Alejandro Carrillo
EcoJustice Radio Permaculture

Restoring Grasslands & Rainfall in the Desert with Alejandro Carrillo

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EcoJustice RadioIn this enlightening conversation with Alejandro Carrillo, learn about the Grasslands Regeneration Project and how regenerative ranching transforms once-barren deserts into vibrant grasslands. Alejandro shares the principles that guide his work, including mimicking natural processes and promoting biodiversity. This EcoJustice Radio episode is a testament to the power of aligning with nature to create a sustainable future for farming and our global ecosystems.

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Las Damas Ranch, Alejandro CarrilloRegenerating Earth: Alejandro Carrillo’s Grassland Revolution

Nature is not fixed, but ever changing. Some of the world’s best known deserts were once fertile grasslands and forests, including the Sahara, the Mojave, the Kalahari, and Gobi deserts. Is it accurate to think of deserts as permanent? Ecosystem succession shows us that Nature can evolve from rock to forest as well as reverse itself back to dust or a barren state. According to National Geographic, drylands account for more than 40 percent of the world’s terrestrial surface area. Human-caused desertification and soil erosion is changing the landscape of Earth, with Africa and Asia being particularly vulnerable; many in these regions rely on subsistence farming. Humans are accelerating the degradation of land through deforestation, urbanization, mining, monocrop industrial farming, and conventional ranching, however, turning land into desert is not a fixed or foregone conclusion. Our guest in this show, Alejandro Carrillo, Managing Partner, Grasslands Regeneration Project for Las Damas Ranch, has been working to green the Chihuahuan desert in northern Mexico.

STORY: Pasture Based Carbon Farming with SonRise Ranch – EcoJustice Radio

From Desert to Pasture: A Regenerative Ranching Tale

Droughts, floods and erosion need not be permanent realities if we change the behaviors that are causing them. We have the power to align with and assist Nature in a process of evolution that benefits and sustains life. Las Damas, Alejandro Carrillo’s 30,000-acre ranch, is one of the world’s best known examples of what is possible on dry land, these arid and brittle environments that receive low rainfall. Due to rotational grazing and other strategies, like supporting the work of dung beetles and termites, native grasslands have proliferated. Thus, water infiltrates into more productive soil, wildlife and plant diversity thrive, encouraging a micro-climate where rainfall increases. Resiliency is possible and Alejandro is here to share his remarkable, regenerative journey.

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Interview Excerpt – Regenerative Ranching Builds Ecosystems

desert restoration

Alejandro Carrillo talks about Chihuahua’s incredible desert regeneration

Carry Kim: Welcome, Alejandro. We have long awaited this conversation with you, and you have inspired many people with what has happened down in Chihuahua and, just been an incredible example of regeneration and its potential. So I was wondering if you could first share a bit about the history of Las Damas Ranch. I understand it was once a sacred area for the. I’m not sure you could pronounce it correctly for me. Apaches?

Alejandro Carrillo: Yeah, that’s right. the history that we have on this place goes back at least a reading history, goes back when the, Spaniards came here, like probably early, mid 15 hundreds. And they find a lot of, actually native people living in these lands. one of them were the Chirikawa Apaches, Victorio, Geronimo. All of them were living in this land. M but I think what we are seeing today is really completely different from those times. Because even on the writings of the Spanish priests, They said that there were only tall grasses. Forget about just grasslands, all of them were tall grasses, as tall as, the saddle.

Carry Kim: Wow.

Alejandro Carrillo: So there were really, a place with plenty of, water springs. You can actually still see the springs on the old road maps, because if you actually see those maps, the old roads remember that they were pulled by bulls or meals and they have to have water at certain points. So, yeah, it’s just incredible, otters beavers, because the first thing that actually goes away is all the wildlife related to the water. The closer to the water, they just, go away. But yeah, these were really beautiful thriving grasslands.

Regenerative ranchingWhat do people really need to understand about nature’s dynamism

Carry Kim: Well, people often speak about areas as if they are fixed nouns versus verbs. But what do people really need to understand about nature’s dynamism?

Alejandro Carrillo: Oh, wow, that is incredible. There are so many variables. As ranchers, we should never say, oh, I’m just a rancher. I actually relate what we do more to a doctor because we deal with so many living things, so many variables, and Nature is always dynamic. Always told the ranchers, if a rancher tells me, you know, Alejandro, I think I’m about the same as ten years ago, I would say, I don’t think so because you’re actually going into the regeneration forward or you’re going backwards. But Nature is really very novel. As long as we try to mimic exactly how things are done in Nature, it will reward us with a lot of abundance.

Carry Kim: Isn’t the key is adaptability, instead of doing the same thing over and over again, expecting that that works every time.

Alejandro Carrillo: Yeah. going back to a little bit of the, know, these lands where we are ranching nowadays in Chihuahua, Mexico. And obviously, it goes south of Chihuahua and all the way north to Canada. There were plenty of wildlife, bison and antelope and elk and all that. And they were actually carrying together with the predators for the grasslands to be very healthy. But I would say that it was the arrival of the barbed wire, that we stopped the movement of the livestock. And then it was something that it was easy to do, but not necessarily the most convenient because when you stop the movement, of the livestock or wildlife, then they’re going to start overgrazing and degrading the places.

Carry Kim: Right. And when would you say that that actually became a big problem there? Was it like the late 1800s or the mid 1800s? When would you say that that really magnified?

regenerative ranchingAlejandro Carrillo: No, I would say that, because there were very few fences. The old fences here in the state of Chihuahua were like m, rock structures. There were the very few fences. So the ranchers used to move, place and move their cattle in different areas. It was the arrival of the barbed wire, the fence that on the early 19 hundreds actually stopped the movement. And then it was easier for us to say, oh, I place here 100 cows, another 50 cows there and so on. And then we start blaming the lack of rain and other things. But we really never understood that we have to mimic Nature.

Carry Kim: Right. That free movement. Right. Instead of being on these square plots and delineating them and this fixed place like a prison, really.

Alejandro Carrillo: Yes, it was to detrimental of the diversity, which is what we’re looking for, because most ranchers nowadays, they work for, let’s say 10-20 different grasses. When you go back to those times, we were talking about 200 different grasses, 200 different forbes. That was impressive. The diversity not only of the animals, but also the plants that we used to have.

Alejandro Carrillo, Managing Partner, Grasslands Regeneration Project, is a regenerative rancher in the Chihuahuan Desert in Northern Mexico. In the last ten years, he has been able to grow tremendous amounts of grasses, forbes, and legumes in a climate zone that receives only eight inches of rainfall, thanks to holistic, rational grazing management. This has benefited both his ranching endeavor and the life in general of all organisms below and above ground. He has also made rainfall more abundant by creating a micro-climate for his ranch. Before joining his father’s cattle ranch called Las Damas in 2004, Alejandro worked for several years in the software industry in the financial sector in various countries in the Americas and Europe.

Carry Kim, Co-Host of EcoJustice Radio. An advocate for ecosystem restoration, Indigenous lifeways, and a new humanity born of connection and compassion, she is a long-time volunteer for SoCal350, member of Ecosystem Restoration Camps, and a co-founder of the Soil Sponge Collective, a grassroots community organization dedicated to big and small scale regeneration of Mother Earth.

EcoJustice Radio

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Executive Producer and Intro: Jack Eidt
Hosted by Carry Kim
Engineer and Original Music: Blake Quake Beats

Episode 199

Published 4 December 2023, Updated 18 December 2023

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