Pierre Rabhi

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Pierre Rabhi in Nantes (March 2010)

Pierre Rabhi (b. Kenadsa, French Algeria, 1938) is a French writer, farmer and environmentalist. Originally a Muslim, he converted to Christianity for some years before rejecting all religions.[1] He studied in France as a youth. He invented the concept of Oasis en tous lieux - Oasis in any place. He proposes a society that functions in a manner that respects populations and land and supports the development of agricultural techniques that take care of the environment preserving natural resources. His theories relate particularly though not exclusively to arid countries.

Franco-Algerian youth[edit]

Pierre Rabhi was born into a Muslim family in Kénadsa, near Béchar, an oasis in southern Algeria, in 1938. His mother died when he was four years old. His father who was a blacksmith, a musician and a poet, got to know a French couple, an engineer who was a primary school teacher and his wife, when they came to work during colonisation at the Compagnie des Houillères (Coal mining corporation) in his native village. As this couple were unable to have a child and young Pierre’s father was worried about his son’s future, he accepted that the couple bring up his son, on the condition that he continues to be a good Muslim. Later, his father would find himself obliged to close his workshop and go to work in the mine. This would influence the thoughts and philosophy of his son. Thus, Pierre Rabhi’s childhood was shared between France and Algeria, and the catholic and Muslim worlds until the age of 14.

Paris[edit]

Without qualifications, he found work as a technician. He would later marry Michelle whom he met in the company where he worked. Both of them harboured the dream of getting away from this urban life and thought about the possibility of working in farming. He met a doctor called Pierre Richard, an ecologist and visionary involved at the time in the creation of the Cévennes National Park, who encouraged them in the steps they took. They then decided to move to the Ardèche department where they have been since 1960. In those years, this was quite an original move to make, because they went well before the French neo-rural movement of the late 1960s.

Return to the land[edit]

On arriving in the Ardèche, they married in Thines. Pierre Rabhi became a father and with no knowledge of agriculture, he registered with a Maison familiale rural – a centre run by volunteer groups funded by national and regional government in France – and gained a certificate. In 1963, after three years working as an agricultural worker, he became a small farmer himself in the Cévennes ardéchoises starting out as a goat farmer with the intention of not following the productivist models he’d seen in the previous years and had been educated to.

Recognition[edit]

Rabhi at a conference in 2009

In 1978, he was given responsibility for training in agricultural ecology at the CEFRA (Centre d'études et de formation rurales appliqués - Centre for applied rural studies and training). From 1981 onwards, at the request of the country's government, he was to visit Burkina Faso as a « Farmer Without Frontiers » this work being funded by the CRIAD (Centre de relations internationales entre agriculteurs pour le développement – Centre for international relations between farmers and for development). In 1985, he set up the agro-ecology training centre at Gorom-Gorom, with the support of the association Le Point-Mulhouse. In 1988, he founded the CIEPAD (Carrefour international d'échanges de pratiques appliquées au développement – International forum for the sharing of knowledge about applied practices) with the support of the Hérault Regional Council. He developed an « optimised model for an agricultural site », educational and training programs and started numerous overseas development programs in Morocco, Palestine, Algeria, Tunisia, Senegal, Togo, Benin, Mauritania, Poland and the Ukraine. In 1992, he started the program for the rehabilitation of the Chenini-Gabès oasis in Tunisia. Since 1994, he has led the Oasis en tous lieux – An oasis in any place » movement, aiming to promote an earth that can produce food and the reconstitution of social involvement. In 1997 and 1998, at the request of the UN, he was asked to prepare concrete proposals for implementation of his plan during preparation for the Agreement on action against desertification - Convention de lutte contre la désertification (CCD). From 1999 to 2001, he started new development initiatives in the Agadez region in Niger and the Gao region in Mali. In 2002 he set out on a pre-presidential campaign in which he obtained the support of 184 elected representatives and the birth of the Mouvement d'appel pour une insurrection des consciences (MAPIC) - Movement Calling for an Insurrection of Consciences. He regularly leads conferences and workshops on themes relating to simplicité volontaire -voluntary simple living- and to décroissance - de-growth. Considered to have prepared the ground for the altermondialisme - alter-globalisation movement, he was invited to the European Social Forum, and named one of his speeches Donner une âme à la mondialisation - Giving a soul to Globalisation. In 2007 he set up the Mouvement international pour la terre et l'humanisme - International movement for earth and humanism. He is the president of the Terre et Humanisme association, was a member of the board of editors of the French monthly La Décroissance - De-growth - and is vice president of the Kokopelli association which works to protect biodiversity (in the production and distribution of organically and bio-dynamically grown seeds) and for the regeneration of the fertility of cultivated soils.

Rabhi debating in Nantes, 2010

Bibliography[edit]

  • Du Sahara aux Cévennes ou la reconquête du songe (autobiography), Éditions de Candide, Lavilledieu, 1983, rééd. Albin Michel, Paris, 1995, rééd sous le titre Du Sahara aux Cévennes : itinéraire d'un homme au service de la Terre-Mère, Albin Michel, Paris, 2002.
  • Le Gardien du Feu (roman), Éditions de Candide, Lavilledieu, 1986, Éditions Albin Michel, Paris, 2003.
  • L'Offrande au crépuscule (Prix des sciences sociales agricoles du ministère de l'Agriculture), Éditions de Candide, Lavilledieu, 1989, rééd. aux éditions L'Harmattan 2001.
  • Le Recours à la terre (recueil d'articles), Éditions Terre du Ciel, Lyon, 1995, nouvelle éd. augm. 1999.
  • Parole de Terre : une iniciation africaine, Éditions Albin Michel, Paris, 1996 (préface de Yehudi Menuhin).
  • As in the Heart, So in the Earth (translation by Joseph Rowe of Parole de Terre), Park Street Press, Rochester, Vermont, 2007
  • Manifeste pour des Oasis en tous lieux, ouvrage collectif sous la direction de Pierre Rabhi, 1997.
  • Le Chant de la Terre, interview par Jean-Pierre et Rachel Cartier, Editions La Table Ronde, Paris, 2002
  • Graines de possibles, regards croisés sur l'écologie avec Nicolas Hulot, Ed Calmann-Lévy, Paris, 2005. ISBN 2-7021-3589-7
  • Conscience et environnement, Éditions du Relié, Gordes, 2006.
  • La part du colibri, l'espèce humaine face à son devenir, Éditions de l'aube, 2006 (témoignage au festival du livre de Mouans-Sartoux en 2005).
  • Terre-Mère, Homicide volontaire ? Entretiens avec Jacques Olivier Durand, Le Navire en pleine ville, 2007.
  • Manifeste pour la Terre et l'Humanisme, Pour une insurrection des consciences, Actes Sud, 2008.

Notes and references[edit]

External links[edit]