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The village hunter June 28th, 2020 by

I recently ran into our village hunter, Pol Gielen, which is always a good occasion to get to know the village history a little better, and to learn about the changing challenges of hunters and farmers alike. In our village, Erpekom, in north eastern Belgium, with only 300 odd citizens, Pol Gielen is one of the two people allowed to hunt on the village grounds. The license has been passed on from generation to generation. While hunting in Europe is a centuries-old occupation, it has not always had the same social relevance.

The first hunting laws stem from the time of William the Conqueror, the Norman King who reigned England from 1066 until his death in 1087. A decade earlier, William allied himself with Flanders, now part of Belgium, by marrying Matilda, daughter of Count Baldwin of Flanders. William was a fervent hunter who loved being in the woods, observing animals, yet he despised the common people. A peasant caught hunting could be thrown into prison or, just as likely, publicly executed. For centuries to follow, hunting became a stylized pastime of the aristocracy.

In contemporary Europe, hunting is no longer confined to the rich. While hunting licenses are to ensure that only well-trained persons are allowed to hunt, the right to hunt is also linked to the duty to care for all animals listed in the hunting laws. For various species, such as deer, wild boars, hares and pheasants, hunters and authorities have to develop plans, detailing, how many animals may or must be killed during the hunting season. Some pest species, such as pigeons, can be shot with little restriction.

In an earlier blog, Bullets and birds, I wrote how pigeons can be a real challenge for organic farmers, who do not use seed that the factories coat with chemicals to repel birds, and how local hunters can come to the rescue if need be. My recent encounter with Pol, our village hunter, showed me how changing pesticide regulations in Europe continue to influence the relationships between hunters, farmers and the environment.

In 2018, the European Commission banned three neonicotinoids (synthetic nicotinoids, toxins originally derived from tobacco). The ban covers all field crops, because these pesticides harm domesticated honey bees and wild pollinators. Neonics, as they are commonly called, are often coated onto seeds to protect them from soil pests. These pesticides are systemic, meaning they spread through the plant‚Äôs tissue. The toxin eventually reaches pollen and nectar, where it harms pollinators. According to a study by Professor Dave Goulson in the UK, most seeds and flowers marketed as ‚Äúbee-friendly‚ÄĚ at garden centres, supermarkets and DIY centres, like Aldi and Homebase, are contaminated with systemic pesticides. In fact, in his study in 2017 70% of the plants contained neonics commonly including the ones banned for use on flowering crops by the EU. Birds, bees, butterflies, bats and mammals are indiscriminately poisoned when they forage on contaminated plants.

The dramatic decline of bees and other pollinators due to the use of neonics and other pesticides is threatening the sustainability of the global food supply. Of the 100 crop species that provide 90% of global food, 71 are pollinated by bees.

To further reduce the negative impact of agriculture on the environment, more restrictions have been imposed because of mounting evidence that pesticide-coated seed are also harmful to birds, including partridges, a favourite game bird for a thousand years that has now become a rarity. Apart from subsidies for installing and maintaining hedgerows around farmers’ fields to serve as food and nesting habitat for birds, the European Commission recently banned methiocarb, a toxic insecticide used as a bird repellent, often used to coat maize seed.

With the new EU regulations limiting seed coatings, conventional dairy farmers got worried that birds would damage their maize crop, and have begun looking for alternatives. That is the reason why one of our farmer neighbours decided to call upon Pol, the village hunter. It was on his way back from that farmer that I ran into Pol when he said: ‚ÄúWell, the farmer asked me to come and shoot pigeons, but I told him: ‚ÄėI would be happy to help you, but where do you want me to hide, you have removed all the hedges in your fields!‚Äô‚ÄĚ

Regulations to curb the indiscriminate and dangerous use of pesticides on seed and in fields must go hand in hand with other measures, such as promoting hedgerows that fulfil important ecological functions for birds and pollinators. Also, environmentally-friendly alternatives could be further investigated and promoted. Green, innovative technologies, such as clay coating, is likely to become increasingly important. Clay is perceived by insects and birds as soil and offers a natural protection of the seeds. The clay can even be enriched with other natural additives to repel birds and insects.

Hunting has come a long way in the past 1,000 years. No longer the pastime of kings, hunting can be part of an enlightened programme to manage bird pests, without the use of chemicals, while saving the bees.

Further reading

Goulson, Dave. 2017. Pesticides in ‚ÄúBee-Friendly‚ÄĚ flowers. www.sussex.ac.uk/lifesci/goulsonlab/blog/bee-friendly-flowers. Original research describing in detail the pesticides was published in the journal Environmental Pollution, May 2017 and can be found here: www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0269749117305158  

Malone, Katy. 2018. Beeware! ‚ÄėBee-friendly‚Äô garden plants can contain bee-harming chemicals. https://www.bumblebeeconservation.org/beeware-bee-friendly-garden-plants-can-contain-bee-harming-chemicals/

Stokstad, Erik. 2018. European Union expands ban of three neonicotinoid pesticides. Science, April 27.

The European Green Deal: https://ec.europa.eu/info/strategy/priorities-2019-2024/european-green-deal_en

Related blogs

Bullets and birds

Banana birds in the bean patch

Birds: farmers’ blessing or curse

The bird cliffs

Related videos

Managing birds in climbing beans

Soya sowing density (this video talks about hunters providing services to farmers in Benin)

Achojcha: An Inca vegetable June 21st, 2020 by

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

The achojcha is a member of the squash family, green and crunchy and just the right size to fit in the palm of your hand. It grows vigorously as a vine and will smother a tree, if you let it.

The achojcha has an edible skin and is hollow inside, like a balloon, with striking black seeds. It needs little care. It can grow back every year from seeds that were accidently dropped the year before, sprouting with the summer rains, and bearing fruit in the autumn. With irrigation it will grow pretty much year-round.

The book Lost Crops of the Incas estimates that the achojcha was domesticated 9000 years ago. Ancient peoples loved it enough that the pre-Colombian Chim√ļ people of Peru made effigy pots in honor of the little fruit.

We have grown achojcha in our garden in Cochabamba, Bolivia for years, and it’s a popular vegetable with smallholders. The achojcha is high-yielding and sometimes we have a basketful of fruit left on the vine which we can pick during the Andean winter. Even when we abandon the fruit until the end of the season, it simply wilts, and we have yet to see any diseases or insect pests on it. There is only passing reference to a virus in achojcha. I have seen mites on achojcha in the valley of Comarapa, further down the Andes, where pesticide abuse is common.

The achojcha is still a poor person’s food in Bolivia. It is not sold by that bedrock of middle-class cuisine, the supermarket, but you can buy achojcha from street venders. The achojcha does enjoy a certain following. If you search for it on the Internet you will find several recipes. Home cooks in South America sometimes stuff the achojcha with cheese, or with rice and meat, before battering it with egg and frying it. The versatile fruit can be stewed or eaten raw in salads. 

As Paul argued in last week’s blog, farmers should be encouraged to produce for the local market. While governments and donors have a responsibility to invest in generating new knowledge in support of agroecology, a transition towards more sustainable food systems will also require re-educating consumers on the importance of preparing the fruits and vegetables that fit best into the local agroecology.

Further reading

Cárdenas, Manuel 1989. Manual de Plantas Económicas de Bolivia. Cochabamba: Los Amigos del Libro.

National Research Council 1989 Lost Crops of the Incas: Little-Known Plants of the Andes with Promise for Worldwide Cultivation. National Academies Press.

.Related blog stories

Eating bricks

Make luffa, not plastic

Forgotten vegetables

Scientific and other names

The achojcha is called caigua in the northern Andes. Its scientific name is Cyclanthera pedata.

A couple of unconvincing English names are ‚Äústuffing cucumber‚ÄĚ and ‚Äúslipper gourd.‚ÄĚ

Acknowledgement

As always, thanks to Paul Van Mele and Eric Boa for excellent comments on a previous draft. Thanks also to Eric for his stunning picture of the achojcha seeds.

LA ACHOJCHA: HORTALIZA INCA

Por Jeff Bentley, 21 de junio del 2020

La achojcha es un miembro de la familia de las calabazas, verde y crujiente y del tama√Īo justo para caber en la palma de tu mano. Crece vigorosamente como una parra y ahoga a un √°rbol, si se lo permites.

La achojcha tiene una c√°scara comestible y es hueca por dentro, como un globo, con llamativas semillas negras. Necesita poco cuidado. Puede volver a nacer todos los a√Īos a partir de semillas que se cayeron accidentalmente el a√Īo anterior, brotando con las lluvias de verano, y dando frutos en el oto√Īo. Con la irrigaci√≥n crecer√° a√Īo redondo.

El libro Lost Crops of the Incas estima que la achojcha fue domesticada hace 9000 a√Īos. A los antiguos les gustaba tanto que el pueblo chim√ļ precolombino de Per√ļ hizo ollas efigies en honor a la peque√Īa fruta.

Hemos cultivado achojcha en nuestro huerto en Cochabamba, Bolivia, durante a√Īos, y es una hortaliza cotizada entre los campesinos. La achojcha es rendidora y a veces nos queda una canasta llena de fruta en la parra hasta despu√©s de cosecharla por meses. Incluso cuando abandonamos la fruta hasta el final de la temporada, simplemente se marchita, y todav√≠a no hemos visto ninguna enfermedad o plaga insectil en ella. S√≥lo hay una referencia pasajera a un virus en la achojcha. He visto √°caros en la achojcha en el valle de Comarapa, m√°s abajo en los Andes, donde el abuso de pesticidas es com√ļn.

La achojcha sigue siendo el alimento de los pobres en Bolivia. No es vendido por ese cimiento de la cocina burguesa, el supermercado, pero puedes comprar achojcha de los puestos en la calle. La achojcha tiene su p√ļblico. Si lo buscas en Internet encontrar√°s varias recetas. Los cocineros caseros de Sudam√©rica a veces rellenan la achojcha con queso, o con arroz y carne, antes de rebozarlo con huevo y fre√≠rlo. Esta fruta tan vers√°til puede entrar a la sopa, o cruda en ensaladas.¬†

Como Paul argumentó en el blog de la semana pasada, se debe alentar a los agricultores a producir para el mercado local. Si bien los gobiernos y los donantes tienen la responsabilidad de invertir en generar nuevos conocimientos en apoyo de la agroecología, la transición hacia un agro más sostenible también requiere reeducar a los consumidores sobre la importancia de preparar las frutas y verduras que se adapten a la agroecología local.

Para leer m√°s

Cárdenas, Manuel 1989. Manual de Plantas Económicas de Bolivia. Cochabamba: Los Amigos del Libro.

National Research Council 1989 Lost Crops of the Incas: Little-Known Plants of the Andes with Promise for Worldwide Cultivation. National Academies Press.

Otros relatos de este blog

Eating bricks

Make luffa, not plastic

Forgotten vegetables

Agradecimiento

Sinónimo y nombres científicos

La achojcha se llama caigua en el norte de los Andes. Su nombre científico es Cyclanthera pedata.

Como siempre, gracias a Paul Van Mele y Eric Boa por sus excelentes comentarios sobre un borrador anterior. Gracias también a Eric por su impresionante imagen de las semillas de achojcha.

Friendly germs April 5th, 2020 by

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

At a recent event in Cochabamba, just before Bolivia went into lockdown over coronavirus, I had a rare opportunity to see how to make products or inputs used in agroecological farming.

The organizers (the NGO Agroecología y Fe) were well prepared. They had written recipes for the organic fertilizers and natural pesticides, an expert to explain what each product did and to show the practical steps. The materials for making the inputs were neatly laid out in a grassy meadow. We had plenty of space to build fires, mix materials such as cow dung with earth and water, and to stand and chat. Agronomist Freddy Vargas started by making bokashi, which extensionists have frequently demonstrated in Latin America for decades, especially among environmentally sensitive organizations.

Bokashi is sometimes described as fertilizer, but it is more than that; it is also a source of minerals and a culture of microorganisms. Freddy explained that for the past 25 years, ever since university, he has been making bokashi. He uses it on his own farm, and teaches it to farmers who want to bring their soil back to life.

Freddy mixes leaf litter and top soil from around the base of trees (known as sach‚Äôa wanu (‚Äútree dung‚ÄĚ) in Quechua. The tree dung contains naturally occurring bacteria and fungi that break down organic matter, add life to the soil and help control plant diseases. Freddy adds a few packets of bread yeast for good measure. As a growth medium for the microbes, he adds rice bran and rice husks, but any organic stuff would work. Next, raw sugar is dissolved in water, as food for the microorganisms. He also adds minerals: rock flour (ground stone) and ‚Äúfosfito‚ÄĚ (rock flour and bone flour, burned on a slow fire). The pile of ingredients is mixed with a shovel, made into a heap and covered with a plastic tarpaulin, to let it ferment. Every day or so it gets hot from fermentation, and has to be turned again. The bokashi will be ready in about two weeks, depending on the weather.

This elaborate procedure is why it has taken me some time to accept bokashi.  It seemed like so much work. Freddy explained that he adds bokashi to the surface of the soil on his farm, and over the years this has helped to improve the soil, to allow it to retain water. ‚ÄúWe used to have to water our apple trees every two days, but now we only have to irrigate once a week,‚ÄĚ he explained. His enthusiasm and clear evidence of benefits made me re-assess my previous skeptical view of bokashi.

Next, agronomist Basilio Caspa showed how to make biol, a liquid culture of friendly microbes. He mixed fresh cow dung, raw sugar and water with his hands, in a bucket, a demonstration that perplexes farmers. ‚ÄúHow can an educated man like you mix cow dung with your hands?‚ÄĚ But Basilio enjoys making things, and he is soon up to his elbows in the mixture before pouring it into a 200-liter barrel, and then filling it the rest of the way with water.

Basilio puts on a tight lid, to keep out the air, and installs a valve he bought for 2 pesos at the hardware store, to let out the methane that is released during the fermentation. The biol will be ready in about four weeks, to spray on crops as a fertilizer and to discourage disease (as the beneficial microorganisms control the pathogens).  Basilio has studied biol closely and wrote his thesis on it. He found that he could mix anything from half to two liters of biol into a 20 liter back pack sprayer. Higher concentrations worked best, but he always saw benefits whatever the dilution.

We also learned to brew a sulfur lime mix, an ancient pesticide. This is easy to make: sulfur and lime are simply boiled in water.

But do farmers actually use these products?

Then Mar√≠a Omonte, an agronomist with profound field experience, shared a doubt. With help from Agroecolog√≠a y Fe, she had taught farmers in Sik‚Äôimira, Cochabamba to make these inputs, and then helped the communities to try the inputs on their farms. “In Sik‚Äôimira, only one farmer had made bokashi, but many had made biol.‚ÄĚ This seasoned group agreed. The farmers tended to accept biol more than bokashi, but they were even more interested in the brews that more closely resembled chemicals, such as sulfur lime, Bordeaux mix (a copper-based fungicide) and ash boiled with soap.

The group excitedly discussed the generally low adoption by farmers of these products. They suggested several reasons: first, the products with microbes are often made incorrectly, with poor results and so the farmers don’t want to make them again. Second, the farmers want immediate results, and when they don’t get them, they lose heart and abandon the idea. Besides, making biol and bokashi takes more time to prepare than agrochemicals, which is discouraging.

Bokashi and biol do improve the soil, otherwise, agronomists like Freddy would not keep using them on their own farms. But perhaps farmers demand inputs that are easier to use. The next step is to study which products farmers accept and which ones they reject. Why do they adopt some homemade inputs while resisting others? An agroecological technology, no matter how environmentally sound, still has to respond to users’ demands, for example, it must be low cost and easy to use. Formal studies will also help to show the benefits of minerals, microbes and organic matter on the soil’s structure and fertility.

Related blogs

A revolution for our soil

Strawberry fields once again

Farming with trees

The bokashi factory

Apple futures

Related videos

Good microbes for plants and soil

Vermiwash: an organic tonic for crops

Acknowledgements

The event I attended was the Congress of the Regional Soils Platform in Cochabamba, organized by the NGO Agroecología y Fe. Thanks to María Omonte, Germán Vargas, Eric Boa, and Paul Van Mele for reading a previous version of this story.

MICROBIOS AMIGABLES

Por Jeff Bentley, 5 de abril del 2020

En un reciente congreso en Cochabamba, justo antes de que Bolivia entrara en cuarentena por el corona virus, tuve la rara oportunidad, como parte de un grupo peque√Īo, de ver c√≥mo hacer insumos o productos para la agricultura agroecol√≥gica.

Los organizadores (la ONG Agroecología y Fe) estaban bien preparados con recetas escritas para los abonos y plaguicidas naturales, con un experto para cada insumo para explicar qué hacía cada producto y para mostrar los pasos prácticos. También tenían sus materiales debidamente preparados de antemano.

En un campo de pasto, teníamos mucho espacio para hacer hogueras, mezclar materiales como estiércol de vaca con tierra y agua, y para observar y charlar. El Ing. Freddy Vargas comenzó haciendo bocashi, que los extensionistas han demostrado muchas veces en América Latina durante varias décadas, especialmente entre las organizaciones sensibles al medio ambiente.

El bocashi se describe a veces como fertilizante, pero en realidad es m√°s que abono org√°nico; es tambi√©n una fuente de minerales, y microorganismos para el suelo.  Freddy explic√≥ que desde que √©l estuvo en la universidad, durante los √ļltimos 25 a√Īos, ha estado fabricando bocashi. Lo usa en su propia finca, y lo ense√Īa a los agricultores que quieren devolver la vida a su suelo.

Freddy mezcla la hojarasca y con tierra que recoge debajo de los √°rboles (conocido como sach’a wanu, en quechua, “esti√©rcol de √°rbol”). El esti√©rcol de √°rbol contiene bacterias y hongos naturales que descomponen la materia org√°nica, dan vida al suelo, y controlan las enfermedades de las plantas. Freddy agrega unos cuantos paquetes de levadura de pan por si acaso. Pone salvado de arroz y cascarilla de arroz como un medio de cultivos, pero podr√≠a usar cualquier cosa org√°nica. Tambi√©n pone minerales: harina de roca (piedra molida) y fosfito (harina de roca y harina de hueso, quemado a fuego lento). √Čl a√Īade chancaca disuelta en agua, como alimento para los microbios, luego da vuelta a todos los ingredientes con una pala, y se cubre con una lona, para dejarla fermentar. M√°s o menos cada d√≠a el bocashi se calienta por la fermentaci√≥n, y de nuevo hay que darle vuelta a la mezcla. El bocashi estar√≠a listo en unas dos semanas, seg√ļn la temperatura ambiental.

Es un procedimiento exigente, que parece mucho trabajo, pero Freddy explic√≥ que √©l agrega bocashi a la superficie del suelo en su finca para liberar los microorganismos en la tierra. A lo largo de los a√Īos esto ha ayudado a mejorar el suelo, para que retenga m√°s humedad. “Antes ten√≠amos que regar nuestros manzanos cada dos d√≠as, pero ahora s√≥lo tenemos que regar una vez a la semana”, explic√≥. Su entusiasmo y la clara evidencia de los beneficios me ayud√≥ a reevaluar mi opini√≥n esc√©ptica del bocashi.

A continuaci√≥n, el Ing. Basilio Caspa mostr√≥ c√≥mo hacer biol, un cultivo l√≠quido de microbios amistosos. En un balde, mezcl√≥ esti√©rcol fresco de vaca, chancaca y agua, explicando que cuando muestra a los agricultores c√≥mo mezclar el biol, se oponen. “¬ŅC√≥mo es que un hombre educado como t√ļ puede mezclar esti√©rcol de vaca con sus manos?” Pero a Basilio le gusta hacer cosas con las manos, y pronto est√° hasta los codos en la mezcla, antes de echarla en un barril de 200 litros, y luego llenarlo el resto con agua.

Basilio pone una tapa herm√©tica al turril, para que no entre el aire, e instala una v√°lvula que compr√≥ por 2 pesos en la ferreter√≠a para dejar salir el metano que el biol liberar√° al fermentar. En un mes, el biol estar√° listo para fumigar los cultivos como fertilizante foliar y para evitar las enfermedades (por que los microorganismos ben√©ficos controlan a los pat√≥genos).  En realidad, Basilio escribi√≥ su tesis sobre el biol. Encontr√≥ que pod√≠a mezclar desde medio litro de biol hasta 2 litros en una bomba de mochila de 20 litros, y que entre m√°s biol que pone, m√°s fuertes son las plantas. En base a eso, √©l recomiendo poner dos litros de biol para arriba en una bomba de 20 litros.

También aprendimos a preparar una mezcla de azufre y cal (caldo sulfocálcico), un antiguo plaguicida. Es fácil hacerlo; se hierve cal y azufre en agua.

¬ŅPero los agricultores realmente usan estos productos?

Entonces Mar√≠a Omonte, una ingeniera agr√≥noma con profunda experiencia de campo, comparti√≥ una duda. Con la ayuda de Agroecolog√≠a y Fe, ella hab√≠a ense√Īado a los agricultores de Sik’imira, Cochabamba, a fabricar estos insumos y luego ayud√≥ a las comunidades a probar los insumos en sus fincas. “En Sik‚Äôimira, solo un agricultor ha hecho bocashi, pero muchos han hecho biol”. Este experimentado grupo estuvo de acuerdo; as√≠ era. Los agricultores tend√≠an a aceptar el biol, m√°s que el bocashi, pero m√°s que eso, est√°n interesados en los caldos que parecen m√°s a los qu√≠micos, como el caldo sulfoc√°lcico, el caldo bordel√©s (un fungicida c√ļprico) y el caldo ceniza (ceniza hervida con jab√≥n).

El grupo discutió animadamente la poca adopción que en general hacen los productores de estos preparados. Decían que hay varias razones: una es que no siempre se hace correctamente los mezclados con microbios, y los resultados no son buenos y los productores no quieren hacerlos nuevamente. Otra razón es que los campesinos quieren resultados inmediatos, y al no ver esto desconfían y lo dejan. Además, hacer biol y bocashi requiere mayor tiempo y esfuerzo en su preparación que los agroquímicos y eso los desmotiva.

El bocashi y el biol s√≠ mejoran el suelo, si no fuera as√≠, ingenieros como Freddy no los seguir√≠an usando en su propia finca. Pero tal vez los agricultores demandan insumos m√°s f√°ciles de hacer. El siguiente paso es hacer un estudio m√°s al fondo para averiguar qu√© insumos aceptan los agricultores y cu√°les no. ¬ŅPor qu√© adoptan algunos insumos caseros y se resisten a usar otros? Una tecnolog√≠a agroecol√≥gica, por m√°s sana que sea, todav√≠a tiene que responder a las demandas de los usuarios, por ejemplo, de tener bajo costo y ser f√°cil de hacer. Este tema tambi√©n merece estudios formales sobre los efectos de los minerales, materia org√°nica y microbios a la fertilidad y estructura del suelo.

Blogs relacionados

Una revolución para nuestro suelo

En el frutillar de nuevo

La agricultura con √°rboles

The bokashi factory

Manzanos del futuro

Videos relacionados

Buenos microbios para plantas y suelo

Vermiwash: an organic tonic for crops

Agradecimientos

El Congreso de la Plataforma Regional de Suelos en Cochabamba fue organizado por la ONG Agroecología y Fe. Gracias a María Omonte, Germán Vargas, Eric Boa, y Paul Van Mele por leer una versión previa.

Earthworms from India to Bolivia March 29th, 2020 by

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

A few weeks ago, I met a young Bolivian journalist, Edson Rodríguez, who works on an environmental program at the university (UMSS) television channel in Cochabamba called TVU. He helps to produce a show called Granizo Blanco (white hail), a dramatic name in this part of the Andes, where hail can devastate crops in a moment. The show covers all environmental issues, not just agriculture. For example, the program recently featured mud slides that have destroyed homes, and the impacts of a new metro train system in the valley.

I first met Edson in the field, where he was filming the tree seedling distribution that I wrote about earlier in this blog. Later, I told him about the agroecological videos on Access Agriculture.

Edson wondered if some of the videos on Access Agriculture might be suitable for the TV show. After watching some of the videos, he downloaded one on making compost with earthworms. The video was filmed in India, and it had recently been translated into Spanish, crucial for making videos more widely available. Without a Spanish version it wouldn’t be possible to consider showing a video from Maharashtra in Cochabamba. The two places are physically far apart, but they have much in common, such as a semi-arid climate, and small farms that produce crop residues and other organic waste that can be turned into compost.

Edson asked me to take part in an episode of Granizo Blanco that included a short interview followed by a screening of the compost and earthworm video. He was curious to know why Access Agriculture promotes videos of farmers in one country to show to smallholders elsewhere. I said that the farmers may differ in their skin color, clothing and hair styles, but they are working on similar problems. For example, farmers worldwide are struggling with crops contaminated with aflatoxins, poisons produced by fungi on improperly dried products like peanuts and maize.

I told Edson that farmer learning videos filmed in Bolivia are being used elsewhere. My colleagues and I made a video on managing aflatoxins in groundnuts, originally in Spanish, but since been translated into English, French and various African languages. The same aflatoxin occurs in Bolivia and in Burkina Faso, so African farmers can benefit from experience in South America. In this case the video shows simple ways to reduce aflatoxins in food, using improved drying and storage techniques developed by Bolivian scientists and farmers in Chuquisaca.

‚ÄúWhat other kinds of things can Bolivian farmers learn from their peers in other countries?‚ÄĚ Edson asked me, as he realized that good ideas can flow in both directions. I explained that soil fertility is a problem in parts of Bolivia and elsewhere; Access Agriculture has videos on cover crops, compost, conservation agriculture and may other ways to improve the soil, all freely available for programs such as Granizo Blanco to screen.

Many older people, especially those who work for governments, feel that videos have to be made in each country, and cannot be shared across borders. This closed vision makes little sense. The same civil servants happily organize and attend international conferences on agriculture and many other topics to share their own ideas across borders. If government functionaries can gain insights from foreign peers, farmers should be able to do so as well.

Fortunately, younger people like Edson are able to see the importance of media, such as learning videos that enable farmers to share knowledge and experience cross-culturally. Smallholders can swap ideas and stimulate innovations as long as the sound track is translated into a language they understand. It costs much less to translate a video than to make one.

Related blog

The right way to distribute trees

Translate to innovate

Aflatoxin videos for farmers

Related videos

Making a vemicompost bed (The earthworm video from India)

Managing aflatoxins in groundnuts during drying and storage

See also the links to soil conservation videos at the end of last week’s story: A revolution for our soil

Acknowledgment

The McKnight Foundation has generously funded many video translations, including the earthworm video, besides the filming of the aflatoxin video and its translation into several languages. For many years, SDC has offered crucial support that enabled Access Agriculture to become a global leader in South-South exchange through quality farmer-to-farmer training videos.

LOMBRICES DE TIERRA DE LA INDIA A BOLIVIA

Por Jeff Bentley 29 de marzo del 2020

Hace unas semanas conoc√≠ a un joven periodista boliviano, Edson Rodr√≠guez, que trabaja en un programa de medio ambiente en el canal de televisi√≥n, TVU, de la Universidad (UMSS) en Cochabamba. √Čl ayuda a producir un programa llamado Granizo Blanco, un nombre dram√°tico en esta parte de los Andes, donde el granizo puede arrasar los cultivos en un momento. El programa cubre todos los temas ambientales, no s√≥lo la agricultura. Por ejemplo, el programa recientemente present√≥ los deslizamientos de mazamorra que han destruido varias casas, y los impactos de un nuevo sistema de tren metropolitano en el valle.

Conocí a Edson por primera vez en el campo, donde él estaba filmando la distribución de plantines de árboles, el tema de un blog previo. Más tarde, le hablé de los videos agroecológicos en Access Agriculture.

Edson se preguntaba si algunos de los videos de Access Agriculture podr√≠an servir para el programa de televisi√≥n. Despu√©s de ver algunos de los videos, descarg√≥ uno sobre c√≥mo hacer abono con lombrices de tierra. El v√≠deo se film√≥ en la India y recientemente se hab√≠a traducido al espa√Īol, lo que era imprescindible para hacer los v√≠deos m√°s disponibles. Sin una versi√≥n en espa√Īol ser√≠a imposible mostrar un video de Maharashtra en Cochabamba. Los dos lugares est√°n f√≠sicamente alejados, pero tienen mucho en com√ļn, como un clima semi√°rido y peque√Īas granjas que producen residuos de cultivos y otros desechos org√°nicos que pueden convertirse en abono.

Edson me pidi√≥ que participara en un episodio de Granizo Blanco que inclu√≠a una breve entrevista seguida de una proyecci√≥n del v√≠deo de lombricultura. √Čl quer√≠a saber por qu√© Access Agriculture promueve videos de los agricultores de un pa√≠s para mostrarlos a los campesinos de otros pa√≠ses. Dije que los agricultores pueden diferir en el color de su piel, su ropa y peinado, pero est√°n trabajando en problemas similares. Por ejemplo, hay agricultores de todo el mundo que luchan con la contaminaci√≥n de aflatoxinas, venenos producidos por hongos en productos mal secados como el man√≠ y el ma√≠z.

Expliqu√© que los videos filmados con agricultores en Bolivia se est√°n usando en otros pa√≠ses. Mis colegas y yo hicimos un video sobre el manejo de las aflatoxinas en el man√≠, originalmente en espa√Īol, pero luego se ha traducido al ingl√©s, al franc√©s y a varios idiomas africanos. La misma aflatoxina se produce en Bolivia y en Burkina Faso, por lo que los agricultores africanos pueden beneficiarse de la experiencia en Am√©rica del Sur. En este caso, el v√≠deo muestra formas sencillas de reducir las aflatoxinas en los alimentos secos, desarrolladas por cient√≠ficos y agricultores bolivianos en Chuquisaca.

“¬ŅQu√© otro tipo de cosas pueden aprender los agricultores bolivianos de sus hom√≥logos de otros pa√≠ses?” Edson me pregunt√≥, al darse cuenta de que las buenas ideas pueden fluir en ambas direcciones. Le expliqu√© que la fertilidad del suelo es un problema en algunas partes de Bolivia y que afecta a muchos otros agricultores en otros lugares; Access Agriculture tiene videos sobre cultivos de cobertura, compost, agricultura de conservaci√≥n y muchas otras t√©cnicas para mejorar el suelo, todos disponibles gratuitamente para que programas como Granizo Blanco los proyecten.

Muchas personas mayores, especialmente las que trabajan para los gobiernos, consideran que los videos tienen que hacerse en cada pa√≠s y no pueden compartirse a trav√©s de las fronteras. Esta visi√≥n cerrada tiene poco sentido. Los mismos funcionarios p√ļblicos organizan y asisten con gusto a conferencias internacionales sobre agricultura y diversos temas para compartir sus propias ideas a trav√©s de las fronteras. Si los funcionarios del gobierno pueden obtener ideas de sus colegas extranjeros, los agricultores tambi√©n deber√≠an poder hacerlo.

Afortunadamente, los j√≥venes como Edson ven la importancia de los medios de comunicaci√≥n, como los v√≠deos, que permiten a los agricultores compartir conocimientos y experiencias entre culturas. Los peque√Īos agricultores pueden intercambiar ideas y estimular innovaciones siempre que la banda sonora se traduzca a un idioma que entiendan. Cuesta mucho menos traducir un video que hacer uno.

Historias relacionadas del blog

La manera correcta de distribuir los √°rboles

Translate to innovate

Aflatoxin videos for farmers

Videos relacionados

Hacer una lombricompostera (el video de la lombriz de tierra de la India)

Manejo de aflatoxinas en maní (también disponible en quechua y en aymara)

Vea también los enlaces a los videos de conservación del suelo al final de la historia de la semana pasada: Una revolución para nuestro suelo

Agradecimiento

La Fundaci√≥n McKnight ha financiado generosamente muchas traducciones de video, incluyendo el video de la lombriz, adem√°s de la filmaci√≥n del video de la aflatoxina y su traducci√≥n a varios idiomas. Durante muchos a√Īos, la Cosude ha ofrecido un apoyo crucial que ha permitido a Access Agriculture convertirse en un l√≠der mundial en el intercambio Sur-a-Sur a trav√©s de v√≠deos agricultor a agricultor.

Strawberry fields once again March 15th, 2020 by

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

Like many Bolivians, Diego Ramírez never thought about remaining in the village where he was born, and starting a business on his family’s small farm. As a kid, he loved picking fruit on his grandparents’ small strawberry patch in the village of Ucuchi, and swimming with his friends in a pond fed with spring water, but he had to leave home at a young age to attend high school in the small city of Sacaba, and then he went on to study computer science at the university (UMSS) in the big city of Cochabamba, where he found work after graduation.

Years later, Diego‚Äôs dad called his seven children together to tell them that he was selling their grandparents‚Äô farm. It made sense. The grandparents had died, and the land had been idle for about 15 years. Yet, it struck Diego as a tragedy, so he said ‚ÄúI‚Äôll farm it.‚ÄĚ Some people thought he was joking. In Ucuchi, people were leaving agriculture, not getting into it. Many had migrated to Bolivia‚Äôs eastern lowlands or to foreign countries, so many of the fields in Ucuchi were abandoned. It was not the sort of place that people like Diego normally return to.

When Diego decided to revive his family farm two years ago, he turned to the Internet for inspiration. Although strawberries have been grown for many years in Ucuchi, and they are a profitable crop around Cochabamba, Diego learned of a commercial strawberry farm in Santo Domingo, Santiago, in neighboring Chile, that gave advice and sold plants. Santo Domingo is 2450 km from Cochabamba, but Diego was so serious about strawberries that he went there over a weekend and brought back 500 strawberry plants. Crucially, he also learned about new technologies like drip irrigation, and planting in raised beds covered with plastic sheeting. Encouraged by his new knowledge, he found dealers in Cochabamba who sold drip irrigation equipment and he installed it, along with plastic mulch, a common method in modern strawberry production.

Diego was inclined towards producing strawberries agroecologically, so he contacted the Agrecol Andes Foundation which was then organizing an association of ecological farmers in Sacaba, the small city where Diego lives (half way between the farm and the big city of Cochabamba). In that way Diego became a certified ecological farmer under the SPG PAS (Participatory Guaranty System, Agroecological Farmers of Sacaba).  Diego learned to make his own biol (a fermented solution of cow dung that fertilizes the soil and adds beneficial microbes to it). Now he mixes biol into the drip irrigation tank, fertilizing the strawberries one drop at a time.

Diego also makes his own organic sprays, like sulfur-lime brew and Bordeaux mix. He applies these solutions every two weeks to control powdery mildew, a common fungal disease, thrips (a small insect pest), red mites, and damping off. I was impressed. A lot of people talk about organic sprays, but few make their own. ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs not that hard,‚ÄĚ Diego shrugged, when I asked him where he found the time.

Diego finds the time to do a lot of admirable things. He has a natural flair for marketing and has designed his own packing boxes of thin cardboard, which he had printed in La Paz. His customers receive their fruit in a handsome box, rather than in a plastic bag, where fruit is easily damaged. He sells direct to customers who come to his farm, and at agroecological fairs and in stores that sell ecological products.

Diego still does his day job in the city, while also being active in community politics in Ucuchi. He also tends a small field of potatoes and he is planting fruit trees and prickly pear on the rocky slopes above his strawberry field. Diego has also started a farmers’ association with his neighbors, ten men and ten women, including mature adults and young people who are still in university.

The association members grow various crops, not just strawberries. Diego is teaching them to grow strawberries organically and to use drip irrigation. To encourage people to use these methods he has created his own demonstration plots. He has divided his grandparents’ strawberry field into three areas: one with his modern system, one with local varieties grown the old way on bare soil, with flood irrigation, and a third part with modern varieties grown the old way. The modern varieties do poorly when grown the way that Diego’s grandparents used. And Diego says the old way is too much work, mainly because of the weeding, irrigation, pests and diseases.

Ucuchi is an attractive village in the hills, with electricity, running water, a primary school and a small hospital. It is just off the main highway between Cochabamba and Santa Cruz, an hour from the city of Cochabamba where you can buy or sell almost anything. Partly because of these advantages, some young people are returning to Ucuchi. Organic strawberries are hard to grow, and rare in Bolivia. But a unique product, like organic strawberries, and inspired leadership can help to stem the flow of migration, while showing that there are ways for young people to start a viable business in the countryside. Diego clearly loves being back in his home village, stopping his pickup truck to chat with people passing by on the village lanes. He also brings his own family to the farm on weekends, where he has put a new tile roof on his grandparents’ old adobe farm house.

Agriculture is more than making a profit. It is also about family history, community, and finding work that is satisfying and creative.

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EN EL FRUTILLAR DE NUEVO

Por Jeff Bentley, 15 de marzo del 2019

Como muchos bolivianos, Diego Ram√≠rez nunca pens√≥ en quedarse en la comunidad donde naci√≥, y empezar un emprendimiento agr√≠cola en las peque√Īas chacras de su familia. Diego cuenta que de ni√Īo le encantaba recoger fruta en la peque√Īa parcela de frutillas de sus abuelos en la comunidad de Ucuchi, y nadar con sus amigos en una poza de riego, llena de agua de manantial, pero de joven tuvo que vivir en la ciudad peque√Īa de Sacaba para estudiar en colegio. Luego se fue a estudiar a la Universidad UMSS, la carrera de ingenier√≠a de sistemas. Culminado los estudios, empez√≥ a trabajar en la ciudad de Cochabamba.

A√Īos m√°s tarde, el padre de Diego llam√≥ a sus siete hijos para decirles que estaba vendiendo el terreno de sus abuelos. Ten√≠a sentido. Los abuelos hab√≠an fallecido, y nadie hab√≠a trabajado la tierra durante unos 15 a√Īos. Sin embargo, a Diego le pareci√≥ una tragedia, as√≠ que dijo: “Yo la voy a trabajar”. Algunos pensaron que era un chiste. En Ucuchi, la gente estaba en plan de dejar la agricultura, no meterse en ella. Prefer√≠an emigrar al Oriente de Bolivia y muchos se hab√≠an ido del pa√≠s. Por esta raz√≥n muchas de las parcelas est√°n abandonadas. No es el tipo de lugar al que la gente como Diego normalmente regresa.

Cuando Diego decidi√≥ revivir su finca familiar ya hace dos a√Īos, busc√≥ inspiraci√≥n en el Internet. Aunque la frutilla es un cultivo ancestral de la comunidad de Ucuchi y muy rentable en Cochabamba, Diego se enter√≥ de una empresa productora de frutillas en Santo Domingo, Santiago, en el vecino pa√≠s de Chile, que daba consejos y vend√≠a plantas. Santo Domingo est√° a 2450 km de Cochabamba, pero Diego se tom√≥ tan en serio las frutillas que fue all√≠ un fin de semana y trajo 500 plantas de frutillas. Crucialmente, tambi√©n aprendi√≥ sobre el cultivo tecnificado de frutillas, aplicando el riego por goteo y plantado en camas tapadas con pl√°stico. Movido por sus nuevos conocimientos, busc√≥ distribuidores en Cochabamba que vend√≠an equipos de riego por goteo y los instal√≥, junto con el mulch pl√°stico, un m√©todo com√ļn en la producci√≥n moderna de fresas.

Diego se inclin√≥ m√°s en la producci√≥n agroecol√≥gica para producir frutillas, as√≠ que se contact√≥ con la Fundaci√≥n Agrecol Andes que estaba organizando una asociaci√≥n de productores ecol√≥gicos en Sacaba, la peque√Īa ciudad donde Diego vive, a medio camino entre su terreno y la ciudad grande de Cochabamba. Diego ya tiene certificaci√≥n de productor ecol√≥gico con SPG PAS (Sistema Participativo de Garant√≠a Productores Agroecol√≥gicos Sacaba), Diego aprendi√≥ a hacer su propio biol (una soluci√≥n fermentada de esti√©rcol de vaca que fertiliza el suelo mientras a√Īade microbios buenos). Ahora mezcla el biol en el tanque de riego por goteo, fertilizando las frutillas una gota a la vez.

Diego tambi√©n hace sus propias soluciones org√°nicas, como el sulfoc√°lcico y el caldo bordel√©s. Fumiga estas preparaciones cada dos semanas para controlar el o√≠dium, los thrips (un peque√Īo insecto), la ara√Īuela roja, y la pudrici√≥n de cuello. Me impresion√≥. Mucha gente habla de aplicaciones org√°nicos, pero pocos hacen las suyas. “No es tan dif√≠cil”, Diego dijo cuando le pregunt√© de d√≥nde hallaba el tiempo.

Diego encuentra tiempo para hacer muchas cosas admirables. Tiene un talento natural para el marketing y ha dise√Īado sus propias cajas de cart√≥n delgado, que ha hecho imprimir en La Paz. Sus clientes reciben la fruta en una bonita caja, en lugar de en una bolsa de pl√°stico, donde la fruta se da√Īa f√°cilmente. Vende directamente a los clientes que vienen a la misma parcela, en las ferias agroecol√≥gicas y en tiendas que comercializan productos ecol√≥gicos.

Diego todav√≠a hace su trabajo normal en la ciudad, mientras que tambi√©n tiene una cartera en la comunidad de Ucuchi. Tambi√©n cultiva una peque√Īa chacra de papas y est√° plantando √°rboles frutales y tunas en las laderas pedregosas arriba de su frutillar. Diego tambi√©n ha iniciado una asociaci√≥n de agricultores con sus vecinos, diez hombres y diez mujeres, incluidos adultos mayores y j√≥venes que todav√≠a est√°n en la universidad.

Los miembros de la asociaci√≥n cultivan diversos cultivos, no s√≥lo frutillas. Diego les ense√Īa a cultivar frutillas org√°nicamente y a usar el riego por goteo. Para animar a la gente a usar estos m√©todos, ha creado sus propias parcelas de demostraci√≥n. Ha dividido el frutillar de sus abuelos en tres √°reas: una con su sistema moderno, tecnificado, otra con variedades locales cultivadas al estilo antiguo en suelo desnudo, con riego por inundaci√≥n, y una tercera parte con variedades modernas cultivadas a la manera antigua. Las variedades modernas no rinden bien cuando se cultivan al estilo de los abuelos. Y Diego dice que la forma antigua es mucho trabajo, principalmente por el desmalezado, el riego y las enfermedades adem√°s de las plagas.

Ucuchi es una atractiva comunidad en las faldas del cerro, con electricidad, agua potable, una escuela primaria y un peque√Īo hospital. Est√° justo al lado de la carretera principal a Santa Cruz, a una hora de la ciudad de Cochabamba donde se puede comprar o vender casi cualquier cosa. En parte por estas ventajas, algunos j√≥venes se est√°n volviendo a la comunidad de Ucuchi. Las frutillas org√°nicas son dif√≠ciles de cultivar, y son raras en Bolivia. Pero un producto √ļnico, como las frutillas org√°nicas, y un liderazgo inspirado pueden ayudar a frenar el flujo de la migraci√≥n, al mismo tiempo de mostrar que hay maneras viables para que los j√≥venes empiecen con un emprendimiento personal en el campo. A Diego le encanta estar de vuelta en su comunidad: para su camioneta para charlar con la gente que pasa por los caminos del pueblo. Tambi√©n trae a su propia familia a la finca los fines de semana, donde ha puesto un nuevo techo de tejas en la vieja casa de adobe de sus abuelos.

La agricultura es m√°s que la b√ļsqueda de lucro. Tambi√©n se trata de la tradici√≥n familiar, la comunidad y de sentirse realizado con un trabajo satisfactorio y creativo.

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