“The Forest Underground” by Tony Rinaudo wins 2022 Australian Christian Book of the Year

2022 Australian Christian Book of the Year The Forest Underground promises healing and hope for a hurting planet

This year, 96 books were entered into the SparkLit Australian Christian Book of the Year Awards, with 10 books shortlisted for the prize. Included in this list was John Dickson’s Bullies and Saints, Greg Sheridan’s Christians, and Sam Chan and Malcolm Gill’s Topical Preaching in a Complex World.

However, it was Tony Rinaudo’s autobiography The Forest Underground: Hope for a Planet in Crisis that “moved the judges to tears,” with its hopefulness and picture of “what it looks like to be a faithful Christian”, said the host of last night’s award ceremony held in Melbourne.

ISCAST is honoured to be the publisher of this significant story that moves hearts and hands to care for God’s incredible planet. It is our privilege to help reveal the story behind the technique of Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration (FMNR), a powerful tale of one man’s faithfulness and God’s unfailing grace.

Support Tony and the FMNR movement; buy the book today!

The judges’ comments

Appalled and infuriated by the abuse and degradation of the environment, a boy offers himself to God. God answers this child’s prayer and the ensuing adventure across continents and decades is breathtaking. The simple and sustainable system of land management that Tony Rinaudo pioneered in Niger is transforming the lives of subsistence farmers around the world and offers a model for solving our environmental crisis. Reviving dormant tree stumps is as powerful a metaphor as it is a method of reforestation. Tony is determined and faithful, and writes without guile or hubris. Irresistible, exemplary and, above all, hopeful.

Excerpt from the book

To announce the winner of the award, a reading was given of this excerpt from The Forest Underground:

Today I reflect on that boy in gumboots who yearned to plant trees on a barren hill. Feeling powerless, he reached out to a God of love and compassion and power. I see an earnest teen-ager and then a restless young man, with Liz by his side, who took trusting but faltering steps and who found the faith to keep moving forward despite setbacks and disappointments. More significantly, my doubts faded with the experience of seeing God at work. The God who does care, who does answer prayer and who does use very ordinary people to do extraordinary things. He is a God who has replaced despair, brokenness and tragedy with hope—and hope through, of all things, trees! The lowly tree, despised, taken for granted and abused by human-kind from the dawn of time, ignored by scientists seeking technological fixes to problems of their own making, scorned by governments and industry in their blind pursuit of progress and prosperity, cut at the roots by the very farmers whose livelihoods and wellbeing depend on them—what more fitting symbol of hope than the humble and unsung tree, which freely serves humanity, in silence and forbearance and without fanfare?


In the face of environmental destruction and injustice, my journey started with a child’s prayer asking God to use me somehow, somewhere, to make a difference. I believe God honoured that prayer. I am in awe of how he has and is answering my prayer. I am grateful for the people who believed in me, supported, encouraged, taught and went before me. There is little room for doubt that God has indeed “prepared in advance good things for us to do.”

Be a part of sharing this powerful story

ISCAST is seeking a part-time project coordinator for The Forest Underground, who will get the chance to work with Tony and the team to share this message of hope by coordinating the global distribution and promotion of the book. Find out more here.

Watch the full awards night livestream

Tony and Liz Rinaudo, Chris Mulherin (ISCAST), and Jackie Liu (ISCAST) with the Australian Christian Book of the Year Award.