Cow shit. Organic agriculture as a philosophy and as an everyday reality.
Jairo Restrepo is an institution in the field of global agroecology; his name and that of his project, which he baptized “Cow Shit ” are confused and give the impression of being the same. He was born in Colombia but his life path is linked to other countries and particularly to Brazil, from where 40 years ago he began to irrigate the entire world with a proposal that is at the same time a philosophy of life, a social project and a daily practice: Organic agriculture. better known as agroecology .
By Stella Álvarez
His work began in 1980 when a colleague in Brazil found that cow shit could be fermented into a natural fertilizer , within reach of many farmers. They began to spread this knowledge throughout the country and from there to South and Central America, then to Africa, Europe and the rest of the continents. He realized that it was not a question of a simple technique but of liberating knowledge for the peasants and for the land itself: “Ours has really been a bio-revolution in the hands of peasants. Cow shit is a liberating tool that takes precedence over the global fertilization market.”
Since then his work has been to spread the need for an agriculture free from oil-based products like the one that dominates the world today and also free from the monopolies of multinational companies.who control inputs, seeds and technology. Jairo is clear that his proposal is agriculture for life, which he does not consider an alternative because “we have no other option, we are facing life or death.” But contrary to the first impression he may make, his project does not consist primarily of reflecting on problems and proposing new theories. He invents, creates and recreates, recovers formulas, nutritious broths and concrete tools for the advancement of organic agriculture. That knowledge takes him to every corner of the planet either through face-to-face or massive virtual courses. Thousands of people, yes, although it is hard to believe, several thousand people watch his videos where he teaches agroecological techniques, ask questions, follow his instructions and thus have built a universal community.
This process of creating and recovering agricultural techniques for life is also a pedagogical project of social transformation. The production of knowledgeIt is the result of the work of the entire community that integrates the Cow Shit project, that is, thousands of people around the world. It is part of the interaction dynamics of virtual and face-to-face training processes. “We build technological proposals working with farmers around the world, recovering with them techniques that have been displaced, valuing everyone’s knowledge and turning it into practical knowledge that can be implemented on a day-to-day basis.” It is a combination of ancestral knowledge with technical and operational capacity because they recognize the need for technology, a technology for life.
His rebellious proposal, as he calls it, seriously questions the role currently played by universities. He believes more in the knowledge that is built outside of them: “Not only because they impart ancient and stagnant knowledge, but because they are made to obey, not to question. University research systems almost everywhere in the world are run by industries and financed by multinationals, so it is not reliable knowledge that can solve the urgent problems we face.” For all this, he makes it clear to us that organic farming is not just a technique, nor is it the replacement of inputs or fertilizers . It is an educational , research andcommunication between equals: “We work with communication where we both know, we both ignore and in those difficulties we mutually recognize each other”.
The organic agriculture proposal is undoubtedly, as Jairo Restrepo demonstrates, a philosophy of life, a social and political practice, a radically different way of living, of relating to each other, of producing knowledge and of feeding ourselves. Hopefully we will soon understand that change does not wait.
Listen to the full interview here: