Meet the Team

Gaia Team: Grace Iara Souza

Grace Iara Souza – Convenor of the Alliance for the Amazon and Beyond

Grace Iara joined Gaia in 2019, before which she had research and teaching positions at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), and King’s College London (KCL). She has also worked in the financial and foreign trade sectors in Brazil. Originally from Sao Paulo, Grace travelled to the Brazilian Amazon in 2011 and it was love at first boat trip! After spending time with Indigenous Peoples, riverine communities in the River Negro, NGO workers and conservation policy implementors across Manaus and Brasilia, she has committed to a continuous learning and sharing journey. Using her critical mind, big smile, attentive ears, bear hugs, and cross-pollination skills behind the scenes, she supports the efforts of grassroots networks, socioenvironmental NGOs, and philanthropic foundations. She has a Ph.D. in Political Ecology, an MA in Environment, Politics, and Globalisation, and a BA in International Relations. When Grace is not convening the Alliance for the Amazon and Beyond, she can be found dancing Forro, looking after her urban jungle, walking in East Sussex, or trying a new restaurant in her home town of Hove.

Gaia team: Ally Nelson

Ally Nelson – Project Lead for We Feed The UK

Ally is growing We Feed The UK from the ground up – an ambitious storytelling campaign that weaves together the arts and environment, to celebrate regenerative farmers as custodians of Britain’s biocultural diversity. After graduating in Documentary Photography at the University of South Wales, Ally worked in a variety of creative environments from photographic journals to shoot production, studios and gallery curation. Over the last ten years, she has worked as an agent in the fast-paced world of commercial photography. She lives in Frome, Somerset, with her husband and their three children, where she recently ran a successful campaign to save their local community gardens from development.

Kerry Meech

Kerry Meech – Administrator

Kerry joined Gaia in Spring 2023, having spent the previous 12 years working in film and books in London. Originally from East Devon, Kerry moved back to the Westcountry in 2021 where she put her RHS Level 2 qualifications to good use by founding The Frome Seed Library and its under-5s gardening club, Sprouts. When not causing horticultural chaos in the library she can usually be found in one of the many cafes of Frome with her young daughter.

Recent recommended reading includes Rebirding by Benedict Macdonald, Coffeeland by Augustine Sedgewick, and Entangled Life by Merlin Sheldrake.

Amy Forshaw – Communications Lead

Amy joined the team in 2022, having previously worked in grassroots nature conservation. With a music degree and decade of experience working in the cultural sector, her winding career path took an even bigger meander when she bicycled across North America for six months. 8000 miles, 18 states and many dozen doughnuts later, she is living in Cornwall and can most often be found kayaking around the coast with her dog.

Carlotta Byrne – Earth Jurisprudence Programme Lead

Carlotta joined Gaia in 2019. She trained as a lawyer after completing degrees in languages and history of art. Disillusioned by a legal system destructively out-of-step with the laws of Nature and in pursuit of a more Earth-centred life, she swapped desk and screen for soil and scythe to study and work in the horticulture department at Schumacher College. During her time as a community food grower and course facilitator at the College, Carlotta explored indigenous cosmologies, deep ecology and alternatives to the industrial growth economy. Inspired to think more imaginatively about her legal practice and hoping to weave together her legal background, love of Nature and experience as a facilitator of transformative education, Carlotta encountered Gaia’s work on Earth Jurisprudence. The philosophy and movement resonated deeply and she feels privileged to support and accompany a growing network of Earth Jurisprudence Practitioners in Africa and beyond.  

Barry Lopez, Nan Shepherd and Robert Macfarlane are among Carlotta’s favourite writers and, in the realm of fiction, she highly recommends Richard Powers’ The Overstory and the novels of George Eliot. 

Sinéad Fortune – Seed Sovereignty Programme Lead and Coordinator for Scotland

Sinéad joined the Gaia team in June 2019 to manage the Seed Sovereignty Programme and coordinate our Scottish network. She works with other coordinators around the UK and Ireland to support community groups, market gardeners and farmers to train in seed production. Her academic background in Political Ecology focused on food security and community empowerment, and her diverse professional experience spans community food movements, alternative sustainable food producion, science education and behaviour change. When Sinéad isn’t drafting funding applications or willing her garlic to grow, she can be found wandering the woods looking for interesting fungi, crafting herbal lotions, potions and remedies, or playing a few tunes on the fiddle.

Sinéad recommends Climate Justice by Mary Robinson and dreams of building her own cob house inspiried by The Hand-Sculpted House.

Katie Hastings – Seed Sovereignty Programme Coordinator for Wales

Katie is coordinating the seed sovereignty programme in Wales. She is also co-founder of the community organisation Mach Maethlon where she coordinates a horticultural training programme, food hub and community growing scheme. She grows wheat as part of a collective, which is baked by a local bakery and eaten by people in Mid Wales. In her free time she grows field scale potatoes and salad for her local ‘solidarity veg box scheme’. Katie is a member of the Landworkers Alliance Cymru coordinating grou. She is especially interested in rare oats.

Richie Walsh – Seed Sovereignty Programme Coordinator for Ireland

Richie joined the team in June 2020 as the Scotland Seed Sovereignty Coordinator before moving to Ireland. He has an academic background in amenity horticulture, market gardening and plant conservation. He works professionally in the field of horticultural therapy and is a keen amateur botanist specialising in the heather family native to Europe. He has a passion for community food growing. Over the last decade, he has set up and run community gardens in Dublin, Amsterdam and Glasgow. When not digging in a garden or wandering and botanising in the countryside, Richie can be found brewing his own beer, mead and hedgerow wines.

Catherine Howell, Seed Sovereignty Programme Coordinator for Northern England

Catherine Howell – Seed Sovereignty Programme Coordinator for Northern England

Catherine coordinates the seed network in the north of England supporting amateur and professional growers to grow more open pollinated seed for thriving, diverse and resilient food production. She is a co-director and founder of a ‘plot to plate’ community interest company in Teesside, runs the Middlesbrough Farmstart programme and has a background in helping people from diverse and challenged communities create gardens in urban spaces. Catherine is particularly interested in local and heritage varieties and celebrating the stories behind them. When not actively engaged in mud, she enjoys making and crafting, which somehow always ends up back at seeds…

Fiona Wilton – Sacred Lands & Waters Programme Lead

Fiona grew up in Cornwall with a passion for the sea, sailing and big storms. She first joined Gaia in 1992 but moved to South America soon after – working in Cuenca, Ecuador, before settling in Colombia in 1998 to join the Gaia Amazonas team. A fluent Spanish speaker, with an MSc in Protected Landscape Management, she has a mixed bag of lived and working experience – from indigenous-led projects in Colombia’s Amazon and Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, to international consultancies. Fiona pioneered the concept of remote-working’ for Gaia, and leads on Sacred Lands and Waters working especially with members of the African Earth Jurisprudence Collective. She lives on the coast in Uruguay, carries out the occasional penguin rescue, and puts her energies into local initiatives such as Mar Azul Uruguayo protecting marine life and healthy oceans.

Fiona admits she gets most enjoyment from Calvin and Hobbes, by legendary cartoonist Bill Watterson – but highly recommends Where the Seals Sing by Susan Richardson, a journey around the British Isles discovering the extraordinary lives of the Atlantic grey seal.

Sara Davies – Grants & Fundraising

Working for us part-time from Zimbabwe, Sara returned to Gaia in July 2017 to help with fundraising. Sara lived and worked in London for 13 years and it was during this time, after the completion of her Masters in Human Rights, that she worked with us, on fundraising and holding the grants for the Green Belt Movement in Kenya and Usiko in South Africa. She has a passion for community food growing, having run her own food growing training project and being head grower on London’s then only certified organic market garden. Back home in Zimbabwe, she set up a community newspaper and continued links with permaculture projects in the country. She has a beautiful vegetable garden, keeps chickens and is delighted by the joy her two small children get from picking their own food.

Liz Hosken – Founding Co-Director

Liz Hosken was born in South Africa and was active from a young age in both environmental issues and the anti-apartheid movement. In the mid 80’s Liz co-founded The Gaia Foundation, based in the UK. During the first decade of Gaia’s work Liz spent many years in the Amazon, where she was “initiated” into indigenous ways of seeing the world, which resonated with her own. Together with partners and indigenous communities, they developed a methodology for accompanying communities to revive their indigenous knowledge and practices. When Liz returned to her continent she was inspired to share these lessons and search for ways to restore Africa’s rich cultural, spiritual and ecological heritage. Liz now teaches the philosophy and practice of this approach, which is rooted in experiential learning and Earth Jurisprudence. She has a BSc in Environmental Sciences and a Masters in Philosophy and Education for Social Change.

To understand Gaia’s theory of change, Liz recommends Margaret Wheatley’s work Using Emergence to take Social Innovation to Scale. Having been mentored by the late Thomas Berry, the founding father of Earth Jurisprudence (EJ), Liz would suggest that anyone looking to understand EJ principles and our great challenge ahead should read Berry’s The Great Work.

Dijana Malidza – Finance & Grants

Dijana is originally from Croatia and came to England with her family in 1999. She worked at the Woman’s Trust, before joining the Gaia team in October 2010. She is now Finance Manager and looks after a number of grant relationships with our global partners, working particularly closely with our South African partners Usiko and Earthlore. Dijana holds a Diploma with the Association of Accounting Technician (AAT) and has a Charity Accounting Diploma. Whenever possible, Dijana escapes the bustle of London and returns to her small village in Croatia.

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini made a huge impact on Dijana, and her favourite saying is “Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet”, Thich Nhat Hanh.

Rowan Phillimore – Co-Director

Rowan joined the team back in 2009 when the north London Learning Centre offered regular ‘Gaia Evenings’ with visiting speakers from around the world. Rowan works across all of Gaia’s programme areas, from fundraising to team support, but is particularly involved in We Feed The World, We Feed The UK and the Seed Sovereignty UK & Ireland Programme. Further afield she has worked with rural communities in Africa using Participatory Video techniques to create advocacy films. Rowan originally studied Social Anthropology & English Literature at The University of Manchester. She lives in Frome in Somerset with her partner and their three sons.

Rowan recommends English Pastoral by James Rebanks – the most beautifully evocative, personal account of why we must return to regenerative, agro-ecological farming practices that work with, not against nature. And Flatpack Democracy, a guide to transforming politics at the local scale, inspired by the proudly politically independent town of Frome, UK.