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Forest Gardening


Forest gardens represent a farming technique radically different from Western (mono-)agricultural models and concepts. For many primary people around the world the cultivation and redesigning of patches of forest to create a reliable source of foodstuffs is elemental to their survival. For some Amazonian people (supposed hunter/gatherers) for instance it is calculated that 90% of their diet is produced in their gardens. The fact that many trained observers (like ethnobotanists) can completely miss a forest garden when they are right in front of it indicates that they are not just an accomplished and ecological sound cultural achievement, but that they inhibit a conceptual space beyond our immediate cultural perception.

Origin of Forest Gardens

From 'The forest-garden farms of Kandy, Sri Lanka' ( full view) by Douglas John McConnell:

Forest gardens farms may be as old as the human race itself. They originated in prehistoric times along jungle-clad river banks and in the wet foothills of monsoon lands. In the gradual process of a family or clan's improvement of its immediate environment, useful tree and vine species were identified, protected, and improved while undesirable species were eliminated. Eventually superior foreign species were obtained and incorporated into the gardens.

To qoute Vandana Shiva:

from Monocultures of the Mind ( ):

In the `scientific’ system which splits forestry from agriculture and reduces forestry to timber and wood supply, food is no longer a category related to forestry. The cognitive space that relates forestry to food production, either directly, or through fertility links, is therefore erased with the split. Knowledge systems which have emerged from the food giving capacities of the forest are therefore eclipsed and finally destroyed, both through neglect and aggression. Most local knowledge systems have been based on the life-support capacities of tropical forests, not on their commercial timber value. These systems fall in the blind spot of a forestry perspective that is based exclusively on the commercial exploitation of forests. If some of the local uses can be commercialised, they are given the status of `minor products'; with timber and wood being treated as the `major products’ in forestry. The creation of fragmented categories thus blinkers out the entire spaces in which local knowledge exists, knowledge which is far closer to the life of the forest and more representative of its integrity and diversity.

What Else

Forest gardens with the rainforest instead of against it, gardens have high species diversity, with a few specimens of many species, to keep the bugs out. Special adjustments may be done to attract animals (from useful insects to tasty wildlife and also tasty insects).

A garden is never fully abandoned, after three years a garden may be completely overgrown with weeds and thorny bushes, and the people using it may migrate, they will come back often to harvest it. see Ecosystem_gardening

For forest people, gardening is a state of mind, a mode they are never out of. The entire Amazon is now believed to one huge man-made landscape kept intact by contant pruning and weeding as humans move through it.

In Europe

Douglas John McConnell writes in his 'The forest farms of Kandy: and other gardens of complete design' ( preview) that “Swidenning is now confined largely to the tropics but as recently as 1920 it was still common in North Europe and existed in remote places in Finland into the 1970ties.” There are no native forest gardeners in Europe at this time, but people are constructing them as an art. They do differ from swidden-operated forest gardens in their effort to be sustainable over longer periods of time. To be more precise, a forest garden in European style strive to create a closed system, while the (neo-)tropical variety creates a window of opportunity before the forest will invade again beyond reproach.

Moulsecoomb Forest Garden:

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