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Het belang van voedselbossen

Een interessante kijk op het belang van Voedselbossen;

door kees Hoogendijk i.s.m. Wouter van Eck.


The Food-Forest: An idea whose time has come Introduction

There is a new movement gaining momentum in the world. It is the food-forest movement. Food-forests are in inclusive answer to many challenges our global society faces today, and even more so in the next 10-15 years. Here are ten reasons why this is so.

1. ClimateChange

The Unifying Fields Foundation has researched the dynamics of climate change for 18 years. Our research has led the conclusion that climate change is predominantly caused by the massive global deforestation which has taken place over the last 12.500 years.

Deforestation greatly accelerated in he last 100 years as a result of the industrial revolution and the rise in the global population from 1.65 billion in 1900 to 7.6 billion today. The main reason for the deforestation is the conversion of original (rain) forest to agricultural land, which is mostly used for animal farming.

Deforestation reduces the power of the hydrological cycle over the earth’s landmass, causes droughts, land slides on slopes, forest fires, creates sea level rise, intensifies hurricanes, reduces the storage of water in soils, thereby causing floods, degrades lands, causes water and food shortages often resulting in the rise climate refugees1.

Food-forest combine reforestation with land regeneration, thereby positively mitigating all the above mentioned effects of climate change2.

2. Unsustainable Land-Use

According to the FAO the world still counts 5 billion hectares of agricultural land, of which 82% is used for animal farming. Animal farming degrades land in the long run and creates the need to convert more forest to agricultural land to sustain production of animal products.

Even in a status quo situation this cycle of cutting forest and degrading lands will cause our society to run out of agricultural land and forest in the future. The food-forest in which agriculture, land regeneration and reforestation run hand in hand, is a smart and inclusive solution to address these challenges.

3. Lifestyle and Health

Research has shown that one average meat eater consuming 41.5 kg of meat per year needs about one hectare to supply his daily needs of proteins and calories. As the world population will grow to 10 billion people in the next 30 years and we take into account that the 95% of the world population is meat eater we can easily see that this is not going to work. We need twice as much land as there is available at this time and we would nu to cut aal the forest in the world to create this agricultural land!

Moreover there is an overwhelming amount of scientific evidence that eating meat is not good for human health. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has already in 2015 declared that processed meat is a class A carcinogenic and that red meat is a class B carcinogenic3. It is inevitable that people need to make a lifestyle switch for their own interest towards a more healthy plant-based lifestyle. The Food-Forest can provide for the increased demand for locally produced healthy plant-based food. This food will naturally be free of chemicals, pesticide, insecticides and GMO’s.

4. Sustainable Production of Healthy Food

Research has shown that one hectare of food-forest can nourish at least 8 vegetarians or vegans, as opposed to one meat eater.

To produce enough food for 10 billion people would require only 1.25 billion hectares of land if all people have switched to a plant-based lifestyle. If only 50% of all people switch to a plant-based lifestyle there will still not be enough land to feed the world. This means that a drastic change in lifestyle is required in the coming years.

Our global society is now aware for 60 years that smoking causes lung cancer and still 20% of the world population smokes. This suggests that we need to come up with a really touching and attractive proposition to change behaviour, change land-use and bring back the forests. To make the membership of a food-forest an attractive no-brainer for the heart is the task we stand for.

5. Food-Waste and Food Budget

In the ways our society provides food to our people an incredible amount of food is wasted. For supermarkets to make money on food in such a scenario it causes food to be very expensive while at the same time the farmers are being squeezed. In the EU about 10.000 farmers quit each year and in the Netherlands 400 farmers stop each month. There is clearly something wrong with the way we produce food and provide it to our people.

In the case of the local food-forest local people are a member of the food-forest. This secures an income for the farmer. Since food waste is reduced significantly and the supermarkets are being disinter-mediated food will become cheaper for the local consumers.

Research studies have indicated that vegans spent about 500-750 Euro per year less on food than meat eaters, even if they buy there food in the local supermarket. There will be additional savings if food is bought from the local food-forest. This will further increase family savings. Unifying fields estimates that a family of 4 can save at least 4000 Euro by buying healthy food from the local food-forest.

6. Return to Nature and Community Spirit

Nowadays children hardly know where and how food is produced. We have become disconnected from nature in a major way. Buying food from the local food-forest produced by the local food-forest farmer will re-establish that connection with nature. it will also bring back the sense of community, inter-dependence and inter-connectedness.

7. Food-Forests, Water and Local Climate

In many locations in the world the effect of land regeneration and reforestation in combination with plant-based farming has been studied. When the trees come back they cool the local environment, they create clouds and local rain and they store extra water in the soil. This makes the land more productive and increases the value of that land. This allows farmers to get a loan from the bank and expand their land regeneration activities.

In Africa the Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration (FMNR) methodology emerged about 35 years ago. Today this technique has spread to over 20 countries in Africa5,6. This shows that restoration of lands by combining food production and reforestation is a win- win-win proposition, more food, more fertile land, more income, better environment, etc.

In Brazil the Swiss farmer Ernst Gotsch bought 1200 hectares of dry, deforested land, which used to be a rainforest. Over a period of 30 years he turned the dry land into a highly productive food-rain-forest. He called his methodology: “Life in Syntropy”7. Syntropy is another way of saying: “thriving in perfect harmony with nature".

8. The Value creation of Trees

In the literature we find many attempts from scholars to determine the monetary value of planting trees. The tree performs many functions: it captures CO2, produces oxygen, purifies and recycles water, transports water from the oceans to the landmass8,9, produces biomass for soil carbon enhancement, produces fruits, protects the local environment from land slides and floods, cools the local environment, removes particulate matter from the environment, increases the value of local real estate and provides for a healthy and aesthetically attractive local environment.

A conservative estimate of the integral value creation of these services is about 500 Euro per tree per year. In the local food-forest about 1500 trees are being planted per hectare. The average cost of planting one tree is 10 Euro. This means that the tree is an excellent investment, providing huge value for the local community and the local environment.

Thus it can be concluded that one food-forest creates about 750.000 euro in societal value per year for an investment of 30.000 Euro per year, if we also take into account the cost of the 1500 bushes and other plants which need to be planted as part of the food-forest.

A member of a local food-forest not only gains personal health, but also saves money on food purchases and creates 75.000 Euro of societal value, assuming 10 persons can be fed (for 80%) from a local food forest.

9. Food-Forest Members save Trees from being Cut

As we are aware forests are being cut to create agricultural land for animal farming. We also know that one meat eater requires one hectare of land to provide for the required proteins and calories. The FAO states in a recent communication that still today 13 million hectares of forest is converted to agricultural land10, of which 82% is used for animal farming. So about 10.7 million hectares is converted from forest to agricultural land for animal farming.

As one hectare of forest contains on average 750 trees, about 8 billion trees are being cut for this purpose each year. As there are about 105 million new meat eaters in the world each year, it means that for each meat eater 75 trees are being cut each year. This also means that a person who switches to a plant based lifestyle will save 75 trees each year from being cut.

A person who switches to a plant-based lifestyle not only contributes to the planting of 150 trees in the food-forest in the first year of the creation of the food-forest but also saves 75 trees from being cut each year in the rainforest.

A person who switches to a plant-based lifestyle is not only an animal lover, it is also a tree lover and she/he also loves himself for being more healthy and more responsive to today’s societal needs.

10. Food-Forests, Food-Prints and Climate Refugees

Many peoples are not aware of the work of the Dutch professor Arjen Hoekstra who set up the Water Footprint Network many years ago. This organisations has determined how much water is being used in the location where food is produced by people in countries where the food is consumed. A cup of coffee consumes 140 liters of water in the country where the coffee is produced.

World wide 70 % of all fresh water is used and polluted in the animal farming industry. The water footprint of one beef burger is 2400 liters. As the water intensity of animal farming and some crops as coffee and cacao is very high most crops need local irrigation systems to make them grow. This is because in most cases the trees have been removed. At the moment the world uses local water resources at three times the natural renewal rate. This in turn means that the groundwater table drops significantly in most areas in the world where intensive agriculture is being conducted.

As a result the lands are drying out and degrading over time. This causes people to migrate to other areas. This creates conflicts and violence, ethnic unrest and finally local wars. This then results in more refugees coming to our borders. In the very near future the most pressing case is Africa.

In Africa, countries like China, India and some Middle Eastern countries are leasing or buying land to conduct agriculture in traditional ways further removing forests. At the same time Africa stands for a massive population expansion, growing from 1.25 bilion people to 2.5 billion people in the next 30 years. The pressure on land will rise exponentially in the coming years to unsustainable levels.

This will create a significant refugee crises in the coming years as millions of people will try to migrate northward to the countries around the Mediterranean. This is why we need to reduce the pressure on land and water by becoming more aware of the impact we have as consumers on the water situation in developing countries. The biggest impact we can have if we reduce meat consumption and save a lot of water where it is most needed.

Becoming a members of the local food-forest can really help this situation.

The Planetarian emerges

A person who transcends his/her lifestyle is no longer called a vegetarian or a vegan. Her/ his motivation is now more inclusive as the integral impact of this life style switch is becomes better understood. This is the mission of the Unifying Fields Foundation: to make it easier for people to transcend life style and fully appreciate the benefits of this.


We call people who make that profound switch Planetarians, people who live in harmony with nature and the forests, have compassion with the animals and live in harmony with themselves and their local environment. Let us make the Planetarian movement a planetary movement.

Kees Hoogendijk

Unifying Fields

Appendix 1: Metrics of a Food-Forest in the Netherlands

Below is some information provided by Wouter van Eck about the trees and shrubs to be planted for an average food-forest and the average cost of realising a food-forest of one hectare:

150 Canopy Trees with can reach a height of minimum 15 meter The cost of these trees is on average 25 Euro’s

Total cost 3750 Euro
500 Trees to provide biomass/wood for a period of 10-15 years. Cost 1 Euro per tree

Total cost of trees 500 Euro
300 Secondary trees, fruit trees, etc. Cost 25 Euro per tree.

Total Cost 7500 Euro
1400 Productive Bushes , berries, etc. Costs 2.5 Euro per tree

Total costs 3500 Euro
750 Trees for hedges Cost 1 Euro

Total cost 750 Euro
Total costs trees: 16000 Euro
Costs to Develop specific site plan 5000 Euro per hectare Cost of planting trees 5000 Euro for one hectare
Total cost for 1 hectare: 26000 Euro

Estimate by Wouter van Eck, creator of the first food-forest in the Netherlands in 2009



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