Want to know more about Sumowala? Download the book (in Dutch only) Woest & Dwars.
Sumowala, your new nature
Exciting things are happening. We’re busy acquiring our first plots of land and things are moving in the right direction. We expect to start working on the first Sumowala's in the course of 2022.
Yes, I am interested and would like to know more about:
What is Sumowala?
Sumowala (Sun-Moon-Water-Land) is a social enterprise that offers immersive nature experiences near cities. Sumowala converts farmland or production forests into nature reserves where a maximum of 5% of the land is used for small-scale recreational accommodation. Sumowala’s guiding principles are circularity and inclusion, and it has set an ambitious goal: to create thousands of hectares of new nature and set up a thriving network of small-scale places to stay across Europe.
Where are you now? Can I already book a cabin?
We’re currently working on purchasing the first piece of land. That’s a big challenge, but we’re moving in the right direction. At this moment in time, you cannot book a cabin yet. This will not be possible until 2022 at the earliest. But if you are curious or interested in participating in a local Sumowala cooperative or renting a cabin, leave your details here and we will keep you informed.
I have land. Are you interested?
Yes, we’re interested. Buying the first piece of land is the biggest challenge we currently face. We’re looking for a piece of farmland or production forest of approximately twenty hectares. We’re exploring several possibilities but would like to expand our options. If you know of something, please leave your contact information here and we will reach out to you.
How do you ‘make' nature?
We buy or lease land, For example from owners who want to convert their farmland or production forest into natural habitat or woodlands. We then modify the land in such a way that nature can recover on its own. The new reserve is overseen by local partners in collaboration with biologists and the users of the Sumowala cabin park. Within a few seasons, wildlife will return, and the natural balance will start to be restored. People can stay in and experience nature at the park, and thus play a role in the new ecosystem, albeit a modest one.
How do you ensure inclusivity?
Nature flourishes with diversity, and so do people. Sumowala's design is geared towards maximising diversity. The reserve is publicly accessible and there exist a variety of rental prices for the cabins to ensure that all people can visit and become a part of the community. We also try to make ownership as inclusive as possible by making a share in a local Sumowala cooperative affordable for everyone. Sumowalas are always part of the local communities. This means that there is intensive cooperation with residents in the area and local entrepreneurs and organisations.
Is Sumowala really circular?
To be circular means that you organise all material and energy flows as locally as possible, without leaving any waste. For Sumowala, nature - and therefore circular thinking - is the inspiration for everything: the maintenance of nature, the design of the cabins, as well as the energy, food, and mobility systems. As designers of the circular projects De Ceuvel and Schoonschip in Amsterdam, we have already learned a lot about the unruly practice of circularity. Sumowala is our next big step.
What do you mean by experiencing nature?
People feel good in nature for many different reasons. Sometimes it’s the silence, the tranquillity, the rustling of leaves or simply standing under a wide-open sky. Sometimes we feel wonder at the sight of a special flower or new combination of colours. You can move around without restrictions: walking, running, cycling – take your pick. And then there, of course, adventure, especially for children: running through the forest, hiding behind bushes. All these experiences are ultimately about the same thing: the amazing realisation that you are a part of a greater whole.
Who are the people behind Sumowala?
Sumowala is an initiative of Groundforce.studio, builder of inclusive platforms, and Space& Matter, an Amsterdam-based design studio that specialises in architecture, urban planning and vision-making. The Sumowala team consists of Matthijs ten Berge, Sascha Glasl, Ernestien Idenburg, Désiré Leijs, Jen Drouin and Ruurd Priester. A lot of ecologically and socially driven entrepreneurship and experience come together in this team. See, for example, De Ceuvel, Schoonschip, the Knowledge Mile and donuteconomics.org, the platform of DEAL (Donut Economics Action Lab). The team is advised in terms of concept and development by Bureau Stroming (Gerard Litjens).
What is your dream?
Perhaps the greatest paradox of humanity is that we are part of and dependent on natural systems, and at the same time can destroy those systems - which is what we are doing right now. Take air travel, for example. We look for nature and relaxation in faraway places, but we disrupt natural systems to get there. Our dream is to establish a vibrant network of small-scale places to stay near cities across Europe. There, we bring together the restoration and experience of nature with the strengthening of local communities.
What kind of business model does Sumowala have?
Sumowala is a social enterprise. We want to realise our dream and for us a business approach - being an enterprise - works best. Our priority is to create as much experienceable nature as possible, always within a one-hour radius of the city. At least 95% of the land we acquire becomes nature. The remaining 5% is allocated to the inclusive small-scale places where people can stay to relax and recharge. A reasonable fee is deducted from our revenues for us to live from. The rest we invest in the creation of more nature. Every local Sumowala we realize takes the form of a cooperative so that everyone can invest and benefit. Nature has a 'golden share' within this cooperative, so that natural values are guaranteed now and in the future.
Does Sumowala like donuts?
Doughnut Economics is an international bestseller by Oxford economist Kate Raworth in which she debunks the myth of endless growth and proposes a new economic goal: to realise everybody’s basic needs within the already existing natural systems. In recent years, there has been a worldwide movement of people who practice 'the doughnut'. We are at the centre of that movement and see Sumowala as our most important contribution.