How agricultural knowledge gets hidden and lost

Haiti 2010

First used outside of the UK at the Scene of the Haiti earthquake disaster in 2010, sponsored by the group New Directions Foundation, the system was set up without the rat proof and fly proof equipment that we use today. Apart from the vermin problems and the obvious health and safety aspects where the general public are concerned the system was deployed and our site opened to the local WASH cluster visitors every week. Even though we did not have our newly developed equipment with us at the earthquake still we had no report of any ill health in any way. Richard the CEO served a feast to weekly visitors to the site  and they had no idea they were sitting next to a DRY sanitation plant in the same garden.                     The conclusions of this pilot project can be   SEEN HERE  and the films made about it CAN BE SEEN HERE

Terra Preta – lessons from a lost civilisation.

In 1542 a Spaniard, Francisco de Orellana was the first European to traverse the Amazon River, bringing back home journals and tales of a network of farms, villages and even huge walled cities.

It was half a century later before a further expedition was undertaken. They found no trace or signs of the people and places described by de Orellana. His tales were derided as just a fanciful myth.

Scientists also agreed that although the rainforest may appear productive, it stands in clay soil which is totally unsuited to farming.  If the soil cannot support sufficient crops to feed a large number of people, it was argued, then a large population could not have been sustained.

Even modern chemicals and techniques have failed to generate significant food from Amazonian soil in a sustainable way, proving the scientist’s claims.

Then in the 1970’s aerial surveys in Bolivia revealed a network of ancient permanent settlements over thousands of square kilometres, indicating sophisticated agriculture lasting over hundreds, possibly thousands of years.

Attention then moved to the Amazon and ground surveys revealed an astonishing result. In some spots the earth is much darker than the rainforest soil nearby. The soils are the same, but the darker soil contains biological matter, introduced by humans. The Brazilians call this soil Terra Preta. It is renowned for its extremely high productivity.

Covering an area twice the size of Europe it is now believed that this man made soil could have sustained a population of millions of people. De Orellana was almost certainly correct, the population subsequently dying out due to the spread of newly introduced diseases.

These findings were shown on BBC Horizon  and BBC Science and Nature.

But Terra Preta may have a still more remarkable ability. Almost as if alive, it appears to reproduce. Local farmers who began to mine the soil commercially found that, as long as 20 cm of Terra Preta is left undisturbed, the bed will regenerate over a period of about 20 years.

Today, scientists are busy searching for the biological cocktail that makes barren earth productive. If they can succeed in recreating the Amazonian Terra Preta, then a legacy more precious than the gold the Conquistadors sought could help feed people across the developing and the developed world. We believe that the system that Howard discovered from the ancient Chinese was akin to this. Terra Preta literally means dark, black soil.

This kind of soil is mentioned in the ancient literatures of India and in China.

The ancient Chinese civilization

The Ancient Chinese culture has been protected for millennia by the huge dividing walls know as the Great Wall of China. This preserved their technology and art, which is still being rediscovered today. Whereas India was invaded many times and had to hide their treasures from the invaders. This ancient science of agriculture that may have indeed originated in India was lost in time.

Howard researched the works of King who surveyed China, Korea and Japan in the early part of the last century. He released his title Farmers of Forty Centuries in where it is stated that this science dates back to 4,800 years ago.

Howard released his title The Waste Products of Agriculture

Higgins has researched the works of Howard and released the title The Lost Science of Organic Cultivation


How the Howard-Higgins (HH-2) Horticultural System  began

100 years ago Sir Albert Howard CIE. MA. etc., (the “Grandfather” of organic farming) found many of the answers to sustainable agriculture from his extensive studies in the Far East – with great similarities to the Terra Preta found in the Amazon jungle.

His work fell into obscurity due to the advent of the chemical industry until 1995 when Richard Higgins began researching and perfecting the fertility making techniques that Sir Albert had again pioneered. This lead to the first update of the standard New Zealand compost box in the last 100 years, that is still commonly found everywhere. The result is the highly durable, insulated, rat proof and fly proof and moisture regulated HH-2.

Howard is now considered the Grandfather of organic farming and his research from the Permanent Agriculture of the east is where the term Permaculture was derived. Richard Higgins has brought together the three sciences of The Good Gardeners No Dig growing system, the fertility making work of Sir Albert and the science of planting with the phases of the moon that has culminated into the Howard-Higgins System or HH-2 Horticultural System today.

22 years of research by Richard Higgins has proved the remarkable ability of HH-2 to transform any soil type (sand, silt or clay) into an optimum growing media which is the root of the original mixed farming of the world. Starting with small scale rural projects in Africa, the ambition of  Good Gardeners International is to introduce the HH-2 and it’s scale up system around the world, changing people’s lives with greatly increased food security, improved health and facilitating a safe supply of drinking water.