(v)Ital – Organic in Suriname a documentary by Roland van Reenen What drives you to be an Organic farmer? because I love myself unconditionally the best answer if you don’t love yourself, how could you love someone else? and for the love for my fellow human being Mulch, for my sweet potatoes I keep on providing mulch, for I clean both of the two pieces of land with a lawn mower for mulch is very important this piece of land is also yours? No, but I keep it clean Mulch is the top layer like in a forest. Exactly! if you see what happens here it creates a top layer which keeps the soil fresh and moist Mulch is very important, I use anything for mulch I am here in Pikin Slee deep in the interior of Suriname a two hours boattrip from Atjoni here the people use ancient farming techniques there is a lot of biodiversity as the Indian scientist Vandana Shiva mentioned in the beginning of this film You can find here mountain rice, arrow leaves sopropo, cassava a vast diversity of vegetables and because of this bio-divers way of planting the vegetables are not plagued by insects, pests and diseases it is an imitation of a real eco-system In Pikin Slee we can find an ancient way of farming which is very, very productive with a huge foodsupply and Vandana Shiva states that the proceeds of those areas are two to five times higher than in so-called mono-cultures the principles which we see in Pikin Slee are almost similar of the principles we find in permaculture bio-diversity as a weapon against pests but also to guarantee very high proceeds in food and not just one crop do you use chemical fertilizers? No I only use natural fertilizers That’s the way it is check this large field full of sopropo 1 year later Bongo Jora quadrupled his farmground, an enormous achievement Hey Bongo you really did some work here ! what ! this place really changed ! cassava with this I make my own, let’s call it an organic liquid fertilizer a liquid organic fertilizer how do you make this ? with compost, I got my own compost heap there is a little bit under that blue thing over there I put it in a sock and add some fungi and I add some worm manure and molasses and if I don’t have molasses I use sugar it will bubble for two days and it becomes very vital the result is a huge accumulation of micro-organisms that lived in the compost heap can I say that you intensify the natural processes of a compost heap ? exactly so I use sugar or molasses I tried it with sugar and it worked out perfect ordinary white sugar you can see where it leaks, for the plants grow abundantly there you can see a big difference in my plants since I started to use this This is sambong, I don’t know if you know this herb, it is a little tree from Asia it helps to deacidify the body, gout, rheumatism gall, kidney-stones is this tea production also for medicinal uses? yes! So all your tea products have medicinal benefits ? all the tea products that we produce here are good for the body so it not only for a good taste? No, of course our tea got to satisfy you. The tea must be delicious ? Our moringa tea is a all in one, it is complete, containing all vitamins with moringa you got a complete package and we also make combinations, moringa with marva, with lemongrass these are dried tea mixtures? Yes, can you also drink it when fresh picked ? sure, fresh, you can also eat it like a salad you can prepare it as a vegetable or as tea do they still have those medical properties? Sure ! Moringa also, fresh, as a vegetable we got a moringa tree here, these are the pods, you can eat those also you can eat as lettuce, it is the most healthy tree in the world lettuce, vegetable, tea, powder you can use the roots, the bark for your skin an universal product? An all in one It is not native to Suriname ? No from northern India Moringa is not a local but we got enough locals like marva, which I mentioned before marva also grows as weed here ? I wouldn’t call it a weed. Sure weed is a derogatory word a not wanted herb. You can use it as a weed, but the quality is not good enough for tea Why? Because of the clutter, you got to maintain it what kind of clutter do you mean ? I will show you it creeps over the earth, it is bush Pom Tayer African eggplant Chino told me that you did harvest a lot of those african eggplants (antruwa) yes a bucket full when did you plant these african eggplants ? two months ago, and now already you could harvest can you plant new plants at the same time ? Yes there we did plant new ones this means you can harvest non-stop ? Every week ! you have to calculate it why did you plant those antruwas between those banana trees ? to give them some shadow they will get some shadow from their neighbor the banana tree It is a saying in permaculture that certain plants work together and act as a family exactly ! amaranth (klaroen) it produces more than you can eat Abundance ! the principle of abundance may seem unbelievable for a lot of people because they got different conceptions of abundance but you don’t have to buy food anymore ? it produces more than you can eat I got some moringa trees here they were higher than 3 meters and recently I pruned them and they grow again, they grow faster than I can eat pumpkin, once I threw some plants there I did mow them but they return and produce more than I can eat I give them away to my family and still I got plenty small amaranth that grows there and since I use this compost ‘tea’ unbelievable ! here you see hibiscus, it also grows in Africa in Jamaica they do a lot with hibiscus In India it is regarded as a medicine, thats what I learned in my ayurvedic studies in India it reduces the blood pressure it contains a lot of vitamin C a lot of vitamin C in the near future we will have big fields with hibiscus you will plant those also in the interior? yes there you see another project we do here those little wooden houses we’re commissioned to produce these there we dry our herbs in a drying tunnel can I watch ? Of course ! We are transparant thats why we organize this organic tour yes I saw it on the net this is lemongrass, you can smell it smell it we got two different kinds, this is tea these are moringa trunks to mix it with the leaves these are the rough parts that we use the trunk is stronger than the leaves it is the channel to the leaves a lot of people misunderstand this they see it as waist in all trees the foodsupply goes from the roots through the trunk to the final station. This is moringa? Moringa trunks I will mix it with the leaves these are all moringa trees wow a whole plantation. This is the smallest plantation we got the smallest? we got 4 plantations and I am about to start even a bigger one here I got some papaya trees, these are for the birds I hope they will leave one for me, for these are very sweet why for the birds? they also like papaya so they won’t touch these ? no they won’t leave those. Maybe you got some sort of deal with those birds ? that’s the reason why I cover those papaya’s for the birds are very fast oh this one I have to cover again it became loose because of the rain the birds are very fast early birds they will eat all of them it is not that bad though they won’t eat the whole fruit? No because they are not ripe enough if the bite them they will rot too soon this papaya family, that’s how I call them, grows very good they are not interested in the smaller ones ? no but they are also for the birds, when they become bigger as you can see I use only mulch here they are doing great, handsome guys that come and ladies look that small one and yet it gives already so much is that an aloe vera ? Yes indeed I am experimenting with aloe here I got some goma-wiri (solanum americanum) it also grow in the Netherlands as a weed I do eat it though a very good weed in Genesis 1 verse 29 Selassie tells us I have give you all seed-bearing herbs, to you it shall be for meat and here we find this ‘meat’ we got some african eggplants already Tayer (arrow leaves) I saw some coconut trees over there in the future it will be as a lane I see a whole field full of bananas, yes a banana plantation with bittergreens at the edges cassava what is your method Kwami ? we make a little ‘hill’ and than we’ll stick a cassava stick in it in the center of it than it will grow, it is a new method if we want to sell it to the cassava factory than you have to use only one stick in a little hill and add fertilizers what kind of fertilizers ? chicken dung and compost, old leaves there are plenty of leaves, because of these trees here as in a forest how do you do this in Suriname, we recently visited someone else who is doing a great job but he got this problem with weed weed that grows very fast, how do you handle those weeds ? I see here it is has been mown here. Yes that’s what I do But the weed doesn’t return ? Yes than we will mow it again it stays cool, moist and the ground doesn’t become a desert you just make a hole in the ground where you need to plant and that little space is sufficient for a tree ? You just need a little hole for the roots but as long there is grass, weeds don’t have a change to grow there grass covers the ground, it didn’t rain for three days but the ground is still moist if you use chemical weedkillers, what will be the effect, you kill your self it becomes a dessert and you have to keep on using chemical fertlizers the soil becomes like junky always in need for more chemical fertilizers. It becomes poison ! and it needs more and more. More poison ! It smells sweet here, am I right ? that’s possible, I got a lot of herbs here, the marva blows through the anise fields and the fragrance of anise through the lemongrass, it becomes a mixture of fragrances these are winged beans I will use the cassava as climbing frame for the beans but there are more benefits, these kind of beans, like most beans are plant fertilizers or nitrogen promoters they add nitrogen to the ground and these guys, cassava use a lot of nitrogen so they coöperate I also planted some lemongrass here Because lemongrass drives harmful insects away These combinations of two or three different plants are the commonly used in permaculture ? Yes, yes, they call it plant communities the principle which led me to permaculture I call it the principle of abundance is the principle of from diversity to stability, to productivity and that will bring abundance what does this mean? Diversity means a lot of different elements that work together to create a harmonious system and when that system reaches maturity becomes very productive. And self sustaining that’s why it is sustainable productive system Like a forest. Exactly! A forest doesn’t need human intervention to the contrary you need to limit it when it reaches maturity you need to dim its growth or it will become to big to create these kind of plant communities plants that support each other will minimize the work you have to do the only work you need to do is to dim its growth and harvest. And harvest in the end the Australian founder of permaculture once said three days of work in three years and most of the work consist of reaping Exactly, if the systems reach maturity you don’t need to do much, you throw some seeds on the ground remove the weaker ones and the whole systems keeps on turning Look how big the farm has become What is this? Nappi so you are selling now Bongo ? You can’t eat all of this Did you see that beautiful long piece of food ? Okra ! Okra, show it to the camera Check how big those leaves became the soil is very fertile here I just started here. Those cassava leaves are also hiuge the peppers became to cheap at the market, so I won’t grow peppers anymore this we harvest every day you keep them small like this on purpose ? Yes these are four, five years old you keep them manageable. As tea trees, for they can grow 10 meters high we also do this with the marva, and this is the hibiscus I mentioned before Hibiscus, these are the buds, you can make syrup from it, or tea you can use as a coloring agent for cake it is a natural coloring agent and it is extremely healthy for your blood pressure, vitamin C it is a vegetable, like spinach a bit sour. Multifunctional. there is a market for this. I Africa they eat and prepare it a lot especially with salted fish dishes So hibiscus is multi functional, that’s what you need from plants, multi functional that’s how Nature works, humans are thinking in monocultures, mono systems I try to get as much as possible from a plant which is positive Great. That’s what Nature tells you How many people are working here? Those two ladies you’ve seen and Hendrik who just left In the interior we got two new workers, but they work on the other plantation Imagine that ‘weed’ starts growing here ? What will you do ? I will observe the plant first let’s say if grass starts to grow out of this mulch, I will pull it out but I will also check which plantfamilies grow here naturally so I can fill the place with plants , so there won’t be space left for ‘unwanted crops’ it is no weed, but unwanted crops I got to make use of this space as best as possible plus that it finds its space in this community of these diverse plants and that they will work in a cooperate way, medicinal, as herbs, as nutrition or as crops, root vegetables, fruit vegetables, working together in synchronicity so I am experimenting with this plant community I use chicken dung from an organic farm for those chickens need to be organic as well. Without antibiotics and we use a lot of humus here we got some soursops. Soursop is the future ! we use the forest soursop and that’s the city soursop, which we don’t use on purpose, because they are full with fungi we rather use a whole ancient product direct from Nature. You can see the difference I am a tea producer and can use this better than those small leaves. The leaves are full of medical properties of course five to one. And, smell it but the fruit is not so tasty but the leaves are more powerful, this is the real soursop, a forest soursop Like how it grows in the jungle. Yes this is the mother of soursop that grows in the city which is full with fungi and diseases, useless for tea production or you have to use toxic fungicides than you are fooling the people by claiming that you got an healthy tea they think it is a medicine against cancer, but it ain’t, it is supplementary medicine because it depends on the person who uses it That’s natural medicine, an individual approach You got to be careful with this. That’s why I call them herbs and not medicines on my site you can read it clearly it is also forbidden in European law to claim the medicinal content of a herb for the export, because I export my tea also, I use the name herbal teas where can you find your products in the Netherlands? You can find it on my site, via Mrs. van der Kooi and some Surinam stores sell it but the official organic importers don’t distribute it yet ? No they contacted me already but if I cannot deliver it on a regular basis than I won’t do it but now I reached that stage I can produce plenty now, I am not longer a small producer when did you start this ? I am doing this about 30 years but on this scale? 5 years intensive I sold 10 boxes in a year And now I can’t count it anymore. Well done ! Is this a growing tendency in Suriname ? an enormous trend, the market here is much bigger than in the Netherlands this cassava got trouble by sort of white flies but he recovers fast What are you doing against it ? Nothing, I let Nature take its course It is kind of immunity disease ? Exactly And other predators will come and if if it become worse the plant will create its own resistance so the next generations will be much stronger So if you use chemical pesticides you will break down the natural immunity of the plant for it doesn’t need to resist diseases anymore and you also kill the good insects but you have to create a balance, a good balance The most important thing is the soil, the soil needs to be healthy it is the guarantee for healthy life my primary focus is to create a healthy soil that’s quite a job, but I just started what I notice here in Suriname that the food in the supermarket is all imported and a lot of fast food with chemical additives it is a growing market but not all people choose healthy food It is like in the USA, where fast-food is very popular, but the organic counter movement also it is growing, it is growing by worth of mouth not when I tell it on television, for than you won’t believe me if you show this film you are making on television, they will zapp to another channel what the hell this man is talking about ? Last year I made a documentary about some farmers here in Suriname and placed it on internet it got already 16.000 views in a year. Yes but what is the result of it ? we will find out, raising awareness that’s our goal, raising awareness that’s the key, don’t force anything on people you can’t force people it doesn’t work. If somebody force his opinion on me, I am gone this a banana circle. Yes I’ve seen some pictures of it it is a little one, a meter deep a half meter in diameter here you can see also a plant family a plant community lemongrass and this is marva to me marva is a magical herb first, it is a delicious herb, one of the most delicious herbs personally, you will find out why later why do you call this a banana circle ? because it got the shape of a circle. But there are only a few trees ? that’s right for more trees will come i got lemongrass here, I also got dashin I will work with different plants here, I will add a bean family too that will climb here too you will plant some cuttings from other banana trees here ? Yes I will use some trees that I will get still but I will use also little sucklings like that one over there I will take that one away and plant it here bananas are a limitless source of richness for they continue to produce new sucklings. Exactly with a dehydrator you can also dry them so you can store them and eat them later your plants look very healthy, I don’t see any pests here But we don’t use chemical pesticides How do you keep them healthy like this ? Pests are a sign of little resistance against diseases pests don’t trouble us here so much all of this has been planted only a couple of months ago ? yes two or three months ago can you imagine after a few months when everything thrives cassava after three months bananas within a year as you see I can fill this up again what is the content of it ? biodegradable waste materials paper, wood, old leaves this is a piece of cassava old material. It resembles the soil of a forest branches, leaves the principle is that it contains a lot of moist, water composting waste materials for the banana loves a real rich soil and moist but on the contrary he cannot survive under water it is a beautiful principle, plus in a small circle like this of a meter you can plant six trees against one tree normally in a space like this only big leaves, we prefer working with the clean and healthy leaves of the forest soursop it got more resistance against diseases ? No diseases at all but also a lot more strength and that’s what counts what I learned about organic farming is that you work on a good immunity of the crops so that you don’t have to use any tricks the crops will adapt themselves to Nature, just like you and me, we are also Nature that’s the way it is, if you don’t have that communication with a plant, you will never understand Nature that’s your craft, you need 30 years to learn it she (Nature) will tell you a lot in time she present things to you, certain lessons and it beautiful to admit it sometimes it is right in your face but you cannot see it You have to learn. No. Unlearn you got to learn your lesson, she will spank you, you will loose certain things what do you mean with loose certain things ? let’s say if you planted 100 trees, you will loose 90 of them and you will have to find out about the reasons why but others seek comfort in chemical pesticides but on that very moment she will challenge you come on find the right solution indeed, look what an oasis you’ve created here you have to create it together with here, otherwise you won’t succeed people are always talking about organic, but if you don’t work together with Nature it is just…fake it is a partnership. Yes. Beautiful ! my compost heaps why do you cover them ? Because of the rain, that not everything will dilute into the ground this is chicken dung, I call it the tea-sack-principle a friend of mine, a Rastaman he is lame, he walks with crutches he is also a planter and once he ordered some bales of chicken-dung and they dumped it under an orange tree and he left it there because of that that tree blossomed a lot so he kept on doing this is it because of the rain that rinsed it out, yes it got rinsed out little by little by the rain and the tree took it all in like how you use a tea-bag in some water in the beginning it was completely dry, but now it becomes soft, it’s composting now and this soursop loves it Soursop got the future. Yes, yes I got a normal soursop and a forest soursop you can see that I use compost and I turn this compost upside down and you can see the difference, for this one got more compost and became beautiful green people underestimate the power of the sun we dry in the sun because you, and all of us and the trees too need the strength of the sun but if you need to dry your product, you forget about the sun ? crazy ! Nature got far more better plans than we it contains a lot of power and all of this power will be added in your product and in you as well for you are also a product of Nature you need it too and your body will benefit from it and your immunity gets a boost that’s what it is all about you look very shining I must admit this is a noni tree this will become a small food forest mulch, I keep on mulching here I got a water melon, a little one it came here as a surprise, we did spit some seeds once here walking and eating smell this this lontai, but a leave, not the seed A great herb to cook with. Lontai is piment ? Exactly Once I’ve planted kale here, but they didn’t grow to well because of the sun, but now it grows again, kale I have to find out what this is, for I didn’t plant it this is a sapotille, but I will replace it I want to plant trees in a U-shape and these trees will protect my plants from the sun That’s is my goal this is a sweetsop, I will replace it also and I will prune them so that they won’t become to big This is a wild basil plant, my neighbor calls it a tulsi Tulsi is how they call it in India he smells good so he will stay here gomawiri grows anywhere here we have marva plants, you got to treat them good they are huge they need to be harvested and we do this every week check this if I do this, you got the sweetest green tea in the world if you could film fragrances I wish I had a special app on this smartphone to film this for it smells delicious here you need to have it beside you house you can cook with it, it is also called wild oregano you did smell the thyme, the basil and the wild oregano, well you can make a delicious pasta with it you can make as much variations as you like direct from Nature sweeter and fresher is impossible we grow it for our own use so you don’t need to go to the supermarket, this is our supermarket why you don’t want to go to the supermarket ? we all know this, you can’t trust the food there why not ? It is produced in a factory for the consumer, and everything that comes from a factory contains poison to preserve it longer so it is better to plant your own food and you will know what you eat if you grow it like this and you don’t use any chemicals than it got a better quality than the veggies they sell in the supermarket it means that if you should sell it, you deserve a better price for it sure it is Organic food and you have to pay for anything Organic this is water spinach (dagoeblad / Kan Kong) it produces more than you can eat this is dashin and Chines tayer, I got them here and there This Kan Kong grows anywhere bittergreens this is neem a very potent cure against skin and blood diseases this is an orange tree. With a tea-sack. Exactly I see red ants in it. That means you got lice in it ants keep lice like cattle what do you mean like cattle ? they milk them like people milk cows Okey I got a question about Organic, a lot of people think it is impossible because of pests, what about pests ? that’s this communication with Nature she will tell you what kind of combinations are possible and what combinations are not possible so you combine certain crops ? These crops here belong to each other, that is the reason why you don’t get diseases fungus got removed this plant removes fungus? The smell of this plant is very anti fungus the essential oils ? Yes the smell of it keeps reptiles at distance it keeps pests at a distance, fungus, bacteria look around you, how many anthills did you see ? but if you use fertilizers, ants are crawling everywhere if you use fertilizers, red ants will show up if you got only two of them, I leave them for they live here but if it becomes a plague ? Then we pulverize these leaves and let them eat it for two weeks or walk on it than they will hate it and they will move so you don’t kill anybody, not even an ant a discouragement policy. Yes but you didn’t kill the ants that’s the Organic philosophy, you cannot kill these animals there are too much of them. Especially here in this climate ? Anywhere in the world they will move for a period and wait. And return much stronger ? and you seek refuge in chemical pesticides and you will poison your self thta’s the way of Pikin Sranan, that’s the way we do it but let’s say you want to sell this ? and people are interested in this there are people like this and you will find them at the roadside. They ask for it ? you can drive by and sell it and they will buy it when they need it but do you sell it as Organic food ? they know it for most vegetables from this neighborhood are Organic This is not like in the city where they got agriculture shops in all neighborhoods with chemical fertilizers in Para you won’t see it. A different tradition ? Yes most of the farmers here use their traditional means and skills maybe they will use farmasol, A herbicide ? Yes But we don’t use herbicides ! for it will poison the soil. We use a brush cut mower and we’ll have compost. Yes you can use it as a natural fertilizer if you use chemical fertilizers the soil will get poorer and poorer the soil becomes a junky. Yes ! Yes ! A real junky it needs more and more maybe you can kill one plant with a herbicide, but you bother the next crop also we do it as Organic as possible, everything grows natural and if it becomes too big we use the brush cut mower this is Laos you lay the weed on top of it. That’s right I break the roots these Laos plants starts growing and I will try to add some celery this is a funny story, for at the bottom of these plant pots i did put some moringa trunks to my surprise I found this yesterday so I had to find out why and indeed it was one of those trunks starts growing again, so maybe I have to remove all those trunks again and plant them over there where I want to plant a whole lane of moringa trees moringa is very special plant I mean tree it is known as a dynamic accumulator it grows very fast and the roots go deep and mingle minerals in the soil that’s why the tree, also know as a mineral tree, is full of minerals and vitamins a high dose so it is good to eat you can use any part of the plant but very potent to use as mulch it extracts all the deeper based minerals and brings it upwards and if you use it as mulch these minerals can be absorbed by plant which little roots there are more dynamic accumulators A kotkoti is the smallest mole blind as any other mole and it digs like this 800 sweet peppers, 30 left the next morning so dis cut all the roots how to get rid of this kotkoti ? you need to think like a kotkoti what does a kotkoti ? Digging so he needs a soil in which he can dig, that is what he likes so all you need to do is dig some holes and fill it with humus the kotkoti won;t like it and moves away, you didn’t kill it and your plants will survive so you need to think like your enemy? Yes think like your enemy to be ahead of your enemy. But in reality it isn’t your enemy for he needs to live also I got so much in here so I left certain crops I see tomatoes, and this is cabbage ? Broccoli, I made a mixture broccoli, pop soy, sweet pepper, pepper Madam jennet pepper, am soy, boulanger and there I got orange pumkins from Holland In the Netherlands Organic food becomes very important, more and more people want Organic food, don’t want the artificial food from a factory. Back to the Roots ! but in the Netherlands you won’t find an Organic African eggplant or Organic cassava you got some, but you won’t find it in the market in Amsterdam you won’t find it but in the countryside you can ask a Organic farmer who sells his vegetables like we do here Surinam vegetables ? Not necessarily. Surinam vegetables, you can find some hobbyists but they grow it for own use well I may conclude that there are opportunities to export Organic vegetables from Suriname to Holland it may be difficult, you need to import it from Suriname for there is a different climate in Holland and you might grow them in a greenhouse and then you might need some artificial means to get the same quality as we got here If you grow it in a greenhouse, it will grow faster and the veggies produce less essential nutrients so you need to add artificial means to feed the plants to make a long story short, people need vegetables from a soil like this in Suriname. Yes !