WHAT WE DO...
At Wanakaset, we are helping the forest to generate a healthy soil by using diverse, healthy, ecologically sound, and sustainable land-use techniques from permaculture, agroforestry and perma forest.
We strive to create a place where humans and other living organisms can find shelter and food in a natural environment. Our goal is to preserve and enhance the symbiotic relationships between microbes, fungi, insects, plants and animals.
Wanakaset is a combination of two words from the Thai language - Wana (forest) Kaset (Agriculture) - and means Forest Agriculture or Agroforestry.
At Wanakaset, we plant different varieties of trees and care for them until they reach the age of self-sufficiency to help create a healthy soil which can produce food, shelter and medicine in abundance.
The infrastructure our ancestors left behind hundreds of years ago helps us in our efforts. Nevertheless, the terraces ranging from 300 to 600 meters in altitude above sea level, the slopes of the foot paths and the graven rocks that we need to climb turn any farming activity on our properties into a boot camp!
SOME HISTORY ...
The forest we are looking after in France’s Pyrenees mountains have been supplying food for humans long before the rise of the Roman Empire. Ancient people developed terraces that survived hundreds of years to produce vegetable gardens and other crops in the middle of this wild forest.
In the 17th century, the war efforts of Louis XIV required the production of a lot of wooden warships. As a result of this increased demand for wood, the area was overran with fast growing tree kinds. Cork oak and oak trees were also introduced for charcoal production to fuel the local forges, who made use of the abundant iron ore of Mount Canigou.
A complex climate, a few forest fires and a changing economy slowly transformed the landscape throughout the eras. Finally, the forest was left alone for the last 70 years.
The forest we look after in Sri Lanka went through a similar predicament. Once a lush rain forest used by humans to produce food crops in conjunction with a multitude of fruit and edible leaf trees, the laws of economics turned the area into a mono culture. Rubber was badly needed worldwide. Tea, Cinnamon and other spices were highly sought after by sailing merchants, first the Arabs and the Chinese, the Guajarati, then the Venetians, the Dutch, the Portuguese and the British merchants.
We took over the land, which had formerly been used as a rubber tree plantation, from the previous owner. We asked him for the reason behind the clearing of the rubber trees and were told that over time, the soil becomes impoverished and the rubber yield drops below the minimum economic threshold to remain competitive. All trees were then cut and sold as wood. Since then, the rain forest regained control and slowly rebuilt itself. However, it will take a few decades before the soil regains the necessary strength to produce crops that can feed people.
No matter how painful or dramatic change may sound, such is the story of almost every piece of land on earth. In some cases, natural disasters, overgrazing and farming turned hundreds of square kilometers of land into barren deserts. But sooner or later, sometimes after hundreds of years, life takes over again.
Our focus today is accelerating the restoration of soil through biodiversity. We do this by planting thousands of different kinds of fruit trees, edible leaf trees, flowers and other plants on our properties.
We are continually experimenting with Phytosociology, the science which deals with plant communities, their composition and development, and the relationships between the species within them, without altering nor blocking the rest of the forest’s vegetation and wildlife.
In a couple of decades, our forests might become a more natural place attracting a diverse suite of living creatures and generating a healthy soil. At least assuming wildboars, deer and porcupines show kindness and a collaborative spirit.
In both Sri Lanka and France, we acquired the rights and the responsibility to look after the soil. This means we want to enable thousands of different trees to grow there. It is like inheriting the duty to protect and rejuvenate these areas into magnificent homes for countless of microbes, fungi, insects, birds, mammals, trees and plants.
The founders, members and sponsors of Wanakaset share a simple passion, humility and unconditional love for nature.