Masanobu Fukuoka's first book, The One-Straw Revolution, introduced natural farming, a nature-integrated practice similar to 'original' permaculture, to a world where the environmental movement had just begun. As this plant pathologist-turned-farmer-philosopher journeyed around the world as a result of the popularity of his book and ideas, Fukuoka was shocked at the environmental degradation and desertification he saw. Sowing Seeds in the Desert, his final book, is his plan to set a 'Second Genesis' in motion: a green revolution led by vegetables, grasses, and trees.
Natural farming isn't just another 'method' but rather a way of thinking and living that goes beyond even organic farming. Fukuoka examines science, economics, politics and medicine, arguing that humanity's quest for knowledge and wealth only increases the divide between ourselves and nature, resulting in illness, unhappiness and a deeply damaged planet. Our inability to see nature as a whole and ourselves as part of it leads to destruction of the integrated systems necessary for our survival.
Fukuoka then shares some of the first results of this grand design: a desert river in India where millions of mangroves grew after an aerial seeding; a California plateau where his methods overwhelmed an invasive grass, and a refugee camp in Somalia where children gleefully sang when the seed pellets he gave them sprouted. Fukuoka's examples illustrate the nearly immediate positive impact that thinking in harmony with nature can have.
By working in partnership with the natural world – examples such as using rivers and their tributaries as the basis for green corridors; planting poisonous plants to deter grazing; and using a diversity of trees and ground cover to stop erosion and build the soil – the results are truly sustainable. Three appendices also offer instruction for siting and starting a natural farm; a bulk recipe for clay seed pellets and an accompanying micro-organism-encouraging medium.
While Fukuoka uses Japanese vegetables and perennials, his ideas can easily be adapted to the crops and native plants for other climates and regions. Farmers, land restoration specialists and development workers will find Sowing Seeds in the Desert a thought-provoking and practical read.
This review first appeared in Permaculture magazine issue 75
Sowing Seeds in the Desert: Natural Farming, Global Restoration & Ultimate Food Security by Masanobu Fukuoka, is available from our Green Shopping store.