sustainable agriculture

We must protect our soils.

It all began with the aim of building the largest recycling village in the world. The holistic project is now much more than just this “village”. Environmental education, ranger patrols, sustainable agriculture and waste management systems come together here.

What is sustainable agriculture?

"Agriculture only has a future if it is compatible with nature and takes biodiversity, climate protection and people's health into account."

– Barbara Hendricks, Federal Minister for the Environment, February 2017

We need productive, environmentally friendly and socially responsible agriculture for our future.

Sustainable agriculture must produce enough food without destroying the land that is available to us for this purpose. In the interests of sustainability, humanity must not live at the expense of future generations. We must therefore manage our resources in such a way that they will still be available to future generations.

The protection of soil, air, water, biodiversity and human health is the top priority of this sustainable form of economy. Natural ecosystems should remain untouched and not be impaired by agricultural production. Cultural landscapes should be preserved and regional development promoted.

In contrast to conventional agriculture, only organic fertilizers, such as the waste products of animal husbandry, are used in sustainable LWS. This creates a positive cycle that does not require the purchase of fertilizers and still contributes nutrients to the soil. In addition, the distance regulations to bodies of water are observed when using the fertilizer so that these are preserved for humans and animals. Mineral fertilizers and synthetic pesticides are not used in sustainable LWS.

By avoiding the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, local biodiversity can be preserved. The greater diversity of cultivated species and the cultivation of catch crops also have a positive effect on the preservation of biodiversity.

Sustainable agriculture uses as few fossil raw materials as possible. Energy-efficient management, i.e. avoiding unnecessary energy consumption and switching to renewable energies as far as possible. Environmentally harmful emissions  are only emitted to the extent that the environment can neutralize them with its own self-cleaning power.

At a social level, ensuring the viability of agricultural businesses is particularly important. Good living and working conditions must be created for all people working in agriculture. This includes a satisfactory income and long-term employment relationships.

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Problems of conventional agriculture

Monocultures destroy biodiversity

Conventional agriculture is the most common form of arable farming and livestock farming. However, it is not bound by certain regulations, such as organic farming.

Conventional agriculture currently produces the majority of our food. This form of farming has set itself the clear goal of producing as much food as possible at the lowest possible price. Growth and profit maximization are clearly the top priorities here. Large areas are farmed to increase profits, specializing in certain animal and plant species. This often leads to monocultures and factory farming.

Monocultures enable farmers to market their produce profitably thanks to their higher yields. Focusing on one or a few species simplifies harvesting processes and only requires the purchase of one machine. In the long term, however, monocultures are extremely damaging to the environment. One-sided farming has a negative impact on biodiversity, soil structure and groundwater and reduces animal welfare. The connection to nature is completely lost. Agricultural areas are usually so densely populated that there is hardly any room left for natural plants, animals or rivers.

Due to the one-sided cultivation, only the same nutrients are needed from the soil. This means that the nutrient used is no longer available. This in turn means that fertilizers have to be used to bring in the missing nutrients. The fertilizers used are mostly fossil and synthetic mineral fertilizers and are produced industrially. The heavy metals they contain destroy the soil microorganisms and impair soil fertility in the long term.

Heavy metals can also be harmful to human health. Other ingredients of the fertilizers such as nitrate, glyphosate and pesticide residues enter the groundwater via the soil and thus contaminate nearby bodies of water.

Conventional agriculture also likes to use pest control methods. Monocultures are particularly susceptible to pests. The problem with these products is that they consist of chemical substances and therefore destroy plants and living organisms. So also those that have a benefit for the plant. So-called beneficial insects that naturally rid cultivated plants of pests. Herbicides, insecticides and fungicides are responsible for the decline in biodiversity. Especially for the death of bees and other important pollinator species. Treated food is also harmful to human health.

Due to the large areas of land required for these huge yields, only a few people are employed for the processes of arable farming or animal husbandry for economic reasons. Most processes are now implemented automatically. This industrialization, which continues to advance with the desire to increase profits, is making many jobs redundant.

Mass production results in high surpluses. Due to overproduction and the resulting fall in market prices, a farm has to produce even more. Small farms can no longer keep up. They have to bow to financial pressure and also cultivate monocultures. Otherwise they have no chance of surviving.

Agriculture is one of the main sectors that cause the largest sources of emissions and environmental pollution in the world.

Palm oil

The oil palm is a tropical plant that requires a suitable location and grows where rainforests normally grow. Millions of hectares of rainforest have already been cleared for conventional palm oil plantations. And for the most part illegally. People and animals are being driven out of their habitat to make way for monocultures.

 Indigenous tribes who live in and from the rainforest are severely affected by the destruction of the forest. They have to leave their home, where they have lived for centuries, and will never be accessible again due to its destruction. But farmers and communities also experience violence, land disputes, human rights violations, food insecurity and poverty as a result of the establishment of plantations.

The biodiversity of plants and animals in the rainforest is in sharp decline, and endangered species such as orangutans and tigers are under serious threat. The habitat is irrevocably destroyed and cannot be restored. 

This would take centuries. Where previously thousands of animal and plant species formed a complex ecosystem with different functions, there is now only one species: the oil palm.

Forest clearance also exposes humus-rich primeval forest soils. The CO2 bound in it is released as a climate-damaging greenhouse gas. Indonesia is the country with the third-highest CO2 emissions in the world after the USA and China.
The cheapest and therefore also the most frequently used method of land reclamation is slash-and-burn. The resulting smoke leads to high levels of air pollution, endangering local people and animals. Early deaths, respiratory diseases and heart disease are the result. In Indonesia, palm oil plantations are responsible for 80 percent of forest fires and their consequences.
The soil and water also suffer from the monocultures of palm trees. Pesticides, fertilizers and wastewater contaminate the soil and groundwater. The production of one ton of oil releases around 2.5 tons of liquid waste into the environment.

Invasive weed with a big impact


In the rainforest of North Sumatra, which is severely threatened by palm oil monocultures and overexploitation agriculture, we are creating a huge impact with a simple technology.

Leached and damaged soils are made healthy and fertile again. To this end, we process an invasive noxious weed, so-called water hyacinths, and also crop waste into the most fertile soil in the world (Terra Preta), thereby strengthening local smallholders, rebuilding destroyed ecosystems and storing large quantities of greenhouse gases.

Project Wings nachhaltige Landwirtschaft Wasserhyazinthe



Papayas, mangosteen, ginger, pineapple… Do you know how these things grow?

On the nature experience trail, our “Eco-Trail”, you will get to know a wide variety of plants. Here you will not only learn how the plants grow and what they need for healthy growth, but also what the individual items can be used for.

School classes, tourists and volunteers are guided here by the expert Indonesian team. Here, valuable ancient knowledge is passed on and it is shown how you can look after your garden without any chemicals.

Organic garden


What is sustainable agriculture?

In contrast to a monoculture, no chemical fertilizers or pesticides are used.

Various plants are grown in such a way that the soil can recover sufficiently after the harvest and the subsequently grown plants require different nutrients than the previous fruit or vegetables.

A sustainably managed garden is therefore suitable for anyone who wants to get a lot of variety and yield from their garden with little work! We mainly grow food, i.e. fruit and vegetables. A few spices and ingredients for making other products also find their place here.

The garden is located right next to the recycling village and is developing magnificently. The first crops (corn, peanuts, butterfly pea flowers, chilies and more) have already been harvested. In future, everything that grows here can be found on your plate in the Recycling Village’s Culture Kitchen and for sale on the Recycling Marketplace. In the meantime, 72 beds have been planted and are regularly cultivated.



Within our project, Erna is also affectionately known as “The Mother of Trees”.

A few children from the neighborhood run around on her farm, locals and tourists take part in her popular cooking and women’s empowerment courses and trees, bushes and fresh cuttings sprout everywhere. Erna and her husband, Papi, have dedicated themselves to sustainable traditional farming and are therefore the ideal addition to our recycling system. Almost every day, she receives organic waste from the region, shreds it in the composting machine and produces high-quality, nutritious compost with the help of Black Soldier Flies and microorganisms. This means that the valuable nutrients in the waste are retained and can be used for reforestation work, permaculture gardens and renaturation.

Thanks to Erna’s commitment, she is extremely well connected and enjoys sharing her diverse and extensive knowledge with her fellow human beings. For this reason, she is also in charge of the tree adoption program, because one thing is clear: Erna not only has a green thumb, but also a huge heart.


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