Newspaper article Coffs Coast Advocate (Coffs Harbour, Australia)

The Rise of the Good Dachniks

Newspaper article Coffs Coast Advocate (Coffs Harbour, Australia)

The Rise of the Good Dachniks

Article excerpt

LAST time I began telling the story of Angelo Eliades and his permaculture food forest in his suburban backyard in Preston, Melbourne. In response to that column, a friend sent me a link to some research that was carried out a few years back into the scale and productivity of agro-forestry and bio-intensive small-scale production in Russia. This research formed the substance of a PhD thesis submitted by Leonid Sharashkin in May 2008 at the University of Missouri.

This column will be in parenthesis to Angelo's story, which after all, has a lot to do with the yields achievable in small-scale food forests. Next time I'll return to his story proper.

If you're really keen on the Russian research, you can download the full thesis a a mere 248 pages of text and tables a via soilandhealth.org. Here's the (very) short version.

Russia is a nation of small-scale gardeners, or dachniks; and they are very, very good at it. Some 35 million households, two-thirds of the country, grow a fairly significant portion of their food on a dacha, a small-scale garden plot with an average size of 600sq m, belonging to urban dwellers, either privately or in a co-operative form.

The tens of millions of current-day dachniks are following in the footsteps of a centuries-old tradition of small-scale, self-reliant agrarian communities. As Sharashkin notes, this means that these practices did not suddenly re-emerge en masse in response to the economic collapse in the post-Soviet Russia of the early 1990s, but rather have deep historical and cultural roots that go well beyond the food production and economic dimensions.

Yet the productivity of the dachniks is impressive. Sharashkin reports that in 2004, they accounted for (conservatively) 51% of total agricultural output by value, around $US14 billion, or 2.3% of Russia's GDP; a larger contribution than steel manufacturing or electricity generation. …

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