arising as their agriculture and land use changes to a more global military industrial complex model. Both nations have responded both positively and negatively to the worsening situation.
The loss of top soil is a huge economic downfall of many countries as the base of economy is inextricably linked to natural capitol. In the above picture vast quantities of soil have been washed away by the erosive forces of sun, wind, and water as man’s dualistic interaction with land has broken the fabric of life that knits it all together. This combination increasingly is becoming extreme and the systems ability to regenerate has been diminished by deforestation, colonialism, till agriculture, and biocides. When the fabric is torn in these drylands, or brittle systems, it tears quickly and severely unlike the forgiving non-brittle climates of Northern Europe or the Eastern Half of the U.S.A. Our techniques of farming were brought there, whether it was the Sonoran Desert of the southwestern part of the states, or Australia where Permaculture originates from. Both of those contexts produced disastrous resultus in areas that once were some of the most complex and bio-diverse drylands regions and the subsequent human indigenous cultures that thrived through them. The Anasazi in the southwest present states of Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and Utah had access to over 400 plants of edibility in a place that it is now considered to be normal to simply be a desert; devoid of bio-diversity and abundance.
This is often tied again to the colonial reign that had so much negative effect on traditional ecosystem/ indigenous habitation pattern of symbiosis and co-creation. Our ability to
restore ecosystem function and habitat for wildlife is an important mission we face. The combination of regenerative soil/water/trees/earthworks practices amongst others seen below will be a leading model of development in the future. We simply need to put back the water in the ground, make every drop of it count since the rainfall is spread out in time and its pattern of when it falls becoming even more sporadic. When we denude the landscape of life, the water simply runs off instead of infiltrating making regeneration impossible. The % that goes in the ground to feed microbes, plant roots, and recharge aquifers is lost and the desert comes creeping in at an exponential rate. We have tools to reverse this, to stabilize climates, and their are a myriad of tools which help us to do so. Animals are one of those factors and it comes down to management, they can either be the plague of the system of the kickstarter to regeneration.
Importantly with climate change as whole affecting each climate zone, the techniques covered in this chapter may indeed be useful in your area as droughts become more often. For example in Sintra, Portugal in Terra Alta we get nearly a meter of rain a year, hardly a drylands. But it is a brittle climate with the summer drought lasting 5-7 months on average. Thus summer time growing in earthworks strategies like sunken beds are vastly important. I will never build a raised bed again for tomatoes, peppers, or courgettes. Maybe for winter time crops of varying brassicas or lettuces, but never for summer growing. Even these winter crops have thrived in our sunken beds there as we have sandy soil and keeping fertility is easier in this particular context with sunken beds. Even my hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio, USA where we get an even distribution of precipitation all year around in a non brittle climate we are experiencing drought more often and does warrant this technique as well. Drylands are a complex set of factors but go beyond just the classical Mid east regions or the Mediterranean. And you don’t do the same things as in other areas as swales are spaced out further, you can break from zone planning, and you plant in different densities. These are just a few examples and will be more of the details to come within this chapter.