Opening 7 Apr 2022
When Tony Rinaudo returns to villages impacted by his involvement decades ago, he is greeted with smiles as wide as people’s open arms. Nicknamed the “forest maker,” many consider him the “Mother Theresa” of Africa’s Sahel region, and people group around listening to him and village leaders’ conversations. The Australian agronomist knew the importance of trees having grown up in south Australia’s fertile Ovens Valley, in Victoria. Arriving in 1981 with bride Liz after obtaining their university degrees, they stayed decades as Tony worked in various parts of Niger. Tony admits his first two years were frustrating and costly until he stumbled on an “underground forest” concept that replaced frustration with determination; Tony developed it into the “Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration” (FMNR). This simple solution is people manageable and reverses the depletion and extreme deforestation thus providing regenerative help for the land’s sustainability, and the populace's livelihoods. Nevertheless, he had an uphill battle to convince farmers.
There are so many good people in Der Waldmacher involved in the multi-tiered natural regenerative work. The Agro Initiative (AI) has a strong, impressive supporter in Cecilia Topok Saparoug; the agriculturist is a sustainable farming proponent and passes it on to her six children. Her days begin at four; not allowed to attend school herself, her children do and then on Saturdays they pitch-in to support (AI). Also impressive is the African's patience and dedicated single-mindedness regarding passing these practices on to future generations.
Veteran writer-director Volker Schlöndorff, who describes his position as an observer of Rinaudo, added he learned lots about farming, and Africa. Anette Fleming’s admirable editing also incorporated archival material, cartoons, and Detlef Schitto’s sound design adds volume to Bruno Coulais and Ablaye Cissoko’s evocative music. As Rinaudo sums it up, “[I]deas require commitment, perseverance and a little bit of sweat, blood and tears but if that’s what it takes, well then let’s go for it.”
Tony Rinaudo received the Alternative Nobel Prize in Stockholm in 2018, and now works as Senior Climate Action Advisor globally for World Vision, a NGO (Non-Government Organization) furthering Eco-agriculture, agro-forestry, and humanitarian initiatives. The Forest Maker is positively wonderful family fare. (Marinell Haegelin)