“If we look at history we can see that every civilisation that debased its soil resources is now extinct. Incredibly, humans move more soil around each year than was created during the last ice age. Even organic agriculture deems it acceptable to maintain a certain amount of soil loss annually. Think about it. It is not good enough. That is not sustainable”
Richard Perkins, Making Small Farms Work (2016)

Depletion of ecosystem services and the land´s inherent capacity to sustain human life and the ecosystem as we know it, has gone too far. And the awareness about this is growing fast. Our knowledge about the land´s accelerating release of CO2 and other Green House Gases´s (GHG´s) into the atmosphere, due to human impact, is also well known. But that the alarming speed of biodiversity loss -both on lands and marine- is set as the number one planetary boundary which is furthest overtraced, with climate coming first on the 3rd place, is less known. It further complexify our increasing challenges which we need to face as a global community.

The world speaks about the need of sustainability. But what is it to «sustain»? A wooden board can be sustainable, but there´s not much life, flexibility, responsiveness in it. So – how can we keep, preserve and increase the resilience and re-generative capacity of the ecosystems themselves in meeting the challenges of today and the future?

Many approaches, tools and methods needed to support resilience are readily available, and already in practice. Local- and community-led initiatives for sustainability, involving permaculture-, ecovillages, and transition cites, are examples which holds a myriad of practices related to regenerative land management and stewardship.

Except being places which often hold an interesting fusion of low- and high tech solutions, community-led initiatives also constitute platforms for public/local participation and engagement. We believe that people’s engagement with- and relation to- place is important for holistic environmental care and stewardship.

In this Section, we present recommendations and tools inspired by hands-on experience and practices by the REALS partners and their networks on their pathways to build resilient and sustainable communities. It would be an impossible mission to address all related practices that are important to highlight, and we do not have an ambition to make a comprehensive “best practice” analysis… We have chosen a few topics which we see as relevant to our partnership, and which can also be important factors for the establishment/empowerment of local, community-led initiatives for sustainability and resilience in the Baltic Sea Region and its neighbouring catchment area.

These insights include practical and technical advises as well as social, behavioural and philosophical ones. We hope that these reflections will be useful for those who want to go beyond “simply sustainable” and not only refrain from destroying our life-sustaining systems but want to manage human activities in a way which re-generates, builds and stewards soil, sequesters CO2, increases biodiversity and – in long and short term- strengthens the overall resilience of ecosystems and the services they provide to people and planet.


Section 3 Contents/parts:
          1. Bridging practitioners and academia by introducing the concept of Agroecology in the Baltic Sea region and neighbouring countries
          2. Apply UN´s “4/1000 Initiative: Soils for Food Security and Climate” and other initiatives which ensure that agriculture- and land management practices plays its part in combating climate change
          3. Promote means of production, livelihoods and landmanagement which supports polycultures, agrobiodiversity and biodiversity and regeneration of soil.
          4. Introducing the concept of Regenerative agriculture and landstewardship in the Baltic Sea region and neighbouring countries
          5. Enabeling forums for actionbased learning and research in the BSR and neighbouring countries for regenerative care- and use of landrelated resources
          6. Social resilience and Sustainability – Crucial for wholesome land stewardship
          7. Stressing the need of circular localism and diversity: localised and circular economies, communities, farms, enterprises and activities
          8. Promote socio-ecological entrepreneurship, innovation and “care”
          9. Implement the law of EndEcocide
  1. Bridging practitioners and academia by introducing the concept of Agroecology in the Baltic Sea region and neighbouring countries

    Agroecology is “a whole-systems approach to agriculture and food systems development based on traditional knowledge, alternative agriculture, and local food system experiences”. While being a framework for multiple approaches to farming, gardening and community structures, agroecology is always tailored along the specifics in a given context in terms of local needs and possibilities (in terms of shelter, food, water, goods, marketaccess etc), traditions, ecological conditions (such as topography, climatic zones, soil and more). Agroecology is linking ecology, culture, economics, and society to sustain agricultural production, healthy environments, and viable food and farming communities.

    The former UN rapporteur for human rights to food, Olivier de Schutter, advocates for agroecological systems as a way to reach local prosperity, food sovereignty and resilience of local communities and ecosystems. Simultaneously, agroecology give a way to tackle climate change, loss of biodiversity and soils, contamination of waters, and the violation of peoples’ and communities’ rights and needs.

    Agroecology uses the principles of ecology in its design: it is “knowledge intensive” farming systems which demand increasingly integrated relations between the diversity of biotic/abiotic factors in ecosystems, as well as increasingly interrelated relations between different actors in society –farmers, consumers, academia and movements (to mention some).

  1. A broader introduction of the concept agroecology into BSR (Baltic Sea Region), and related activities (in farming, policy, academics, private and civil sector). This would open up a new field of discussion and dialogue for bridging practitioners (such as permaculturalists) and academia. It would also give stakeholders a creative opportunity to rethink mainstream approaches to agriculture and the overall structure of local communities and governments.
    The Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) has an ongoing master programme in Agroecology, and Aarhus Unversity, DK, has a established department at its campus. These are examples on how the concept has been introduced in the Nordic context. Can agroecology be spread, promoted and supported in a similar way in NW Russia, Belarus and other parts of the BSR.
  2. Idea: An EUSBSR flagship project under the theme “Agroecology in the Baltic Sea Region and neighbouring countries” would further facilitate the introduction of the concept.

2. Apply UN´s “4/1000 Initiative: Soils for Food Security and Climate” and other initiatives which ensure that agriculture- and land management practices plays its part in combating climate change
Soil degradation poses a threat to more than 40% of the Earth’s land surface and climate change is accelerating the rate of degradation, with major impacts on food security and small farmers. Our capacity to feed 9.5 billion people in 2050 in the face of a changing climate will depend greatly on our ability to keep our soils fertile. Restoring degraded agricultural lands and increasing the soil carbon rate play an important role in addressing the three-fold challenge of food security, adaptation of food systems and people to climate change, and mitigation of human-induced emissions. The 4/1000 Initiative engages stakeholders in shifting towards resilient agriculture through sustainable soil management that generates jobs and incomes, thereby ensuring sustainable development. The initiative consists of a voluntary action plan under the Lima-Paris Action Agenda (LPAA), backed up by an ambitious research programme. The official launch of the initiative took place at COP 21 in Paris December 1 2015. (Source: United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change http://newsroom.unfccc.int/lpaa/agriculture/join-the-41000-initiative-soils-for-food-security-and-climate/)


  1. A regional strategy supporting climate-friendly and climate-resilient agriculture need to be developed and implemented within the Baltic region based on 4/1000 Initiative. . The strategy should be a result of participatory process supported by co-ordiantorsfaciltiators and teachers focused on creating dialogue and practical hands on learning expeditions.
  2. Similar regional strategies and regional initiatives for climate-resilient rural and urban areas (e.g. Convent of Mayors and others) should be promoted, supported and further developed. Special emphasis should be made on sharing experience and support partners from all part of the BSR and neighbouring areas (such as NW Russia, Belarus and others) to support integrity of the region.

3. Promote means of production, livelihoods and landmanagement which supports polycultures, agrobiodiversity and re-biodiversification.

A key ingredient in a resilient and healthy world is biodiveristy and the life sustaining system and services which biodiversity provides. And a key ingredient in the approach of agroecology is agricultural biodiversity –agrobiodiversity – a factor which has been rapidly decreasing during the modernization of agriculture. Loss of agrobiodiversity also applies to organic agriculture, where areas are increasingly put into large scale and monocultural, organic production. The re-biodiversification of our agro-ecosystems is urgent and would unleash great potential for ecological and social resilience. As mentioned in Section 1 of this paper, we see a need to go beyond management within specialized and isolated “silos”, sectors and levels of society. Collaborative concepts such as agroecology have a tendency to open up for holistic approaches to both landstewardship, as well as inter-culturality and community resilience – all factors crucial for biodiverse livelihoods and practices.


Applying polycultures such as: in rural areas – agroforestry systems, forest gardens, riperian buffer zones, pasture rotation(eg Holistic Management), and in urban areas; green wedges, parks, intensive market gardens, green roofs and walls – are all examples which should be applied to a much higher extent.These are examples of good practices which should be spread and promoted for a wider application. Life-long education, community based education and experience exchange should be supported and promoted within the region.

4. Introducing the concept of Regenerative agriculture and landstewardship in the Baltic Sea region and neighbouring countries

Research, knowledge and experience within the field of regenerative agriculture is rapidly increasing around the world. Going “beyond organic” supports forms of landstewardship which also emphasises «companionship” between people, community and land, where applied methods support regeneration of soils and the overall ecosystems self-generating capacity.(See resources and links are given in the end of this section)


  • Promote means of production, livelihoods and landmanagement which support the establishment of design with multifunction and multiple benefits (benefits such as increased biodiversity and agrobiodiversity (see below), regeneration of soils and prevention of nutrient runoff, as well as social aspects as farmers resilience and rights, capital resilience, closeness to “nature” etc.) .
  • The HELCOM Baltic Sea Action Plan highlights two areas where multifunctional systems have much to give: fully acknowledge that “nutrient losses from urban as well as scattered settlements shall be reduced to an acceptable level with full implementation”…and… “the agricultural sector is the land-based source where major reductions are needed”.

Continuance part 4: Introducing the concept of Regenerative agriculture and landstewardship in the Baltic Sea region and neighbouring countries

Below we elaborate on the example of agroforestry, which we see as an important key for further exploration about benefits and synergies found in agroecological and multifunctional systems. But before doing that, it´s important to mention that “to care and sustain communities and people from land” are not only about agriculture, but also about ways of building shelter, general energy production, urban design, reuse of material resources, appropriate technology – and more.

  • Agroforestry:

“Agroforestry means land-use systems and practices where woody perennials are deliberately integrated with crops and/or animals on the same parcel or land management unit without the intention to establish a remaining forest stand. The trees may be arranged as single stems, in rows or in groups, while grazing may also take place inside parcels (silvoarable agroforestry, silvopastoralism, grazed or intercropped orchards) or on the limits between parcels (hedges, tree lines). Agroforestry, meaning the integration of trees, crops and/or livestock on the same area of land, has been identified by the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) as a ‘win–win’ multifunctional landuse approach that balances the production of commodities (food, feed, fuel, fibre, etc.) with non-commodity outputs such as environmental protection and cultural and landscape amenities1 . It should be noted that agroforestry systems are particularly suitable to restore the production potential of degraded areas and to upgrade environments with natural limitations”. – EC Measure fiche “Establishment of agroforestry systems

The European Agroforestry Federation (EURAF) has succesfully advocated for incentives for the promotion of agroforestry plots withing EU´s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). According to EURAF, they have now introduced “agroforestry plots” into the CAP as follows: “Agroforestry practices are listed as Ecological Focus Areas and farmers can receive greening payments for establishment of such plots in pillar I (Reg.(EU) 1307/2013), Article 23.” It now depends on Members States and regions to use this article to adopt agroforestry measures in their Rural Development Programmes. The Europan Comission ihas written guidelines for implementation, a measure fiche, where further valuable links are given.

Methods found within the agroforestry arena can also be beneficial for countries as Russia in meeting the challenge with unintended afforestation of old agricultural land, which takes place due to abandoned rural areas.

  • As a partnership, we call for increased awareness and implementation of agroforestry systems, in the EUSBSR, and in its neighbouring countries such as NW Russia and Belarus. This can be faciltitated by the guidelines written by the Europan Commission.
  • Advocacy for increased use of perennial plants in agriculture and gardens: (trees, bushes, perennial grasses, herbs, vegetables and climbers)

Among many other advantages, perennials builds soil biodiversity, sequesters carbon (big root zones), prolonges growing seasons and decreases labour input. Refrainment from overtilling of soils is another big advantage which decrease use of fossifules, mantains nutrients, soilstructure and moisture and prevents erosion.

An intersting fact is that as long ago as the 1920s, the Russians had a large perennial wheat breeding program[1]. But there have only been sporadic efforts since then. However, research organizations such as The Land Institute have re-introduced the notion that “perennial polycultures could be developed into “an agricultural system with the ecological stability of the prairie and a grain yield comparable to that from annual crops”

Increased research and breeding programs on perennial varieties suitable for the Baltic Sea Region and neighbouring countries is needed for a resilient region in terms of climate, biodiversity, healthy soil, and the prevention of runoff of nutrients into the Baltic Sea. Needed is also nutritional analysises on already existing perennial foodcrops.

RECOMMENDATIONS 4,5,6,7, part 4:

4. Promotion of Regnerative forestry: Close to Nature Forestry /The Lübeck model: Encouragement of ecosystem based solutions to forestry, where we take the advantages given by working with the forests natural way of successions, reafforestation and diversity. The Lübeck model is and proven workable model which has given significant results both for economical income as for social, cultural and ecological capital. REALS has a continous contact with forests experts in Sweden and Germany who work as consultants within the Lübeck model framework. The Lübeck model is used by the city of Gothenburg in Sweden and has proven to give multiple benefits, eg related to biodversity, quality wood and opportunites for citizen recreation.

5. Developing ways to reward farmers and land stewards who sequesters carbon. Sequestering CO2 into soil and biomass is an crucial aspec of combating climate change. And by reintroducing carbon into the ground, the regenerative living capacity of the soil is increasing its ability to meet demands of food sovergenity, control of erosion, nutrioent runn off and much more. Ways of measuring carbon sequstration and through that paying farmers for these actions is already made in the US and Australia. We see 2 main ways for Sequestering carbon:

      • Sequestration through growing perennial plants in polycultural systems, and with advantage rotation of pasture-fed livestock (Savory Institute, http://savory.global/)
      • Sequestration thoguh biochar and terra preta practices (biochar.info)

6. In promoting Regenerative Ag. and lands stewardship, we call for educational and crossectoral participatory trainings (eg with permaculture, agroecology and agroforestry teachers/designers). This could be done in a Flagship project within the EUSBSR Horizontal Action “Climate”.

7. As a partnership , we also call for increased enablement of regenerative, multifunctional design and landmanagement close to- and in urban settings. The urban context provides many opportunities for socio-ecological entrepreneurship, learning, direct producer-consumer contacts and much more.

5. Enabeling forums for action based learning for regenerative care and use of landrelated resources

In interviews made with the REALS partnership, we asked our colleagues “How can good practices/ and leaders from local communites be enabled / encouraged to take a lead in development for resiliency and sustainability?”. In Sweden, answers repeatedly pointed towards the value of the adult oriented popular education, which includes Folk High Schools, study circles and more. In contrast with formal education, popular education orients towards practical implementation, “hands on” learning by doing as well as personal growth and empowerment. It is also easily related to life-centered and life-long learning, a quality which easily relates to people being active “on the land”, such as farmers, gardeners, community builders and permaculture designers. Around 150 Folk High Schools are spread all over Sweden and offer a big diversity of courses, among which many focuses on sustainability.

In the end of 2015, a new Folk High School was confirmed in Sweden, which starts during the spring 2016. Holma Folk High School, an associated partner in REALS, is the first of its kind in Sweden with its focus on multifunctional gardeng and farming approaches. Holma has 8 member organisations, among which the Swedish Permaculture and Transition networks are two.

Also, in 2016, the course One year in Transition is transfered to Sweden as “Ett år i omställning”, giving the opportunity for adults to explore a project within the area of sustainable living for one year.

The wish to enable similar platforms for learning in NW Russia and Belarus as well as in Poland and Estonia has repeatedly been expressed from REALS partners and associated partners.

  1. We therefore call for international and national funding mechanisms should be established to cover infrastructure- and personel costs to create “Regenerative learning centres ”as existing funding mechanisms often simply fund networking costs (travels and meetings).

2. Recognize the value of Popular Education with focus on socio-ecological, “lifecentered” and lifelong learning as an important counterpart to formal education.

6. Social resilience and Sustainability – Crucial for wholesome land stewardship

In the interviews, REALS partners repeatedly highlighted the need for social sustainability and “care” in reaching regenerative forms of landstewardship. The majority of our colleagues stressed the need to increase opportunities for learning and access to tools, methods and and institutions forof social inclusion, dialogue, community governance and self awareness. These and other related themes are seen as an important aspect which can enable and empower local initiatives for sustainability.

RECOMMENDATIONS for part 6, are the same as above:
  1. We therefore call for international and national funding mechanisms which can cover infrastructure- and personell costs needed to create “Regenerative learning centres ”. Funding mechanisms all to often simply fund networking costs (travels and meetings).
  2. Recognize the value of Popular Education with focus on socio-ecological, “lifecentered” and lifelong learning as an important counterpart to formal education.

    7. Promoting local circular forms for collaboration and economies: communities, farms, enterprises and activities

The concept of circular economy is on everyones “tounge”. The European Commission has adopted an ambitious “Circular Economy Package”, which includes revised legislative proposals on which shall lead to a Europe where there´s no such thing as waste. With this as an important step, it seems as the discussion still stays within the “business as usual” frame where the envisioned world is based on global flows of goods, increased competition and increased growth.

There are numbers of important questions which still remain in shadow, with a need to be further investigated and discussed by all stakeholders in the region: How can opportunities for circular, social and sustainable settlements such as ecovillages, traditional villges, farms and urban neighbourhoods be created at the local level in all BSR countries? How could a public dialogue on opportunities for local circular economies be integrated in and support development of the international agenda for circular economy? How would things look like if local and national governments began to shift its focus towards enabling the rapid build-up of resilience on the local level enabling and supporting community initiatives and their local economies?

In particular we want to highlight the policyrecommendations developed within the project Ecovillages for sustainable rural development where multiple factors which hinder ecovillage establishment are adressed. Among other things, the recommendations highlighted the need to “promote decentralized power plants as well as off-grid energy generation”.

  1. Use the princliple of subsidarity: Desicion-making should not be fully controlled and centralised, but rather “work with everyone so that it is practiced at the most appropriate, practical and empowering level”.
  1. Establish learning forums/platforms for “local regenerative economies”, where local actors from different sectors met in participatory ways.
8. Promote socio-ecological entrepreneurship and innovation

Research from the Stockholm Resilience Centre – a prominent academic institution and think tank of the Baltic Sea Region stress:

“Humanity is now influencing every aspect of the Earth on a scale akin to the great forces of nature. If we are to stay within the planetary boundaries, major transformations are needed in the human-environment interactions. This includes innovations that can increase human well-being and at the same time enhance the capacity of ecosystems to produce services”.

(Olsson, P., and V. Galaz (2012). Social-ecological innovation, Stockholm Resilience Center)

Criteria suggested by Olsson and Galaz as a “gold standard” for solutions viewed as social-ecological innovations include:

  • Integration of both social and ecological (and economical) aspects.
  • Improvement of human life without degrading the life-supporting ecosystems (preferably even strengthening ecosystems) on which we ultimately depend.
  • Dealing with multiple social and environmental challenges simultaneously (be sensitive to the fact that solving one problem often creates new ones, there are no ultimate solutions).
  • Work more directly for social justice, poverty alleviation, environmental sustain- ability and democracy than profits for individuals.
  • Breaking and/or helping to avoid lock-ins and create social-ecological feedbacks that help us stay within the safe operating space for humanity as defined by the planetary boundaries.
  • Including the creativity and ingenuity of users, workers, consumers, citizens, activists, farmers and businesses etc.
  • Utilising the power of social networks and organizations nested across scales (from local to national to regional to global) to enable systemic change at larger scales
  • Create and support a holistic approach to social innovation and entrepreneurship by integrating ecological awareness. This can be facilitated by launching a cross-sectoral flagship project on socio-ecological and resilient entrepreneurship and innovation with focus on small community based actors.


9. Implement the law of EndEcocide

In 2010, the proposal to amend the Rome Statute to include an international crime of Ecocide was submitted by Polly Higgins into the International Law Commission (ILC). The ILC is the UN body ‘mandated to promote the progressive development of international law and its codification’.

The REALS partnership fully stand in support for the proposal which would make Ecocide an international crime.

The purpose for creating the offence of Ecocide as the 5th international Crime Against Peace is to put in place an international law at the very top level. 122 nations (as of 2015) are State Parties to the Rome Statute. International Crime (which is codified in the Rome Statute) applies not only to the signatory States. If and when a person commits a Crime Against Peace, the International Criminal Court has powers to intervene in certain circumstances, even if the person or State involved is a nonsignatory.

The Rome Statute is one of the most powerful documents in the world, assigning ‘the most serious crimes of concern to the international community as a whole’ over and above all other laws. Crimes that already exist within the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court under Article 5 of the Rome Statute are known collectively as Crime Against Peace. They are:

  1. The Crime of Genocide
  2. Crimes Against Humanity
  3. War Crimes
  4. The Crime of Aggression

To be added:

  1. The Crime of Ecocide.

Article 5 and the jurisdiction of the Court shall be limited to the most serious crimes of concern to the international community as a whole.

The inclusion of Ecocide law as international law prohibits mass damage and destruction of the Earth and, as defined above, creates a legal duty of care for all inhabitants that have been or are at risk of being significantly harmed due to Ecocide. The duty of care applies to prevent, prohibit and pre-empt both human-caused Ecocide and natural catastrophes. Where Ecocide occurs as a crime, remedy can be sought through national courts and the International Criminal Court (ICC) or a similar body.

See http://eradicatingecocide.com/the-law/what-is-ecocide/ for the full lenght text.


  • That the EUSBSR, BSR and neighbouring states and everyone else will take a stand for the inclusion of EndEcocide law as an international law.

… and we conclude

Finalising the journey of the REALS project we realises that our work brought us more questions than answers. Nevertheless, we are glad and happy to do this journey together. In this document we present perhaps subjective but undoubtedly collective views which we consider as our main capital on our collective and personal way to – perhaps not easier but better, healthier and happier future. We hope this journey only starts.


References and cases

Agroecology and regenerative land stewardship:


  • Holma Folk High School: holmafolkhogskola.se
  • Support of folkhighschools: Interviews made within the partnership and extended network, February 2016

End Ecocide:



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[1] http://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/occasional_papers/2007/RAND_OP179.pdf