Dr Saskia von Diest is a South African-born researcher, consultant and teacher in Nature communication, and the founder of Ecofluency.

Saskia originally wanted to study medicine, but chose agriculture after realizing that many health problems are connected to the food we eat and the soil in which it is grown.

She wanted to reduce the harmful impact of agricultural activity on our internal and external ecosystems, but interestingly, organic farming was not mentioned in her undergraduate degree. She only learned about organic approaches later during her PhD research in plant pathology at Stellenbosch University, South Africa, on minimizing the fungicide sprays used against a cosmetic fungus on apples.

Saskia advocating for the need to grow food sustainably during the #IGrowYourFood action day

During her PhD in 2012, she attended a weekend workshop with Anna Breytenbach on interspecies communication – the ability to communicate with all species of nature using a wider range of sense and awareness.

This completely changed how I viewed the world and agriculture, and I became interested in how farmers might communicate with Nature to manage their farms. I learned about organic, agroecology, biodynamic and other regenerative agricultural methods. It made me realize that conventional agriculture can never be the way forward, because this approach treats the rest of Nature as a canvas for human activities, often dismissing how balance between all species will help us to not only survive but also thrive.

Organic farming works with the principle of “first, do no harm”, and any management decisions aim to work in harmony with Nature.

In her postdoctoral research, between Stellenbosch University and Coventry University, UK, she combined the principles of organic farming with interspecies communication, investigating how farmers could communicate with Nature to inform their practical management decisions. She found that many farmers already consult with the animals, plants, insects, microbes, soil etc on their land. This is a skill they’ve either always used without thinking much about it, or they’ve actively developed it. They all report benefits such as reduced inputs, improved outputs and greater well-being of the farmer and farm system.

Organic farmers have a good understanding of how healthy soils impact plant growth © Francesco Gallarotti

Saskia virtually attended the 2021 Organic World Congress (OWC), thanks to a funding opportunity provided by SDC. Her presentation encouraged food growers of all kinds to use their more subtle abilities, like intuition and interspecies communication, to inform their practical decisions, making them more efficient, holistic, and tailored to local conditions.

She also attended one of the sessions in the OWC’s Culture and Education Forum, where Dr Julia Wright presented on the spiritual approach of agriculture. It validated some of what Saskia found during her research, especially with indigenous, small-scale and subsistence farmers, and other studies in this emerging field of research.

This year, Saskia founded Ecofluency, an organisation that provides education, facilitation, consulting, and research in Nature communication, for individuals, groups, and organisations.

Ecofluency was seeded years ago, but could only sprout when I left academia and could nurture the idea. It feels like my biggest achievement to date.

So far, Ecofluency is taking root, but it has been difficult at times to grow this young business, especially because interspecies communication requires people to challenge how they perceive Nature. She still favours those who grow food, offering farmers and beekeepers free or reduced spaces on her workshops and online courses.

One of her main aims is to empower people through teaching Nature communication, because everyone can do it – humans are Nature too. Receiving feedback from workshop participants, such as the joy, comfort and/or deeper connection they feel with Nature afterwards, is what she finds most rewarding and encouraging. It helps her stay motivated and reminds her why she chose this path – to grow harmony and vitality for all of life on our Earth.

Organic farming reduces loss of biodiversity which is essential for sustaining our food systems © Jeremy Bezanger

Please visit Ecofluency to find out more.