Randa Toko

Randa is the assistant food grower and Seed Saving Network coordinator at OmVed Gardens. She is part of Community Apothecary where she prepares herbal remedies. She also enjoys foraging and learning about plants, ecology and photography. They are passionate about practices that interrupt notions of individualism, alienation from humans and the more-than-human, and separation from nature to grow towards symbiotic and collaborative futures. Randa has been facilitating foraging and wildcrafting walks for BPOC communities to connect with a sense of ecological belonging in the urban locale. She’s drawn to food as a way to reclaim the many crafts of the land and embed them in the landscape.

Describe the nature around you at the moment.

I am visiting a community-run forest restoration project in the rainforest of Borneo. The air is thick with mist condensed from the breath of trees, while the river flows faster, swollen by the confluence of a recent downpour. In the distance, I hear the orchestra of ticking, howling, pulsating trills of crickets, insects, frogs and birds in the distance. Nearby, the laughter and shrill of playing children amuses me. The mingling of these sounds is something quite comforting.

Where do you feel most at ease?

With my belly full and nourished by friends’ laughter.

What has gardening taught you about yourself?

As a mixed-heritage kid who grew up in rural Sardinia, I grew sensitive to notions of identity and belonging. Growing food and tending to the Earth have allowed me to heal this estrangement and yearning for home and cultivate a sense of belonging.

What lessons can we learn from nature?

Complex life was possible because of cooperation, of mingling, and testing out how to best thrive together. We are here because of collaboration and of accomplices who decided to play together instead of against each other.

Name a TV series, film or documentary that blew your mind.

I recently saw the documentary Xaraasi Xanne - Crossing Voices. A visual and sonic tale about Somandiki Coura, an agricultural cooperative in Mali founded in 1977. The documentary weaves through eras and geographies to tell the story of migrant workers’ struggles in France and their utopic return back to the land. You’re transported in a winding adventure in the establishment of a food sovereignty movement in the aftermath of colonial agriculture, peasant networks and infrastructures, and the brilliance of community radios.

What are you interested in at the moment?

For the last year, after reading The Broken Earth Trilogy by N K Jemisin I’ve found a renewed fascination with geological forces and how they shape the Earth. I’ve been drawn to volcanoes, hot springs, caves and thought about lichen more than usual. I’ve been reading a few folk tales that try to explain and trace some of these phenomena and the animacy of the Earth. In general, I’m trying to grasp geological time, it’s hard to perceive it in our human form.

What rituals do you practice to keep you grounded and connected to the outer world?

Letting myself be held by the landscape, let my weight or buoyancy be carried by rocks, water or a sheath of grass.

What question would you like to ask the next person on #TNK ?

Can you share a moment in nature that sparked in you a deep sense of wonder or excitement?

And could you suggest someone else or other organisations you admire that we could approach for #TheNatureKind.

There are so many people whose work I admire! Community Apothecary, a health sovereignty collective working with herbal medicine in Waltham Forest. Syazana, a conservation leader at Kopel forest restoration project and Jumana Manna, a Palestinian artist and filmmaker whose work explores the effect of conservation practices on agriculture, and human relationship to land and culture.

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