Forest Farmer

Bridging the gap between economy and ecology
Although some may doubt it, but we are living in a beautiful time. A time with possibilities unheard of
before. We can truly speak of a paradigm shift. But enough of these words of praise, let me explain
what i mean.

I am talking about syntropic agroforestry, a regenerative agricultural technology developed in Brazil
by a gentleman named Ernst Gotsch. Agroforestry means agriculture that focusses on growing of
trees, but it is the word syntropy that encloses the secret and limitless possibilities of this technology.
Syntropy means,from simple to complex which generates an accumulation of energy or accumulation
of wealth for those that are more down to earth. It is the opposite of entropy which means from
complex to simple andthus losing of energy. To make it more clear, nowadays agriculture leads to
entropy; losing of soilfertility, of microbacterial soillife, of the ability to uptake and keep water in the
soil, in other words it leads to desertification. This negative spiral makes farmers more and more
dependend on external forces like artificial fertilizers and more and more irrigation.

But let us not focus on the negative but on the possibilities of syntropic agroforestry also dubbed as
the ‘water can be planted’ technology. In a time where water becomes scarce, or even expensive a
challenging view point. Trough the mimicking of ecosystems and forests we can repair watercycles,
built up fertility drastically, regenerate the soil biology, address global warming while producing the
highest amount of food per m2 with the least amount of energy input and labor.
In 2019 i organized a sytropic agroforestry course on the Caribbean island of Curacao for the ministry
of Health, Environment and Nature. Two Brazilians and direct students of Ernst Gotsch came to teach
us this wonderful technology. Due to deforestation in the colonial era agriculture in Curacao can be a
real challenge. We have a semi-arid climate zone, with on average 550 mm rainfall a year, but that
rain falls mostly in 4 months only and the rest of the year can be very dry. Evaporation of water is 4
times the amount we get, so we are losing water (entropy). In order to grow anything in Curacao we
need to irrigate at least 4 liter per square meter every single day.


During the course we created in five days a food producing ecosystem, a socalled food forest on the
terrain of Daniel Parris. 52 vegetable seeds per square meter were planted around a high number of
young fruittrees. Without any normal farm work the system produced a sequence of harvests from
the first month on till now nearly 3 years later. A continous sequence of harvests of radishes,
cucumbers, melons, okra, maize, tomatoes, eggplants, cassave, papaya and now we are in a phase of
producing bananas. The production of bananas will go on till the fruittrees reach maturity. Remember
all these crops were planted on the very same day without extra inputs of tilling and seeding. I dont
exxagerate when i state that the harvest of vegetables are our direct return for the long term
investment in fruittrees and timber. In other words the vegetables finance the future forest.
And this dear reader makes the planting of forests as a tool against global warming or climate change
very attractive and effective. Besides from the sequestration of enormous amounts of carbon (read
tax reduction) reforestation becomes a source of wealth accumulation for the farmers and their
potential investors!

But let me go back to the water issue. After a few months doubtful voices were criticizing the farm
claiming we still use the normal amount of water, which wasn’t true because we feeded a lot more
plants with it than in conventional agriculture. When our Brazilian teachers heard of the criticism they
told us to stop the irrigation at all. That was a shocking advice for us so we negotiated to stop it for 5
days only. 5 days later the farm looked fresh as ever, so gradually we built it up to irrigation once in
the 20 days (sic). Unheard of before and it makes me now think of the famous words of Walt Disney:
“it is kind of fun to do the impossible.”
After doing the impossible i was approached by Robin Mathess of PAC Protocol offering investment
for initially another but bigger farm of Klarvin Cijntje and later on for a journey to Kenya, Uganda,
Tanzania, Zambia, Ethiopia and Ghana where i trained about 1000 people in this mindblowing
agricultural technology. A technology that will forever change the relationship between man and
nature, that creates a symbiosis between ecology and economy.

Roland van Reenen
Forest Farmer