Italian coffee company Lavazza has just launched its beautiful 2017 calendar, entitled We Are What We Live.
We Are What We Live is the last journey in the trilogy of The Earth Defenders, a project conceived by Lavazza in collaboration with Slow Food, a global, grassroots organization which aims to prevent the disappearance of local food cultures and traditions. For three years, the project has been celebrating the multitude of farmers who, for millennia, have struck a happy balance with the land, above all through the act of producing our food that is first and foremost an exchange.
“My collaboration with Lavazza and Armando Testa was magical”- Denis Rouvre
From India to Laos and Vietnam, from Sri Lanka to Indonesia, the 2017 scenario is Asia. After Steve McCurry’s pictures in Africa (2015) and those of Joey L. in Central and South America (2016), award-winning French photographer Denis Rouvre, again under the creative direction of Armando Testa, now explores the faces of the Asian Earth Defenders – just as he probed the depths of the environments in which they live and which they defend daily with love and energy. Their sacrifices and dedication make it possible to improve the living conditions of the local communities and fight against the new threats of climate change.
Part humankind and part environment, the 2017 We Are What We Live calendar is composed of 12 sets of photos displayed side by side: on one side is the face of a man or woman laid bare, portrayed in their essence and naturalness; on the other is a landscape that represents the environment in which they live and the nature they work. In Rouvre’s stunning pictures it is as if the two halves – the human and his environment – were overlaid and had shaped each other; each portrait is also a landscape and each landscape ends up being a portrait.
“We are what we live. At the centre of the 2017 Lavazza Calendar there is the physical bond, the symbiosis between humans and their environment. One cannot prosper without the other,” comments Francesca Lavazza. “The two are tied so profoundly that they share satisfactions, suffering, bad weather, sweat. In this third chapter of The Earth Defenders project, we went to Asia. Here nature explodes in all its exuberance, and what clearly emerges is the mutual relationship of defence and safeguard linking farmers, breeders and the environment around them. It is a great lesson for all of us, but above all an invitation to respect and take care of the land, to ‘live’ it and learn to love it.”
The 2017 calendar illustrates to me the profound relationship between the land and the people who live on it: a love for each coffee plant, the battle against a hostile climate, the desire to learn new techniques, respect for traditions and roles, and the union of quite different communities in the same corner of the world.
“How many can claim that they own a magic mirror? In Tanjung, everyone can. So that means we live in a very special place. The mirror has various powers. It calms the spirit. It inspires legends. It transforms reflected hillsides into an embrace. It is a source of life for an entire community that comes together to grow coffee in the surrounding hills. It is a mirror that you listen to and with which you can dialogue, just like in fairy tales. It is the mirror of the lake of Tanjung. It is the mirror of its people.” Tanjung Harapan, Sumatra, Indonesia
“I was born at the foot of tall hills, amidst the foliage of the Mother Forest. My roots are in this corner of the world. I immediately modelled my life according to changes in climate. I learned to absorb rain. To stand up to the wind. To dry off in the sun. To generate shade. To generate the shade that, here, means generating coffee. Because in order to grow at the Equator, coffee needs to be sheltered from the heat of the sun. And ever since I was born I have had one task: protecting it. Because I am from Pilla. And I am a woman. And I am a plant.” Pilla, Sumatra, Indonesia
“Two souls live in me. An ancient one, acquired from my ancestors. A modern one, stemming from my will. Together they are the essence of this region: the spirit of Karnataka. The former inspires me every day to go to the coffee plantations to continue the work of those before me. The latter forces me to pay more and more attention to them. So to do this I plant new tall trees amidst the crops. They help filter sunlight so the heat of the rays will not jeopardize their growth. So I can create an ideal climate and achieve perfect development of the plant, which goes hand in hand with that of the community. All of this thanks to my two souls. That are tradition. That are progress.” Karnataka, Chikmagalur, India
“At Maussawa space is vaster. I realize that looking at it from up here. I admire its vastness extending as far as its borders, sometimes imagining that I cross them and others that I am conquering them. Ever since I have been in the world I have nourished and supported this land. I offer flour, lumber and, above all, treacle: a natural sweetener that has survived the massive cultivation of sugarcane, which took land and primacy away from it since the colonial age. But I withstood the test of time, without ever bending to headwinds. Now everyone recognises my role. They safeguard it through rituals. They teach it and hand it down. Because I am the lifeblood of this forest and this community. They call me the Kitul palm. They call me the woman of Maussawa.” Halpola, Kotmale, Sri Lanka
“Kotagiri is a forest of tall trees backed up by rock faces. It is a magnificent and delightful place with plenty of rainfall. That life is difficult around here is something that not even the foliage can conceal. But Kotagiri also has its pleasant side. It is merely difficult to reach because it is amidst the tallest treetops and narrow mountain gorges. That’s where the beehives with Jenu are: the most prized multi floral forest honey in all of India. So every day, for centuries, someone climbs up and hunts for honey, while others defend it. It is a high-altitude duel of agility and mutual respect, in which victory is very sweet indeed. A struggle for survival that pits the king and queen of the forest against each other. The man of Kotagiri, the bee of Kotagiri.” Kotagiri, India
“I am a girl of these mountains. I will be a woman of these mountains. I am the daughter of coffee growers and I grow coffee. I will be the mother of coffee growers and will always grow coffee. I collect the rains that nourish these lands in the wet season. I will use the water I’ve collected to nourish these lands when the dry season arrives. Every day I learn the best production techniques. Every day I will teach the most sustainable production techniques. I work so that the role of women will be recognized in our country. I will work so that the role of women will be recognized in our world. I am my today. I will be my tomorrow.” Karnataka, Chikmagalur, India
“Before this place was called Paksong, meaning “Two mouths of the river”, it was known as “Land of Gold” because of its fertility. A generous, volcanic land poised between waterfalls and mountains, that welcomed into its arms and its foliage everyone who ventured here. A land where we cultivate coffee — and, above all, respect. Because here in Paksong we live together peacefully. We “co-exist”: we exist together. Among the various ethnic groups — the Laven, Yahen, Ta-oy and Lao — but also with different crops: coffee as well as cabbages, chilli peppers, aubergines and fruit trees. It is easy to understand why complete harmony with the environment is the only rule for living here. On this land that is red, but rooted in gold. Rich in values and fruits. That is culture. That is cultivation.” Paksong, Laos
“You breathe in a special atmosphere in Paksong. We feel the world is watching us and we are proud of it. Because here we all share the same dream and, together, we try to make it come true. We want to improve the conditions of the Planet through our Arabica plantations. We are a sort of huge natural laboratory, in which even the tiniest results that are achieved here at Paksong are an enormous step forward for everyone’s future. The consumption of water and energy, the emission and absorption of carbon dioxide, fertilizers: everything is taken into consideration to minimize any environmental impact. And in this daily miracle we are the body and the breath. We, men and trees. We, women and plantations.” Paksong, Laos
“The heat of this land is part of me. And I am one of its elements. I bring light here when climate changes cast shadows. Because that which can no longer yield anything starts growing again thanks to my commitment. I burn plants that have become non-productive because of the alternation of drought and bad weather, allowing new crops to be planted. Mainly coffee. So that, along with the forest, the community can also advance. I am proof that, at times, what dies with ashes can be reborn from those ashes. That’s why I am respected and even venerated in the community of Ea Sin. I am a generating and regenerating force. I am man. I am fire.” Quang Tien, Buôn na Thuôt, Vietnam
“There is a legend in Jatiluwih. It is about a dragon that passed through here one day and was moved by the beauty of this place. His tears fell to the ground and spawned Dewi Sri, goddess of prosperity. Later, when her body left these lands to return to the heavenly kingdom, red rice grew in its place: a unique wild variety famous for its fragrance. Since that day, I too have been on this land. I bathe these green terraces to give them ever-new lifeblood and I protect this rice from the risk of extinction. I allow these ancient rituals to continue. I give new generations the opportunity to continue the work of the first builders of the subak, the irrigation system. I nourish the land so it can nourish people. Because I am the water of these rice paddies. Because I am the woman of these rice paddies.” Jatiluwi, Bali, Indonesia
“Once I had a garden as big as a coffee plantation. Back then, sun and rain alternated harmoniously. The grateful land yielded its fruits and my garden flourished. Then one day things became more difficult: I started to face serious problems and damage. So in the rainy season I observed increasingly intense precipitation and in the dry season long periods of great heat and no water. I heard about global warming for the very first time, and my garden almost stopped yielding any fruit. But I wasn’t alarmed. If anything, I learned the concept of resilience, because someone showed me by example, and my garden immediately flourished once more. As it did before, better than before. And if Vietnam is now the second leading producer of coffee in the world, it is also thanks to the fabulous story of my garden – and my story. Me, the man of this land and the climate of this land.” Quang Tien, Buôn na Thuôt, Vietnam
“After a long journey by sea, I decided to stop on these shores. The beaches of Kusamba proved to be ideal for my adventure. I wanted to produce wealth for the people who live here. So I started a cycle that has been repeated daily ever since. Reaching the shore with the waves. Drying myself in the sun. Resting in the huts. Giving the community self-determination and pride. It seems easy to describe now, but it wasn’t at first. I could only do it in the name of my purity. The same as that of those who live in Kusamba. Because I am the salt of this sea. Because I am the man of this beach.” Kusamba, Bali, Indonesia