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Videos for added inspiration May 27th, 2018 by

Vea la versión en español a continuación

Juan Almanza is an agronomist who works with seventy mothers, some single and some married, in three rural communities around Colomi, Cochabamba. Juan teaches them new ways to grow nutritious food, especially two legume crops: broad beans (introduced from Europe centuries ago) and the native lupin. The program is in its third year.

Last year Juan helped each of the three groups of women to plant a demonstration or learning plot. Juan had two new ideas to showcase: two new varieties of sweet lupins that did not have to be soaked and washed to leach out their toxins, and second, planting the whole plot (a small field) with lupins. Previously farmers planted them in a single row along the borders around a potato field.

The learning plot is an idea that Juan adopted from his earlier work with farmer field schools. The women have enjoyed the meetings and appreciated that the sweet lupins can be used in recipes that would be impossible with bitter varieties. The women have made hamburgers, soups and have boiled the lupine beans fresh, to eat like peas. The women have collected 18 recipes which Juan has written up.

Some husbands have resented the time that the women spend at the meetings, because it distracts them from farm work. Some wives quit attending. Juan realized that to keep the women in the group it was important that they receive tangible benefits which they could show to the rest of the family. So this past planting season Juan gave each woman an arroba and a half (about 18 kilos) of broad bean seed, of a new variety from La Paz, and two or three kilos of lupin seed.

Juan showed each group a video on lupins, filmed partly in Colomi, but mostly in Anzaldo, in another province of Cochabamba, where farmers already grow lupins in small fields, not just around the edge. Juan is a skilled agronomist and perfectly capable of teaching about lupins, but trying new varieties and planting them in a new way requires some extra inspiration. Seeing real farmers on the video, successfully growing lupins, gave the women the encouragement they needed. They all planted the lupins Juan gave them.

Juan and I caught up with some of the lupin farmers at the fair, held twice a week in Colomi, where farmers come to sell their produce and to buy food and clothes. Many of the busy mothers from Juan’s groups are retailers two days a week, and farmers on the other days.

As she tends a stall of grains and other dried foods, Marina explains that before they met Juan, some farmers did grow the lupins in whole fields, but they would plant them in furrows a meter apart. The new varieties are much shorter and have to be planted closer together. The video showed how to do this.

Reina Merino was unpacking her bundles of clothing in her small shop. She said that now the women plant lupins “like potatoes,” that is, in furrows, close together, and the farmers now take the trouble to weed the crop. Weeding was also an innovation. Previously lupins would just be planted and left alone until harvest time.

Unfortunately, the women’s hard work did not pay off. This past year the rains were delayed, and then it rained far too much. Some people harvested half of the lupins they were expecting; others reaped almost nothing. Given the disappointing results, I asked Reina if she would plant lupins again. “Of course we will!!” she said.

Juan is convinced that the videos were important.  He says “The best way to see a new thing is with a video. It opens the heart of the rural researcher.”

He plans to show the lupin video again to all of his groups. Juan Almanza is a dedicated, respected extension agent who uses video as one of several tools, along with talks, experimental plots and visits to farmers’ fields. He realizes that showing the video a second time will reinforce what these farmers have already learned. Hopefully the weather this year will repay their efforts.

Related blog stories

Innovating in the homeland of lupins

United women of Morochata

Acknowledgements

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

VIDEOS PARA UN POCO MÁS DE INSPIRACIÓN

Por Jeff Bentley, 27 de mayo del 2018

Juan Almanza es un agrónomo que trabaja con setenta madres, algunas solteras y otras casadas, en tres comunidades rurales alrededor de Colomi, Cochabamba. El Ing. Juan les enseña nuevas formas de cultivar alimentos nutritivos, especialmente dos leguminosas: habas (introducidas desde Europa hace siglos) y el tarwi (lupino, chocho o altramuz) nativo. El programa está en su tercer año.

El año pasado, el Ing. Juan ayudó a cada uno de los tres grupos de mujeres a sembrar una parcela de aprendizaje. Juan tenía dos nuevas ideas para mostrar: dos nuevas variedades de tarwi dulces que no tenían que ser remojados y lavados para quitar sus toxinas, y segundo, sembrar toda la parcela con tarwi. Anteriormente, las agricultores los sembraban en una sola fila alrededor del borde de la parcela de papas.

La parcela de aprendizaje es una idea que el ingeniero adoptó de su trabajo anterior con las escuelas de campo para agricultores. Las mujeres han disfrutado de las reuniones y han apreciado que el tarwi dulce se puede usar en recetas que serían imposibles con las variedades amargas. Las mujeres han hecho hamburguesas, sopas y han hervido los tarwis frescos para comer como arvejas. Las mujeres han recogido 18 recetas que Juan ha redactado.

Algunos maridos no están de acuerdo con el tiempo que las mujeres pasan en las reuniones, porque les distrae del trabajo agrícola. Algunas esposas han dejado de asistir. El Ing. Juan se dio cuenta de que para mantener a las mujeres en el grupo era importante que recibieran beneficios tangibles que pudieran mostrar al resto de la familia. Así que en esta última campaña, Juan les dio a cada mujer una arroba y media (unos 18 kilos) de semilla de haba, una nueva variedad de La Paz y dos o tres kilos de semilla de tarwi.

Juan mostró a cada grupo un video sobre altramuces, filmado en parte en Colomi, pero principalmente en Anzaldo, en otra provincia de Cochabamba, donde los agricultores ya cultivan tarwi en pequeñas parcelas, no solo alrededor del borde. Juan es un agrónomo hábil y perfectamente capaz de enseñar sobre el tarwi, pero probar nuevas variedades y plantarlas de una nueva manera requiere algo de inspiración adicional. Ver a agricultores reales en el video, cultivando tarwi exitosamente, les dio a las mujeres el aliento que necesitaban. Todas sembraron el tarwi que Juan les dio.

El Ing. Juan y yo conversamos con algunos de los productores de tarwi en la feria, que se realiza dos veces a la semana en Colomi, donde los agricultores vienen a vender sus productos y comprar comida y ropa. Muchas de las madres de los grupos son minoristas dos días a la semana, y agricultoras en los otros días.

Mientras ella cuida un puesto de granos y otras comidas secas, Marina explica que antes de conocer a Juan, algunos agricultores cultivaban el tarwi en parcelas enteras, pero lo sembraban en surcos a un metro de distancia. Las nuevas variedades son mucho más cortas y deben plantarse más cerca. El video mostró cómo hacer esto.

Reina Merino estaba desempacando sus paquetes de ropa en su pequeña tienda. Ella dijo que ahora las mujeres plantan tarwi “como papas”, es decir, en surcos, más cerca, y que ahora se toman la molestia de carpir (desmalezar) la cosecha. La carpida también fue una innovación. Previamente, el tarwi se sembraba y se dejaba hasta el momento de la cosecha.

Infelizmente, el trabajo duro de las mujeres no dio resultado. El año pasado, las lluvias se retrasaron y luego llovió demasiado. Algunas personas cosecharon la mitad del tarwi que estaban esperando; otras no cosechaban casi nada. Dado los decepcionantes resultados, le pregunté a Reina si plantaría tarwi de nuevo. “¡ Obvio que este año lo vamos a hacer otra vez!” dijo.

El Ing. Juan está convencido de que los videos fueron importantes. Él dice: “La mejor manera de ver una cosa nueva es el video. Abre el corazón del investigador rural.”

Él planifica mostrar el video del lupino nuevamente a todos sus grupos. Juan Almanza es un extensionista dedicado y respetado que usa el video como una de varias herramientas, junto con charlas, parcelas de aprendizaje y visitas a campos de agricultores. Se da cuenta de que mostrar el video por segunda vez reforzará lo que estas agricultoras ya han aprendido. Esperemos que el clima de este año acompañe sus esfuerzos.

Historias previas

Innovando en la cuna del tarwi

Mujeres unidas de Morochata

Agradecimiento

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

Inspiration from Bangladesh to Bolivia May 13th, 2018 by

Vea la versión en español a continuación

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 “yapuchiris”, 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—stems and leaves normally discarded after harvest—and 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.

INSPIRACIÓN DE BANGLADESH A BOLIVIA

Por Jeff Bentley, 13 de mayo del 2018

Por años he pensado que los experimentos de los agricultores eran fundamentalmente diferentes de los ensayos científicos. Los campesinos viven de su cosecha y al probar una innovación por un tiempo pueden decidir cualitativamente si sirve o no. Para los científicos es al revés; los datos son el material precioso que necesitan para escribir sus publicaciones, mientras que el cultivo cosechado es irrelevante. Los científicos necesitan resultados replicables para mostrar que una innovación funcionará en diferentes lugares. Pero a los campesinos les importa menos si sus resultados son replicables en un área grande; solo quieren saber si una innovación es útil en sus propias parcelas.

Por lo menos así pensaba yo, pero esta semana pasada en La Paz, Bolivia, vi cómo los agricultores que trabajan juntos pueden interesarse más por hacer experimentos con resultados replicables. Estuve con Prosuco, una pequeña ONG que promueve la investigación de agricultores. La Ing. Sonia Laura, su coordinadora de investigación, me presentó a ocho agricultores experimentadores de todo el Altiplano boliviano. Habían viajado durante tres o cuatro horas desde distintos puntos a través de este frío y árido paisaje para encontrarse con nosotros en El Alto, la nueva ciudad dinámica 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 reúne irregularmente, intercambiando información, realizando experimentos y enseñando a sus vecinos nuevas ideas (como hacer fertilizantes orgánicos, plaguicidas naturales y la conservación del suelo).

El día que nos encontramos en El Alto discutimos algunos experimentos futuros que los yapuchiris podrían hacer. El presidente del grupo, Miguel Ortega, sugirió trabajar con las lombrices de tierra. Él había criado lombrices de tierra, usando su humus durante años para fertilizar sus hortalizas de carpa solar (invernadero). Los otros yapuchiris estaban algo interesados, especialmente porque algunos de ellos ya habían criado lombrices. Hablaron de llevar a cabo un experimento sobre eñ lombrihumus, sin especificar mucho cómo hacerlo.

Luego Sonia tocó una versión en idioma aymara de un video sobre lombrices de tierra, filmado en Bangladesh. El año anterior, Sonia les había dado a los yapuchiris un DVD con este y otros seis videos en aymara, español y quechua. Algunos yapuchiris habían visto los videos y otros no. En casa, don Miguel había visto el de las lombrices cuatro veces.

Después de ver el video juntos, el grupo cobró vida, definiendo más claramente lo que harían en su experimento con las lombrices. Con don Miguel tomando la iniciativa, primero acordaron estandarizar los tipos y cantidades de alimentos que darían a sus lombrices, para que los resultados fueran replicables. En el video, las mujeres bangladesíes habían medido sus materiales en pequeñas canastas. En el Altiplano, la gente tiene un balde de 12 litros, que Miguel sugirió 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 sugirió mezclar bosta (estiércol) de vaca con tallos de banana picados, que no están disponibles en el frígido Altiplano. El grupo se estancó allí. A veces, un poquito de facilitación externa puede ser útil. Los ayudé a hacer una lista rápida de los materiales vegetales que tenían, 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 tenían ladrillos quebrados, entonces decidieron usar piedras pequeñas para crear un hábitat de arena, con una capa de piedritas, seguida de tierra, paja, estiércol, una segunda capa de paja y una capa superior de estiércol. Una ventaja de un video es que los agricultores-experimentadores pueden revisarlo para acordarse de detalles específicos.

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 más lejos que se puede llegar desde el Altiplano boliviano (a unos 4000 metros sobre el nivel de mar). Sin embargo, estos yapuchiris encontraron inspiración en lo que vieron y dijeron que las técnicas de lombricultura en el video eran más simples y más prácticas que otras que les habían enseñado. Este es un beneficio directo de compartir conocimiento y experiencia de agricultor a agricultor. Los campesinos que usan una innovación durante algunos años lo simplifican, lo validan y lo vuelven práctico para que otros agricultores lo prueben, incluso si esos agricultores viven en otros continentes.

Para ver más

Se puede ver los videos sobre la lombriz de tierra en aymara, español 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.

United women of Morochata May 6th, 2018 by

Vea la versión en español a continuación

The success of a woman’s group depends in large part on the quality of leadership, as I saw this last week in Morochata, a highland municipality in the Bolivian Andes. My agronomist friend Rhimer Gonzales had organized women’s groups in two neighboring villages. One group was largely inactive, while the one in the village of Piusilla was going strong.

Rhimer phoned Juliana García, the president of the women’s group of Piusilla, to arrange a meeting. Rhimer had some group business to discuss, and he was going to help me ask some follow up questions about videos. The previous year, the women had received DVDs with seven videos on soil conservation and I wanted to learn what the women had done with the information. Doña Juliana was not at home, and the women in her group were busy, but she said that if we came back at 8:30 that evening she would have at least some of the women at her house.

By 8 o’clock in the evening it was dark and raining hard. At 3350 meters above sea level it gets cold when it rains, and it’s miserable to get wet. Rhimer and I were sure that no one would come to the meeting, but still we wanted to try.

We were surprised when we got to doña Juliana’s house to see about half of the women’s group there. Doña Juliana had taken the time (and spent money) to ring the women up, and had then built a warm fire to welcome them. They soon invited me to ask my questions. The videos included one that Agro-Insight made last year on lupins, edible Andean legumes that improve the soil.

The women said that they had seen two videos with Rhimer at one of their meetings. Afterwards, the women arranged to watch the videos again, by themselves, because they are looking for ways to improve their income, for example by growing lupins and broad beans. They also want to consolidate their position as a women’s group within the sindicato, the local organization that represents and leads the community, but which is made up mainly of men.

Besides the lupin video, they had watched one from Vietnam about making live barriers on steep hillsides to conserve the soil. They recalled, accurately, that the video showed how to measure rows to plant the grass, which had to be transplanted in small clumps or cuttings.

When we asked if they had tried any of the ideas from the video, doña Juliana said that she had learned how to select her seed. One of the key ideas from the lupin video is to remove the small and unhealthy grains, and only plant the best ones for a better harvest. Doña Juliana was impressed by the little hand screen she had seen in the video, to sort the grains by size, but she didn’t have a screen. Instead, she just sorted the seed by hand, a practice which is also shown in the video. It is important to give people different options.

She has planted the seed and now the crop is flowering. Doña Juliana is impressed that by selecting her lupin seed, the plants are bigger and healthier than in previous years.

Rhimer and I asked how many of the other women in the group had selected seed too. One of them decided it was time for some comic relief. She said “My husband just grabbed some of the lupine grains in the bag and scattered them, and they are doing just fine.”

All of the women laughed, including doña Juliana, but then she reminded them: “You have all seen how to select seed and you know how to do it. So you should all try it.”

Leadership matters. In time, these women will notice the difference in yield between selected and unselected seed. It usually takes a while for a whole community to adopt an innovation. A useful step is to have one of the leaders adopt and share her experience.

Many of the women are shy, but not doña Juliana. As we are leaving she gave me a firm handshake and said: “Next time come in the daytime, and we’ll all have boiled potatoes!” I have little doubt that when doña Juliana harvests her lupins she will share her experience with the group. Triggering innovation is like growing a crop: it requires someone to plant the seed. The videos do exactly that: give farmers ideas to try out new things. And by leaving DVDs in communities you give people the chance to learn at their convenience.

Watch videos

Growing lupin without disease is available in English, French, Spanish, Ayamara and Quechua.

Grass strips against soil erosion is available in 10 languages, including Spanish, Ayamara and Quechua

More training videos can be viewed and downloaded from www.accessagriculture.org

Related blog story

Crop with an attitude

Acknowledgements

Our work in Bolivia is funded by the McKnight Foundation’s CCRP (Collaborative Crop Research Program). Rhimer Gonzales works for the Proinpa Foundation, where he helps to implement the Biocultura Project, which is funded by SDC (Swiss Cooperation).

LAS MUJERES UNIDAS DE MOROCHATA

Por Jeff Bentley, 6 de mayo del 2018

El éxito de un grupo de mujeres depende en gran medida de la calidad del liderazgo, como lo vi la semana pasada en Morochata, un municipio en los altos Andes bolivianos. Mi amigo, el ingeniero agrónomo Rhimer Gonzales, había organizado grupos de mujeres en dos comunidades vecinos. Un grupo estaba en gran parte inactivo, mientras que el de la comunidad de Piusilla estaba fuerte.

Rhimer llamó a Juliana García, la presidenta del grupo de mujeres de Piusilla, para concertar una reunión. Rhimer tenía algunos asuntos del grupo para discutir, y me iba a ayudar a hacer algunas preguntas de seguimiento sobre los videos. El año anterior, las mujeres habían recibido DVDs con siete videos sobre la conservación del suelo y yo quería saber cómo habían respondido ellas a la información. Doña Juliana no estaba en casa, y las mujeres de su grupo estaban ocupadas, pero dijo que si volvíamos a las 8:30 esa noche ella tendría al menos algunas de las mujeres en su casa.

A las 8 de la noche estaba oscuro y llovía fuerte. A los 3350 metros sobre el nivel del mar hace frío cuando llueve, y es miserable mojarse. Rhimer y yo estábamos seguros de que nadie vendría a la reunión, pero aun así queríamos intentarlo.

Nos sorprendimos cuando llegamos a la casa de doña Juliana para ver reunido la mitad del grupo de mujeres. Doña Juliana se había tomado el tiempo (y gastado dinero) para llamar a las mujeres, y luego había encendido un fuego caliente para darles la bienvenida. Pronto me invitaron a hacer mis preguntas. Los videos incluyen uno que Agro-Insight hizo el año pasado sobre el tarwi (lupino, chocho, o altramuz), una leguminosa andina comestible que mejora el suelo.

Las mujeres contaron que habían visto dos videos con Rhimer en una de sus reuniones. Luego, las mujeres se organizaron para ver los videos de nuevo, por su cuenta, porque ellas buscan opciones para mejorar sus ingresos, por ejemplo produciendo tarwi y habas. Además quieren consolidar su posición como grupo de mujeres dentro del sindicato, la organización popular que representa y lidera a la comunidad, que es conformado principalmente por hombres.

Además del video de lupinos, habían visto uno de Vietnam sobre el hacer barreras vivas en laderas para conservar el suelo. Recordaron, con precisión, que el video mostraba cómo medir las filas para plantar el pasto, que se tenía que trasplantar en matoncitos.

Cuando les preguntamos si habían probado algunas de las ideas del video, doña Juliana dijo que había aprendido a seleccionar su semilla. Una de las ideas clave del video de lupinos es eliminar los granos pequeños y enfermos, y solo sembrar los mejores para una mejor cosecha. Doña Juliana quedó impresionada por la pequeña zaranda de mano que había visto en el video, para separar los granos por tamaño, pero ella no tenía zaranda. En cambio, ella simplemente seleccionó la semilla a mano, una práctica que también se muestra en el video. Es importante dar varias opciones a la gente.

Ella ha plantado la semilla y ahora la cosecha está floreciendo. Doña Juliana está impresionada de que al seleccionar su semilla de lupino, las plantas son más grandes y más saludables que en años anteriores.

Rhimer y yo preguntamos cuántas de las otras mujeres en el grupo también habían seleccionado semillas. Una de ellas decidió que era hora para un poco de alivio cómico. Ella dijo: “Mi marido solamente agarró algunos granos de lupino del bulto y los lanzó, y están creciendo bien.”

Todas las mujeres se rieron, incluida doña Juliana, pero luego les recordó: “Todas han visto cómo seleccionar semillas y saben cómo hacerlo”. Entonces todos deberían intentarlo.”

El liderazgo sí importa. Con el tiempo, estas mujeres se fijarán en la diferencia en el rendimiento entre las semillas seleccionadas y las otras. Por lo general, toma tiempo para que toda una comunidad adopte una innovación. Un paso útil es lograr que una de las líderes adopte y comparta su experiencia.

Muchas de las mujeres son tímidas, pero no doña Juliana. Cuando partimos, me dio un firme apretón de manos y dijo: “¡La próxima vez venga de día, y todos comeremos papas cocidas!” me queda poca duda de que cuando doña Juliana coseche sus lupinos, compartirá su experiencia con el grupo. Desencadenar la innovación es como cultivar un cultivo: requiere que alguien siembre la semilla. Los videos hacen exactamente eso: dan ideas a las agricultoras para que pruben cosas nuevas. Y al dejar los DVD en las comunidades, la gente tiene la oportunidad de aprender a su conveniencia.

Ver los videos

Producir tarwi sin enfermedad está disponible en español, inglés, francés, ayamara y quechua.

Barreras vivas contra la erosión del suelo está disponible en 10 idiomas, incluso español, ayamara y quechua.

Se puede ver y bajar más videos informativos de www.accessagriculture.org

Una historia previa

Cultivo con carácter fuerte

Agradecimientos

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, donde él ayuda a implementar el Proyecto Biocultura, el cual es financiado por COSUDE (Cooperación Suiza).

From Uniformity to Diversity March 18th, 2018 by

Industrial agriculture has so damaged our farmland that the survival of future generations is at risk, reveals Professor Emile Frison in his report “From Uniformity to Diversity”, but there is a way forward.

Frison’s conclusions are staggering. The indiscriminate use of synthetic fertilisers has destroyed the soil biota and its nutrient-recycling potential. The combination of monocultures with highly mechanized farming and fertiliser abuse has caused historical land degradation on over 20% of the Earth’s agricultural land.

High yielding varieties and abundant chemical inputs increased global crop yields in the early decades of the “green revolution”, but by now the sobering figures indicate that productivity in 24% to 39% of the areas growing maize, rice, wheat and soya bean has stagnated or collapsed.

The productivity of industrial agriculture has systematically degraded the environment on which it relies. The use of pesticides in agriculture has caused a global decline in insect pollinators, threatening the very basis of agriculture. Some 35% of global cultivated crops depend on pollination by insects.

Pests, diseases and weeds are adapting to chemical pest management faster than ever. Genetically modified soya bean and maize that are herbicide-tolerant have led to an indiscriminate use of glyphosate-based herbicides such as Roundup and 2,4D. Some 210 species of weeds have now evolved resistance to herbicides. Clearly, this flawed, industrial model has mainly benefitted corporate interests and the wealthiest farmers.

Of equally great concern to our future generations, industrial agriculture significantly reduces the agrobiodiversity of livestock and crops. Underutilized or minor crops such as indigenous leafy vegetables, small-grained African cereals, legumes, wild fruits and tree crops are disappearing in the face of competition with a limited number of industrially produced varieties of rice, maize and wheat.

Greenhouse gases, water pollution, over-exploited aquifers, soil erosion, loss of agrobiodiversity and epidemics such as the Avian influenza and the foot-and-mouth disease are all signs that we need to urgently re-think the way we produce, source and consume food.

A study covering 55 crops grown on five continents over 40 years found that organic agriculture was significantly more profitable (22–35%) than conventional agriculture.

In developed countries, yields of organic agriculture were 8% lower than conventional agriculture, but they were 80% higher in developing countries where the negative impacts of industrial agriculture on food and nutrition security are felt much stronger.

So, diversified systems have shown the capacity to raise productivity in places where additional food is desperately needed.

Yet corporate lobby groups, some donors and development agencies continue to push governments towards unsustainable production models. In many developing countries, the general switch towards specialized, export-oriented systems has eroded the diverse farming economy, causing a gradual loss of local food distribution systems.

With rapid shifts in global and regional competitiveness this has destabilised national food supply, not only jeopardising the very livelihoods on which rural people depend, but also putting the economic and political stability of developing countries at risk.

Ethical labels, such as Fairtrade, ensure that farmers in developing countries get more money for their produce, while at the same time ensuring social and environmental services are ploughed back into the rural communities, as explained by Nicolas Lambert, CEO of Fairtrade Belgium.

Emile Frison, and other outstanding scientists like Professor Olivier De Schutter, former UN special rapporteur on the right to food, have joined forces in the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems. There is indeed an urgent need to alert policy makers to the high risks related to short-term thinking and concentration of power in the hands of fewer, large-scale retailers and corporate agri-businesses.

It is re-assuring that eminent people have joined forces to protect global biodiversity and farmers’ rights to seed as key requirements for food systems that respect the farmers and their environment. The opponents are powerful, and motivated by greed, so the struggle is bound to be a long one.

Further reading

IPES-Food. 2016. From uniformity to diversity: a paradigm shift from industrial agriculture to diversified agroecological systems. International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food systems. www.ipes-food.org

Related videos

Farmers’ rights to seed – Guatemala

Farmers’ rights to seed – Malawi

Succeed with seeds

Around 100 farmer training videos on organic agriculture can be found on the Access Agriculture video-sharing platform:  Organic agriculture

Photo Credit: Soya beans are harvested in Brazil. Paulo Fridman/Corbis

Private screenings February 4th, 2018 by

A recent study by Gérard Zoundji and colleagues in Benin, West Africa, has shed light on a promising way to get training videos to farmers through local shops. Zoundji worked in four vegetable-producing regions of southern Benin, where farmers were so worried about pests that they sprayed pesticides even before the bugs appeared.  Convincing such apprehensive farmers to hold the pesticides would take some serious persuasion.

Zoundji took nine videos on vegetable production from the Access Agriculture video platform (www.accessagriculture.org), including how to reduce pesticide use, and put five language versions (English, French, Fon, Yoruba and Bambara) on one DVD. Zoundji had the brilliant idea of reaching the farmers through local shops, in an attempt to overcome the limited distribution available through the extension service. In 2015 he convinced 13 owners of small shops (mostly farm supply stores and movie DVD vendors) to stock copies of his DVD, titled Improving Vegetable Production. From August to December, the shopkeepers sold the DVDs to customers for up to $4. Starting in June, 2016, Zoundji tracked down 120 vegetable farmers who had bought the DVD, received it as a gift from friends or family, or watched it with their neighbors. He visited the farmers’ fields to learn more about what had happened after watching the videos.

Most of the video-watching farmers were young, with an average age of 28. Youth are drawn to vegetable production, which can be profitable on a small piece of land, and to videos, complete with music and a compelling narration. A third of the farmers were women. Almost half had no formal schooling, but the videos require no reading.

Zoundji found that only a third of his farmers regularly received extension visits, while twice as many got information from agro-dealers. All the farmers shared information through their own informal networks.

Zoundji’s collaborating shopkeepers sold 669 DVDs. I was surprised that only 58% of the DVDs went to farmers. Government officials, students, their parents and extension workers bought the rest. Such folks often grow their own gardens, or they have links to vegetable-growers.

After watching the videos, farmers realized that they had been over-using pesticides. Aristide, a vegetable farmer, from Abomey-Calavi said:

Before the video training, I used to manage nematodes, pests and other diseases by using any agrochemicals I could get hold of. I just needed to see insects and pests in the field to unleash a treatment. But after watching the video, I realized how wasteful and harmful I have been.

Farmers had been applying pesticides up to seven times during each season, but after watching the videos, 86% said that they had reduced pesticide use. Mr. David, a farmer at Sèmé-Podji, said:

To grow tomatoes on a 400 square meter plot, I often used for example 1 kg or 1.5 kg of fungicide, one to two litres of insecticide, 2 kg of nematicide and about 30 kg of NPK (fertilizer), but since September 2015 I started applying the knowledge from the videos. I’m progressively reducing the chemicals … and the tomato yield is still the same as before videos, but now they keep longer than before (I watched the) videos. This is the third time I’ve harvested.

Some farmers reported that although they had heard about alternatives to pesticides from extension agents they remained unconvinced until they saw the videos. The videos show farmers from Benin and other countries using the recommended alternatives, making a novel idea seem much more practical. A farmer on a video can be more convincing than a conversation in real life. “Videos stimulate learning and facilitate more experimentation for change than face-to-face extension carried out by an extension worker,” Zoundji writes.

It wasn’t only crop protection practices that were improved. Crop rotation, compost, and nets to keep insects out of vegetables were widely adopted as alternatives to agrochemicals.

There were further changes that took place in the shop owners selling the DVDs. One third of the agrodealers began to stock the equipment for setting up drip irrigation. This was astounding, an unexpected consequence of Zoundji’s original idea. Changing business practices matters because in previous experiences with drip irrigation, farmers have been dependent on projects to buy the necessary equipment. (See Paul’s earlier story, To drip or not to drip). Now, after watching the videos, farmers were investing in drip irrigation equipment and asking agrodealers to stock items they needed, such as hoses, nozzles and tanks. Other farmers were making their own kits.

Family farmers are used to shopping at family-owned businesses. It may not be necessary to have a project just to share information with farmers. Small shops may be just the place to sell videos with useful ideas that farmers can use.

Further reading

Zoundji, Gérard C., Florent Okry, Simplice D. Vodouhê & Jeffery W. Bentley 2018 “Towards Sustainable Vegetable Growing with Farmer Learning Videos in Benin.” International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability. Read it here.

Watch all nine of the vegetable videos (in English, French and other languages)

Managing nematodes in vegetables

Making a chilli seedbed

Insect nets in seedbeds

Transplanting chillies

Drying and storing chillies

Making chilli powder

Drip irrigation for tomato

Reviving soils with mucuna

Managing soil fertility

Videos in the languages of Benin

Access Agriculture hosts videos in several of the languages spoken in Benin, including:

French, Adja, Bariba, Berba, Dendi, Ditammari, Fon, Gourmantche, Hausa, Ife, Idaatcha, Mina, Nago, Peulh (Fulfuldé), Yoruba and Zarma

Photo credit

Photos are by G. Zoundji.

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