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maraìchage Corse

My story

My name is Niek Pepels, I was born and raised in the Netherlands and I have studied organic agriculture and agroecology in Holland (University of Wageningen) and France (ISARA Lyon). I have specialised in regenerative agriculture and agroforestry, and in particular in the chestnut agroforestry system of southern Europe and syntropic agroforestry.

I have spent my childhood in the Netherlands where I have observed the negative consequences of industrial agriculture. Due to the industrialisation of agriculture after WWII, my country has become an ecological disaster ... Landscapes are dominated by monocultures of maize or grass and as a result, (meadow) bird and insect populations and diversity have crashed and many species face extinction. Moreover, air quality is very poor due to the excessive number of livestock (in the region I come from, Noord-Brabant, there are apparently more pigs than humans...) and threatens the well-being and long-term health of the Dutch.

Therefore, several years ago, I started to get interested in alternative agricultural systems. I learned about agroforestry and in particular, the chestnut agroforestry system of Ardèche and Corsica, and I realised that agriculture can easily be the solution, rather than the problem to many ecological problems. The chestnut civilisation in Corsica for example, has shown that we can produce our food while conserving biodiversity, capturing carbon and protecting the soil.

Unfortunately, even though the solutions to industrial agriculture (and hence many ecological problems) are well-known and relatively easy to implement, people around the world just don't do it (sufficiently)...

What has always frustrated me during my studies, was the reality that ecological problems had only gotten worse instead of better in the last decades even though we have had a deep understanding of how to solve these ecological problems for years...

I like to quote Bill Molisson, the godfather of permaculture:

"Though the problems of the world are increasingly complex, the solutions remain embarrasingly simple".

Therefore, after having graduated, I decided to contribute to the ecological transformation that Europe requires. I moved to Corsica where I wanted to learn more about agroforestry by learning about the ancient chestnut practices and by creating my own experimental site. In 2021 I started an agroforestry project in a mountainous village called Campile. I have produced vegetables for the local inhabitants and after three years I can proudly say that the food forest starts to take shape! I have played around with different agroforestry systems and it has taught me a lot!

I have also been working on other regenerative agriculture projects since my arrival in Corsica, most importantly on a project that employs people in a precarious social-economic situation to produce organic vegetables and fruits. I have been in charge of this project and my team and I have succesfully transformed an abandoned piece of land in the village of San Giovanni di Moriani into a vegetable oasis. Moreover, in 2023 we created one of the first syntropic agroforestry pilot sites where we produce vegetable and test different syntropic agriculture techniques in our food forest.

I have also started a consultancy activity in order to help others realize their restoration in projects with the aim to contribute as much as possible to the ecological transformation of Europe. This activity gives me lots of energy because I like exchanging with other people on the topics of regenerative agriculture and it is a big passion of mine to accompany others in their journey to abundant edible ecosystems!

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