Meet the Team

Carlotta Byrne – Earth Jurisprudence Programme Lead

Carlotta joined Gaia in 2019. She trained as a lawyer after completing degrees in languages and history of art. Disillusioned by a legal system destructively out-of-step with the laws of Nature and in pursuit of a more Earth-centred life, she swapped desk and screen for soil and scythe to study and work in the horticulture department at Schumacher College. During her time as a community food grower and course facilitator at the College, Carlotta explored indigenous cosmologies, deep ecology and alternatives to the industrial growth economy. Inspired to think more imaginatively about her legal practice and hoping to weave together her legal background, love of Nature and experience as a facilitator of transformative education, Carlotta encountered Gaia’s work on Earth Jurisprudence. The philosophy and movement resonated deeply and she feels privileged to support and accompany a growing network of Earth Jurisprudence Practitioners in Africa and beyond.  

Barry Lopez, Nan Shepherd and Robert Macfarlane are among Carlotta’s favourite writers and, in the realm of fiction, she highly recommends Richard Powers’ The Overstory and the novels of George Eliot. 

Sinéad Fortune – Seed Sovereignty UK & Ireland Programme Lead

Sinéad joined the Gaia team in June 2019 to manage the Seed Sovereignty UK & Ireland programme. She works with coordinators around the UK and Ireland to support community groups, market gardeners and farmers to train in seed production. Her academic background in Political Ecology focused on food security and community empowerment, and her diverse professional experience spans community food movements, alternative sustainable food producion, science education and behaviour change. When Sinéad isn’t drafting funding applications or willing her garlic to grow, 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.

Sinéad recommends Climate Justice by Mary Robinson and dreams of building her own cob house inspiried by The Hand-Sculpted House.

Katie Hastings, Seed Sovereignty Programme Coordinator for Wales

Katie is coordinating the seed sovereignty programme in Wales. She is also co-founder of the community organisation Mach Maethlon where she coordinates a horticultural training programme, food hub and community growing scheme. She grows wheat as part of a collective, which is baked by a local bakery and eaten by people in Mid Wales. In her free time she grows field scale potatoes and salad for her local ‘solidarity veg box scheme’. Katie is a member of the Landworkers Alliance Cymru coordinating grou. She is especially interested in rare oats.

Ellen Rignell – Seed Sovereignty Programme Coordinator for the West of England (job-share)

Ellen joined the Gaia Foundation in 2017 as the Regional Coordinator for the Seed Sovereignty Programme in the West of England. She works for Gaia one day a week, supporting commercial growers in the West to increase their seed production. The rest of her time is spent market gardening in East Devon where, amongst other things, she works for Trill Farm Garden, a small-scale vegetable garden which supplies produce to restaurants and grows seed for the Real Seed Catalogue. Previously, Ellen has worked for NIAB (National Institute of Agricultural Botany) organising pathology-based varieties trials on broad leaf crops. She also holds a degree in Plant Sciences at University of Sheffield, during which she specialised in the effects of low tillage on soil health.

Robyn Minogue, Seed Sovereignty Programme Coordinator for South West England (job share)

Robyn is the regional coordinator for the South West of England while also being a grower and horticulture teacher. She currently runs a kitchen garden for a local seasonal restaurant and is an active member of the South West Seed Savers Network. With a background in arts and activism Robyn is particularly interested in the intersection of food and social justice, having previously worked as part of a prisoner resettlement charity running their market garden. Robyn can often be found helping others set up new growing spaces from scratch in whatever space may be available, she is committed to supporting others to overcome barriers to both food growing and seed saving.

Richie Walsh, Seed Sovereignty Programme Coordinator for Scotland

Richie joined the team in June 2020 as the Lowlands Scotland Seed Sovereignty Coordinator. He has an academic background in amenity horticulture, market gardening and plant conservation. He works professionally in the field of horticultural therapy and is a keen amateur botanist specialising in the heather family native to Europe. He has a passion for community food growing. Over the last decade, he has set up and run community gardens in Dublin, Amsterdam and Glasgow. When not digging in a garden or wandering and botanising in the countryside, Richie can be found brewing his own beer, mead and hedgerow wines.

Charlie Gray, Seed Sovereignty Programme Coordinator for Northern England

Charlie has been working on food systems for more than 10 years in Yorkshire, supporting community growers and connecting with allotmenteers and farmers. She is based at Horton Community Farm Cooperative where she coordinates seed-saving and co-founded and works cooperatively with various food organisations locally as well as permaculture networks nationally. She is an ethnobotanist by training and interested in the power of seed sovereignty to transform food systems and build community resilience. As a Yorkshire plant-based eater particularly loves all manner of leafy vegetables and broccoli (fortunately)!

Helene Schulze, Seed Sovereignty Programme Coordinator for South East England

Helene is working with growers in South East England to increase their seed production. She is also co-director of the London Freedom Seed Bank and is especially interested in increasing the number and capacity of community seed banks across the region and getting more people saving seed. She strongly believes seed sovereignty to be the cornerstone of food sovereignty and food justice and particularly enjoys hosting seed storytelling circles and workshops on the politics of seed. She also the communications officer for the Food Ethics Council and helps to run a small community garden in Hackney, London.

Jason Horner, Seed Sovereignty Programme Coordinator for Ireland

Jason Horner is a seed saver based in Co Clare. He has 30 years’ experience in commercial organic horticulture and is now working as a consultant for the programme in Ireland. He studied for an MSc. in Organic Farming at SRUC (formerly SAC) and works as a Coordinator with the Organic Growers of Ireland on their Small Growers Network.

Nombuso Buthelezi – Earth Jurisprudence Programme Administrator

Nombuso joined Gaia in 2021 as the Earth Jurisprudence Programme Administrator and is based in South Africa with our partner Earthlore. Born in a very small town in KwaZulu-Natal, she grew up in a township where she was raised by her grandmother who taught her vegetable gardening, chicken livestock and how to take care of one’s health using natural remedies.   She continued living with her grandmother until she moved to Durban to pursue her studies, she completed her National Diploma in Hospitality Management & Sciences in 2010.

She enjoys spending time in nature with her daughter and is honored to work and offer administrative support to Earth Jurisprudence as she equally shares the same passion and vision. The philosophy she lives by is “Personal Integrity should guide every action”.

Liz Hosken – Director

Liz Hosken was born in South Africa and was active from a young age in both environmental issues and the anti-apartheid movement. In the mid 80’s Liz co-founded The Gaia Foundation, based in the UK. During the first decade of Gaia’s work Liz spent many years in the Amazon, where she was “initiated” into indigenous ways of seeing the world, which resonated with her own. Together with partners and indigenous communities, they developed a methodology for accompanying communities to revive their indigenous knowledge and practices. When Liz returned to her continent she was inspired to share these lessons and search for ways to restore Africa’s rich cultural, spiritual and ecological heritage. Liz now teaches the philosophy and practice of this approach, which is rooted in experiential learning and Earth Jurisprudence. She has a BSc in Environmental Sciences and a Masters in Philosophy and Education for Social Change.

To understand Gaia’s theory of change, Liz recommends Margaret Wheatley’s work Using Emergence to take Social Innovation to Scale. Having been mentored by the late Thomas Berry, the founding father of Earth Jurisprudence (EJ), Liz would suggest that anyone looking to understand EJ principles and our great challenge ahead should read Berry’s The Great Work.

Rowan Phillimore – Deputy Director

Rowan joined the team back in 2009 when the north London Learning Centre offered regular ‘Gaia Evenings’ with visiting speakers from around the world. Rowan works across all areas of Gaia’s programme areas, from fundraising to team support, but is particularly involved in communications, We Feed the World and the Seed Sovereignty UK & Ireland Programme. Further afield she has worked with rural communities in Africa using Participatory Video techniques to create advocacy films. Rowan originally studied Social Anthropology & English Literature at The University of Manchester. She lives in Frome in Somerset with her partner and their three sons.

Rowan recommends English Pastoral by James Rebanks – the most beautifully evocative, personal account of why we must return to regenerative, agro-ecological farming practices that work with, not against nature. And Flatpack Democracy, a guide to transforming politics at the local scale, inspired by the proudly politically independent town of Frome, UK.

Fiona Wilton – Sacred Lands & Waters Programme Lead

Fiona grew up in Cornwall with a passion for the sea, sailing and big storms. She first joined Gaia in 1992 but moved to South America soon after – working in Cuenca, Ecuador, before settling in Colombia in 1998 to join the Gaia Amazonas team. A fluent Spanish speaker, with an MSc in Protected Landscape Management, she has a mixed bag of lived and working experience – from indigenous-led projects in Colombia’s Amazon and Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, to international consultancies. Fiona has pioneered the concept of ”distance-working” for Gaia, happy to pick-up any role including self-taught, in-house graphic designer. She lives in Uruguay, from where she oversees Gaia’s work on Sacred Lands and Wilderness, carries out impromptu animal rescues, supports local partner OCC-Uruguay protecting marine life and healthy oceans.

Fiona admits she gets most enjoyment from Calvin and Hobbes, by legendary cartoonist Bill Watterson – but if pushed to be erudite she recommends The Hidden Life of Trees.

Dijana Malidza – Finance & Grants

Dijana is originally from Croatia and came to England with her family in 1999. She worked at the Woman’s Trust, before joining the Gaia team in October 2010. She is now Finance Manager and looks after a number of grant relationships with our global partners, working particularly closely with our South African partners Usiko and Earthlore. Dijana holds a Diploma with the Association of Accounting Technician (AAT) and has a Charity Accounting Diploma. Whenever possible, Dijana escapes the bustle of London and returns to her small village in Croatia.

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini made a huge impact on Dijana, and her favourite saying is “Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet”, Thich Nhat Hanh.

Hannibal Rhoades – Head of Communications

Hannibal joined Gaia in 2013 and is currently Head of Communications. He works with Gaia’s partners from the Amazon to Africa to protect land, water and life from unwanted mining projects. As Coordinator for Northern Europe for the Yes to Life, No to Mining Global Solidarity Network, Hannibal is working with allies around the world to advance the case for going beyond extractivism. He is also a member of the London Mining Network’s advisory committee. Hannibal’s academic background is in anthropology. He is a participatory video facilitator and has written stories about and alongside indigenous and local communities working for environmental and social justice on every continent. These have featured in publications including The Ecologist, Intercontinental Cry, Truth Out, Ecological Citizen, Resilience, Red Pepper, Eco-instigator, Kosmos Journal and others.

Hal recommends: Maps and Dreams, by Hugh Brody and River, by Ted Hughes – “An upside down, buried heaven/Snarls, moon-mouthed, and shivers”.

Sara Davies – Grants & Fundraising

Working for us part-time from Zimbabwe, Sara returned to Gaia in July 2017 to help with fundraising. Sara lived and worked in London for 13 years and it was during this time, after the completion of her Masters in Human Rights, that she worked with us, on fundraising and holding the grants for the Green Belt Movement in Kenya and Usiko in South Africa. She has a passion for community food growing, having run her own food growing training project and being head grower on London’s then only certified organic market garden. Back home in Zimbabwe, she set up a community newspaper and continued links with permaculture projects in the country. She has a beautiful vegetable garden, keeps chickens and is delighted by the joy her two small children get from picking their own food.