This profile was prepared when Ewa Romanow was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2003.
The New Idea
Small-scale farmers in Central Europe often face extreme economic pressures which present serious obstacles to developing environmental consciousness. Ewa overcomes such obstacles by creating concrete opportunities for farmers to earn higher profits through ecologically sound farming. Starting in northern Poland, she helps farmers build income through the use of clean, locally available resources. Working side by side with farmers, her team chose wicker as a model resource, an important source of clean energy with additional value as a raw material for crafts. Now Ewa distributes wicker seedlings to participating farmers, helps them to learn to harvest and sell the wood, and then entrusts them with the initiative’s spread. Each farmer “pays forward” the loan of the trees by persuading another farmer to participate and by helping him start a wicker plantation of his own. In this initiative and others, Ewa draws from a diverse coalition of businesspeople, farmers, scientists and citizen organizations. To spread her effort broadly, Ewa taps into the infrastructure of the Domy Kultury—Houses of Culture—more than 2,000 community centers whose potential has remained largely untapped for decades.