Simon Christen; SRF (SWISS NATIONAL TV)
On 5th January 2020 a 20-minute documentary featuring our efforts on Kachana was aired in Switzerland: Small miracles in the Australian Bush
The following is a translation to the blog
Author: Simon Christen
Tuesday, 07.01.2020, 00:33 am
(Translation and some hyperlinks provided by Kachana Pastoral Company)
Farmer Chris Henggeler uses the simplest of techniques to restore life in desert-like landscapes. What he has tested in the Australian outback could be applied all over the world, he says.
Chris Henggeler has a Vision. He wants to show the world that humans do not only have the potential to destroy nature. “We can help her to revitalise by activating self-healing processes.”
30 years ago, Henggeler took on "Kachana" nearly an hour’s flight in a light aircraft from the nearest out-back town. There he herds cattle across the landscape. Mundane as that may sound, the results nearly defy belief: in desert-like areas life is returning.
Things are greening up again – Chris Henggeler has been living in this part of the Australian Outback for over 30 years. SRF
Henggeler was raised on a farm in Rhodesia (Zimbabwe). Due to the escalation of the civil war in the early seventies, the Henggeler family returned to Switzerland, where Chris met his bride-to-be. Jacqueline was the daughter of a hotelier in Engelberg. Chris emigrated to Australia, and Jacqueline followed. They started a family and were blessed with three children.
The Henggeler family in the Outback. PRIVATE
Chris Henggeler wanted to farm and to understand nature. He took his loved ones to a place that sometimes experienced torrential downpours as well as temperatures above 40 degrees C in the shade. While single he had invested in real-estate which provided income for the family. Work on Kachana was a labour of love with no direct pressure to provide immediate financial returns.
Using a planned management process Henggeler herds cattle through the landscape. The animals are not managed to produce milk or meat. Their job is to be “landscape gardeners”.
The closest physician is an hour’s flight from here. SRF
As they move through the landscape they mulch, fertilise and prune vegetation. Hooves also loosen the surface and allow seeds to find good growing conditions.
The result: the soil comes alive. Rain and sunshine then drive regeneration. Soils are rehydrated, come alive and can again store water.
Henggeler’s results impress: after a few years of targeted land-management perennial creek-flow is restored. There are all sorts of animals and crawly things. Greening wherever you look. In a nutshell: small miracles are occurring in the Australian bush.
Livestock loosen the soil-surface enabling new green. SRF
Now that everybody is talking about climate-change and land-care, Henggeler’s in-the-field research could offer a way forward. The principles he has familiarised himself with apply globally: rebuilding biodiversity, improving water-security, achieving healthier and more productive landscapes. At the same time these landscapes begin to sequester tons of carbon dioxide.
Quote: Christoff Henggeler - Farmer
“Through observation we learn where and how to intervene in the landscape in order to initiate and speed up self-healing processes” explains Henggeler. “Our teacher therefore is Mother Nature.”
All the while he studied what others had already discovered and applies what is relevant to his particular context. As the leading figure he cites Allan Savory.
Savory, a Zimbabwean ecologist and farmer is a founding member of the “Savory Institute”. He is the father of “Holistic Management”, an adaptive systems-based process to manage land and other complex resources.
Land-manager and ecologist
Allan Savory is a charismatic as well as controversial figure who has inspired three generations of land-managers all over the world with the holistic principles that he promotes.
Differing approaches to utilising land have evolved that have a common thread: they want to be sustainable and ecologically sound. In Switzerland for example, adherents to what is termed, “Permaculture” refer to Savory.
“Permaculture” is derived from the words “permanent” and “agriculture”, and implies “sustainable agriculture”. Permaculture however strives to go way beyond cropping. The movement sees its role in ecological landscape design. Permaculture principles relate not only to the land, but also to new forms of community-building.
Henggeler is convinced about the enormous potential that his methods can unlock. On the one hand tropical and subtropical regions of Australia could reap great benefit, on the other hand the same applies to desertified regions in the Mediterranean region and parts of Africa.
“Nature does not need us, but we need nature” Henggeler reminds us. Water-security, biodiversity and agricultural potential have become critically limiting factors in many communities on the planet.
Allan Savory has inspired land-managers all over the world. SAVORY GLOBAL
In other words: his methods could help alleviate the needs for Climate-Migration. And for people in poorer regions of the world new business models could evolve: they could revitalise landscapes and participate in carbon-trading. “Pay us so that we can pull your “rubbish” out of the air” Henggeler suggests.
Henggeler begins the new year with optimism. “People are slowly beginning to wake up”, he sums up his impressions of 2019.
Environmental custodianship is a topic that current climate-debates have brought to broader public attention. 30 years ago, when Henggeler began studying natural processes, things were different. Back then people chuckled and thought he was mad. Now he gets invited to present. “The scepticism is waning, but action on the ground is nowhere near fast enough.”
The question most often asked is: “Where is the money?”
Great short-term financial benefit can be reaped by mining natural resources. Fortunately, more and more people, especially young people, are becoming aware of the longer-term costs of such behaviour.
“Key is the well-informed consumer who supports ecologically sound regenerative practices.” There are many out there who would rather contribute to solutions than to continue supporting the problem. He therefore remains basically optimistic. “I am father and grand-father, I have to hope…”
A PERSONAL COMMENT FROM CHRIS:
It is a challenge to pack 30+ years into 20 minutes! We thank Simon Christen and the SRF-Team for broadcasting the message of Kachana to an international audience.
Please remember that without the support of the Waser family and many other helpers, donors and supporters over the years, we would not have survived the learning-curve.
Jacqueline and I enjoyed the video and feedback has been diverse and encouraging.
For those interested in more detail, below are answers to other questions that Simon raised in his discussions with us. (At the end of the page we also supply a list of links.)
1) What are your most important insights after recent decades spent on Kachana?
2) Many might think: What do I care about Henggeler’s discoveries in the Australian out-back…? In what ways might insights gained on Kachana be relevant to ‘the rest of the world’?
3) How big is the potential in your estimation? What is achievable? Where? Where not?
4) “Work in the field” does not only take place on Kachana, but in different locations on the planet. Where, in your opinion, do we find interesting results?
Practitioners are mainly active in landscapes where people already live and work, and where the nature of the challenges has been recognised:
And: Is communication taking place between you?
5) Has there been a change in public perception?
I’d say, yes, there has been. Especially in 2019!
The general public seems to be waking up. We shall find out if politicians will respond in time.
Are we finding greater interest and more openness to these kinds of approaches?
Scepticism is in decline, but we are not acting swiftly enough; especially so in areas where the human is missing – in areas where our only option is to use the renewable energy that our large animals have to offer.
6) Methods that you and others have been successfully working with have not yet been universally accepted. Why is this the case?
What sort of resistance do you come up against? Too expensive? Too complicated? …?
And: How can that be changed?
7) Looking ahead: What will things be like in 50 years?
Do you have much hope?
Or are you rather on the sceptical side?
We thank all those individuals who have assisted us in spreading the regenerative message!
With the disastrous burning of biomass in Brazil and then in Australia late 2019, we see this message to be as relevant as ever.
Below are a few of the links that have helped put Kachana before the public eye in more recent years:
Swiss TV: SRF-Die ganze Geschichte online 2020.01.05 Simon Christen
Swiss TV: SRF-Youtube Simon Christen
"The New Water Alchemists", by Judith D. Schwartz. This story, which was originally published through The Craftsmanship Initiative in 2017, looks at some of the innovative ways that scarce water resources are being managed around the world, and how this basic element can become a powerful tool in our efforts to slow, and even reverse, climate change.
Central Station posted five blogs on Kachana, November 2019.
Central Station posted five blogs on Kachana, October 2018.
16th October 2018, at the bidding of the Minister, Chris was invited to present to members of the Ministerial Advisory Committee at the DPIRD Headquarters in Perth: