Water Symposium

The Power of Water - Decentralized Water Retention as an Answer to Desertification and Globalization

Report from the 2nd International Water Symposium in Tamera, 26 - 29 of April, 2012

In these times of worldwide water crisis, Tamera and the Grace Foundation have invited specialists and decision makers from different countries and different fields of knowledge to their 2nd International Water Symposium. While there are ever more people, animals and ecosystems on earth affected by water scarcity, multinational corporations profit by creating centralized water supply systems. Water has become a commodity. To change this situation alternatives are needed. The Water Symposium in Tamera gathered 30 experts and 200 participants in order to present decentralized and natural solutions.

How powerful the element water can be, the participants could learn from the spectacular weather during its three and a half days. Heavy rain and bright sunshine, thunder and rainbows followed each other. From the main assembly hall, the Aula, the audience could always see a part of the Water Retention Landscape of Tamera - a comprehensive model for landscape healing, organic food production in permaculture, and reforestation - embedded in a community for peace research. 


The Water Retention Landscape has been being built since 2007 with the help of ecological visionary Sepp Holzer from Austria. It gives an idea of how comprehensive and radical alternatives have to be in order to be able to stop desertification and give an answer to the injustice and destructiveness of globalization. Along the course of these days the thought of the late water researcher Viktor Schauberger became more and more tangible: The unveiling of the secret of water will put an end to any kind of speculation, as it will make water, food, and energy freely accessible to all of humankind. 


It was a meeting of worldwide experts and activists first of all to see that there are decentralized alternatives also applicable on a global scale, and then to understand and work out some very concrete examples to manifest those alternatives in different regions of the world - including their ecological, technical, social and economical aspects. A number of models built under different conditions could make decentralized water retention landscapes including food autonomy, landscape healing and the building of sustainable communities a global alternative.


"I was surprised to see how many aspects can be combined with proper water management", water engineer George Wambugu from Kenya said. In his own country he has built many decentralized water systems to prevent desertification. "But only here I see how important the combinations are: with growing food, with energy production, and with a community of people who believe in what they are doing." 


Gabriella Zanzanaini, the director of European Affairs for Food and Water Watch said: "When fighting the unjust and destruction systems, the big questions is: What alternatives do we have after we win? The more examples of alternatives there are, the richer our movement becomes. The more information we have on what we can do, like here in Tamera, the more we can use it and spread it all around the world."


There was for example Rajendra Singh, the "water man" from Rajasthan. The Aula was filled with Rajendra´s outcries of holy rage when he described the strategies of the multinational agricultural companies.

"They are destroying the water tables, they poison the soil, they cut the trees, they turn fertile land into desert, and leave." Applying simple traditional techniques and with the help of local population he was able to reverse desertification on an area of 8.600 square kilometers. Seven dry rivers are now flowing again. Drought migration could be stopped, families have returned because they can now live again off their land, thanks to the simple technique of retaining rainwater and giving it time to soak into the soil at as many sites as possible.

Also in the symposium's host country, Portugal, the results of centralized water systems and globalized agriculture can be seen, with all its bitter effects. Especially after a winter with little rain, like this year's, many farmers are forced to to give up. Decentralized water retention on many sites could be an easy and relatively cost-effective way to provide enough water for agriculture, wildlife and forests, especially for a country in economic crisis such as Portugal. One idea which was discussed intensively is the "1000 lakes in the Alentejo". Landowners, unemployed people, communities of this region threatened by desertification could come together and created many decentralized water retention landscapes as a new beginning for rural development. Tamera is ready to assist and teach.


Michal Kravčik from Slovakia explained why "the true reason for climate change is wrong water management." As a water engineer he had built lots of large concrete dams. However with the breakdown of the socialistic system his own beliefs also changed, and he started to study the being of water and to let it guide him. With the help of his government he has started a project to fight "floods, droughts and climate change". 7700 unemployed people have helped to build 80,000 retention structures all around the country. Michal Kravčik´s aim is to continue this work and to reach a point in which no rainwater leaves Slovakia anymore – only spring water.

Bolivia has another very special role in the water movement: it is the first country that has declared the right to clean water access as a human right. Now the government is looking for alternative systems that can supply the whole population with water and food. The representative of the Bolivian government, Luis Rojas Martinez, was convinced by the Tamera model. He wants to make this knowledge accessible to Bolivia as soon as possible.


In walks and talks and sharing circles also the spiritual and social aspects of water were described. "Water is a living being", said Bernd Müller. "It wants to be treated like a living being, it wants to move in a natural way, in order to stay alive."



"If we want to step out of the system of violence we have learn to build sustainable communities," said Sabine Lichtenfels, co-founder of Tamera. There is no point in having perfect natural water management, if there is not a community around it that knows how to share, how to create trust, and to solve conflicts in the most delicate areas of life, she said.

During the symposium many connections were made, cooperations and joint adventures were initiated. The Tamera Water Retention Landscape has stepped on an international stage of public attention - which was confirmed when after the symposium it was announced as a finalist in the Buckminster Fuller Challenge.

Some experts expressed the wish for a long lasting platform of cooperation, for example a global water council for the development of alternatives could emerge. The next step in this direction and the next meeting place of this movement will be the People´s Summit in Rio de Janeiro in June.

We thank all those who contributed to making this symposium a success., especially the two inspired moderators Benjamin von Mendelssohn and Juliette Baigler, and the brilliant musicians, including the Tamera Choir: in every break you created an atmosphere for the soul that helped us digest the vast amount of information. Thank you!