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THE Hungry Spirit Greening THE Outback Project!

Australia’s First Semi-Arid Demonstration site of Syntropic Agroforestry

By establishing Australia’s first semi-arid demonstration site of Syntropic farming, Greening THE Outback will introduce semi-arid landowners of all sizes (from backyard gardeners to broad acre farmers and graziers) to the regenerative methods of Syntropic Farming, an emerging globally recognised holistic Agroforestry practice, that has created significant environmental, community and food production outcomes around the world. 

Of particular relevance  is the impact these methods have had on large areas of dry, deforested land in very low rainfall areas in South America. When applied at even a relatively small scale (500ha), Syntropic farming has resulted in decreased temperature, improved soil structure and productivity, new profitable (and sustainable) agricultural enterprises and increasing rainfall in the region.

This farming method moves beyond sustainability (status quo) to regeneration, harnessing the laws of nature to provide environmental, community, economic and health outcomes.

The demonstration is located at THE Hungry Spirit, Lightning Ridge, western NSW, where landholders are being educated through participation in the development of these regenerative practices, with a view that they are applying and undertaking these new practices on their land and in their agricultural enterprises which will ultimately:

  • Increase awareness and uptake of regenerative farming methods
  • Restore land and mitigate the impact of land clearing
  • Significantly improve soil 
  • Provide best practice management for using currently under utilised semi-arid areas
  • Offer alternative enterprise development for land owners to manage changing climate, fluctuating markets and to reduce dependency on commodity production
  • Increase biodiversity
  • Result in new agricultural businesses and practices

The project seeks to move beyond demonstration and provide pathways to a larger scaled implementation of Syntropic farming in the Lightning Ridge area. If this scale can be achieved we will:

  • Create new food production enterprises
  • Provide employment pathways for local people
  • Improve food security 
  • Improve health outcomes
  • Decrease temperatures in summer
  • Return rain to the regions and water to the landscape
  • Lead to adoption in other areas of Australia

Why is this important?

To work in Syntropy it is to move beyond sustainable and become regenerative, which means the system works together to look after itself. Greening the Outback seeks to share this philosophy and the land management practices of Syntropic farming with as many people as we can, so as to yield environmental, human and systemic outcomes in the semi-arid zones in Australia.

Communities rely on a strong agricultural sector and looking for new ways to regenerate land, adopt new practices and look to different enterprise in semi-arid Australia, will be critical for the ongoing contribution of the agricultural sector to the local community and national economy.

In the Walgett Shire land clearing continues, despite diminishing top soil and erosion from strong winds, increasing summer temperatures, extended droughts and falling productivity, this has to change.

Sometimes the approach needs to be radical (and entirely different to what is usual). This project will challenge paradigms of land owners and managers (at all scales) and provide new insights and possibilities, which is why the Demonstration site is critical, providing practical, hands on approach so landholders can ‘see it to believe it’.

Syntropic farming has evidence of success in similar landscapes and has significant benefits including

  • Large crop yields
  • Steady income across the growing season
  • Diversification of crops and therefore income
  • Minised costs with no fertilizer and minimal mechanisation required
  • Soil quality improves
  • Less reliant on rainfall as the soil improves water retention
  • Improved plant health and resilience towards pest and diseases
  • Increased biodiversity

If we do not implement Greening THE Outback, this opportunity for radical climate change (for the better) will be lost. This project and the outcomes it will yield, must happen, or the viability and future of the semi-arid zones in our country (which make up a significant and currently underutilised land mass), are in serious doubt. We will lose an opportunity to have a different model of farming shared and demonstrated to those who manage the land and who may struggle to otherwise change their ways and learn a new way to work with nature that yields benefits to all.

If just one landowner in the Walgett Shire took up syntropic farming on 500-1000ha, the entire micro-climate could change (as it has in other sites around the world) and if more than one took it up – much greater change would be possible.

What have we done so far?

We currently have four Syntropic Systems underway, one commenced in June 2020, with an intensive 3 days with volunteers under tutelage of Thiago and the second, commenced in September 2020, as part of a workshop with 15 participants, led by Thiago. The third, is a non irrigated ‘test’ site and the fourth is a retrofitted ‘food forrest’.

System 1

System 1 June 2020

System 1 April 2021

System 1 May 2022

TIN CAMP STUDIOS

System 1 May 2023

System 2

System 2 September 2021

System 2  April 2021

System 2 September 2023

Cassava planted in System 1 Sept 2020

Cassava in System 1 April 2021

Workshop

Since June of 2020 we have hosted 5 workshops with 60+ participants from across Australia learning the art and practice of designing, planting and managing syntropic agroforestry systems in a semi-arid environment in multiple contexts. Our teacher, Thiago Gimenez Barbosa is a Syntropic farming pioneer in Australia who is helping to spread the knowledge of this unique farming system and teaching farmers and backyard gardeners to apply the principles in different regions and climates around Australia and the world.

 

THE Hungry Spirit Demonstration Site provides a uniquely practical educational environment for participants to see the impact of different decisions in context eg species choice pruning times and watering.

 

On site we now have two small systems that have been designed syntropically from the start, two that are being syntropically retrofitted all of which are irrigated and two systems that are rainfall reliant. These systems have been largely created by the participants in our workshops.

Interns

From Sept 2020 – April 2021, we welcomed two fantastic Interns, as an experiment. Benny Sauber (Sept-April) and Nicholas Lawson (Jan-April). They contributed enormously to the management and development of the Systems. Benny also implemented a ‘no irrigation’ system on the outer boundary of the property and retrofitted our struggling ‘food forrest’ under the Syntropic methodology.

Nick & Benny in the Syntropified Food Forrest at THE Hungry Spirit March 2021

The no-irrigation syntropic method planted in Summer 2021 by Benny

Planting Trees to Plant Water

In 2023 we undertook a project to plant 2000 trees in our semi-arid syntropic system, with support from our workshop participants and with tree funding through KINA (Keeping it Neutral Australia), an Australian based Charity committed to clearing the oceans of plastic and cleaning the water cycle on the planet.

KINA’s purpose is to raise funds and sponsor local organisations to facilitate the extraction of plastic from our oceans, waterways, and shorelines, whilst offsetting the carbon footprint in doing so.”

There were 21 participants (plus 4 children!) at the August workshop (25-27 August 2023). They learned and worked really hard under the tutelage of Thiago Barbosa!

We set big ambitions for what we could achieve with this many participants and the volume of trees we had planned to plant (approx 100 per person)

 

First we had biomass to prepare. We had cut a number of limbs of large trees (overhanging infrastructure) which was needed as mulch in the system

Next we reset System 2 (originally planted in September 2020). This involved heavily pruning all the existing trees, taking some out (leucaena) and then replaning.

We planted finger lime, kaffir lime, chillis, saltbush, pecans and pistachios, mulberries, figs as well as long term hardwood and other native species including some bush medicine plants.

We also replanted the same variety of species into System 1 which required first chop and drop in the system (grass) and pruning the existing trees before planting.

The non-irrigated system got the first proper attention since it was planted in 2020, it was chopped and the biomass managed and seeds and seedlings were planted.

The system that was created during a workshop in 2022 was also managed and replanted

We also created an entirely new row in the ‘retrofitted’ syntropic system which included olives, pistachios, saltbush, mulberries, figs and we also included the Kangaroo grass which will be an experiment to see if we can cultivate it for seed for flour.

Plants

We were able to support community and Indigenous owned enterprises in the sourcing of our plants

The natives came from Weddin Community Nursery

The bush foods/medicine came from Indigrow 

The saltbush came from Old Man Saltbush in Narromine

Fruit & nut trees came from Daleys Nursery

 

We were able to plant 1750 at the workshop and we still have 250 saltbush which we’ve repotted and will plant in the system before Summer.

Below is a list of species, trees, shrubs & shorter growing biomass plants to be planted. that were planted August 2023 workshop in THE Hungry Spirit site.

 

Bush foods

  • Gumbi Gumbi
  • Kangaroo Grass
  • Wallaby apple
  • Finger Lime
  • Saltbush

Natives

  • Lemon Scented gum
  • Spotted Gum (hardwood)
  • River Red Gum
  • Blakeley’s Red Gum
  • Wilga
  • Silver Cassia
  • Gold dust Wattle
  • Hickory Wattle
  • Fuzzy Box
  • Weeping Myall
  • Wedge-leaf Hopbush (fast growing)

Citrus

  • Kaffir Lime

Food

  • Olives
  • Pomegranate
  • Pecan
  • Pistachio
  • Mulberry
  • Fig

Seeds

  • Moringa
  • Leucena (biomass/nitrogen fixing)
  • Chilli
  • Silverbeet (biomass)
  • Kale (biomass)
  • Parsley (biomass)

There was also delicious food, with a lot of produce from the garden and amazing sunsets PLUS there was a fabulous Open Mic night onsite that was won by one of our workshop participants ($200!)

Watch and learn more about Syntropic Farming around the world

Brazil

New Zealand

How to get involved?

Learn More Click HERE

We have applied several times, through the Federal and State governments, for funding and so far, have been unsuccessful.

So we’ve been self-funding as best we can from our workshops, other enterprises and from the trickle of funds that come in through our Fund (bank account) which people (like you) to contribute to – small or medium or large sums of money, one off or on a regular basis, to help us implement the vision!

OR if you have skills, connections, ideas or suggestions, please let us know – rebel@thehungryspirit.com

There are four primary areas we require capital for this project

1. Education

Provide workshops on Syntropic farming in Lightning Ridge, western NSW. These workshops cover the principles and mechanics of Syntropic Farming and application in a semi-arid environment. Students are educated in Syntropic Farming increasing the awareness and knowledge of holistic management and regeneration of landscapes using these methods.

When – As funding is available

Who will attend – Landowners in semi-arid zones, Indigenous land managers, Land management educators, backyard farmers, horticulture, grazing and farm managers, students (TAFE, University and school)

Delivered by – Thiago Gimenez Barbosa + Rebel Black

Funding required – $11,000 inc gst/ 3 day workshop

2. Demonstration Site

Expand our 1ha demonstration site at THE Hungry Spirit Lightning Ridge, a community focused property on the edge of the opal fields that currently has a permaculture garden, a large shed used for events and functions and a commercial kitchen. We are in negotiations with the Crown Reserve Trust to develop non-irrigated systems on property adjoining THE Hungry Spirit and there are a few stumbling blocks we need to get over including test drilling the site (for opal) before we can get started.

The establishment phase will include earthworks, planting, a watering system and employment of a Project Support Officer (15hrs/week) who will be responsible for basic maintenance and developing community and volunteer engagement to ensure the project continues beyond initial funding.

The site will include a variety of fruit and nut trees, native timbers and Indigenous foods and medicine plants, vegetables and ground covers. It will make use of local crushed rock, woodchip and organic compost. We will undertake comprehensive soil analysis to measure the impact on soil/biodiversity/water retention and carbon sequestration using this methodology.

When: When approval and funding are available with ongoing management by landowners, volunteers and through other funding obtained

Who will attend: The Demonstration site will be built using a mix of specialists (irrigation and earthworks) workshop participants and community volunteers. It will be done in a short period of time being led by Syntropic Farming expert Thiago Gimenez Barbosa

Funding required – $30,000/year (salary)  + $20,000 input costs (year 1 including trees, seeds,mulch etc) – $5000 (cost of drilling) + $8,000/year (soil sampling to get baseline data)

3. Community engagement

Through 3 community open days, 2 proposed workshops and 10 or more other activities over the two years of the project (including pruning, harvesting, preserving, planting etc) A minimum of 600 people will be engaged in the methods, practices and activity of Syntropic farming and be inspired to make changes in their own life and landscapes. Some will become volunteers and support the project long term.

When: Annual

Who will attend: Landowners and land managers, School students, Indigenous groups, community members, regenerative farming practitioners and consultants, educators.

Deliver: these activities will be managed by the Project Support Officer, supported by the landowners where the demonstration site is and local volunteers who will be recruited and trained to provide support

Funding required – $10,000 (event costs)

4. Scale

Develop a viable project proposal and relevant investment documentation to seek support for a larger scale project that includes broader outcomes including Indigenous employment, tourism, native food production and cultural outcomes. This could include acquisition of a larger property and/or long term collaborations with local landholders.

When: As funding available

Who: Local landowners, investors, Indigenous landholders

Funding required – $20,000 >++

Contribute to the Greening THE Outback Fund