WHO WE ARE SERVICES RESOURCES




Most recent stories ›
AgroInsight RSS feed
Blog

Innovating in the homeland of lupins May 20th, 2018 by

Vea la versi√≥n en espa√Īol a continuaci√≥n

Rhimer Gonzales is an agronomist who has worked in Morochata, in the Bolivian Andes, for three years, introducing new, sweet varieties of lupin: the beans can be eaten directly without soaking them to remove the natural toxins. Rhimer has also been trying, without success, to encourage folks to grow lupins in rows, just like other crops.

Farmers have been growing lupins here for a long time. Wild lupins are common in the canyons of Morochata, an area close to the center of origin for this crop with the gorgeous flowers and edible beans. It seems unlikely that local farmers could learn new ways to grow lupins, yet the use of a farmer learning video has triggered innovations.

I accompanied Rhimer during a recent visit, when we met Serafina Córdoba. She was busy washing dishes under a tree in front of her house, hurrying to finish so she get her kids started on their homework. She explained that the family got a DVD on soil conservation at a meeting of the sindicato (local village organization). Afterwards she watched the videos again with her husband and children. She remembered several of the videos, especially one on lupins and another on earthworms.

When we asked if the family had done anything new after watching the videos, at first she demurred. She wasn‚Äôt sure if the changes they had made in selecting lupin seed were important enough. Before, they would just take a handful of seeds and plant them. After seeing the video she picked out the big, healthy seeds, and the family planted those. The crop is flowering in the field now and do√Īa Sefarina said it looks better than in previous years.

The family also noticed in the video that people planted in rows, in furrows made with oxen. So do√Īa Serafina and her husband Jorge planted a whole field with oxen. She was pleased that this was a fast way to plant‚ÄĒclearly saving time is important for busy families. Rhimer confirmed that planting with oxen was a major innovation. Before, people planted just one row of lupins around the field.

The video emphasized seed selection. But it also showed row planting with oxen, because that is a routine practice in Anzaldo, where most of the video was filmed. Lupins are a more important crop in Anzaldo than in Morochata, even though both municipalities are in Cochabamba.

The value of filming farmers at work is that other farmers watching the video can learn all sorts of unexpected things. Conventional practice in one area can be an interesting innovation for another.

Rhimer explained that he selected the lupin video to show in Morochata because he thought it would be convincing. He was pleased to learn about do√Īa Serafina‚Äôs experience, because the video succeeded in convincing her family to not only select seed, but also to plant in rows.

Each farmer responds to a video in his or her own way. Later we met don Dar√≠o, who had also seen the videos at the meeting at the sindicato, and had later watched the DVD again with his family. Then he planted a whole field of lupins in rows. Unlike do√Īa Serafina, who said that planting in rows was easier, don Dar√≠o said it was more work. But that‚Äôs because he planted a whole field by hand with a pick, on a canyon side. Don Dar√≠o planted his lupins in straight lines up the hillside, and parallel to the slope as well, forming a grid pattern.

Rhimer explained that this lupin was a new, sweet variety and the plants were smaller than those of the bitter lupin that was previously planted in Morochata, so farmer had planted the new, shorter variety too far apart. Rhimer was also frustrated that the farmers were not watering the lupin enough. ‚ÄúIrrigating it one more time would have done it good.‚ÄĚ There is plenty of water here. But folks are still not treating lupins like a major crop, worth irrigating.

Change takes time, even when a community has a good extensionist like Rhimer. I thought he was doing well, successfully encouraging people to plant a new variety, and with a little help from the lupin video, inducing people to select healthy seed and plant in lines. As farmers grow familiar with the new variety they might learn to plant it closer together and water it a bit more, especially if a market develops for it.

Rhimer was modest about his own contribution to changing farmer practices. I suggested that the farmers’ responses to the videos were closely related to his work in the community. But Rhimer said that even though he had shared ideas with people of Morochata for a long time, it was the video that finally convinced the farmers to try row planting and seed selection.

Rhimer’s hard earned standing with farmers meant they were receptive to new ideas. But the videos provided additional, concrete evidence that that the new practices actually worked.

Related blog stories

United women of Morochata

Crop with an attitude

Watch the video on lupins

Growing lupin without disease: Available in English, Spanish, Quechua, Aymara, and French

Acknowledgements

Our work in Bolivia is funded by the McKnight Foundation’s CCRP (Collaborative Crop Research Program). Rhimer Gonzales works for the Proinpa Foundation.

INNOVANDO EN LA CUNA DEL TARWI

Por Jeff Bentley, 20 de mayo del 2018

Rhimer Gonzales es un agr√≥nomo que ha trabajado en Morochata, en los Andes bolivianos, durante tres a√Īos, introduciendo nuevas variedades dulces de tarwi (tambi√©n conocido como lupino, chocho, y altramuz). Sus granos se pueden comer directamente sin remojarlos para eliminar las toxinas naturales. Rhimer tambi√©n ha intentado, sin √©xito, alentar a las personas a cultivar tarwi en hileras, al igual que otros cultivos.

Los agricultores han estado cultivando tarwi aqu√≠ durante mucho tiempo. Los tarwis silvestres son comunes en los ca√Īones de Morochata, un √°rea cercana al centro de origen de este cultivo, con hermosas flores y frijoles comestibles. Parece poco probable que se podr√≠a ense√Īar algo nuevo a agricultores con tanta experiencia con el tarwi, sin embargo, el uso de un video de aprendizaje ha desencadenado algunas innovaciones.

Acompa√Ī√© a Rhimer durante una visita reciente, cuando conocimos a Serafina C√≥rdoba. Estaba ocupada lavando los platos debajo de un √°rbol en frente de su casa, apurada a terminar para poder ayudar a sus hijos con sus tareas. Ella explic√≥ que la familia recibi√≥ un DVD sobre la conservaci√≥n del suelo en una reuni√≥n del sindicato (organizaci√≥n local del pueblo). Luego ella mir√≥ los videos nuevamente con su esposo e hijos. Ella record√≥ los videos, especialmente uno sobre tarwi y otro sobre lombrices.

Cuando le preguntamos si la familia hab√≠a hecho algo nuevo despu√©s de ver los videos, al principio ella se neg√≥. No estaba segura que los cambios que hab√≠an hecho en la selecci√≥n de semillas de lupino eran lo suficientemente importantes. Antes, simplemente tomaban un pu√Īado de semillas y las sembraban. Despu√©s de ver el video, ella seleccion√≥ las semillas grandes y saludables, y la familia las sembr√≥. Ahora el cultivo est√° en flor y do√Īa Sefarina dice que se ve mejor que en a√Īos anteriores.

La familia tambi√©n not√≥ en el video que la gente sembraba en hileras, en surcos hechos con bueyes. Entonces do√Īa Serafina y su esposo Jorge plantaron una parcela entera con bueyes. Estaba contenta de que era r√°pido sembrar as√≠; para una familia ocupada es imprescindible ahorrar tiempo. Rhimer confirm√≥ que sembrar con bueyes fue una gran innovaci√≥n. Antes, la gente sembraba solo una fila de tarwis alrededor de la parcela.

El video enfatizó la selección de semilla. Pero también mostró la siembra en surcos con bueyes, porque esa es una práctica convencional en Anzaldo, donde se filmó la mayor parte del video. El tarwi es más importante en Anzaldo que en Morochata, aunque ambos municipios están en Cochabamba.

El valor de filmar a los agricultores mientras trabajan es que otros agricultores que miran el video pueden aprender todo tipo de cosas inesperadas. La práctica convencional en una zona puede ser una innovación interesante para otra.

Rhimer explic√≥ que seleccion√≥ el video de tarwi para mostrar en Morochata porque pens√≥ que ser√≠a convincente. Le agrad√≥ conocer la experiencia de do√Īa Serafina, porque el video logr√≥ convencer a su familia no solo de seleccionar semillas, sino tambi√©n de plantar en filas.

Cada agricultor responde a un video a su manera. M√°s tarde nos encontramos con don Dar√≠o, quien tambi√©n hab√≠a visto los videos en la reuni√≥n en el sindicato, y luego hab√≠a visto el DVD otra vez con su familia. Luego plant√≥ una parcela entera de tarwi en fila. A diferencia de Do√Īa Serafina, quien dijo que plantar en hileras era m√°s f√°cil, don Dar√≠o dijo que era m√°s trabajo. Pero eso es porque sembr√≥ un campo entero a mano con una picota, en ladera del ca√Ī√≥n. Don Dar√≠o sembr√≥ su tarwi en l√≠nea recta hacia arriba, y de lado a lado, como cuadr√≠cula.

Rhimer explic√≥ que este tarwi era una variedad nueva y dulce y que las plantas eran m√°s peque√Īas que las del tarwi amargo que ya se conoc√≠a en Morochata, por lo que los agricultores hab√≠an sembrado la variedad nueva muy distanciada. Rhimer tambi√©n estaba frustrado porque los campesinos no estaban regando lo suficiente al lupino. “Regarlo una vez m√°s lo hubiera hecho bien”. Aqu√≠ hay mucha agua. Pero la gente todav√≠a no est√° tratando al tarwi como un cultivo importante, que vale la pena regar.

El cambio lleva tiempo, incluso cuando una comunidad tiene un buen extensionista como Rhimer. Yo admiraba su trabajo, animando la gente a sembrar una nueva variedad y con un poco de ayuda del video de tarwi, induciendo a los agricultores a seleccionar semilla y sembrar en línea. A medida que los agricultores se familiarizan con la nueva variedad, podrían aprender a sembrarla más cerca y regarla un poco más, especialmente si se desarrolla un mercado para el tarwi.

Rhimer modestamente atribuía mucho del cambio en prácticas a los videos. Sugerí que el cambio estaba estrechamente relacionado con su trabajo en la comunidad. Pero Rhimer dijo que aunque había compartido ideas con la gente de Morochata durante mucho tiempo, fue el video que finalmente convenció a los agricultores a probar la siembra en líneas y la selección de semilla.

Por su trabajo constante, Rhimer ha ganado la confianza de los agricultores para que reciban a las nuevas ideas. Pero los videos dieron evidencia adicional y concreta de que las nuevas pr√°cticas realmente funcionaran.

Historias previas del blog

Mujeres unidas de Morochata

Cultivo con car√°cter fuerte

Vea el video sobre tarwi

Producir tarwi sin enfermedad: Disponible en espa√Īol, ingl√©s, quechua, aymara, y franc√©s

Agradecimiento

Nuestro trabajo en Bolivia es auspiciado por el CCRP (Programa Colaborativo para la Investigación de los Cultivos) de la Fundación McKnight. Rhimer Gonzales trabaja para la Fundación Proinpa.

Inspiration from Bangladesh to Bolivia May 13th, 2018 by

Vea la versi√≥n en espa√Īol a continuaci√≥n

For years I have thought of farmer experiments as fundamentally different from scientific trials. Smallholders live from their harvest and after trying an innovation for a while can decide qualitatively if it is useful or not. For the scientists it’s the other way around; the data are the precious material they need to write their papers, while the harvested crop is irrelevant. The scientists need replicable results to show that an innovation will work in different places. But the farmers are less concerned if their results are replicable over a large area; they only want to know if an innovation is helpful in their own fields.

That’s what I thought, anyway, but this past week in La Paz, Bolivia I saw how farmers who work together may become more concerned about doing experiments with replicable results. I was with Prosuco, a small NGO that promotes farmer research. Agronomist Sonia Laura, their research coordinator, introduced me to eight farmer-experimenters from all over the northern Bolivian Altiplano. They had travelled for three or four hours from different points across this cold, arid landscape to meet us in El Alto, the sprawling new city growing on the high plains just above La Paz.

These farmer experimenters call themselves ‚Äúyapuchiris‚ÄĚ, an Aymara word that means master farmer. A network of 70 yapuchiris meets irregularly, exchanging information, conducting experiments and teaching their neighbors new ideas (such as making organic fertilizers, natural pesticides and soil conservation).

The day we met in El Alto we discussed future experiments the yapuchiris could do. The president of the group, Miguel Ortega, suggested working on earthworms. He had raised earthworms and used their humus for years to fertilize his greenhouse vegetables. The other yapuchiris were mildly interested, especially because some of them already raised earthworms. They talked about carrying out an experiment on earthworm humus, but were a little vague on what this would be.

Then Sonia played an Aymara-language version of a video on earthworms, filmed in Bangladesh. A year earlier, Sonia had given the yapuchiris a DVD with this and six other videos in Aymara, Spanish, and Quechua. Some yapuchiris had watched the videos and some had not. At home, don Miguel had watched the one on earthworms four times.

After watching the video together the group came alive, defining more clearly what they would do in their earthworm experiment. With don Miguel taking the lead, they first agreed to standardize the types and amounts of food they would give their earthworms, so that the results would be replicable. In the video, Bangladeshi women had measured their materials in small baskets. On the Altiplano, most people have a 12-liter bucket, which Miguel suggested that they use instead of the basket.

Miguel said that the objective of the experiment was to get humus in one month. In his own, previous experience, it could take four months to get humus, and he wanted to speed up the process.

The video suggested mixing cow dung with chopped up banana stems, which are unavailable on the frigid Altiplano. The group kind of got stuck there. Sometimes a little outside facilitation can be useful. I helped them make a quick list of the plant materials they did have, including potato tops‚ÄĒstems and leaves normally discarded after harvest‚ÄĒand various kinds of straw.

That was enough to set the group thinking about how to adapt Bangladeshi techniques to Bolivian conditions. Don Miguel seized the lead again and asked each member of the group if they had potato tops. Only two others did, so he then asked how many had green barley straw. They all did, so they decided that each yapuchiri would make his or her earthworm trial at home with two layers of dung and two layers of barley straw.

The video shows making a home for worms in a cement ring, with a floor of sand, broken brick and earth. Even though the yapuchiris had just seen the video, they couldn’t quite recall all of the materials, their order and thickness of each layer. So we watched parts of the video again.

Again, the yapuchiris adapted. They didn’t have broken brick, so they decided to use small stones instead, to make an earthworm habitat of sand, with a layer of rock on top, followed by earth, straw, manure, a second layer of straw and a final top layer of manure. One advantage of a video is that farmer-experimenters can review it to recall specific details.

One yapuchiri, don Constantino, offered to bring a starter supply of earthworms to their next meeting, so they could all set up their experiments.

These yapuchiris have had a lot of contact with researchers. They were essentially organizing themselves so that each one of them would conduct a replica of a standardized experiment. They all live far from each other and they understand that each yapuchiri lives in a different environment, so they decided to take that into account. They agreed to measure the pH of the water (they have pH paper to do that) and the temperature, which will help later in understanding any differences that could be due to these independent experimental variables.

The yapuchiris need replicable results if they are going to share innovations with others. By collaborating with researches, the yapuchiris are learning the advantages of the scientific method.

The Bangladeshi earthworm video was filmed at sea level, about as far away as one can get from the Bolivian Altiplano (at about 4000 meters). Yet these yapuchiris found inspiration in what they saw and they said that the worm techniques in the video were simpler and more practical than others that they had been taught. This is a direct benefit of sharing knowledge and experience from farmer-to-farmer. Farmers who use an innovation for a few years will simplify it, validate it, and make it practical for other farmers to try, even if those farmers live on other continents.

Further viewing

You can watch the earthworm video in Aymara, English and several other languages at www.accessagriculture.org.

Acknowledgements

Our work in Bolivia is funded by the McKnight Foundation’s CCRP (Collaborative Crop Research Program). Thanks to Sonia Laura, of Prosuco, for sharing various insights with me.

INSPIRACI√ďN DE BANGLADESH A BOLIVIA

Por Jeff Bentley, 13 de mayo del 2018

Por a√Īos he pensado que los experimentos de los agricultores eran fundamentalmente diferentes de los ensayos cient√≠ficos. Los campesinos viven de su cosecha y al probar una innovaci√≥n por un tiempo pueden decidir cualitativamente si sirve o no. Para los cient√≠ficos es al rev√©s; los datos son el material precioso que necesitan para escribir sus publicaciones, mientras que el cultivo cosechado es irrelevante. Los cient√≠ficos necesitan resultados replicables para mostrar que una innovaci√≥n funcionar√° en diferentes lugares. Pero a los campesinos les importa menos si sus resultados son replicables en un √°rea grande; solo quieren saber si una innovaci√≥n es √ļtil en sus propias parcelas.

Por lo menos as√≠ pensaba yo, pero esta semana pasada en La Paz, Bolivia, vi c√≥mo los agricultores que trabajan juntos pueden interesarse m√°s por hacer experimentos con resultados replicables. Estuve con Prosuco, una peque√Īa ONG que promueve la investigaci√≥n de agricultores. La Ing. Sonia Laura, su coordinadora de investigaci√≥n, me present√≥ a ocho agricultores experimentadores de todo el Altiplano boliviano. Hab√≠an viajado durante tres o cuatro horas desde distintos puntos a trav√©s de este fr√≠o y √°rido paisaje para encontrarse con nosotros en El Alto, la nueva ciudad din√°mica que crece en las llanuras arriba de La Paz.

Estos agricultores experimentadores se llaman “yapuchiris”, una palabra aymara que significa agricultor experto. Una red de 70 yapuchiris se re√ļne irregularmente, intercambiando informaci√≥n, realizando experimentos y ense√Īando a sus vecinos nuevas ideas (como hacer fertilizantes org√°nicos, plaguicidas naturales y la conservaci√≥n del suelo).

El d√≠a que nos encontramos en El Alto discutimos algunos experimentos futuros que los yapuchiris podr√≠an hacer. El presidente del grupo, Miguel Ortega, sugiri√≥ trabajar con las lombrices de tierra. √Čl hab√≠a criado lombrices de tierra, usando su humus durante a√Īos para fertilizar sus hortalizas de carpa solar (invernadero). Los otros yapuchiris estaban algo interesados, especialmente porque algunos de ellos ya hab√≠an criado lombrices. Hablaron de llevar a cabo un experimento sobre e√Ī lombrihumus, sin especificar mucho c√≥mo hacerlo.

Luego Sonia toc√≥ una versi√≥n en idioma aymara de un video sobre lombrices de tierra, filmado en Bangladesh. El a√Īo anterior, Sonia les hab√≠a dado a los yapuchiris un DVD con este y otros seis videos en aymara, espa√Īol y quechua. Algunos yapuchiris hab√≠an visto los videos y otros no. En casa, don Miguel hab√≠a visto el de las lombrices cuatro veces.

Despu√©s de ver el video juntos, el grupo cobr√≥ vida, definiendo m√°s claramente lo que har√≠an en su experimento con las lombrices. Con don Miguel tomando la iniciativa, primero acordaron estandarizar los tipos y cantidades de alimentos que dar√≠an a sus lombrices, para que los resultados fueran replicables. En el video, las mujeres banglades√≠es hab√≠an medido sus materiales en peque√Īas canastas. En el Altiplano, la gente tiene un balde de 12 litros, que Miguel sugiri√≥ usar en lugar de la canasta.

Don Miguel dijo que el objetivo del experimento era obtener humus en un mes. En su propia experiencia previa, podría tomar cuatro meses obtener humus, y quería acelerar el proceso.

El video sugiri√≥ mezclar bosta (esti√©rcol) de vaca con tallos de banana picados, que no est√°n disponibles en el fr√≠gido Altiplano. El grupo se estanc√≥ all√≠. A veces, un poquito de facilitaci√≥n externa puede ser √ļtil. Los ayud√© a hacer una lista r√°pida de los materiales vegetales que ten√≠an, incluidas las hojas y tallos de las papas, y varios tipos de paja.

Eso fue suficiente para que el grupo pensara en cómo adaptar las técnicas de Bangladesh a las condiciones bolivianas. Don Miguel volvió a tomar la iniciativa y preguntó a cada miembro del grupo si tenían hojas de papa. Solo otros dos las tenían, entonces él preguntó cuántos tenían paja verde de cebada. Todos la tenían, por lo que decidieron que cada yapuchiri haría su prueba de lombriz en casa con dos capas de estiércol y dos capas de paja de cebada.

El video muestra cómo hacer un hogar para las lombrices en una argolla de cemento, con un piso de arena, ladrillo quebrado y tierra. Aunque los yapuchiris acababan de ver el video, no podían recordar todos los materiales, el orden y el grosor de cada capa. Así que vimos partes del video nuevamente.

De nuevo, los yapuchiris se adaptaron. No ten√≠an ladrillos quebrados, entonces decidieron usar piedras peque√Īas para crear un h√°bitat de arena, con una capa de piedritas, seguida de tierra, paja, esti√©rcol, una segunda capa de paja y una capa superior de esti√©rcol. Una ventaja de un video es que los agricultores-experimentadores pueden revisarlo para acordarse de detalles espec√≠ficos.

Uno de los yapuchiris, don Constantino, se ofreció a traer algunas lombrices para la próxima reunión, para que todos pudieran empezar sus experimentos.

Estos yapuchiris han tenido mucho contacto con los investigadores. Se organizaban esencialmente para que cada uno de ellos llevara a cabo una réplica de un experimento estandarizado. Todos viven lejos el uno del otro y entienden que cada yapuchiri vive en un ambiente diferente, por lo que decidieron tomar eso en cuenta. Acordaron medir el pH del agua (tienen papel de pH para hacer eso) y la temperatura, lo que ayudará luego a comprender las diferencias que son como variables experimentales independientes.

Los yapuchiris necesitan resultados replicables si van a compartir innovaciones con otros. Al colaborar con las investigaciones, los yapuchiris están aprendiendo las ventajas del método científico.

El video de la lombriz de tierra de Bangladesh fue filmado a nivel del mar, lo m√°s lejos que se puede llegar desde el Altiplano boliviano (a unos 4000 metros sobre el nivel de mar). Sin embargo, estos yapuchiris encontraron inspiraci√≥n en lo que vieron y dijeron que las t√©cnicas de lombricultura en el video eran m√°s simples y m√°s pr√°cticas que otras que les hab√≠an ense√Īado. Este es un beneficio directo de compartir conocimiento y experiencia de agricultor a agricultor. Los campesinos que usan una innovaci√≥n durante algunos a√Īos lo simplifican, lo validan y lo vuelven pr√°ctico para que otros agricultores lo prueben, incluso si esos agricultores viven en otros continentes.

Para ver m√°s

Se puede ver los videos sobre la lombriz de tierra en aymara, espa√Īol y varios otros idiomas en www.accessagriculture.org.

Agradecimientos

Nuestro trabajo en Bolivia es auspiciado por el CCRP (Programa Colaborativo para la Investigación de los Cultivos) de la Fundación McKnight. Gracias a Sonia Laura por compartir varias percepciones conmigo.

Families, land and videos in northern Uganda January 14th, 2018 by

Enyang Bua Philips grew up in the remote Lira District of northern Uganda, an area which is only now emerging from the poverty and violence brought about by the war with the Lord’s Resistance Army. Philips studied agriculture in High School. Then he went on to earn a diploma in marketing. In 2016 he was one of the co-founders of the Lango Family Farmers’ Association, which he organized to help farmers with land, marketing and technical issues. The association has four staff and 569 members, including 333 women.

I asked Philips recently how he was able to encourage so many women to join the association. It wasn’t hard, he explained. The women were already organized in village-based, self-help groups, and when he told them about the advantages of belonging to a larger association, all of these groups and their members signed up.

Land grabbers are a serious threat to family farms in Uganda, where rural people are easily swayed by the promise of money. The land grabbing companies take land, strip it of its fertility by growing export crops, and then abandon the community. Philips and his colleagues teach the groups that they have the right to reject the land grabbers, who come to the villages promising money. ‚ÄúThe land grabbers come in disguise,‚ÄĚ Philips explains to the groups, telling them ‚ÄúThere are no benefits, no money. (Not only do they make false promises), but when they go the land will be degraded and useless.‚ÄĚ

Another way to protect the land is by ensuring that family farmers can benefit from it.

In March 2017, Philips read an article in the Farming Matters online magazine about the videos hosted on www.accessagriculture.org. He downloaded over 20 videos and has shown 10 of them to the members of the association. He takes his laptop to the villages. There is seldom electricity, so he uses his battery to show the video to groups of about 30 people. He starts by introducing the video; afterwards he explains and discusses it with the members.

Philips recently shared the video on managed regeneration of forests with several villages. Many of the local people were amazed to see crops growing among the trees. ‚ÄúHere people cut down all of the trees before planting a garden,‚ÄĚ Philips told me over the phone.

While some of the Ugandan farmers still doubt the wisdom of growing trees and crops together, other local people have started experimenting with the idea. In each community, the Association helps people set up a demonstration plot, where they can try out innovations shown on the videos.

The farmer groups loved the videos on maize, on striga biology, and the one on mucuna, or velvet bean, a hardy legume that can be planted as a cover crop to regenerate degraded soils (such as the ones stripped by the land grabbers).

Mucuna seed can be hard to find in Northern Uganda, but these observant farmers quickly spotted wild mucuna growing on the edges of their fields. They are now gathering seed so they can plant it in damaged fields during the next rainy season, to see if they can bring some of their land back to life.

The internet is quickly spreading, but it will be a while before most farmers in Lira District are online. Meanwhile, a grassroots community organizer finds useful videos online, and shares them with groups of village farmers. That is one way that videos from the internet are reaching the most remote places.  This farmers’ association is not only helping farmers learn from videos, but also to understand the potential of the Internet as a source of knowledge.

Other blog stories about mucuna

The big mucuna

The big, bad beans

Other blog stories about northern Uganda

Winning the peace, with chilli and videos

Late night learning

The sesame cleaner

Watch videos in Luo

Luo is the language spoken in Lira and surrounding areas of Uganda and Kenya. Access Agriculture hosts 38 videos in the Luo language.

No land, no water, no problem December 17th, 2017 by

Vea la versi√≥n en espa√Īol a continuaci√≥n.

A hot, parched gravel patch on the edge of the city of Cochabamba, Bolivia may seem like a poor place to grow high value vegetables, but a group of agricultural students and a local entrepreneur are making it happen.

The entrepreneur, Ren√© Cabezas, is an agronomist who gives training courses in hydroponics, where vegetables are produced in tubes of water. Mr. Cabezas also produces hydroponic vegetables himself, and he recently bought in three metal frame houses‚ÄĒeach about the size of a modest suburban home, about 7 by 15 meters‚ÄĒat a cost of 45,000 Bolivianos ($6400) each. Aldo Chipana and Arturo Siles, two thesis students, were showing Ana and I how the vegetables are grown. The metal frames were covered in a fine, plastic mesh, a fabric which keeps out insects, such as aphids and whiteflies. The structures were a big investment, and making them pay off will depend on using them carefully for a long time. Several agronomy students are working in the vegetable houses, writing their theses on the experience, and keeping some of the profits from the produce.

One house was full of tomatoes watered with drip irrigation three times a day, carefully regulated by an electronic timer and a humidity-measuring device. Mineral fertilizer had been dissolved in the water, feeding the plants with every drop. The tomatoes had no obvious health problems: which is astounding for the tropics, where the plants grow year round, and so do the pests and diseases. I thought of some of the commercial farms I had seen in Bolivia and elsewhere, where the tomatoes were under constant attack by pests and diseases and dripping with pesticides.

These tomatoes are planted in small pots of soil with lots of organic matter. The dry climate of the Southern Andes helps to avoid disease, but Aldo and his colleagues also prune off any unhealthy leaves. The fine mesh covering will limit the fungal spores that blow in, though in this sprawling neighborhood, houses are more common than fields, so there are few other vegetables in the vicinity to act as sources of infections. Ana and I were lucky to visit; Aldo and colleagues allow few visitors, who might carry pathogens on their shoes or clothing.

Like much of peri-urban Cochabamba, this south-side lot has no city water. People have to buy expensive water from tank trucks, from 7 Bs. to 15 Bs. ($1 – $2) for a 200 liter barrel. It seems like madness to irrigate vegetables with water at this price, but these tomatoes only use about 200 liters of water a day, for some 800 plants, thanks to the carefully controlled drip irrigation, which makes the most of every drop.

In another metal frame house, Aldo showed us the lettuce growing in plastic (PVC) tubes filled with water, laced with mineral fertilizer. Unlike the tomatoes, which are growing in pots, the lettuce was growing only in water, with no soil. Like the tomato plants, the lettuce was free of disease and of pesticides, producing the kind of vegetables that demanding consumers really want.

There was one unforeseen problem: the sun. There was simply too much light for the lettuce. Even with the roots sitting in water, the little plants were wilting. Aldo and his colleagues had found that a thick, black net provided the best shade while still allowing the lettuce to thrive.

I had seen hydroponics before, but usually at universities, research centers (and once even at an amusement park), so until seeing these vegetables I doubted that plants could be grown for a profit in tubes of water. Now I was starting to change my mind, seeing these young people invest their time and energy to make it work, raising a commercial crop on a stony lot that was unfit for conventional gardening. They were saving so much water that they could afford to irrigate even when water is expensive.

My dad was a hydrologist and used to be fond of saying that agriculture could never compete with a city for water. City dwellers could always outbid farmers for water. But dad was thinking of old-fashioned ditch irrigation. As irrigation technology improves and becomes more efficient in using water, agriculture can afford to buy water at high prices.

As climate change continues to make for a warmer, thirstier planet it is good to see creative solutions providing healthy produce, and doing so without pesticides.

Watch some related training videos

Drip irrigation for tomato

Hydroponic fodder

Related blog

To drip or not to drip

SIN TIERRA, SIN AGUA, NO HAY PROBLEMA

Por Jeff Bentley

Una parcela pedregosa, caliente y reseca en las afueras de la ciudad de Cochabamba, Bolivia, puede parecer un lugar equivocado para cultivar verduras de alto valor, pero un grupo de estudiantes de agronomía y un empresario local lo están logrando.

El empresario, Ren√© Cabezas, es un agr√≥nomo que imparte cursos de formaci√≥n en hidropon√≠a, donde las verduras se producen en tubos de agua. El Sr. Cabezas tambi√©n es productor de verduras hidrop√≥nicas, y hace poco compr√≥ tres casas de marcos de metal, cada una del tama√Īo de una modesta casa suburbana, de aproximadamente 7 por 15 metros, a un costo de 45,000 bolivianos ($ 6400) cada una. Aldo Chipana y Arturo Siles, dos tesistas, nos estaban mostrando a Ana y a m√≠ c√≥mo se cultivan las hortalizas. Los marcos met√°licos estaban cubiertos por una fina malla de pl√°stico, una tela que impide la entrada de insectos, como los √°fidos y las moscas blancas. Las estructuras fueron una gran inversi√≥n y para rescatarlo hay que hacer un uso cuidadoso durante mucho tiempo. Varios estudiantes de agronom√≠a est√°n trabajando en las casas de malla, escribiendo sus tesis sobre la experiencia y manteniendo algunas de las ganancias del producto.

Una casa estaba llena de tomates regados con riego por goteo tres veces al d√≠a, cuidadosamente regulados por un control electr√≥nico y un medidor de la humedad. Se hab√≠a disuelto fertilizante mineral en el agua, alimentando a las plantas con cada gota. Por lo visto, los tomates no ten√≠an ning√ļn problema de salud: lo cual es asombroso en los tr√≥picos, donde las plantas crecen durante todo el a√Īo, igual que las plagas y enfermedades. Me acord√© de algunas parcelas comerciales que hab√≠a visto en Bolivia y en otros lugares, donde los tomates estaban bajo constante ataque de plagas y enfermedades y la fruta chorreaba plaguicidas.

Estos tomates se hab√≠an plantado en macetitas con suelo rico en materia org√°nica. El clima seco de los Andes sure√Īos ayuda a prevenir las enfermedades, pero Aldo y sus colegas tambi√©n podan las hojas enfermas. Lo cobertura de malla fina limitar√° la entrada de las esporas de hongos por aire, aunque en este vecindario en expansi√≥n, las casas son m√°s comunes que los campos, por lo que hay pocas otras verduras en la zona que ser√≠an fuentes de infecci√≥n. Ana y yo tuvimos la suerte de visitar; Aldo y sus colegas permiten pocos visitantes, que pueden llevar pat√≥genos en sus zapatos o en su ropa.

Al igual que gran parte de la parte peri-urbana de Cochabamba, este lote de la zona sur no tiene agua potable. La gente tiene que comprar agua cara de camiones cisternas, desde 7 Bs. a 15 Bs. ($ 1 Р$ 2) por un barril de 200 litros. Parece una locura regar las verduras con agua a este precio, pero estos tomates solo usan unos 200 litros de agua al día, para unas 800 plantas, gracias al riego por goteo cuidadosamente controlada, que aprovecha al máximo cada gota.

En otra casa metálica, Aldo nos mostró la lechuga creciendo en tubos de plástico (PVC) llenos de agua mezclada con fertilizante mineral. A diferencia de los tomates, que crecen en macetas, la lechuga crece solo en agua, sin tierra. Al igual que los tomates, la lechuga estaba libre de enfermedades y de plaguicidas, produciendo el tipo de verduras que los consumidores exigentes realmente quieren.

Hubo un problema inesperado: el sol. Simplemente hab√≠a demasiada luz para la lechuga. Incluso con las ra√≠ces en el agua, las peque√Īas plantas se marchitaban. Aldo y sus colegas descubrieron que una gruesa red negra proporcionaba la mejor sombra y permit√≠a que la lechuga prosperara.

Yo había visto hidroponía antes, pero generalmente en universidades, centros de investigación (y una vez incluso en un parque de diversiones), así que hasta ver estas verduras, yo dudaba que las plantas en tubos de agua fueran rentables. Ahora estaba empezando a cambiarme de opinión, viendo a estos jóvenes invertir su tiempo y energía para hacerlo funcionar, sacando un producto comercial en un terreno pedregoso que no era apto para la horticultura convencional. Estaban ahorrando tanta agua que podían regar incluso cuando el agua es cara.

Mi papá era hidrólogo y solía decir que la agricultura nunca podría competir con una ciudad por el agua. Los citadinos siempre podrían pagar más que los agricultores por el agua. Pero mi papá estaba pensando en las zanjas de tierra, al estilo viejo. A medida que la tecnología de riego mejora y se vuelve más eficiente en el uso del agua, la agricultura sí puede comprar agua a precios altos.

A medida que el cambio clim√°tico contin√ļa generando un planeta m√°s c√°lido y sediento, es bueno ver soluciones creativas que proporcionen productos saludables y sin plaguicidas.

Aprender m√°s de los videos

Riego de goteo para tomate

Hydroponic fodder

Finding solutions May 28th, 2017 by

Farmers may doubt the worth of an innovation, until they meet other people who have tried the idea on their own land. In 2015, the village of Korelach in West Pokot, Kenya, was suffering. The land was so eroded and degraded that it was getting difficult to raise crops. Many people were leaving the community. Then they got some help from researchers at the nearby University of Eldoret, who were looking for a community with challenging soil erosion problems. The researchers soon realized that the immediate culprit was sand extraction. Brokers from the city would come and load a lorry with sand in the dry river bed. A crew of local men could earn 3000 shillings ($30) for shoveling the truck full of sand, but no other villagers benefited. The sand would be sold in nearby cities for up to 60,000 shillings ($600), to use for construction.

carrying pale of water on headAs more sand was extracted, the dry river bed became a gully so deep that people could hardly walk to the other side of it. It was getting increasingly difficult to cross the river to farm or visit neighbors. When the researchers explained to the villagers how much the brokers were earning from the sand, the villagers said ‚ÄúWe cannot let this gully hold us off; we need to hold on to it and fight it off.‚ÄĚ

The villagers banded together and stopped the sand digging. With the next rainy season, the pits in the riverbed began to fill up with sand. The gully became easier to cross, and the riverbank stabilized. A minister from a church in Korelach convinced the local government to drill a well (a borehole) on the river bank, where women could pump their own water close to home, and avoid long walks to fetch water.

This success created enough trust for the researchers to propose new soil and water conservation techniques for the village. In May, 2016 the university took five farmers from Korelach to Tigray, Ethiopia, to learn about the new techniques. However, the results were disappointing: in part because the Kenyan farmers had to speak to their Ethiopian peers through interpreters, but also because the expense of international travel meant that the project could only take a few Kenyan farmers.

On their return, the five farmers were unable to convince the rest of the community to try the new techniques. The other villages had not been to Ethiopia, and were still skeptical that the land could be improved with simple techniques.

Then in December 2016, the researchers tried a different tactic. They took a whole bus load of farmers from Korelach to Machakos, on the other side of Kenya. This had several advantages, explained Professor Wilson Ng’etich of the University of Eldoret. First, the bus could hold more people, so women and youth were able to go on the trip, while only senior men had been to Ethiopia. Second, most Kenyans speak Kiswahili in addition to their local language, so the farmers from Korelach could speak freely to farmers in Machakos.

The farmers from Korelach were impressed with what they saw: ‚ÄúThose guys in Machakos have worse land than us, but they are taking better care of it than we are.‚ÄĚ

After the visit, researchers were able to help the people of Korelach set up their own experiments with soil and water conservation, such as small, hand-made earthen ‚Äúsand dams‚ÄĚ to slow the rain runoff, so water would soak into the soil instead of washing it away. The farmers also tried cover crops, such as legumes that build soil fertility by fixing nitrogen and leaving biomass on the soil.

Now Korelach is ready to try other ideas, such as planting fruit trees and multi-purpose legumes (that not only enrich the soil, but also feed people).

‚ÄúWe didn‚Äôt want to be the solution bringers. We wanted to strengthen the idea that villagers can solve their own problems,‚ÄĚ explained Dr. Syphylline Kebeney of the University of Eldoret.

The farmers are also starting to get a more positive vision of the future. One farmer could imagine her fruit trees so vividly that she said ‚ÄúI‚Äôm seeing myself with a gunny bag full of mangos on my back going to market.‚ÄĚ

This experience shows that cross-site visits can spark farmers’ interest to overcome their own discouragement, engage in collaborative research and see a different future for their land.

Acknowledgement

The work in Korelach was sponsored by the Collaborative Crop Research Program (CCRP) of the McKnight Foundation.

Further reading

Watching other farmers on a video can often be as convincing as a meeting in real life, as we have seen in some earlier stories.

Call anytime

Stop erosion

Friends you can trust

New crops for Mr. Mpinda

Design by Olean webdesign