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Paul continues his review of Sepp Holzer’s Desert or Paradise with Mark, Katie, et al.

“I was invited to Tamera in March 2007, the question was “is it possible to feed 300 people with healthy vegetables using a space of 150 hectares in the dry south of Portugal?” my answer was yes – easily.  Such a fertile and beautiful landscape should be able to provide even more than that.  […] I could see straight away that southern Portugal’s dryness is the result of human’s wrongdoing and is not its natural state.  Decades, if not centuries, of intensive and incorrect cultivation methods have resulted in the drying out of the land.  The annual rainfall is a little less than that of Germany or Austria, the only difference being that almost all of the rain falls in winter.”  Tamera gets around 20 inches of rain, but looking at the “before” pictures, you can see that it is a pretty dry, scrubby area (bearing in mind that Paul’s land gets only slightly more than that).  Paul speculates that the area is fairly windy.

“Initially they thought that my suggestions were too ambitious.  The pros and cons were discussed.  I then suggested that we go out and read the landscape and communicate with the plants and animals.  […] I kept saying it, and eventually we reached an agreement and work could begin.”  Almost universally what people want is conventional landscaping with a permaculture flag on it, as if there’s a homeowner’s association keeping an eye on them.  Hopefully some more examples of permacultural magnificence will mitigate this, and Sepp is hoping that Tamera will be one such example.  

“I wanted to create a water landscape of at least 10 retention spaces.  It is the best way to reverse the desertification in regions like this.  A dam was built at the deepest and most narrow end of the valley and was curved and blended in with the surrounding landscape.  We dug a trench that was about 5m deep and filled it with a layer of clay to create a watertight aquifuge.  The gradient should not be steeper than 1-2 (about 30 degrees).  Only then can the dam be planted easily, which we did. Digging a hole in the lake area created a deep zone for the lake.  In the case of lake 1, it’s 40ft deep.  The terraces obviously benefit from the lake – the water reflects heat, the soil is saturated with water, dew and humidity are increased.  All these have a very positive effect on plant growth.  The intensive vegetable crops are in need of additional watering in summer, this is done by surface irrigation and with drip tapes with water pumped from the lake” This is the first time any of the group have heard of Sepp using irrigation.  Sepp faced a lot of pushback from the Tamerans, who even undid a bunch of what he did when he left and it took Sepp refusing to come back until the damage was undone to get them to relent.  Then the benefits came in, and everyone was cool with him.

Relevant Threads

Tamera and their Water Retention Landscape

Earthworks forum
Ponds forum

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