Dealing with the effects of climate change is not simply a matter of technological ingenuity or smart applications. It’s complex stuff. It takes good collaboration, on all levels, to actually trigger change. People with various perspectives need to connect. But it’s exactly that connection that’s missing. In Selva Lacandona, a rapidly disappearing Mexican rainforest, scientists and local community both are concerned with the future of the forest, but they don’t share their scientific knowledge and practical know-how.

Keepers Rainforest Lab&Kitchen is a platform aimed to bridge the gap between local communities, scientists, creatives and NGO’s; creating a communal space where interdisciplinary shared knowledge can approach innovative solutions to tackle the effects of climate change. The simple act of coming together over food is sometimes the only link missing between developing great ideas, Keepers aims to close this gap.

Cascoland is designing that connection.

“We design and perform interventions in local communities. This is our way of doing research on the ground and understanding local cultures and day-to-day challenges. From these outcomes we design what’s needed to make a change.”

For 15 years Cascoland has been using art and design as a tool for change to help develop communities towards social and ecological solutions, with a changing interdisciplinary team of artists, architects, scientists and communities in places like Lima, Cape Town, Amsterdam, and Palestine.

After an invitation to join the forefront project with the University of Mexico (UNAM) and Wageningen University and in collaboration with Commonland, an organisation for land restoration, Cascoland proposed to design a communication platform where a cross-disciplinary community can grow and take action. This platform is called “KEEPERS of the Rainforest LAB&KITCHEN” or “KEEPERS” in short. 

“It’s a process that brings farmers, scientists, creatives and cooks together around a kitchen table to connect, exchange knowledge and implement new trans-disciplinary solutions to farming. Using food as a conversation starter, a main connector and driver for inspiration.”

Its goals seek to implement new trans-disciplinary solutions to farming, creating a test ground for ideas that conciliate land restoration, conservation, food production and better livelihood in the tropical region with the ultimate aim to help slow down climate change.

Where is Keepers now?

“With the pilot and the What Design Can Do accelerator program we saw opportunities for developing long term solutions for this area. We saw the need for a platform in the form of physical space, and with the help of the accelerator program we have acquired tools to develop a self-sustaining model for the project on site.”

In early 2018 the town of Chajul hosted the first KEEPERS pilot in collaboration with scientists from the Forefront program, young Mexican chefs and a team of Dutch and Mexican creatives. It followed Cascoland’s unique methodology: designing short-term interventions, tools for meeting and communication, creating public space, and collective moments. During the pilot Cascoland tested out different communication tools, such as street cooking, cooking at home, round tables, a mobile radio station and a mobile recipe print shop that can be further developed into the eventual Lab&Kitchen. It sought to bridge communication gaps, unlocking humanity’s potential to solve problems together.

We did 9 interventions in 5 different towns. For six weeks a mobile Lab&Kitchen traveled the area to visit communities and facilitate cooking workshops in which top chefs, local farmers and producers and scientists were learning from each other. Learning about local foods, food-production, conservation of foods, developing a harvest map of locally sourced foods and inspiring community members to develop a new awareness of a more sustainable way forward. Scientific knowledge met with local knowhow.”

In the future, interdisciplinary communities will continue working together in realizing the Lab&Kitchen to provide residencies and programmes for artists, designers, creatives, chefs and scientists. A place where they can develop innovative projects and processes with a socio-ecological impact that help protect the region, its biodiversity, and the culture it nurtures. 

The challenge now is to speed up the understanding for this need for change in agro-forestry systems, not only among local communities such as in Marqués de Comillas, but in agro-forestry areas around the world.

“To adapt to climate change worldwide a radical, new attitude towards food production and consumption will be essential. And it all starts on the ground.”

IMPACT & DEVELOPMENT

  Keepers Rainforest piloted the project with five communities of approximately 300-500 people.

  Their team has grown to five full-time members since the start of the Challenge programme.

 Keepers Rainforest was awarded a research grant of 1 million Pesos from the National Autonomous University Mexico to further develop the initiative over three years.

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