What is my motivation for doing LIFE IN SYNTROPY and what are the strengths I bring to this project?
I think the answer to both questions is in the story that brought me here.
In 2006, I was aware of Ernst Götsch’s work through texts and articles in the agrofloresta.net initiative. I already knew that some successful agroecological and agroforestry experiences in Brazil could be traced back to him. The following year I participated in one of his courses. Unlike the image that was constructed by some groups that saw him as a type of guru or mentor, I did not witness any esoteric, intuitive or teleological reference. It was a fairly coherent interpretation of what we can observe of the natural world, with a well-defined conceptual framework.
At that time, I worked as a director of a small non-governmental audiovisual production organization. I asked Ernst to get to know his farm with the intention of recording an informal report on his work. A few months later I traveled to Piraí do Norte in the south of Bahia with two good friends – Ilana Lina and Mônica Soffiatti – where he lives with his wife and two daughters. The experience of a few days revealed my ignorance about agriculture and the environment, and how I thought an agricultural field should look like. I was in the middle of almost 500 hectares of a systematically cultivated forest, under strict technical, economic and philosophical criteria, where each question was answered in order to explain the balance between these dimensions. Almost everything I ate during those days, I had never experienced before in my life. Most were fruits, roots and leaves from Atlantic and Amazon Forests. The place was not a forest as I knew it. I was in an agricultural system that worked under a logic different from the one I learned in school, and the result was visible in the field, on the table and in the pocket (since there was always something to sell).
In this same trip I met the works of Henrique Sousa and Jurandir. In the three experiments I saw the immediate emergence of a new type of farmer, far from the culturally reproduced stereotypes associated with suffering, misery and hard work. In its routines, not only food security and quality were considered, but also leisure, income and education, filling gaps both necessary and subtle in rural areas. These farmers shared other relationships with their lands and activities. Feelings I knew by definition, but not in practice. The visit became the short documentary Neste Dão Tudo Dá that was aired by TV Escola for six years and became teaching material recommended by the Brazilian Ministry of Education to the public-school system.
From 2008 to 2015, it was up to me to document the implementation of a pioneering palm oil cultivation project in organic agroforestry systems in the Amazon. The original design of the planting areas counted on the validation of Ernst together with an invitation to define the management of the first stages of the project. For three years we have been together in Pará to document the evolution of the areas and his technical indications, as well as in parallel activities such as training and technical visits. The successive encounters resulted not only in the growing comfort in front of the camera, but also in the conclusion that the audiovisual language was a suitable technology for recording that process.
In 2011 the project Agenda Götsch was born, a partnership with the journalist and companion Dayana Andrade and with Ernst Götsch and his family. The objective was to record in videos and texts the recovery of a degraded area on his farm in Bahia, which would be implanted and managed exclusively by him. From the beginning of the project we had the desire to democratize the practices developed by Ernst and for that, we opted to suppress the philosophical motivations of the narrative so that the message had a greater didactic effect. One of our conclusions was that these two dimensions were inseparable since the decision making is the result of a constant dialectical exercise with the elements of the system. The investigative potential of that model was in the practical manifestation consistent with its theoretical principles. For us journalists, it was a rare find. Between 2011 and 2014, we traveled 12 times to Bahia to collect images and interviews, which resulted in the publication of a website, 13 videos and a paper in a scientific congress with the description of the area implanted.
In the meantime, we also began to follow the work that Ernst started in partnership with Fazenda da Toca, in the development of large-scale models of Syntropic Farming. The results of the experimental areas caught the attention of the media and the scientific community until, at the end of 2015, with the support of Toca Farm itself, we collected a summary of small, medium and large-scale models of Synth. This video was presented during the COP 21 side events in December of that year. The repercussions of the film, named Life in Syntropy, surpassed our expectations – reaching more than 7 million views on social media, being translated into 6 languages, winning international festivals, winning also classrooms at schools, universities and even the Sistine Chapel in Vatican at the event “Fiat Lux: Illuminating Our Common Home”, where some scenes were projected.
The unexpected reach of the video brought other consequences. In March 2016, we were approached by authors of the novel “Velho Chico”, screened by TV Globo between July and September of the same year. One of the objectives of the plot was to foment the environmental debate about the São Francisco river (Brazil), and to propose alternatives for the controversial models of development presented in the region. Ernst Götsch, Dayana Andrade and I worked in partnership with the authors Edmara Barbosa and Bruno Luperi to compose the 189 scenes that dealt with the theme.
The growing exposure of the topic has aroused the curiosity of many groups, both inside and outside the rural world, increasing exponentially requests for information. The “project of syntropy” portrayed in the novel generated much discussion, not only between the expected opponents, but also among the groups that defend more sustainable agriculture practices. It was when we realized that the boundaries of concepts that are part of this universe can still be very confusing. The scenario forced us to act and seek for robust answers.
Between compliments and criticism, the certainty was that in the years 2015-17 we were dragged into technical and conceptual debates to help define Syntropic Farming and its similarities and differences between the most diverse types of agriculture and to anticipate possible conceptual inconsistencies.
During those years, I participated actively in this process. One of the results was the preparation of the master’s thesis “Ernst Götsch’s Syntropic Agriculture: history, fundamentals and its niche in the universe of Sustainable Agriculture” under the guidance of Professor Fabio Rubio Scarano and the delightful help of Ernst Götsch himself, in which I work with the theoretical dimension in a constant dialogue between science and practice.
We finally got to 2018 with the consolidation of this story on the Life in Syntropy platform.
The next chapters of this story are being written now!