In our stunning new animation, produced to celebrate Gaia’s 35th Birthday, we share our cosmology, our methods, and the inspiring partners from all over our living planet, with whom we work alongside.
Four of these inspiring individuals – Method, Sinéad, Mariana and Forrest, – are the narrators of our animation. Here we introduce you to them, their work to revive Mother Earth and how we came to know and walk alongside them on our mission to restore our planet’s biocultural diversity.
When we first met Method, he was an accountant working for our South African partner organisation, the Earthlore Foundation. A lot has changed since then.
Gaia has a long track record in identifying talent and commitment in our partners. In Method we saw someone ready to go beyond the desk and on to big things, so we invited him to join our first ever 3-year, UN-recognised ‘Trainings for Transformation’. Method completed the training with flying colours, graduating as one of Africa’s first ever ‘Earth Jurisprudence Practitioners’.
As part of his training, Method journeyed back to his roots, to the communities of Bikita in Zimbabwe, where he grew up. There, over half a decade, Method has encouraged his community to come back together and discuss the challenges they face, from a changing climate to the failure of imported seed varieties. His attentive facilitation has supported the people of Bikita to revive dozens of native seed varieties, including finger and pearl millet species that are resistant to drought and flood. Traditional granaries are being built once again and villagers are re-appreciating the gifts and importance of the wild lands around their farmsteads.
These immense achievements are documented in this short animation, Grains of Hope
Beyond Bikita, Method has become a leading advocate for an Earth-centred shift in law and governance in Africa and globally. He has addressed the UN General Assembly, calling on them to take on an Earth-centred perspective, championed the Rights of Nature in international fora and played a vital role in helping convince the African Commission to formally recognise and call for the protection of Africa’s sacred natural sites and their custodian communities.
“When humans arrived, the sun and the moon did not stop rising and setting; the air, water and the Earth did not stop moving either and neither did the plants and the animals. Such is the order which humans found.” – Method Gundidza. Address to the UN General Assembly.
Today, Method is the Director of the Earthlore Foundation and brings his passion for the Earth to their wide-ranging and inspiring work.
Sinéad joined the Gaia team in June 2019 to manage our Seed Sovereignty UK & Ireland programme, which is going from strength to strength thanks to her careful coordination.
We have seed to thank for 9 out of 10 bites of food we take, and yet, for a very long time, seed and the importance of seed diversity have been neglected, even by some progressive food movements.
Due in part to this neglect, and to corporate profiteering, the genetic diversity of our seed system has been in free-fall for the last century. Understanding that whoever controls seed, controls food, four companies – Bayer-Monsanto, Corteva, Chem-China and BASF – have come to control more than 60% of the formal seed market globally, whilst lobbying for the criminalisation of the age-old practices of on-farm seed saving, seed sharing and informal seed markets.
As climate breakdown worsens, we must urgently protect and revive the diversity of our seed systems. Put simply, a food revolution must start with seed. This short video explains why:
Sinéad has played an integral role in realising this revolution in the UK and Ireland. She works with and supports our seed sovereignty coordinators around the UK and Ireland to train community groups, market gardeners and farmers in seed production, helping them re-gain the skills required for this lost art. She has organised our online conference The Seed Gathering as well as the annual Seed Week – to celebrate the seeds that feed us.
To-date, our Seed Sovereignty Programme has:
When Sinéad isn’t helping return diversity to our fields, she can be found wandering the woods looking for interesting fungi, crafting herbal lotions, potions and remedies, or playing a few tunes on the fiddle.
The story of how we came to know Mariana is entangled with one of Colombia’s most iconic and, to-date, successful campaigns to protect lands and waters from mining.
In 2013, Mariana sent us an email from her family’s farm in Doima, central Colombia. A South African gold mining company called AngloGold Ashanti had turned up in her village and announced that it wished to build a vast toxic waste storage facility in a nearby valley. Mariana wanted to connect with others facing similar threats and, through Gaia, was able to begin corresponding with and learning from communities in the UK, Ghana and beyond.
These exchanges, and the power of the solidarity and learning they gave rise to, planted the seed of an idea that, intermingled with other currents of change, led to the founding of the global Yes to Life, No to Mining network (YLNM). Gaia was a founding member of YLNM, which now has more than 100 members on every inhabited continent.
This story of solidarity and the birth of the Yes to Life, No to Mining Network is documented in our 2015 short film, In Solidarity:
With support from Gaia and thanks in part to Mariana’s boundless energy, in 2013 Doima became the first municipality in Colombia to hold a ‘popular consultation’ (a local referendum enshrined in the Colombian constitution) on whether AngloGold Ashanti’s waste dame should be built in the area or not. More than 98% of voters rejected the plan and Doima’s victory catalysed a wave of similar popular consultations across the nation that have protected life-giving lands and waters from dozens of destructive projects.
“In Doima we have this saying that resistance is like a fire, you must keep feeding it and never let it go out. The people really want democracy, agriculture, and to keep their heritage. We will keep fighting against mining.” – Mariana Gomez.
Today, Mariana works for our Colombian sister organisation, Gaia Amazonas. She remains a driving force in YLNM, helping coordinate the network’s action across Latin America. The day we met her was a blessed one.
Forrest’s ancestors have lived and worked on the 2,000 acre Penpont Estate in Wales’s Brecon Beacons since 1666. It is a beautiful place: a working landscape full of memory and meaning that hosts endangered species like otter and hare. But, like many territories across the UK, Penpont has also lost many species and a great deal of diversity in the past century.
Since returning home to Penpont after many years working on conservation programmes in central Africa, Forrest has been at the forefront of a trailblazing effort to return Penpont to a more biodiverse and abundant state.
The Penpont Project, as it is widely known, is the largest youth-led nature restoration project in the world. It is being led by a ‘co-management council’ of young people from across the UK, Forrest’s family, local farmers and NGO Action for Conservation. Their aim is to revitalise Penpont through a combination of rewilding and regenerative agriculture. In the process, they are creating a blueprint for how youth action and conservation can bring change across the UK and beyond.
Since 2019, Gaia has been partnering on this exciting project. At Forrest and AFC’s invitation, we have brought our expertise in eco-cultural mapping and community dialogues to Penpont, working with all involved to build a shared understanding of Penpont’s past and present, and a collective vision for the land’s future.
In partnership with Forrest, Gaia is also seeking to co-establish the UK’s first ‘Land Library’ at Penpont, which will double as an educational centre and residential retreat for the project. Following the example of the Rocky Mountain Land Library in Colorado, USA, the Penpont land Library will be a place where people of all ages can both connect with Nature and be immersed in the endless array of books celebrating our living planet in all her diversity.
We are at the beginning of this journey, but we cannot wait to see where the path takes us all at Penpont.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead.
Our global network is full of people whose commitment to the Earth and to each other is a constant inspiration. By supporting them, connecting them and learning with them, we seek to change our world for the better.