2012 Finalist and Honorable Mention
"This is a really impressive project, it's the much larger application of permaculture principles and it's restoring hydrological cycles which is a very immediate issue.” – Newton Harrison, 2012 Challenge Juror
– Newton Harrison, 2012 Challenge Juror
Water Retention Landscape of Tamera:
A model for reversing desertification worldwide
PRESS RELEASE: Tamera Enters the Challenge
PRESS RELEASE: Tamera is a Finalist
Critical Need Being Addressed
The global crises of hunger, water scarcity and rapid urbanization worsen as deforestation and inappropriate agriculture degrade vast areas of land and interrupt hydrological cycles. Soil that can no longer absorb the rain is eroded, resulting in desertification, falling groundwater levels, and disastrous floods. A new approach to water management is urgently needed.
Description of Initiative
The Tamera Peace Research Center in Southern Portugal is establishing a Water Retention Landscape as a model for natural water management. It is applicable across almost all the world's climate zones, providing a solution for desertification, water scarcity, flooding and rural depopulation.
The model consists of interconnected rainwater retention spaces (or “lakes”) designed harmoniously into the landscape. The lakes are created by building earth dams, behind which rainwater is stored. The lakes are not sealed, so the water can seep into and soak the surrounding earth-body. They are built with deep and shallow zones and meandering shorelines, so the water moves constantly ensuring its vitality, oxygenation and self-purification. Terraces are built around the lakes for organic cultivation of fruit trees, vegetables and other crops, and mixed aquaculture can be established in the lakes.
The goal is to retain all rainwater on the land, replenish the groundwater, encourage springs to reappear, and reduce soil erosion to near zero, while supplying a community of 300 people with healthy organic produce. Five lakes have already been created across Tamera's 150 hectare (370 acre) site, and ten more are planned. The results visible so far are that natural vegetation has recovered, much wildlife has returned, a spring has reappeared, and crops can be grown on the lakeside terraces throughout the year requiring less and less artificial irrigation.
One principle of the model is to cooperate with nature's ability to provide every region of the Earth with sufficient water. In healthy ecosystems, the earth-body remains moist throughout the year, enabling the development of soil life, fertility and a diverse vegetation cover. Mixed forests with a rich topsoil are like sponges for water, integral parts of a complete water cycle in which springs, streams and clear rivers supply the whole land.
A second principle is that re-establishing a healthy water balance is always the first major step, on any piece of land, towards all ecological healing and sustainable economic development. A third principle is that only decentralized, socially just and beautiful solutions are truly sustainable. Our task is to correct the big mistakes of the past, in cooperation with nature, so that water, and consequently food, can once again be freely available to all.
BFI Assessment Summary
Tamera Peace Research Center, a well-established “intentional community” and cutting-edge eco-village with some 250 inhabitants on roughly 370 acres founded in 1995 that also has an extensive international network, submitted a “Solar Power Villages” proposal in 2011 that was a semifinalist. The Tamera team combines a profound spiritual connection to the land with scientific rigor and a high degree of creativity and innovation in many areas of sustainable technology.
This large-scale project involves shaping a landscape to maximize the retention of rainwater and circulate it in such a way that biodiversity, food production and human wellbeing are all harmoniously enhanced. The central component is the construction of 15 connected retention lakes (5 already built; 10 more in the planning stage) designed with a tremendous sensitivity to local conditions, including prevailing winds, soil composition, water tables, plant and animal communities, etc.
This is most likely the largest scale decentralized, community-based permaculture water management project yet attempted, and it seems to be a highly promising, widely replicable, scalable model, especially for arid, semi-arid and eroded lands, but adaptable to nearly any climatic conditions. Their results so far indicate that initial restoration of an eroded landscape can be achieved within 5-7 years or less depending on specific conditions. Their monitoring methods are sound, credible and well integrated into their long-term plans for the project.
The team is an impressive group that includes landscape architects, organic farmers, and a forest ecosystem manager. Their mentor is the legendary Sepp Holzer, whose work around the world is well documented. The group is well poised to present their work this spring at international conferences on water management and is currently networking with a number of governmental and academic institutions. They are also working on ways to widely disseminate educational materials on their methods that can be used by government agencies, academic institutions and communities across the globe. They feel this model could spread to their entire region of Portugal and then be emulated globally.
The Tamera community has served for years as a living laboratory and learning institution for holistic approaches to sustainability, visited by students and teachers from a number of European and Portuguese universities and local schools as well as many interns from around the globe, including from Tamera’s partners in Africa, the Middle East and South America, who are starting to replicate the work being done at Tamera in their home regions. They are also increasingly sharing their knowledge with government officials, including from Portugal, Brazil, and Bolivia. This is an impressive project with tremendous potential.
|From left, Christoph Ulbig, Silke Paulick, and Bernd Mueller, members of Tamera's ecology team receiving a Joe Clinton wooden sculpture for Honorable Mention in the 2012 Buckminster Fuller Challenge.|