Three Centuries ago, grain farmers in central North America produced up to five times more grain than European wheat farmers. If we hope to survive and move forward in farming, then perhaps it's time to go back to basics.
The US has experienced one of the most severe droughts in history, accompanied by a scorching heat wave these past two seasons. Some even compare this drought to the Dust Bowl experienced in the '30s and '50s. This has placed additional stress on farmers already grappling with the effects of global warming. The Native American farming community has not been exempt from this calamity. But they have found a way to keep farming and supplying food despite these harsh conditions.
Most people know Native Americans in the casino and gambling sector since many of America's biggest and most profitable casinos are built on Native American land. But over the years, the indigenous peoples have devised innovative ways to continue farming in a warmer climate and do so with consideration for the environment.
Farming the Native American Way
For millennia the farming community in Tuscan has planted their vegetables and crops under the shade of the mesquite and palo verde trees to prevent scorching and reduce the need for irrigation. In the Northern region of Tuscan, which is more mountainous, farmers have created their version of the mesquite trees by planting them underneath a canopy of elevated solar panels. This keeps plants cool and uses solar energy to run farm machineries such as pumps and generators.
In the arid regions where water scarcity is a norm, like southern Arizona, the Tohono O'odham have developed ways of collecting and preserving water. The Arizona monsoon season brings lots of rainfall, and the farmers of this region use contour lines in the lowlands to capture the rainwater. With the Santa Cruz river almost dry, capturing and storing rainwater and stormwater has become a priority in this area.
One of the most successful planting practices from native farming is companion farming, where compatible crops are planted together to improve soil quality and reduce the use of pesticides. The 'three sisters' companion cropping technique has not only been hugely successful but has been duplicated worldwide.
The Native American way of farming is about using what is out there. This also includes planting crop varieties that can adapt to high temperatures, like the tepary bean, whose leaves can fold inward. These practices have been around for many centuries, and yet the west has not adopted them in times when they should have. And now, with the impact of global warming being felt by everyone, there is no practice too simple to try.
Losses from droughts average around $6 million annually. Compounded with rising food prices and the current political climate, things look bleak for America and the world at large.
The food security council estimates that 139 million people are facing acute hunger worldwide, so we owe it to ourselves to try all we can to mitigate the effects of climate change.