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Transforming Baja California Sur

Our vision is to transform desert landscapes into mangrove wetlands and dryland agroforestries.

Photo of Neal Spackman
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Written by

Lead Applicant Organization Name

Regenerative Resources Corporation (RRC)

Lead Applicant Organization Type

  • Small company (under 50 employees)

If part of a multi-stakeholder entity (i.e. team), provide the names of other organizations and types of stakeholders collaborating with you.

There are multiple organizations cooperating with us, that include world class research and science institutions, local government & humanitarian organizations, and commercial investors. They include: *Stanford University's Tomkat Center for Sustainable Energy *City of La Paz Directorate of Economic Development *CIBNOR *La Universidad Autonoma de Baja California Sur *The Global Bio Impact Fund *SEDETI *Instituto de Estudios para la creatividad, inovacion, y desarollo *The International Community Foundation's Food Security Program in Baja California Sur

Website of Legally Registered Entity

regenerativeresources.co

How long have you / your team been working on this Vision?

  • 10+ years

Lead Applicant: In what city or town are you located?

San Diego, California

Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?

United States

Your Selected Place: what’s the name of the Place you’re developing a Vision for?

Baja California Sur

What country is your selected Place located in?

Mexico

Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.

Our vision team incudes core actors in Baja California Sur (BCS), including the municipality of La Paz' Economic Development Directorate, CIBNOR, which is a local research & science institution, and UABCS, a world-class university situated in La Paz.  

The challenges facing BCS are mirrored in locations around the globe, and we view it as the ideal staging ground to launch our vision, because of close relationships we have there, a supportive legal environment, and because of the appropriate climate and geographic factors.  



Describe the People and Place: Provide information that would be helpful for an outsider who has never been there and may have no context about this Place to better understand the area.

Baja California Sur (BCS) is an ideal location for RRC’s Vision, for a host of reasons. RRC’s novel approach to building healthy, multi-dimensional integrated Food Systems requires conditions and attributes that are conventionally viewed by farmers as problematic or even as unsurmountable obstacles. (For a view of our Vision / Place criteria evaluation rating nomograph, see attached Vision Deck).

These attributes, abundant in BCS, include elements such as climate, topography, soil, ample coastline, low precipitation (BCS is driest state in Mexico), depleted aquifers, seawater intrusion, desertification, urban waste, and habitat degradation. Furthermore, there are perceived issues in the socio/economic/cultural landscape, such as seemingly unsustainable demographics (high tourism, rapidly increasing population (second fastest in Mexico), and rural to urban migration), high unemployment, poverty and expensive imports on everything from food to fodder to household goods.


Beyond Food Security, RRC’s Food System Vision also addresses the broader nexus of water, energy, poverty, climate, and environment.

Baja California Sur (25°51′N 111°58′W) occupies the southern half (75,675 km2) of the Baja peninsula, in Northwest Mexico. A mountain range bisects BCS with elevations ranging from sea level to 972 meters. It is the most arid state in Mexico, with annual rainfall in the lowlands (<100m elevation, comprising +/-40% of total state area) being 100-150mm per year, causing stress across many sectors. 

As the second smallest Mexican state by population (771,294 in 2018), the demographics of BCS show the combined population of the top 10 municipalities as  603,775, indicating that 78% reside in urban centers, with 22% in rural locales. Of the 78% in urban zones, nearly 70% are in the three major population centers ofLa Paz, Cabo San Lucas, and San Jose del Cabo, all on the southern tip of the peninsula. (see map in attached Vision Deck).

Rural areas are inhabited by numerous small communities and ejidos (areas of communal land used for agriculture). These communities have a rich heritage of ranching and farming traditions and the people are religious (81% Catholic), with a wealth of cultural pride. Major crops include garbanzo beans, sorghum, tomatoes, alfalfa, wheat, corn and green chili peppers. Livestock includes pigs, cattle, goats (meat and cheese) and chickens. The unemployment in 2015 was 5.1% with employment shifting away from agriculture and fishing to mining and industry (up 19.9%) and commerce (up 4.9%). Today, aquaculture, agriculture, fishing and forestry account for only 3.89% of the state GDP.

Typical state cuisine includes; seafood, beef and chicken, cheese, honey, and processed food made of wheat flour (in place of cornmeal) because of proximity to the US.

What is the approximate size of your Place, in square kilometers? (New question, not required)

76000

What is the estimated population (current 2020) in your Place?

790000

Challenges: Describe the current (2020) and the future (2050) challenges that your food system faces.

The greatest overarching challenges to RRC’s envisioned food system, in the near and long terms, are:

1:  inertia of conventional, unsustainable agricultural practices in BCS, and,

2:  lack of awareness and understanding of the viability and benefits of an integrated, regenerative seawater / dryland agroforestry food production system.

Challenges of conventional food production practices, specific to the six themes below, stem from centuries of perceived unlimited natural resources and constrained awareness of humankind’s capacity to negatively impact natural systems. Among these challenges are:

Environment
:
Current agricultural practices are detrimental to the environment, by reducing habitat using harmful chemicals, wasting crop by-products and residuals, depleting soils, and, depleting aquifers. 



Diet / Health :
The use of inorganic fertilizers and other toxic chemicals in an attempt to boost crop production is a serious threat to the entire food chain, impacting microbiome populations to local communities and their water supplies. Furthermore, export of more healthful foods jeopardized diets of local communities, leading to higher instances of diabetes and obesity. 


Economics
:
Economic challenges range from difficulty in acquiring project financing and access to reliable advice, to high land costs, high transportation costs, use of linear horizontal business models and lack of cooperation among producers.

Culture:
Among the most prominent and persistent cultural challenges that drive traditional agricultural practices are: lack of cooperation among producers (encourages unnecessary competition and increases redundant costs); lack of diverse farming models; absence of marketing organizations, and; under-valued financing and innovation.


Technology
:  

The key challenges of current agricultural methodologies are: existing business practices are outdated; cost / time saving strategies and technologies are not employed; farm equipment is old and expensive to operate; and lack of qualified service facilities and expertise.

 
Policy / Regulation:  


Policy and regulatory challenges include: lack of regulatory enforcement and supervision, inadequate established legal consequences, and no public sector innovation leadership.

Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.

RRC’s Vision directly addresses the overarching challenges and six specific themes noted above, through design and development of a regenerative food system program that both overcomes the inertia of current practices, and serves as a profitable, learning program that showcases principles and practices of ecological innovation.


The envisioned integrated seawater / dryland agroforestry system is regenerative and holistic, comprehensively addressing issues throughout the value chain, from site selection to production to distribution to consumption, across all six themes.


Environment

RRC’s Food Vision System grows food and other valuable products, without freshwater, while simultaneously; creating habitat, using only organic fertilizers, using residual biomass to create energy, building healthy soil, protecting coastal zones, recharging freshwater aquifers, and inducing local climate cooling.


Diet / Health

The Vision is to eliminate toxic risks to all communities, boost ecological vitality, and improve health through use of only natural organic fertilizers and virtuous farming practices. Furthermore, cultivation of halophytic and xerophytic crops, known for their particularly healthful nutritional profiles will improve diets of local communities and reduce disease.

Economics

RRC’s Vision overcomes the economic challenges of current agricultural practices, by: creating reliable, affordable financing options and sustainable business advice for growers; reducing land cost, through use of undesirable, degraded land, ‘growing fuel’ from onsite biomass, thereby reducing transportation costs; and creating training courses for cooperatives and local communities. Programs will also involve life-cycle costing analyses, and production assistance of vertically integrated, circular growing regimes.


Culture

The Vision addressing cultural challenges, while maintaining integrity, is to: create incentivized cooperatives and training programs, including marketing know-how and broader access to markets; provide sustainable alternatives to conventional practices; establish research and educational initiatives, and; showcase the benefits and value of innovation.



Technology

The Vision is that modern, appropriate technology will be introduced and employed through the entire value chain, from business operations to production to storage and delivery. Equipment will be accessible with reasonable financing and full service / support. Latest sensor and monitoring equipment will be used to monitor crop health and security will be provided through block chain technologies.


Policy / Regulation.

RRC’s vision encourages development of science-based land-use policy, strategies for incentivized compliance, streamlined permitting, development of realistic legal consequences and nurturing of innovation within the public sector / bureaucratic arena. 


High Level Vision: With these challenges addressed, now provide a high level description of how the Place and the lives of its People will be different than they are now.

Regenerative Resource Co’s fundamental vision is one of transformation--one that recognizes the interdependence and interplay of ecology, land, water, people, and prosperity.   Dominant patterns today are based on extracting wealth from the environment, at high cost to everything else.  Our vision overthrows that pattern to create an inextricable tie between ecological function and rural wealth, by transforming degraded landscapes into productive ecologies.  

What is now desert will be dryland forests or mangrove wetlands crisscrossed with seawater canals.  Flood waters from higher up in the watersheds will percolate into the ground rather than running into the ocean, restoring shallow aquifers and creating new springs in the valleys.  Hundreds of species of migratory birds, amphibians, lizards, insects, and mammals will find shelter and home in these lands, which will be highly productive without the use of fossil-fuel inputs, synthetic fertilizers, or biocides.

In the closed-loop circular economies that RRC builds, worker-owned co-ops will own their own supply chains, freeing them from the need to purchase expensive farming inputs.  Multiple interrelated industries within each community, with the waste streams of one system serving as inputs for others, will create both financial and environmental resilience.  

Rather than degrading their environment to survive,  will be tied directly to ecological function—thus as communities expand, ecologies will expand with them.  In this way, our vision functions as a financial engine to heal the lands of Baja California Sur and provide for its people.  

Over generations this will create new indigenous patterns as communities become more interwoven with nature, with the ecologies that support them, and with their lands and water.  

Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?

Context

The story of Regenerative Resources Corporation’s (RRC) Food System Vision begins in 1967, when one of our team received a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation to travel the world making presentations on the integrated food, water and power systems that he developed. These systems were driven by highly nutritious, highly productive plants, grown with only seawater (known as halophytes). Since that time, much more has been learned and applied by our team, resulting in the extremely productive, ecologically integrated system we now employ. Our Vision, as presented here, is a direct continuation of the response to the “Towards the Conquest of Hunger” program that was started by the Rockefeller Foundation those many years ago.

The knowledge and experience we’ve gained over the past few decades gives our system the potential to solve key, interrelated global challenges that affect our food future; Environment, Diet/Health, Economics, Culture, Technology and Policy. Our holistic, regenerative approach addresses all of these, and additionally, overcomes the inertia of conventional food production methodologies. 



Purpose and Goals



Our purpose is to transform degraded landscapes into productive ecologies and thus create new regenerative, circular economies.  

Our goals for the implementation of this vision are to:



1:  Establish food and water security in BCS through regenerative ag systems that can endure permanently.

2:  Establish a showcase system on 20,000 acres near La Paz by 2023.

3:  Plant 1 billion mangrove trees in BCS by 2030

4:  Measure and publish the human and environmental impact, with respect to carbon sequestration, biodiversity & habitat improvement, and rural wealth creation.  We estimate that we will sequester 300 million tons of carbon by 2030.  

5: Use BCS as a staging ground to expand to the other 100 million hectares of global desert coasts.



Vision and Systems

The driving principles of our vision are circular economics and regenerative agricultures. RRC's systems grows food, fodder, fuel and prosperity, without freshwater, while simultaneously: creating habitat and building soil, protecting coastlines, recharging freshwater aquifers, sequestering carbon, and cooling local climates. Furthermore, the remarkably productive plants we cultivate, called halophytes (grow with salt water) and xerophytes (grow with no water, after establishment), are known for their particularly healthful nutritional properties (see https://www.cabi.org/cabebooks/ebook/20193071947 for more information).



Beyond these environmental and dietary benefits, positive social impacts are realized in each project, through creation of community curricula such as incentivized cooperatives and training programs, financial and marketing courses, and hands-on instruction with the latest agricultural technologies – all funded by the project. Completing the offering, our Vision provides strong advocacy for ecologically-based land use policy, development and enforcement of realistic legal consequences for non-compliance, and nurturing of innovation throughout the public sector.

Because the outputs of one farm component are the resource inputs for the next, our closed-loop, regenerative system is remarkably profitable. Moreover, in addition to a dozen valuable farm products and creation of abundant jobs that directly benefit surrounding communities, extraordinary financial appreciation results from greening previously undervalued, degraded land.  Thus, RRC becomes a financial engine to heal ecologies and create new, regenerative, circular, rural economies.

At the heart of our System is an ecologically integrated seawater/dryland agroforestry farm that is multidimensional and remarkably productive. (see Vision Deck, Spheres of Influence and Derivatives)

The farm production process begins by bringing rivers of pure seawater on to land, where they irrigate intensive, controlled-environment aquaculture operations. From there, the resulting nutrient rich effluent flows to fields of inter-planted halophytic crops, then on to constructed, productive wetlands that filter the water and prevent its return directly to the sea.

The halophytic fields grow crops such as Salicornia bigelovii, which produce a succulent vegetable, as well as high quality seed oil (for consumption, biofuel, medicinals or other commercial products like cosmetics). In addition, the residual straw biomass can also be used as fuel, nutritious fodder, or as compressed building material. Besides building valuable habitat, including mangrove forests, the wetlands also grow a broad range of highly valued extensive aquaculture species, artemia (brine shrimp), micro and macro aglae, and salt. The entire System is further enhanced by supportive regimes such as apiculture (pollination, honey and wax as the basis of manufactured fire logs) and value-added production of items such as leather goods from tilapia skins and artisan goods from mangrove wood.

On the upland areas of the farm, productive xerophytic forests stabilize and enrich soil, while producing more valuable food, fodder and oil products, as well as sequestering more carbon.

On a per hectare / year basis, the highly productive regenerative systems can produce about: 45 mt of seafood; 1 mt of vegetable crops; 15 mt of fodder; 3.6 mt of aquaculture feed; 0.6 mt of oil (consumption, cosmetics or industry); and sequester between 65 and 150 mt of carbon (see https://raidboxes.de/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/Carbon-Sequestration-in-Mangroves.pdf). Additionally, beyond increased real estate value, it is estimated that the monetary value of the benefits, or “ecosystem services,” provided by mangroves alone, is US$194,000 (see https://news.mongabay.com/2018/05/new-study-finds-mangroves-may-store-way-more-carbon-than-we-thought/)

Additional social benefits include:

Employment - each farm can be expected to create about 0.04 direct operational jobs per hectare, with 3-5x that in indirect jobs in the goods and services sectors, such as: manufacturing; hospitality; and, throughout the entire food value chain (processing, distribution, food workers, retailers, and waste recovery / energy, etc.).

Education - projects will involve local schools, create vocational in-field training programs, and link to developed, on-site remote-learning channels.

Research - collaborative programs will be established with domestic and international institutions to promote discoveries and disseminate “best-practice” knowledge.

Health – improved health will be seen through a cleaner environment, and more wholesome foods.

Financial – communities will be invited to participate in investment / ownership programs and profit-sharing offerings.

Public Outreach – high visibility events will be held that will showcase the distinctiveness of these ventures, such as; development of culinary schools, social media happenings, and special arts events / cultural celebrations.

Implementation

The Vision presented here, for a specific site in BCS (+/- 5,000 ha in size), could begin harvesting within 3-4 years of initiation of the planning process. This leverages our familiarity of regional conditions and available farm properties, our existing network of regulatory officials, and good relationships with stakeholders.

Scaling the Vision

Looking to the future, beyond BCS, RRC’s Food System Vision is replicable to millions of hectares of depleted coastal land in underdeveloped communities around the globe - realistically addressing the world’s food, water, socioeconomic and climate challenges at an appropriate scale to empower truly effective change, by 2050.

How did you hear about the Food System Vision Prize?

  • Website

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Photo of Enrique Kaufmann
Team

Very interesting. If you'd like to network, please let me know. I am in the Maya Riviera.

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