Editor’s note: This article was published before the coronavirus pandemic, and may not reflect the current situation on the ground.

After stumbling upon an ancient food forest in the ’70s, Geoff Lawton dedicated his life to agroforestry. Today, some scientists believe these edible forests might hold the key for feeding the entire planet. 

In 1975, Geoff Lawton was 21 years old, surfing with friends on the west coast of Morocco. It was something they did every year. Get seasonal jobs, rent kombi vans, camp on the wild beaches near Agadir and ride the North Atlantic swells. Then one day, the waves went flat.

“The surf died,” says Geoff over the phone from his home in rural New South Wales, Australia, “and people were talking about this place called Paradise Valley, up in the Atlas Mountains, a hidden place, full of palm trees and running water. So we went looking for it.”

The trail took them on dirt roads, up through Morocco’s high passes to a little village called Inraren. The group stopped to ask for directions, and Geoff wandered off into the forest. As he moved through the trees, it slowly dawned on him that something was weird. It was cool here.