Rewilding Jericho

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Title

Rewilding Jericho

Description

Dr Kiki Isidoros is an ecological anthropologist who has created Rewilding Jericho project and an Oxfordshire-wide facebook group to encourage people to discover the joys and gain confidence of growing your own fruit and veg, reduce food shopping bills, learning fun science facts, and help increase wildlife and wildflowers in your gardens, balconies and public areas.

Visit her website or Oxfordshire-wide Facebook page
 to find out more or get involved.

We asked Kiki about her project Rewilding Jericho:

Why did you want to get involved with Rewilding Jericho? Why is it such an important cause to you?  


"I started formulating the idea of Rewilding Jericho four years ago, and launched it last year, as I wanted to find a way to engage my home community with all the lovely ecology science we do at Oxford University. I wanted to create a 'bridge' to share the science with residents in a meaningful way that helped people to do more gardening and learn about wildlife and nature at the same time. We have so much evidence that gardening and close contact with nature has massive benefits for mental and physical health. It especially increases positive chemical and neurological changes in our bodies, increasing feelings such as kindness, happiness, sharing and caring. So it's not just about plants and wild-life, it's about us and our health too! It's an important cause to me for two reasons. Firstly, being a scientist means I have access to fascinating information about the world around us and it's always exciting for us scientists to find ways to share it with everyone - the every-day version of having access to non-celebrity scientists, rather than only being able to watch Chris Packham and David Attenborough on TV! And secondly, I'm also passionate about gardening myself, so the project is a lovely way to meet new people, share seeds and gardening tips. It just lifts all our spirits up!"

What are the main things the project has done to have a positive impact on the local environment?

"It's been so exciting to see residents beginning to notice simple things like birds or bees. In our busy modern world, it's so easy to forget to stop for a moment and notice the different coloured bums that bees have! Or for a Rewild Jericho member to tell us all that they've heard a woodpecker on a certain street so we can listen out for it too. Residents have started to learn about - and plant - some of the native wildflower species such as cowslips and English bluebells, and create really easy things that help birds, frogs and insects, such as a mini-pond out of recycled yoghurt pots in a shady spot in their garden. And we've been growing our own seeds to sell to each other for charity. We've also been introducing residents to growing their favourite fruit or veg in their garden or balcony - every plant contribute to natures."

Do you have any tips that people can use at home or in their own gardens to improve the environment?

"Mini-ponds are one of the most fun things to fit into a small corner of a garden or balcony. Even just a clean yoghurt pot will work, you don't need to buy anything! Simply clean it well, fill it with water and leave it a quiet corner. Nature will then take over and work its wildlife magic! If you have a lawn, try giving over even a small patch to 'go wild' or throw some wildflower seeds. A single square centimetre of 'wild' plants/weeds provides a habitat to millions of different types of visible (e.g. insects) and invisible (e.g. microbes) living organisms."

What are the best fruits or veg that are easy to grow in a small space, such as on a balcony?

"I like to suggest thinking about this as 'themes'. For instance, why not grow a selection of herbs and salads? A simple selection of one plant each of spinach, rocket, chard and chives, creates a delicious "from garden to plate" salad. But my best advice is to start small...plant your most favourite fruit and/or veg, especially if one tends to be expensive in the supermarkets. For example, if you love raspberries, a single plant will give you constant raspberries to pick from June/July right through to November - that's hundreds of punnets for free, rather than paying the usual £2 to £3 a punnet a week!! Or, are you someone who loves purple sprouting brocolli? Planting one will give you endless pickings, and you can cook the leaves just like spinach."

Do you think attitudes to food are changing and that there is an increasing interest in sustainable and locally produced food? How can we encourage people to change further?

"Yes there are huge changes since last year when Covid hit us, creating a sudden interest in growing food and long waiting lists for national allotments now. And the climate emergency has made people more aware of the source of origin and quality of food in our supermarkets. But you don't need an allotment, you can use even a tiny garden or balcony to grow a heck of a lot of food! It's also absolutely crucial for children to learn about food, nature and wildlife. One of the best ways to encourage people is quite simply, to spread the message and share the science. To reach out to people who don't feel very confident about gardening and showing them that it actually really easy - and fascinating. Above all, my favourite message is about our domestic/home economics...we can actually save a lot of money by growing a few simple fruit and veg ourselves. Growing easy plants like one each of spinach, bean and raspberry, for example, to be able to pick them almost all year round to cook can actually slash our supermarket bills very nicely!"

Why is biodiversity so important? Why should we care?

"Well, I'm a scientist, we really do need to care about the world around us! If our eco-systems collapse, our own human species is going to suffer. If we want to care about our children and future generations, then we need to care about every other generation of living organisms on our lovely, fascinating planet. Hasn't Covid given us a heck of a shock? The world we thought we had built - the concrete, the supermarkets etc - all failed us initially. In other words, we saw the weaknessess of the 'system' we live in. It's really time to start caring about the non-human world. Growing a single fruit or veg in an organic manner feeds us as well as the wildlife living quietly around us. It's time we started to Love Weeds! Most of them are actually edible. One of my neighbours in our Rewild Jericho project made a nettle, garlic and cashewnut pesto - it was utterly delicious and had none of the horrible preservatives that are in supermarket jars of pesto!"

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