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ADYS - Ecuador

BioIntensive for Russia

Common Ground


ECOPOLIS – Uzbekistan

G-BIACK (GROW BIOINTENSIVE Agriculture Center of Kenya)

Kilili Self Help Project

MESA (Multinational Exchange for Sustainable Agriculture )

Manor House
Agricultural Centre

Steve & Carol Moore


Las Cañadas



Success Stories

Terra Madre 2006 (pdf document)



International Partners

Through its trainings and publications, Ecology Action has catalyzed projects worldwide. The projects below had their beginnings through connections with Ecology Action or through people who had connections with us. All of the projects have since put down strong roots and have been the means by which hundreds of thousands of people have learned how to successfully grow their own food.

Director Juan Manuel Martinez

Manor House Agricultural Centre
Director Emmanuel Omondi
Director Mercedes Torres-Barriero
Common Ground Project
Director Joshua Machinga
Director Irina Kim
Director Ludmila Zhirina
MESA Co-Directors Lauren Augusta and Leah Atwood
Steve Moore
Lauren Augusta and Leah Atwood
Kenya: GROW BIOINTENSIVE Agriculture Center of Kenya
Co-Directors Samuel Nderitu and Peris Wanjiru Nderitu


ADYSJuan Manuel Martinez, Director of ECOPOL, met Mercedes Torres Barreiro in 1997 and introduced her to GROW BIOINTENSIVE. When Ecuador’s economic crisis struck a couple of years later, Juan invited Mercedes to attend the 2000 “Soil, Food, and People” Conference, where she made a moving presentation about conditions in her country. During the conference, Juan met nightly with participants from Latin America, including Mercedes, to plan how to disseminate GROW BIOINTENSIVE in their countries.

Mercedes is an educational psychologist who had founded and was the Director of ADYS (Self-Management and Development), which devotes itself to training the leaders of community organizations in different topics. Because of this, Mercedes was already in contact with many community leaders, who were aware of her integrity and trusted her. ADYS decided to spread the Biointensive method in Ecuador because it was seen as a solution to the crisis they were living through.

The first demonstration project was at Pifo, near Quito, on some land donated by a convent. The garden there has flourished, despite many initial problems with the soil, and workshops are given regularly. A dining room at the project uses produce from the garden to promote the consumption of organic products and to feed a large number of unemployed professionals, who in turn collaborate in ADYS’ projects. ADYS contacted the director of CIAT (Centro Internacional de Agricultura Tropical) in Colombia, which sent 10 people to take a course at Pifo. As a result, 25 communities in Colombia began a Biointensive project and, as of the beginning of 2005, 70 families are growing Biointensive gardens.

One of the fastest growing and most successful Biointensive projects in Ecuador is at Lago Agrio, in the Ecuadorian Amazon. Colombian refugees had poured into this area and were impacting the ability of local people to feed themselves. ADYS encouraged the residents to grow Biointensive gardens, and as of the end of 2004, there were 60 gardens in Lago Agrio and surrounding areas and 16 gardens at the Colombian border. The 76 gardens are feeding about 2,400 people, both refugees and very low- income locals. A kitchen has been established to make marmalades from exotic fruits for income generation. The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization and the UN’s High Commission for Refugees in Ecuador have both given support to this project, and the Ecuadorian government has committed annual funding.

Most recently ADYS, along with Ecology Action, ECOPOL and Las Cañadas was a part of the Latin American Conference 2010: Biointensive Agriculture Facing Climate Change.



Common GroundJoshua Machinga, from Kenya, was a six-month intern at Ecology Action’s Mini-Farm in 1995 after graduating from the Manor House Agricultural Centre’s two-year Biointensive Agriculture certificate program. After spending some years as an extension officer for Manor House, Joshua branched out on his own and started the Common Ground Project (formerly called the Pilot Follow-Up Project). The project started by initiating compost utilization trials with two farmers, and also by training two other farmers to grow 40-bed units for diet, compost and income. Throughout the years, Joshua and his colleagues have taught farmers’groups (a good percentage of them women) the basics of GROW BIOINTENSIVE, not only in western Kenya, but also in Uganda. In recent years he received a grant to start an affiliated project in Teso, an arid area of western Kenya near Uganda.

Joshua and his wife Zipporah have also started a school for pre-school and primary-age children. One of its missions is to re-connect children with the Earth and to help them understand the importance of growing food with Biointensive. This is because in Kenya farming is looked down on and digging is regarded as a punishment. The school received a grant in 2004 for fifth-grade students to teach Biointensive to a women’s group composed mainly of widows and also to help start gardens for families impacted by AIDS.



ECOPOLJuan Manuel Martinez, who worked for the Mexican Department of Social Security (IMSS), read the Spanish translation of the first How to Grow More Vegetables shortly after it reached Mexico. He tried out Biointensive and four other methods of small-scale agriculture in the Menos y Mejores project which he directed, a health program started in 1982 in one of the most environmentally inhospitable rural areas of Mexico. He found the Biointensive system the most effective and, in contrast with the other methods, it required only the use of local resources. The health, nutrition and quality of life of the beneficiaries of the program vastly improved during its five-year duration.

Juan Manuel started ECOPOL (Ecology and Population) in 1992, after he had arranged for two teaching trips that John Jeavons made to Mexico. During the first trip John and Juan spent time strategizing the most effective ways of disseminating the Biointensive system throughout Mexico and Latin America. ECOPOL was the result, a non-profit organization that would focus exclusively on this goal, with Juan as its Director. Through Juan’s connection with IMSS and his concerted outreach to other governmental and non-governmental organizations, ECOPOL has been able to establish Biointensive food-growing techniques as an integral part of services already being delivered to rural populations. Because of these initiatives, an estimated 2,000,000 people in Mexico alone are currently benefiting by having productive family gardens.

Over the years ECOPOL has identified key personnel to be interns at the Willits Mini-Farm. These people have been responsible for starting Biointensive projects in Chihuahua, Aguascalientes, Mexico, Pueblo, Zacatecas and Veracruz states, where large numbers of people—the majority of them rural poor and indigenous—have been trained to grow their food more effectively. More recently, ECOPOL has identified interns from Costa Rica, Colombia, Brazil and Ecuador, who have completed training at the Mini-Farm. ECOPOL also finds key people from various parts of Latin America—directors of NGOs and others—and sends them for training at Las Can?adas, the strongest and most complete GROW BIOINTENSIVE demonstration and training site in Mexico.

During this last decade ECOPOL has extended its reach, contacting people and organizations in most of the countries of Central and South America, introducing them to GROW BIOINTENSIVE, establishing and maintaining connections. Due to ECOPOL’s efforts, a strong program now exists in Ecuador, and another is developing in Paraguay. One result is the support of the UN’s High Commission for Refugees in Ecuador and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization for Biointensive gardens that Colombian refugees and impoverished local people are growing in the Ecuadorian Amazon. Also, the Ecuadorian government has now committed annual funds for the project.

The many years that ECOPOL worked establishing connections and laying the groundwork had a great deal to do with the success of the inspiring six-day Latin American "Soil, Food and People" workshop that took place in Costa Rica in March 2006. 116 participants from 19 Latin American countries learned GROW BIOINTENSIVE techniques, made demonstration gardens, and networked with each other. Since the workshop Juan Manuel has been giving follow-up trainings in the more than 14 countries that requested them, and is continuing to reach out to make contact with an ever-growing number of people and organizations.

Most recently ECOPOL, along with Ecology Action, ADYS and Las Cañadas was a part of the Latin American Conference 2010: Biointensive Agriculture Facing Climate Change.



MESAMultinational Exchange for Sustainable Agriculture (MESA) connects farmers and sustainable food advocates around the world for participatory training and cross-cultural exchange to strengthen local, resilient food systems worldwide. 

Since 1997, MESA has sponsored over 600 global farm stewards at over 250 U.S. host placements, including many internship participants with Ecology Action.

MESA proudly offers the only J-1 Training and Cultural Exchange Program--as designated by the U.S. Department of State--to solely facilitate a "share and learn" experience on behalf of sustainable agriculture for small-scale farmers and grassroots activists. MESA's U.S. agricultural program designation permits us to sponsor trainees (aka "Stewards") for up to 12 months on a J-1 training visa to come to the U.S. for training and cross-cultural exchange. MESA also facilitates international training and exchange opportunities with our alumni network for farmers and agrarians from the US and around the world.

A non-profit, 501(c)(3) organization, MESA enables cross-cultural exchange around global practices of sustainable agriculture. The training is a two-way exchange to spur innovation and preserve traditional techniques worldwide and advance a farmer-led grassroots movement to transform the global food system. Training programs focus on ecological production practices, processing, direct marketing, community organizing and education, and organic crop research and breeding.
For recruitment of Stewards for U.S. training, MESA establishes global partnerships with NGOs, university programs, and other organizations that are well regarded in the field of sustainable agriculture and cultural exchange. These International NGOs also offer training programs which are opened up to U.S. agriculturalists and MESA's alumni network.

MESA also manages competitive matching grant programs for participating Hosts and Stewards. Sustainable Projects Recognizing Innovative Growers (SPRIG) grants foster innovation, mentorship, and experimentation for U.S. sustainable farms by supporting collaborative on-site projects involving Hosts and Stewards. Upon U.S. program completion, Stewards are eligible for grants to launch SPRIG projects in their home communities. Since 1998, MESA has funded dozens of small-scale SPRIGs abroad designed by enterprising Steward alumni in Peru, Ecuador, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Lithuania, Armenia, Kenya, Bolivia and Mexico.

For more information, go to



Manor HouseIn the early 1970s, Polly Noyce became acquainted with Ecology Action and its Director, John Jeavons. In 1983 Noyce, on a trip to Kenya, purchased a former boys’ school four hours north of Nairobi and offered it to Ecology Action as a site for a Biointensive training project. Ecology Action’s Board approved the idea, and the Manor House Agricultural Centre was started in 1984, with a two-year program for training high school graduates in Biointensive Agriculture (BIA) and other alternative technology methods. In the early 1990s the Centre started giving one-week workshops in which self-help groups from different communities—mainly women farmers—came to learn BIA. Three-month and six-week workshops are also given on request from staff of other organizations.

In 1994 Emmanuel Omondi from Kenya was a six-month intern at Ecology Action’s Mini-Farm in Willits, California. In 1996, Omondi became Director of Manor House and under his leadership the Centre’s infrastructure, staff team building, programs, outreach and connection with other development organizations have been added or greatly improved. The many successful grants he has written have resulted in needed structural improvements to the old buildings and other physical setup of the school. Other grants have funded an extremely effective outreach program that trains communities to become mini-training centers (MTC). As of 2005, there are 25 MTC, each reaching out to other communities in its area. Omondi has also contacted other NGOs and governmental development organizations that are bringing services to rural people in the same area, in order to help coordinate their programs, work together and avoid duplication of efforts.

Manor House was the first organization in Kenya to teach BIA and as a result over 100,000 people have been trained since 1984 and 100 plus organizations in Kenya are teaching BIA.



RussiaIn 1990 Carol Vesecky, a friend of Ecology Action, helped arrange a one-week workshop at Stanford University for 10 gardeners from a Moscow gardening collective. In 1993 she facilitated the Russian translation of How to Grow More Vegetables and started Biointensive for Russia (BfR) as a means to get copies of the book out to more Russians.

At the suggestion of John Jeavons, BfR began to identify Eurasians to come to the Willits Mini-Farm for Biointensive training. The first, in 1994, was Larissa Avrorina from Siberia. The next year BfR sponsored several workshops in Siberia and also facilitated garden research, which showed a two-fold increase in yields using Biointensive. BfR also continued to identify people to be trained in Willits: three in 1995, five in 1996 and one in 1997. Avrorina returned to Willits in 1997 to receive teacher training. The following month she and Carol Cox (Ecology Action’s Research Garden Manager) presented a three-day workshop in Siberia.

This was the beginning of a series of workshops—in 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2002—in Russia and Uzbekistan taught by trainers from the U.S. The Russian translation of Ecology Action’s Lazy-Bed Gardening was distributed at each of these seminars.

In 2001, BfR began inviting "ecotourists" to go along on some of the Biointensive workshop tours. This was a way to defray some of the expenses of the tours and help fund some Biointensive projects in Eurasia. For four years, BfR has funded the NGO Viola to actively conduct experiments testing the ability of double-digging and composting to reduce the radionuclide uptake in vegetables grown in the zone of Bryansk contaminated by the Chernobyl nuclear accident. The experiments show that the radionuclide content is reduced by approximately 30% using these methods. BfR is now seeking US academic collaboration for continued experimentation and further dissemination and discussion of these results.

Visit Biointensive for Russia’s websites for more information:


G-BIACK (Kenya)

G-BIACK, (the Grow Biointensive Agriculture Center of Kenya) is located in Thika, Kenya and demonstrates, trains and promotes GROW BIOINTENSIVE AGRICULTURE methods and other appropriate community development techniques for sustainability among small-scale farm holders in Central, Eastern, and Nairobi Provinces in Kenya.

 G-BIACK initiatives aim at eradicating poverty and improving the living standards of resource poor communities by promoting ecologically viable development strategies for sustainable and quality livelihoods.

Founders Samuel Nderitu and his wife Peris Wanjiru Nderitu are both graduates of the 2-Year Biointensive Training Program at Manor House Agricultural Centre in Kenya, sponsored by the Kilili Self-Help Project. They are experts in Biointensive agriculture; Samuel's focus is on community development and Peris is trained in community health development, including HIV/AIDS prevention.

G-BIACKThe G-BIACK center sits on one acre of land, the average size of a family farm in our region. It is designed as a model farm for small-scale farm holders. The center has over 160 double-dug beds, all planted with different types of food crops, organically grown. Soil fertility is continuously improved and maintained through the use of composted bio-matter from the center’s gardens. There are also chickens, rabbits, dairy goats and an apiary. G-BIACK center staff trains small-scale farmers on sustainable ways and methods of increased food production both at our site, and through outreach to communities.

Click here to watch the twelve minute film Grow, about G-BIACK and the biointensive farming movement!

For more information go to



EcopolisIrina Kim came into possession of the only copy of the Russian translation of How to Grow More Vegetables that made its way to Uzbekistan. In 1994 she established Ecopolis, headquartered in Chirchik, whose purpose is to offer environmental education to the younger generation. Irina states that over half of the land areas in Central Asia have been degraded, much of it due to poor agricultural practices. In 1995 she organized an agroecology resource center (Agrocenter), whose goal is to educate and train both young people and adults in Biointensive sustainable mini-farming. That same year the Agrocenter established the new occupation of Mini-Farmer at a vocational school in Chirchik. As of 2003, the Agrocenter had trained 765 high school students and graduated 164 students with Mini-Farming as their major. Student leaders from the school Mini-Farmer Club conduct Biointensive training seminars in various regions of Uzbekistan, particularly at the Nuratau Nature Reserve, north of Samarkand; the Brichmulla Forestry Farm, north of Tashkent; dacha plots in Chirchik; and at Nukus, the capital of Karakalakstan in northwestern Uzbekistan, near the Aral Sea.

The Agrocenter has also established eight demonstration/research gardens in different areas of Uzbekistan, created an association of Biointensive dacha gardeners, and village Biointensive mini-farming networks. Irina continues to teach 250 people a year in her high school classes and workshops in 11 remote villages. She has also begun teaching in cities in Kazakhstan, near the Uzbekistan border.



In 1976 Dr. C.V. Seshadri of the Murugappu Chettiar Research Center in India responded to a letter Ecology Action had sent out to alternative technology organizations around the world. He was sent How to Grow More Vegetables and other materials, which the research center began to test and teach in the city of Tharumani, Madras state, as well as in several villages. In 1980 the Center published a monograph: “Biodynamic Gardening,” which gave the results of their project after 2-1/2 years and states that How to Grow was used as their standard reference. The principle conclusions were: “This method can be taught to people with no previous experience of vegetable growing. They can produce good yields with locally-available resources in poor soils.”

In 1990 Dr. Seshadri wrote: “We initiated a project for the Department of Science and Technology, New Delhi, Government of India. The aim of the project was to provide rural women sustainable income by using the biodynamic [Biointensive] techniques. One hundred women were trained and they started growing vegetables using the Biodynamic gardening techniques in their backyards. As there was no demand locally, a society by the name of Shaktha Society for Women was formed to find a good market for these organically-grown vegetables in the city. As the vegetables fetched them better prices, the women got very much interested.”

Dr. Seshadri died later in the 1990’s and we have lost track of the project. But we mention it because it was the first international response to our work and the first large-scale testing of the effectiveness of GROW BIOINTENSIVE sustainable mini-farming, from which two detailed reports were published.



KililiKilili Self Help Project supports graduates of Manor House Agricultural Centre in western Kenya in their work with farmers.

Sandra Mardigian, director of Kilili Self Help Project, had lived in Kenya in the mid-80s and had many friends around the country. Back in the US in 1989, she raised money to send a group of primary school teachers from Kilili Village in Machakos, Kenya, to Manor House Agricultural Centre (MHAC) for a week-long training workshop in practical Biointensive methods. Returning to Kenya the following year, Sandra found that the teachers and their students had beautiful, prospering Biointensive gardens at the schools, the families were involved, and the project was a huge success.

Based on these results, Kilili Self Help Project began to raise funds to sponsor other Kenyans to take the same program at MHAC. For several years, core groups of farmers from one location traveled to MHAC for a week of training and returned home to practice the Biointensive method and train other farmers in their area.

Meanwhile, the number of highly qualified graduates of MHAC’s two-year program was increasing each year. Since there are very few paying opportunities for these young professionals, Kilili Self Help Project began supporting their work with farmers. Eventually, grants became almost entirely dedicated to helping MHAC graduates with expenses for programs they initiate themselves, and this has become the primary mission of Kilili Self Help Project. The organization also provides financial-hardship scholarships for recommended students enrolled in MHAC’s two-year program each year.

In 2005, with support from Kilili Self-Help Project, MHAC graduates trained more than 10,000 farmers in six-day workshops. The cost: less than $6 per farmer!

Kilili Self Help Project is located at 260 Marion Avenue, Mill Valley CA 94941; phone: (415) 380-0687; Donations are gratefully accepted and all are channeled to this essential work.



MexicoIn March 1998 Tania de Alba attended an Ecology Action Three-Day Workshop in Willits. She had already been using Biointensive techniques at her family ranch in the cloud forest of Veracruz state, Mexico. In 2001 Tania’s husband Ricardo Romero was a participant in our five-day Teacher’s workshop. The two developed the ranch, Las Cañadas, into an eco-tourist site that receives many visitors throughout the year. They began giving regular six-day workshops, with six paying participants who subsidize the six peasant farmers that also attend.

Karla Arroyo, the garden manager of Las Cañadas, was a six-month Intern at Ecology Action in 2003. Besides managing the 120 Biointensive beds (including a 40-bed demonstration and teaching unit), Karla also teaches school children who come to tour the garden and participants in the six-day workshops, as well as working in the cheese factory they have onsite.

Juan Manuel Martinez, Director of ECOPOL, is helping develop Las Cañadas as a training ground for people from all of Latin America. Taking one-week workshops there in 2003 were staff people from organizations in Bolivia, Ecuador and Colombia. In 2004 there were people trained from two different organizations in Bolivia and one from Ecuador. With Ecology Action, ECOPOL and ADYS, Las Cañadas was a part of the Latin American Conference 2010: Biointensive Agriculture Facing Climate Change.



For many years Steve and his wife Carol farmed in Pennsylvania, using horses and exploring many facets of farming, including raising dairy cows and beef cattle and keeping bees. But they struggled. Years of diversifying and expanding their farm did little to increase their income.

In 1992 a friend recognized their situation and urged Steve to read How to Grow More Vegetables. Steve reluctantly looked over the book and decided that the concepts were sound but not practical. However, the friend did not give up. Steve and Carol steadily built on their knowledge of sustainability and began familiarizing themselves with John Jeavons’ work and research. They began to see the results of Biointensive agriculture as they struggled less and less. In 1995 Steve attended a Three-Day Biointensive workshop which “sealed the deal.” Steve and Carol’s commitment to Biointensive sustainable agriculture was assured.

Even though they worked hard to develop local interest in organic produce, the demand was not yet there. Steve arrived at the most frustrated point in his farming career. After days of prayerful thought, wondering what he was supposed to do in order to succeed, he was offered a position as the Director of the Center for Sustainable Living at Wilson College in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. There they operated their successful 135-family CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) and spearheaded CSA development for the region.

After several years of this successful program, they felt a need to move on. Their faith brought them to Sonnewald Natural Foods, a 60-acre educational farm in Pennsylvania that has been teaching interns about organic farming since the 1950s. Steve became the farmer there and also developed two GROW BIOINTENSIVE passive solar greenhouses for growing food all year long.

Taken from an article written by Elaine Branigan, former apprentice at Sonnewald.

As of the end of 2005, Steve had taught over 3,000 people. He has now become the Farm Advisor at North Carolina Agriculture and Technology State University and is in the process of setting up a GROW BIOINTENSIVE Mini-Ag Center/Soil Test Station at the school’s research area.



ViolaLudmilla Zhirina and Igor Prokofiev of Bryansk, Russia, started the non-profit Viola after their region received fallout from the nuclear accident at Chernobyl in 1986. The organization is made up of teachers, doctors and students determined to do whatever they can to educate the population on the dangers of radiation and on methods of cleansing the body of radioactive substances.

Ludmilla first learned about Biointensive when she met Carol Vesecky at an ecoforum near Kiev in 1995. After attending a three-day workshop in Bryansk in 1999—sponsored by Biointensive for Russia—Viola started disseminating Biointensive mini-farming throughout the region. Fifteen seminars were sponsored in 2001. The next year a conference was given for the directors of all Bryansk schools, including administrators, principles and teachers. Viola members have continued to conduct workshops ever since, extending their range to Orel, east of Bryansk.

Each year since 2002 group members have conducted experiments to see if radionuclide contamination of the vegetables can be reduced using Biointensive techniques. Inhabitants have to grow their own vegetables and grains in areas where radionuclide levels can be 10 to 30 times normal. Test plots were used, growing the same vegetables with Biointensive techniques and with conventional methods. The yields from both were tested in a laboratory and soil samples were tested with a Geiger counter. In the section using Biointensive, contamination of the soil was decreased because of deep digging of the soil. The radionuclides descended to deeper layers, where they were washed down even deeper by ground water. The vegetables grown biointensively contained fewer radionuclides than those grown conventionally. Some vegetables were practically free of contamination while others were 2-3 times more contaminated than the norm (as opposed to 10-30 times). Saturating the soil with compost has a favorable effect since humus ties up Cesium 137 and St-90. Companion planting also helped. When beans and potatoes were grown together, beans took up the radionuclides into their leaves but not their fruit. When planted with beans, the potatoes did not get contaminated.

In the fall of 2005 Viola members traveled into other contaminated areas in Russia, Belarus and Ukraine to test the extent of contamination still remaining.


Ecology Action of the Mid-Peninsula has been a small 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization since 1971.

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