To the people of the Manu region of the Peruvian Amazon, Reynaldo Ochoa is a teacher, a role model and a champion of a way of farming that allows local people to flourish while forging a sustainable future for their imperiled homeland. Ochoa is now the subject of a short film directed by Dan Childs and Nick Werber, which has won the UN Forest Short Film Festival Award. It is the first of four such films Werber is producing in partnership with the Crees Foundation, an organization working to help achieve a sustainable future for this region of the Amazonian rainforest.
In Reynaldo – Rainforest Hero, Ochoa describes his transformation from being a farmer practicing the “slash and burn” agriculture typical of the region to his present mission of helping his fellow residents learn and practice a sort of permaculture uniquely suited to their soil and growing conditions. For decades, local people have been clearing the forest to plant crops such as yucca and bananas as cash crops. When the crops deplete the soil – often within two or three years – the farmer moves on to another plot of land and starts the process again. After years of working this way, Ochoa realized that if the people continued this approach, no forest would be left.
He began experimenting with sustainable farming and eventually found a system that works, using waste from his chickens to feed algae, which feeds the fish in his pond, the water from which he uses to fertilize his land, which is intercropped with trees, vegetables and fruit in a give-and-take cycle familiar to any farmer or gardener trying to work with the laws of nature. Ochoa now works with farmers as part of the Crees agroforestry project to transform the wasteful way of doing things to one that can sustain the forest ecology even as it feeds the farmers who rely on the land. “I hope my grandchildren will be able to stand beneath the shade of the trees I plant today,” he says in this brief, heartwarming documentary. Chances are good that might happen: Ochoa has helped start more than 350 gardens, planted more than 30,000 trees himself – and he’s nowhere near finished yet.
Take a look at Reynaldo – Rainforest Hero for a shot of inspiration as you consider the difference you can make doing what you can, right where you are.
The MOTHER EARTH NEWS staff has been featured in videos covering topics from seed starting to skin toner. Check out our full collection of wiser living videos on our video page.
K.C. Compton is senior editor at MOTHER EARTH NEWS magazine, and formerly was Editor in Chief of our sister publications, The Herb Companion and GRIT. A huge fan of the food chain, from molecules to meals on the table, K.C. is passionate about the idea that most of what we need to be healthy can be found in the garden. Find her on Google+.