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Williams College

Publication Date

Fall 2023

Program Name

Portugal: Sustainability and Environmental Justice


Conventional industrial agriculture has numerous detrimental effects on the environment including high carbon emissions, pollution and overconsumption of water, soil degradation, and reduction of biodiversity (FAO, 2018). Large-scale alternatives are needed to combat these negative consequences and provide climate solutions. Syntropic Agriculture is a promising farming alternative especially in arid systems subject to degraded soils and desertification. New Mexico is a semi-arid continental climate in a prolonged period of drought and predicted to experience worsening agricultural conditions due to desertification, wildfire intensification, and exacerbated water scarcity. In an area with similar agricultural challenges, a project in Mértola, Portugal (Terra Sintrópica) is implementing Syntropic Agriculture with beneficial outcomes. This paper investigates the feasibility and potential benefits of applying Syntropic Agriculture to New Mexico as exemplified by the case study. As there are few existing examples of Syntropic Agriculture in continental climates, this study seeks to address the knowledge gap of whether this method is viable outside of tropical and Mediterranean climates. The example of Terra Sintrópica is extrapolated to comparable regions of New Mexico through the comparison between each region’s agricultural, environmental, and climate contexts. The findings of this research suggest that Syntropic Agriculture is presently feasible on a small-scale in New Mexico and would benefit from further experimental and applied research in the region in the form of educational pilot projects.


Agriculture | Agronomy and Crop Sciences | Climate | Development Studies | Food Security | Sustainability | Water Resource Management


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