Humans of Nature: The farmers version of Humans of New York
Published on: November 27, 2020
Honoring farmers as stewards of our environment through #HumansofNature
Have you ever heard of Humans of New York? Brandon Stanton started a blog with the ambitious plan to photograph 10,000 New Yorkers. Seven years in, and HONY has 20 million likes on Facebook and almost 6 million followers on Instagram. Multiple spin-offs of the concept have originated in cities across the world, including reNature’s hometown, Amsterdam. reNature is proud to add another inspired concept to that list: Humans of Nature. Through #HumansofNature we want to share the faces and stories of the amazing people that are producing food in harmony with nature. Keep reading to read the first 4 stories!
As you’re putting your next item in your supermarket cart, you hesitate, pause, and think: is this a healthy food? How was this food produced? And where was it produced? Recognise yourself? We at reNature certainly do.
Perhaps you, too, consider yourself a conscious consumer that carefully assesses how you buy your food, taking questions like the above into consideration. To do so, modern man is at the mercy of certification labels. However, when only judging by the labels there’s still a gap between the reality of the supermarket and the farmland: do you ever think about who exactly produced that food? In other words: do you ever think about the farmer? Probably, less so.
We have become disconnected from our food. Children think carrots grow on trees. Adults struggle to make a decision based on a plethora of ambiguous labels on their grocery products. Despite the fact that in many parts of the world the largest share of the population still works in agriculture, the dominant share of city-dwellers of our modern western societies hardly ever get in touch with where our food comes from. The supermarket is the place we come closest to our natural world.
The simple fact that we spend most of our time indoors – our brains consumed by screens, our bodies by concrete and glass – makes that we are largely unaware of the outdoors – where brains are consumed by the sun, the clouds, and bodies by sowing and ploughing.
Tragically, the closest we come to that world is in the supermarket. But we don’t actually even come close to it, not even through labels. We still don’t know who the people are who produce our food!
We think that this should change: farmers are our heroes.
Despite the fact that many people will take it for granted, we should be grateful for the huge service farmers provide to humanity. Not only do we all need to eat every day, by producing more than they can consume, farmers allow others in our societies to be freed of the need to produce food themselves, creating space for the development of for instance the sciences and the arts.
Through promoting Regenerative Agroforestry, reNature wants to transform how our food is produced and who predominantly benefits from that. This is reflected in our goal to regenerate 1 million hectares of land and to ensure food security for 20 million farmers and their community members by 2030. We want to make sure that food production is both serving the protection and restoration of our natural environment as well as serving the farmers who produce our food in such a way.
Therefore, we want to honour especially the farmers and communities that are taking up beautiful ways of producing food in harmony with nature. They will lie the direly-needed foundation for a truly sustainable economy. They are the stewards of our environment. They are the visionaries of our time. They are our heroes!
However, their stories are unknown to modern man. These stories need to be heard!
“My grandfather used to say that once in your life you need a doctor, a lawyer, a policeman and a preacher but every day, three times a day, you need a farmer.”Brenda Schoepp
What do Greta Thunberg, David Attenborrough, Jane Goodall, and Ellen McArthur have in common? They are obviously all environmentalists, strongly dedicated to continuously raising the alarm about the state of our planet and the faith of humanity. What they also have in common is – perhaps obviously – that they are all famous: they have all become faces of the environmental movement, spokespersons of ideas far bigger than themselves.
Truly putting farmers in the spotlight requires giving them a stage, bringing face and voice into the world. One good story can represent and support an entire community of like minded people. We think the act of producing food in harmony with nature everyday is a radically progressive act that deserves our full attention, hence one that needs faces and stories.
We will interview the rich diversity of regenerative farmers that we work with – be it small-scale farmers, large-scale farmers, or indigenous peoples – to hear their stories and share their photos. We have the goal to interview and publish the story of one farmer per month!
We will ask all farmers the following three questions:
- How did you start farming?
- What do you intend to achieve with regenerative agroforestry, and what have you already achieved?
- How has regenerative agroforestry changed your life?
Below, you can read the interviews with 4 farmers from projects reNature is supporting.
Meet Neeraj, founder and director of Khetee in India.
“In my place Bihar, most of the farmers are migrating to cities to find employment opportunities. I had visited many different places across India and observed that agroforestry can be a great model to make farming sustainable. I returned to my village, talked with farmers and did the training with 10 local farmers to learn how to do agroforestry. In 2018 I created the first model farm in Bihar and then expanded it on 10 different farmer’s lands.”
“I want to bring agroforestry into mainstream farming. In the last three years, I created a regenerative agroforestry model farm on 1 acre. Then we supported 10 farmers to implement this on their own land. On these lands we have grown around 25 different types of crops, fruits and vegetables. The health of soil has changed after 2 years of the farm. We hosted workshops, training and awareness campaigns where we reached more than 1000 people from all ages and genders.”
“I have seen the challenges that farmers are facing and how global warming is making it worse. And choosing regenerative agroforestry changes the soil health, the quality and taste of the harvest, increases biodiversity, and makes life fulfilling, meaningful and peaceful.“
Meet Yangyang, who has volunteered in the Verstegen project.
“My journey of regenerative agroforestry began when I happily volunteered myself in reNature project together with Verstegen Spices & Sauces and PT Cinquer Agro Nusantara (CAN) in Bangka Indonesia from March till May 2019. It was actually a period when I wanted to enjoy my graduation vacation by spending my time reading books, traveling, and reuniting with my family – but I ended up working on field transformation and enjoying 3 months of learning by doing experience.
Well, I have no regret for doing that since regenerative agroforestry is an open gate for me to understand more on how agriculture could be set up in a way that will allow us to get a diverse yet productive farm without doing any damage to nature.”
“Apart from witnessing significant growth of the trees on the farm, seeing how regenerative agroforestry has moved farmer’s hearts from doubt to excitement in adapting this system themselves is definitely one of the best achievements. There is one of our workers who has started to develop his own pepper agroforestry farm after observing and experiencing himself on establishing an agroforestry plot. I hope we will have more farmers like him who confidently take action on adapting the regenerative agroforestry system to sustain his/her farm and life.”
“Regenerative agroforestry has not only changed the way our system grows and sustains itself, but also turns me into someone who is content with everything that life has given. Working on regenerative agroforestry also gives me an opportunity to meet and work with many experts who inspire me to keep helping farmers and spreading knowledge about agroforestry.”
Meet Joseph, the founder of the Laikipia Permaculture Center in Kenya:
“All began when I decided to return to my home-land after studying Permaculture in Australia and decided to contribute into Bringing solutions to provide Laikipia communities with long-term environmental sustainability, food security and economic empowerment through training on Permaculture and agroforestry.
This is when I founded Laikipia Permaculture Center; a research, training and demonstration site which has grown over the years from an individual dream to a fully functional Permaculture Centre where our efforts of rangeland rehabilitation have been replicated at community level.”
“Agroforestry has been the focal point of activities at the Laikipia Permaculture Centre. We have a tree nursery where Indigenous tree seeds are propagated producing seedlings that are multifunctional at a rate of 50,000 seedlings per year. Free seedlings will also be given to community members whom we have trained.
Our agroforestry project is a success, 6 months after the project kickoff. So far 700 tree seedlings have been distributed to a group of 190 farmers and the rest planted at the Laikipia Permaculture Centre.”
“We have managed to train 120 farmers so far. We have achieved to convince the Kenyan government that it is possible to go organic in managing our farms, value addition for forestry products like the local Aloe secundiflora can be utilised as food and as ingredients for making cosmetics for the world. We have business with the British LUSH cosmetics that sources ingredients for their products from local Maasai women’s groups that Laikipia Permaculture Centre works with.”
Meet Mauro, involved in the Pasto Vivo project.
“Since I was little, I helped my family working on the fields to sustain our livelihood. At that time, we used to plant rice, beans and corn, which was common back then but rare to see nowadays. As young people, my brothers and I took care of planting and harvesting, while our mother stayed at home to take care of household activities. But it was not long before my dear mother passed away and left my father with six small children to raise. We lived a simple life and were never able to figure out the exact cause of her death. It was one of the most difficult moments of our lives but over the years we managed to overcome it.”
“Today, with all this experience that I had in my life, I acquired the knowledge of how agroforestry was valued in the traditional way with natural resources. Only natural inputs like soil, water, and light are used, no chemical products that make plantations unhealthy.
We human beings must preserve the greatest wealth that we have around us, and plant and harvest our own organic foods that do not attack our health. I am a man who is grateful that he can live with nature without harming it, using these age-old techniques that my parents taught me.”
“Agroforestry made me think more clearly about the environment and that we must not deforest the lands. We must be conscious of each act for us to create a better future.”
More to come
With these first four stories we’ve officially launched #HumansofNature. Follow us on instagram to receive regular updates on new stories!