“Symbiosis is a partnership, a mutualism, a collaboration between different organisms to create something,” says graduate José Andrés Charpentier (‘20, Costa Rica) as he explains the name of the project that he started in 2018, along with Dasha Montcalm (‘20, Costa Rica), when they were in their second year at EARTH. Today, what started as an initiative of two students, passionate about agriculture and community development, went from an idea to something real.
Agrosimbiosis is a project that strives to stimulate ancestral, organic and regenerative agricultural practices in peri-urban environments to promote self-sufficient production models. The project also seeks to create spaces in which cities within Costa Rica and why not, in Latin America, can connect with and adopt agriculture as part of everyday life.
This year, Dasha and Andrés bought a farm in Belén, a city located in the province of Heredia, Costa Rica which proves that student initiatives are powerful and possible.
Student projects that continue growing
Since the beginning of their careers, both graduates knew they wanted to put together their energies and intentions to generate change, but they lacked form and clarity. When they learned about the annual EARTH Sustainability Award, thanks to a partnership with The Sustainability Laboratory, they knew it was the right place to bring their ideas to life.
Dasha and Andres worked during the last two years of their career on what they initially called MEPPA -Modelo Educativo Periurbano de Producción Ancestral-. During the 2020 Graduation Week, their efforts paid off when they won second place, granting them $3000. This and extra-economic support through an investor, helped them secure the farm, equipment and tools.
Having started the project still as students implied effort and many hours of work, however, Andres and Dasha’s progression from college students to professional graduates has undoubtedly impacted the project for the better. “We have evolved on a professional level and I really think this has been reflected in the project. As we change perspectives and ways of looking at life, so does the project,” says Andres.
A space to create and connect
The graduates seek to create links with their neighboring community and turn the farm into a public space. “We just started this year and yet, we have already built two large mandala gardens, where we are planting medicinal plants and vegetables. Shortly, we will build two dome greenhouses, consisting of circular structures to preserve humidity and play with the light patterns to generate an optimal environment for different crops,” explains Andrés.
The first neighbors are already beginning to show up at the farm, curious to know what is being developed there. Day after day, you can see how different animals, uncommon in cities, have started to show up in the place, which shows that Agrosimbiosis is becoming a biodiversity hotspot amongst buildings. Other graduates have donated their time when Dasha and Andres have needed more hands, small victory signs that make them continue their hard work.
Through Agrosimbiosis, Andrés has been able to feel how different components of EARTH come together to create great changes: what our students learn during their career, the invaluable help of our University’s allies, the support among colleagues and graduates, and even the interest of external people who believe in our mission. All of these pieces come together under a synergy that works shoulder to shoulder to assure food security and community sustainability.