Brilliant Indigenous Methods to Feed the World. Delicious Cake Anyone?

Indigenous methods of agriculture

World food shortages?  Decreasing soil quality? Let’s stop pretending we know best and return to indigenous methods to lead agriculture into the future. You may be surprised to learn the world’s oldest bread baker was an Aboriginal woman. Aboriginal agriculture? Female bread bakers? Intrigued? Read on.

Indigenous methods of agriculture
Photo Credit: Kate Remmer

Solutions to Climate Change

At the annual Mind Body Green summit, world thinkers and industry leaders are invited to educate and delight the world with exciting ideas in wellness and science. Leading Environmentalist, Paul Hawkens introduced Project Drawdown, ‘100 most realistic ideas for reversing climate change’. The list is compiled from research from 120 leading advisors. Eight ideas relate to food production as global famines and poor soil conditions urgently need addressing. Relying on methane-producing rice production needs a rethink, Hawkens believes, and suggests we give serious consideration to native methods of agriculture. “Nobody manages land better than the indigenous people of a land”. Indigenous Aboriginals of Australia didn’t have large scale agriculture, right?

Of course they did.

Indigenous methods of Agriculture
Photo credit: Gabriel Jimenez

Ancient Systems That Worked

It was very convenient for history makers to paint a picture of nomadic, often solitary native Aboriginal folks standing around holding spears when British ships pulled up to ‘uninhabited shores’. It’s a bit embarrassing when the truth leaks out but luckily comprehensive British explorer journals in La Trobe and Mitchell libraries exist to set things straight. Indigenous people lived in industrious, organised economies in every territory of the land pre-white fella.What’s more they used perennial plants like Kangaroo Grass and millet utilising less water than rice that don’t produce methane.

Rip those history books up, pick up your pens and take notes!

Indigenous methods of agriculture
Photo Credit: Priscilla-Du Preez

Early British Explorers didn’t have Facebook to while away long evenings. Instead they filled excellent diaries, beautifully illustrating pages and documenting every-darn-thing. Well-known explorer, Charles Sturt was fastidious in diary-keeping with excellent accounts of interactions with ‘well-organised and civil indigenous communities’ as he crossed South Australia’s Warburton River. He wrote of millet and ‘indigenous rice’ grown, sown and stored on a large scale. He was offered ‘the lightest and sweetest cake ever eaten’ by friendly welcoming communities living harmoniously in desert areas.

Sturdy grains suited to harsh climates.

Does your mind immediately think images of desert areas worldwide? Solutions -yes! Sandstone and clay silos covering many hectares on a massive scale in the Kimberley region (Western Australia) and grindstones up to 32,000 years old have since been discovered. Charles Sturt wrote of dams for storing water and preserved foods.  “All large buildings and villages had cooking facilities and food preparation facilities”. Three metre wide ovens close to Melbourne were used the same way as Maori Hangi (New Zealand) or Papuan Stone Ovens (PNG). Thoughtfully constructed stone slab wall coverings to protect wells were evident. Dome-shaped huts ( 7 metres diameter) were observed in North West Tasmania. Clay vessels, grain stores and evidence Aboriginal folk used a variety of methods to remove toxins from the hull of grains all found since then.

Indigenous methods of Agriculture
Photo credit: Bush Medijina

What about pesticides? Tilling? Machinery?

Gabe Brown, is a USA pioneer in regenerative land management is successful in no-tilling methods of farming in Dakota’s harsh climate. He doesn’t use pesticides on his land and confidently teaches other farms to have faith in restorative agricultural practices, using a mix of herd animals and crops co-exist symbiotically. His lands are gorgeous and excellent examples of shaking up tired old thinking.

Bruce Pascoe is an award-winning Aboriginal researcher and author and is passionate about sharing the truth of organised and thriving Aboriginal economies so humanity can learn from them. He says “Native rice doesn’t require as much water as Asian rice, making it ideal for the modern Australian climate”. He sees ancient indigenous agricultural grains as best suited to our soil. Yams as commercial crops? Bruce tells us trials are being conducted on varying soil types and growing conditions as yams can provide better energy yields than potatoes. Fries are over-rated anyway!

It was a woman’s job to pound the grains and Bruce loves to picture the woman who decided to experiment with grain, making the World’s first loaf, slicing it with tools, passing it around…

Indigenous methods of agriculture
Photo credit: Bush Medijna

Truly, the more things change, the more they remain the same.


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