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Videos to encourage agroecology February 4th, 2024 by

Agrochemicals can be sold, but agroecology often has to be shared for free.  In 2012, Access Agriculture (a non-profit) began to offer free videos on agroecology for farmers. A recent review of 244 digital tools found that Access Agriculture was one of only three that offered advice to smallholders on a wide range of agroecological principles, using exemplary extension features, such as options in various languages.

In 2021 we held an online survey of the users of Access Agriculture, to find out how people were using and sharing the videos and other information. They could take the survey in English, French, or Spanish, and 2976 people did so. Most of the respondents (83%) were living in Africa, where Access Agriculture started, suggesting that there is scope to expand in Latin America and Asia. Most survey takers were extensionists, educators (who show videos in class) and farmers themselves, who are increasingly getting online.

Access Agriculture makes an effort to feature female-friendly innovations and to film women farmers (as well as men). Still, 84% of the respondents were men. This is partly because women have less access to phones and to Internet, but the videos do reach women. Many of the extensionists who were surveyed use the videos with organized groups of women farmers.

The survey asked how the videos had made a difference in farm families‚Äô lives. Answers were multiple choice, and more than one response was allowed. Choices were randomised so that each respondent saw them in a different order, so as not to favour the first items on the list. The top response, ‚Äúbetter yield‚ÄĚ garnered almost 50% of the responses. This suggests that strengthening farmers‚Äô knowledge on agroecology, through the videos, can improve farmers‚Äô yields, an idea that is currently debated.

The other frequent answers suggest that the videos promote productive, sustainable agriculture. ‚ÄúImproved pests, disease and weed management‚ÄĚ, ‚Äúbetter soil health and soil fertility‚ÄĚ, and ‚Äúbetter produce‚ÄĚ were all noted by over 40% of respondents. Only 1% thought that the videos had made no impact on farmers‚Äô lives.

Three quarters (72%) of the farmers who download the videos also share them. Farmers would only do this if they found the videos useful. The survey estimated that since 2015, the videos reached 90 million people, mainly by mass media. That is partly because the videos are professionally filmed, and TV stations can request the broadcast quality versions and play them on the air. Radio stations also broadcast the soundtracks, which are easily downloadable. From 2012 to 2021, four million people were reached by smaller programs, often screening videos in the villages.

Smart phones make it easy to share links to videos. Over half (51%) of the respondents shared the videos this way, reaching nearly five thousand (4927) organizations. By 2021, Access Agriculture had videos in 90 languages. However, only 55% of the survey respondents knew about these other language versions. As a result, by 2024, Access Agriculture had made local language versions easier to find online. In 2021, the Access Agriculture interface was only in three languages. Now it is in six, as Hindi, Bengali and Portuguese have joined English, French and Spanish. Access Agriculture also begun to list the video title and written summary in the language of each version, not just in the languages of the interface. Now users can find videos by entering search words in languages like Kiswahili, Telegu and Quechua.

The farmers (and others) who took our survey are people who can afford the airtime to take an online survey. They are literate in English, French or Spanish, because they have had a formal education. But with time, smart phones will become less expensive to use. As today’s youngest farmers mature, they will also bring more digital skills into the farming community. The next decade will make these videos even more accessible for farmers, extensionists and others, in ways we can scarcely imagine now.

Agroecology relies on techniques such as crop rotation, organic fertilizer, and natural enemies of plant pests. Many of these practices cannot be bought and sold. They depend on knowledge that can be conveyed online, by extensionists, and in schools. Videos in many languages can effectively share agroecology with farmers, for free, on the Internet.

Previous Agro-Insight blogs adapted from the online survey

Staying grounded while on the air in Ghana

A greener revolution in Africa

Teaching the farmers of tomorrow with videos

Further reading

Our online survey:

Bentley, Jeffery, Paul Van Mele, Flora Chadare, and Mahesh Chander. 2022. Videos on agroecology for a global audience of farmers: An online survey of Access Agriculture. International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability 20(6):1100-1116.

The review of digital tools:

Burns, Sessie, Kyle M. Dittmer, Sadie Shelton, and Eva Wollenberg. 2022. Global digital tool review for agroecological transitions. Agroecological TRANSITIONS: Inclusive Digital Tools to Enable Climate-informed Agroecological Transitions (ATDT). Cali, Colombia: Alliance of Bioversity & CIAT.

 

Scaling the Slow Food movement in Kenya January 21st, 2024 by

Scaling the Slow Food movement in Kenya

Nederlandse versie hieronder

Since 2018, the non-profit organisation Access Agriculture, which I co-founded over a decade ago with two friends from the U.K., has been supporting young people to set up or expand their existing rural enterprise in support of ecological food systems. By now, we have a network of over 240 young entrepreneurs in 15 African countries and India who regularly screen training videos in schools and rural communities. I have had the pleasure to document the experiences of some of them.

Elphas became part of Access Agriculture’s network of young Entrepreneurs for Rural Access (ERAs) in 2021, after he joined Slow Food Kenya. From around 2019 however, long before receiving a solar-powered smart projector, Elphas was already screening Access Agriculture videos to train farmers.

The videos Farmers’ rights to seed: experiences from Guatemala and Farmers’ rights to seed: experiences from Malawi convinced farmers that food sovereignty starts with becoming guardians of traditional crop varieties. ‚ÄúThe experience was so interesting, because when farmers see farmers from other countries, they are so excited. It gives them extra motivation,‚ÄĚ Elphas says.

‚ÄúSlow Food Kenya has five strategic areas and one of them is Food Biodiversity and Agroecology, for which we have benefited a lot from Access Agriculture work. The videos have played a vital role in our work,‚ÄĚ says Elphas. In 2022, he established 30 new community and school gardens and trained people in the concept and principles of agroecology. In 2023, another 35 gardens were established. Over two years, Elphas trained nearly 300 pupils, and more than 1,440 adults of whom 31% were youth and 62% were women.

Farmers are eager to have their own copies of the videos, so Elphas also sells preloaded flash drives and DVDs, which cost 50 Kenyan Shillings (about 0.30 Euro). For each video loaded he charges an extra 20 Kenyan Shillings (about 0.12 Euro).

One of his main clients is the network organisation Participatory Ecological Land Use Management (PELUM) Kenya which includes 65 civil society organisations. They often request Elphas to screen Access Agriculture videos during meetings and training of trainers’ sessions for which he charges 3,500 Kenyan Shillings (about 25 Euros). With the smart projector he also shows PowerPoint presentations and videos that are made by the client.

Using the smart projector, Elphas strengthens the capacities of local organisations to conserve their biodiversity and cultural heritage. Along with the videos on Farmers’ rights to seed, he has also screened the videos on Community seed banks and Collecting traditional varieties, featuring farmers from India. Inspired by these videos, already 24 community seed banks had been established in Kenya by end 2023.

One of these seed banks was created by the Belacom women group in Gilgil, at about 130 kilometres northwest of Nairobi. The group has 15 women who take pride in growing, conserving, selling and exchanging seed of a wide range of crops, such as black nightshade, spider plant, Russian comfrey, kales, spinach, amaranth and pumpkin leaves, and cassava cuttings. Together with like-minded organisations, the women from the community seed bank sell their seed and agroecological produce at the weekly Gilgil Earth Market, which is part of the global network of Earth Markets‚ÄĒfarmers‚Äô markets that follow Slow Food principles.

Slow Food Earth Markets are operated and managed by the producers themselves. No middlemen are involved. Besides selling and buying of fresh, healthy, diverse and indigenous produce, Earth Markets are a place for dialogue, exchange and sharing of information. To strengthen the knowledge and skills of local organisations involved in Earth Markets, Elphas has been screening training videos related to food marketing, such as the ones that were developed with farmers in Latin America on How to sell ecological food, Creating agroecological markets and A participatory guarantee system.

As farmers are interested in producing food without chemicals, Elphas starts each session by browsing the Access Agriculture video library on the projector and letting the farmers choose which videos they want to watch.

When the 20 members of the Kahua-ini community garden group from Wanyororo saw how farmers in India made their own Good microbes for plants and soil, they started producing their own solution of good microbes. By watching videos and putting what they learned into practice, Mungai and fellow members learned to improve their soil fertility, increased crop production, diversified their farms and are now earning good money from the sales of organic farm produce at the Slow Food Nakuru Earth market. Mungai also started selling bottles with solution of good microbes. But these are not the only testimonies from such groups.

After watching the video Organic biofertilizer in liquid and solid form, the 18 members of the Bee My Partner youth group in Njoro decided to produce solid biofertiliser at the onset of each planting season. They package and sell their biofertiliser in their village and even in neighbouring counties. Their thriving business has earned them respect in their community and completely changed their attitude towards agriculture. They have invested the money earned in beekeeping and fish ponds.

In early 2023, Pendo Internationale engaged Elphas to screen Access Agriculture videos to schools in Nakuru County, for which he was paid 145,000 Kenyan Shillings (about 1,100 Euros). Elphas trained hundreds of children in Michinda Boys Primary School, Nessuit Primary School, Lawina Primary School and St Brenda Secondary School, amongst others.

The video Teaching agroecology in schools, which was produced in Peru, Latin America, was of particular interest to the schools in Kenya as it shows how schools in different parts of the world celebrate and educate young children on local food culture. ‚ÄúThe video emphasises the importance of valuing local culture and encourages a healthy lifestyle by including topics on farming and traditional food in the school curriculum. The video encourages learners to take agriculture as a career rather than see it as a punishment. The video has improved pupils of all ages from different schools to engage in creative classes to make drawings, poems, and songs about ecological farming and healthy food,‚ÄĚ says Elphas.

To counter the degradation of indigenous peoples’ food systems, Slow Food International, Slow Food Uganda and Slow Food Kenya organised a Regional Academy for Trainers on Agroecological and Indigenous Peoples’ Food Systems in 2023.

The six-month initiative was designed by indigenous peoples for indigenous peoples. As Elphas was one of the trainers, he had a chance to physically meet other Access Agriculture ERAs from Uganda and Tanzania, who are also members of the Slow Food movement.

As the coordinator of the Slow Food Youth Network in Kenya and communication person for the same network in Africa, Elphas has a clear view of what is needed in future: ‚ÄúThe government extension service in Kenya is decentralised and heavily supported by multinationals such as Syngenta. Therefore, many government extension workers only promote seed and agrochemicals from companies. We need more training in ecological farming. Kenya needs more ERAs like myself and more smart projectors, so that Access Agriculture videos can offer a counterweight.‚ÄĚ

Related Agro-Insight blog

Giving hope to child mothers

 

De Slow Food-beweging uitbreiden in Kenia

Sinds 2018 ondersteunt de non-profitorganisatie Access Agriculture, die ik meer dan tien jaar geleden samen met twee vrienden uit Engeland heb opgericht, jonge mensen bij het opzetten of uitbreiden van hun bestaande rurale onderneming ter ondersteuning van ecologische voedselsystemen. Inmiddels hebben we een netwerk van meer dan 240 jonge ondernemers in 15 Afrikaanse landen en India die regelmatig trainingsvideo’s vertonen in scholen en plattelandsgemeenschappen. Ik heb het genoegen gehad om de ervaringen van een aantal van hen te documenteren.

Elphas werd in 2021 lid van het Access Agriculture netwerk van jonge ondernemers (ERA’s), nadat hij zich had aangesloten bij Slow Food Kenia. Vanaf ongeveer 2019 echter, lang voordat hij een op zonne-energie werkende smart projector kreeg, vertoonde Elphas al Access Agriculture-video’s om boeren te trainen.

De video’s Farmers’ rights to seed: experiences from Guatemala en Farmers’ rights to seed: experiences from Malawi overtuigden boeren ervan dat voedselsoevereiniteit begint met het bewaken van traditionele gewasvari√ęteiten. “De ervaring was zo interessant, want als boeren boeren uit andere landen zien, zijn ze zo enthousiast. Het geeft ze extra motivatie,” zegt Elphas.

“Slow Food Kenia heeft vijf strategische gebieden en een daarvan is voedselbiodiversiteit en agro-ecologie, waarvoor we veel baat hebben gehad bij het werk van Access Agriculture. De video’s hebben een cruciale rol gespeeld in ons werk,” zegt Elphas. In 2022 heeft hij 30 nieuwe gemeenschaps- en schooltuinen opgezet en mensen opgeleid in het concept en de principes van agroecologie. In 2023 werden nog eens 35 tuinen aangelegd. In twee jaar tijd trainde Elphas bijna 300 leerlingen en meer dan 1.440 volwassenen, waarvan 31% jongeren en 62% vrouwen.

Boeren willen graag hun eigen kopie√ęn van de video’s, dus verkoopt Elphas ook vooraf geladen flashdrives en dvd’s, die 50 Keniaanse Shillings (ongeveer 0,30 euro) kosten. Voor elke geladen video rekent hij 20 Keniaanse Shilling (ongeveer 0,12 euro) extra.

Een van zijn belangrijkste klanten is de netwerkorganisatie Participatory Ecological Land Use Management (PELUM) Kenya, die 65 maatschappelijke organisaties omvat. Zij vragen Elphas vaak om Access Agriculture video’s te vertonen tijdens vergaderingen en trainingen van trainers. Hiervoor rekent hij 3.500 Keniaanse Shilling (ongeveer 25 euro). Met de smart projector toont hij ook PowerPoint-presentaties en video’s die door de klant zijn gemaakt.

Met behulp van de smart projector versterkt Elphas de capaciteiten van lokale organisaties om hun biodiversiteit en cultureel erfgoed te behouden. Naast de video’s over het recht van boeren op zaad, heeft hij ook de video’s Community seed banks en Collecting traditional varieties vertoond. Ge√Įnspireerd door deze video’s waren er eind 2023 al 24 gemeenschapszaadbanken opgericht in Kenia.

Een van deze zaadbanken is opgezet door de Belacom vrouwengroep in Gilgil, ongeveer 130 kilometer ten noordwesten van Nairobi. De groep bestaat uit 15 vrouwen die trots zijn op het kweken, conserveren, verkopen en uitwisselen van zaad van een breed scala aan gewassen, zoals zwarte nachtschade, spinrag, Russische smeerwortel, boerenkool, spinazie, amarant en pompoenbladeren, en cassave stekjes. Samen met gelijkgestemde organisaties verkopen de vrouwen van de gemeenschapszaadbank hun zaden en agro-ecologische producten op de wekelijkse Gilgil Earth Market, die deel uitmaakt van het wereldwijde netwerk van Earth Markets-boerenmarkten die de Slow Food-principes volgen.

Slow Food Earth Markets worden gerund en beheerd door de producenten zelf. Er zijn geen tussenpersonen bij betrokken. Naast het verkopen en kopen van verse, gezonde, diverse en inheemse producten, zijn de Earth Markets een plek voor dialoog, uitwisseling en het delen van informatie. Om de kennis en vaardigheden van lokale organisaties die betrokken zijn bij Earth Markets te versterken, heeft Elphas trainingsvideo’s over voedselmarketing vertoond, zoals de video’s die samen met boeren in Latijns-Amerika zijn ontwikkeld over How to sell ecological food, Creating agroecological markets en A participatory guarantee system.

Omdat de boeren ge√Įnteresseerd zijn in het produceren van voedsel zonder chemicali√ęn, begint Elphas elke sessie met het doorbladeren van de Access Agriculture videobibliotheek op de projector en laat ze de boeren kiezen welke video’s ze willen bekijken.

Toen de 20 leden van de Kahua-ini gemeenschapstuingroep uit Wanyororo zagen hoe boeren in India hun eigen goede microben voor planten en bodem maakten (Good microbes for plants and soil), begonnen ze hun eigen goede microben te maken. Door video’s te bekijken en wat ze leerden in de praktijk te brengen, leerden Mungai en zijn medeleden de vruchtbaarheid van hun grond te verbeteren, de productie van gewassen te verhogen, hun boerderijen te diversifi√ęren. Ze verdienen nu goed geld aan de verkoop van biologische producten op de Slow Food Nakuru Earth markt. Mungai is ook begonnen met de verkoop van flessen met goede microben. Maar dit zijn niet de enige getuigenissen van dergelijke groepen.

Na het bekijken van de video Organic biofertilizer in liquid and solid form besloten de 18 leden van de Bee My Partner-jongerengroep in Njoro om aan het begin van elk plantseizoen bio-meststof te produceren. Ze verpakken en verkopen hun bio-meststof in hun dorp en zelfs in naburige provincies. Hun bloeiende bedrijf heeft de jongeren respect opgeleverd in hun gemeenschap en hun houding ten opzichte van landbouw volledig veranderd. Het verdiende geld hebben ze ge√Įnvesteerd in bijenteelt en visvijvers.

Begin 2023 schakelde Pendo Internationale Elphas in om Access Agriculture video’s te vertonen op scholen in Nakuru County, waarvoor hij 145.000 Keniaanse Shillings (ongeveer 1.100 euro) kreeg. Elphas trainde honderden kinderen in onder andere Michinda Boys Primary School, Nessuit Primary School, Lawina Primary School en St Brenda Secondary School.

De video Teaching agroecology in schools, die werd geproduceerd in Peru, Latijns-Amerika, was met name interessant voor de scholen in Kenia omdat het laat zien hoe scholen in verschillende delen van de wereld jonge kinderen kennis laten maken met de lokale eetcultuur. “De video benadrukt het belang van het waarderen van de lokale cultuur en moedigt een gezonde levensstijl aan door onderwerpen over landbouw en traditionele voeding in het lesprogramma op te nemen.

De video moedigt leerlingen aan om landbouw als een carri√®re te zien in plaats van als een straf. De video heeft leerlingen van alle leeftijden van verschillende scholen ertoe aangezet om in creatieve lessen tekeningen, gedichten en liedjes te maken over ecologische landbouw en gezonde voeding,” zegt Elphas.

Om de achteruitgang van de voedselsystemen van inheemse volken tegen te gaan, organiseerden Slow Food International, Slow Food Oeganda en Slow Food Kenia in 2023 een regionale academie voor trainers over agro-ecologische voedselsystemen en voedselsystemen voor inheemse volken.

Het zes maanden durende initiatief werd ontworpen door inheemse volken voor inheemse volken. Omdat Elphas een van de trainers was, had hij de kans om fysiek kennis te maken met andere Access Agriculture ERA’s uit Oeganda en Tanzania, die ook lid zijn van de Slow Food-beweging.

Als co√∂rdinator van het Slow Food Youth Network in Kenia en communicatiepersoon voor hetzelfde netwerk in Afrika, heeft Elphas een duidelijk beeld van wat er in de toekomst nodig is: “De voorlichtingsdienst van de overheid in Kenia is gedecentraliseerd en wordt zwaar gesteund door multinationals zoals Syngenta. Daarom promoten veel voorlichters van de overheid alleen zaad en landbouwchemicali√ęn van bedrijven. We hebben meer training nodig in ecologische landbouw. Kenia heeft meer ERA’s nodig zoals ikzelf en meer smart projectoren, zodat Access Agriculture video’s een tegenwicht kunnen bieden.”

Gerelateerde Agro-Insight blog:

Giving hope to child mothers

After the camera leaves December 24th, 2023 by

At Agro-Insight, we make a lot of videos with farmer-experimenters. But experimentation can go on for years, even after we have wrapped up our video. We film many innovations that farmers have honed after learning about them from agronomists. Capturing those practices on a video makes them seem permanent. But the farmers and their extensionists keep reworking the ideas, after the video is filmed, as I saw recently in Kiphakiphani, near Viacha, in the high country around La Paz, Bolivia.

In December I was at a large, annual meeting of the McKnight Foundation. Our hosts, local research-&-development agencies, had brought in farmers from across the vast Altiplano, to a ‚Äútechnology fair,‚ÄĚ where the farmers showed off their current innovations. Many of the participants were farmers who have appeared on previous videos of ours. It was a chance to catch up.

In 2018, we filmed Milton Villca, an extensionist, and farmers from the community of Chita, near Uyuni in southern Bolivia, planting live barriers to stop devastating wind erosion in quinoa fields. At the time we filmed the community, they showed us how to gather the tiny seeds of native brush, t’ola, using plastic basins. The community members worked so well and so fast that they clearly had a lot of experience gathering the tiny seeds. But anything can be improved.

At the stand I visited in 2023, five years after filming, they described a better way to collect millions of tiny seeds, with a big vacuum cleaner, powered by electricity from a car battery.

In 2018, Chita was planting windbreaks with seedlings raised in another community. But now the people of Chita have their own nursery, and they are growing and planting many more of these native t’ola plants in the fight to keep their farmland from blowing away.

In 2022, Farmers from Cebollullo, in a warm valley of La Paz, showed us how to make enriched biofertilizer, for a video. As farmer Freddy Rivero explained at the technology fair in late 2023, they also make other inputs, like a liquid ash mix, bokashi and Bordeaux mix. None of these were developed locally. As Freddy said of the Bordeaux mix ‚ÄúThe French invented this as a fungicide for their grape vines‚ÄĚ. But using these organic products instead of agrochemicals is still a big change for Cebollullo, where most farmers rely on agrochemicals to produce truckloads of onions and lettuce for the large wholesale markets of La Paz and El Alto, two of Bolivia‚Äôs biggest cities.

Before adopting biofertilizers, the farmers of Cebollullo had a problem. Their crop yields were declining while agrochemical costs kept going up. Now the farmers are making more money producing vegetables with organic inputs. ‚ÄúOf 120 of us, 22 farmers are now using these organic inputs,‚ÄĚ Freddy said.

I asked him why more farmers were not using the alternatives to chemicals. ‚ÄúBecause we only started using them ourselves, a year ago,‚ÄĚ Freddy said. Actually, it was more like two years ago, but now farmers like don Freddy are showing their neighbors in Cebollullo that the alternatives to chemicals really work. Freddy and his colleagues expect more farmers to start using the homemade fertilizers and fungicides in the next few years. If the agroecological farmers can farm profitably, it will gradually convince the neighbors to change from chemicals to ecologically-sound farming.

Parts of our 2022 video on enriched biofertilizer were also filmed in Chigani Alto, a village on the shores of Lake Titicaca. The farmers from Chigani Alto, including Fernando Villca and Juana Martínez, showed us how they are using lots of other inventions as well, such as fertilizer made from earthworms. To teach Bolivian farmers how to rear earthworms, agronomist Maya Apaza is showing them videos from India and Bangladesh. The farmers in Bolivia are raising earthworms in one-meter by one-meter wooden boxes. They are also experimenting with the fertilizer derived from earthworms, comparing it side-by-side with chemical fertilizer, to see which one works best.

So the camera creates a record of farmer-agronomist collaboration, and the practical ideas they come up with together, but after the camera leaves, life goes on, and so does further innovation.

Further reading

For more on the t’ola plants and their scientific names see:

Bonifacio, Alejandro, Genaro Aroni, Milton Villca, and Jeffery W. Bentley 2023 Recovering from Quinoa: Regenerative Agricultural Research in Bolivia. Journal of Crop Improvement 37(5): 687-708. https://doi.org/10.1080/15427528.2022.2135155

Previous Agro-Insight blogs

Recovering from the quinoa boom

Organic leaf fertilizer

Watch the videos we made in Bolivia

Living windbreaks to protect the soil

Making enriched biofertilizer

The videos on earthworms from South Asia

The wonder of earthworms

Making a vermicompost bed

Acknowledgements

The technology fair in December 2023, was organized by the Proinpa Foundation, Prosuco, and the Public University of San Andrés (UMSA). The experiments in Chita, with soil conservation, was conducted by Proinpa, and the biofertilizer innovations were led by Prosuco. This work was supported by the McKnight Foundation’s Global Collaboration for Resilient Food Systems.

DESPU√ČS DE GUARDAR LA C√ĀMARA

En Agro-Insight, hacemos muchos videos con agricultores experimentadores. Pero la experimentaci√≥n puede durar a√Īos, incluso despu√©s de que hayamos terminado nuestro video. Muchas de las innovaciones que filmamos han sido pulidas por los agricultores despu√©s de haberlas aprendido de los agr√≥nomos. Capturar esas pr√°cticas en un video las hace parecer permanentes. Pero los agricultores y sus extensionistas siguen reelaborando las ideas, despu√©s de que se filma el video, como vi recientemente en Kiphakiphani, cerca de Viacha, en el altiplano de La Paz, Bolivia.

En diciembre estuve en una gran reuni√≥n anual de la Fundaci√≥n McKnight. Nuestros anfitriones, agencias bolivianas de investigaci√≥n y desarrollo, hab√≠an tra√≠do agricultores de todo el vasto Altiplano a una “feria tecnol√≥gica”, donde los agricultores mostraban sus innovaciones actuales. Varios de los participantes eran agricultores que han aparecido en videos anteriores nuestros. Fue una oportunidad para ponernos al d√≠a.

En 2018, filmamos a Milton Villca, un extensionista, y a agricultores de la comunidad de Chita, cerca de Uyuni en el sur de Bolivia, mientras plantaban barreras vivas para detener la devastadora erosi√≥n del viento en los campos de quinua. En ese momento, en la comunidad, nos mostraron c√≥mo recolectar las peque√Ī√≠simas semillas de arbustos nativos, las t’olas, usando fuentes de pl√°stico. Los miembros de la comunidad trabajaban tan bien y tan r√°pido que claramente ten√≠an mucha experiencia recolectando las semillitas. Pero todo se puede mejorar.

En el stand que visit√© en 2023, cinco a√Īos despu√©s de la filmaci√≥n, mostraron que hab√≠an descubierto una mejor manera de recolectar millones de semillas chiquitas, con una aspiradora grande, alimentada por electricidad de una bater√≠a de autom√≥vil.

En 2018, Chita estaba plantando rompevientos con pl√°ntulas cultivadas en otra comunidad. Pero ahora la gente de Chita tiene su propio vivero y est√° cultivando y plantando muchas m√°s de estas plantas nativas de t’ola en la lucha para evitar que sus tierras se las lleve el viento.

En 2022, los agricultores de Cebollullo, en un c√°lido valle de La Paz, nos mostraron c√≥mo hacer biofertilizante enriquecido, para un video. Como explic√≥ el agricultor Freddy Rivero en la feria tecnol√≥gica a fines de 2023, tambi√©n elaboran otros insumos, como una mezcla de ceniza l√≠quida, bokashi y caldo bordol√©s. Ninguno de estos fue desarrollado localmente. Como dijo don Freddy acerca del caldo bordol√©s: “Los franceses lo inventaron como fungicida para sus vides”. Pero usar estos productos org√°nicos en lugar de agroqu√≠micos sigue siendo un gran cambio para Cebollullo, donde la mayor√≠a de los agricultores conf√≠an en los agroqu√≠micos para producir camionadas de cebollas y lechugas para los grandes mercados mayoristas de La Paz y El Alto, dos de las ciudades m√°s grandes de Bolivia.

Antes de adoptar biofertilizantes, los agricultores de Cebollullo ten√≠an un problema. Sus rendimientos agr√≠colas estaban disminuyendo mientras los costos de los agroqu√≠micos segu√≠an subiendo. Ahora los agricultores est√°n ganando m√°s dinero produciendo verduras con insumos org√°nicos. “De 120, 22 agricultores ahora usamos estos insumos org√°nicos”, dijo Freddy.

Le pregunt√© por qu√© no m√°s agricultores usaban las alternativas a los qu√≠micos. “Porque nosotros mismos solo comenzamos a usarlos, hace un a√Īo”, dijo Freddy. En realidad, fue m√°s como hace dos a√Īos, pero ahora agricultores como don Freddy est√°n mostrando a sus vecinos en Cebollullo que las alternativas a los qu√≠micos realmente funcionan. Freddy y sus colegas esperan que m√°s agricultores comiencen a usar los fertilizantes y fungicidas caseros en los pr√≥ximos a√Īos. Si los agricultores agroecol√≥gicos pueden cultivar de manera rentable, convencer√°n gradualmente a los vecinos de que pasen de los qu√≠micos a una agricultura ecol√≥gicamente responsable.

Partes de nuestro video de 2022 sobre biofertilizante enriquecido tambi√©n se filmaron en Chigani Alto, un pueblo a orillas del lago Titicaca. Los agricultores de Chigani Alto, como Fernando Villca y Juana Mart√≠nez, nos mostraron c√≥mo usaban otros inventos tambi√©n, como un fertilizante hecho de lombrices de tierra. Para ense√Īar a los agricultores bolivianos a criar lombrices de tierra, la agr√≥noma Maya Apaza les muestra videos de India y Bangladesh. Los agricultores en Bolivia est√°n criando lombrices de tierra en cajas de madera de un metro por un metro. Tambi√©n est√°n experimentando con el fertilizante derivado de las lombrices de tierra, compar√°ndolo lado a lado con el fertilizante qu√≠mico, para ver cu√°l funciona mejor.

La c√°mara crea un registro de la colaboraci√≥n entre agricultores y agr√≥nomos, y las ideas pr√°cticas que se les ocurren juntos. Pero despu√©s de que la c√°mara se guarda, la vida contin√ļa, igual que la innovaci√≥n.

Lectura adicional

Sobre las t’olas y sus nombres científicos:

Bonifacio, Alejandro, Genaro Aroni, Milton Villca, and Jeffery W. Bentley 2023 Recovering from Quinoa: Regenerative Agricultural Research in Bolivia. Journal of Crop Improvement 37(5): 687-708. https://doi.org/10.1080/15427528.2022.2135155

Previamente en el blog de Agro-Insight

Recuper√°ndose del boom de la quinua

Abono foliar org√°nico

Ver los videos que filmamos en Bolivia

Barreras vivas para proteger el suelo

Cómo hacer un abono biofoliar

Los videos del Sur de la Asia sobre la lombriz de tierra

La maravillosa lombriz de tierra

Haciendo una lombricompostera

Agradecimientos

La feria de prácticas y tecnologías agroecológicas en diciembre del 2023 se organizó por la Fundación Proinpa, Prosuco, y la Universidad Mayor de San Andrés (UMSA). Los experimentos en Chita, con la conservación del suelo, se realizaron con Proinpa, y las innovaciones con el biofertilizante se hicieron con Prosuco. Este trabajo fue apoyado por la Colaboración Global para Sistemas Alimentarios Resilientes de la Fundación McKnight.

 

Giving hope to child mothers October 29th, 2023 by

Nederlandse versie hieronder

Teenage girls are vulnerable and when they become pregnant societies deal with them in different ways. In Uganda, they are called all sorts of names, such as a bad person, a disgrace to parents, and even a prostitute. No one wants their children to associate with them because they are considered a bad influence. Parents often expel their daughters from the family and tell them that their life has come to end. Rebecca Akullu experienced this at the age of 17. But Rebecca is not like any other girl.

After giving birth to her baby, she saved money to go to college, where she got a diploma in business studies in 2018. Rebecca soon got a job as accountant at the Aryodi Bee Farm in Lira, northern Uganda, a region that has high youth unemployment and is still recovering from the violence unleashed by the Lord’s Resistance Army, a rebel group. The farm director appreciated her work so much that he employed her.

‚ÄúOver the years, I developed a real passion for bees,‚ÄĚ Rebecca says, ‚Äúand through hands-on training, I became an expert in beekeeping myself. Whenever l had a chance to visit farmers, I was shocked to see how they destroyed and polluted the environment with agrochemicals, so I became deeply convinced of the need to care for our environment.‚ÄĚ

So, when Access Agriculture launched a call for young entrepreneurs to become farm advisors using a solar-powered projector to screen farmer training videos, Rebecca applied. After being selected as an Entrepreneur for Rural Access (ERA) in 2021, she received the equipment and training. At first she combined her ERA services with her job at the farm, but by the end of the year she resigned. Promoting her new business service required courage. Asked about her first marketing effort, Rebecca said she informed her community at church, at the end of Sunday service.

‚ÄúI was really anxious the first time I had to screen videos to a group of 30 farmers. I wondered if the equipment would work, which video topics the farmers would ask for and whether I would be able to answer their questions afterwards,‚ÄĚ Rebecca recalls. Her anxiety soon evaporated. Farmers wanted to know what videos she had on maize, so she showed several, including the ones on the fall armyworm, a pest that destroys entire fields. Farmers learned how to monitor their maize to detect the pest early, and they started to control it with wood ash instead of toxic pesticides.

Rebecca was asked to organise bi-weekly shows for several months, and she continues to do this, whenever asked. Having negotiated with the farm leader, each farmer pays 1,000 Ugandan Shillings (0.25 Euro) per show, where they watch and discuss three to five videos in the local Luo language. Some of the videos are available in English only, so Rebecca translates them for the farmers. ‚ÄúBut collecting money from individual farmers and mobilising them for each show is not easy,‚ÄĚ she says.

The videos impressed the farmers, and the ball started rolling. Juliette Atoo, a member of one of the farmer groups and primary school teacher in Akecoyere village, convinced her colleagues of the power of these videos, so Barapwo Primary School became Rebecca’s second client, offering her another unique experience.

‚ÄúThe children were so interested to learn and when I went back a month later, I was truly amazed to see how they had applied so many things in their school garden: the spacing of vegetables, the use of ash to protect their vegetable crops, compost making, and so on. The school was happy because they no longer needed to spend money on agrochemicals, and they could offer the children a healthy, organic lunch,‚ÄĚ says Rebecca.

As she grew more confident, new contracts with other schools soon followed. For each client Rebecca negotiates the price depending on the travel distance, accommodation, and how many children watch the videos. Often five videos are screened per day for two consecutive days, earning her between 120,000 and 200,000 Ugandan Shillings (30 to 50 Euros). Schools will continue to be important clients, because the Ugandan government has made skill training compulsory. Besides home economics and computer skills, students can also choose agriculture, so all schools have a practical school farm and are potential clients.

While she continues to engage with schools, over time Rebecca has partly changed her strategy. She now no longer actively approaches farmer groups, but rather explores which NGOs work with farmers in the region and what projects they have or are about to start. Having searched the internet and done background research, it is easier to convince project staff of the value of her video-based advisory service.

As Rebecca, now the mother of four children, does not want to miss the opportunity to respond to the growing number of requests for her video screening service, she is currently training a man and a woman in their early twenties to strengthen her team.

Having never forgotten her own suffering as a young mother, and having experienced the opportunities offered by the Access Agriculture videos, Rebecca also decided to establish her own community-based organisation: the Network for Women in Action, which she runs as a charity. Having impressed her parents, in 2019 they allowed her to set up a demonstration farm (Newa Api Green Farm) on family land, where she trains young girls and pregnant teenage school dropouts in artisan skills such as, making paper bags, weaving baskets and making beehives from locally available materials.

Traditional beehives are made from tree trunks, clay pots, and woven baskets smeared with cow dung that are hung in the trees. To collect the honey, farmers climb the trees and destroy the colonies. From one of the videos made in Kenya, the members of the association learned how to smoke out the bees, and not destroy them.

From another video made in Nepal, Making a Modern Beehive, the women learned to make improved beehives in wooden boxes, which they construct for farmers upon order. From the video, they realised that the currently used bee boxes were too large. ‚ÄúBecause small colonies are unable to generate the right temperature within the large hives, we only had a success rate of 50%. Now we make our hives smaller, and 8 out 10 hives are colonised successfully,‚ÄĚ says Rebecca.

Young women often have no land of their own, so members who want to can place their beehives on the demo farm. ‚ÄúWe also have a honey press. All members used to bring their honey to our farm. But from the video Turning Honey into Money, we learned that we can easily sieve the honey through a clean cloth after we have put the honey in the sun. So now, women can process the honey directly at their homes.‚ÄĚ

The bee business has become a symbol of healing. Farmers understand that their crops benefit from bees, so the young women beekeepers are appreciated for their service to the farming community. But also, parents who had expelled their pregnant daughter, embarrassed by societal judgement, begin to accept their entrepreneurial daughter again as she sends cash and food to her parents.

‚ÄúWe even trained young women to harvest honey, which traditionally only men do. When people in a village see our young girls wearing a beekeeper‚Äôs outfit and climbing trees, they are amazed. It sends out a powerful message to young girls that, even if you become a victim of early motherhood, there is always hope. Your life does not end,‚ÄĚ concludes Rebecca.

 

Kindermoeders weer hoop geven

Tienermeisjes zijn kwetsbaar en als ze zwanger worden gaan maatschappijen vaak op verschillende manieren met hen om. In Oeganda worden ze allerlei namen gegeven, zoals een slecht persoon, een schande voor de ouders en zelfs een prostituee. Niemand wil dat hun kinderen met hen omgaan omdat ze als een slechte invloed worden beschouwd. Ouders verstoten hun dochters vaak uit de familie en vertellen hen dat hun leven voorbij is. Dit is wat Rebecca Akullu meemaakte op 17-jarige leeftijd. Maar Rebecca is niet zoals ieder ander meisje.

Na de geboorte van haar baby spaarde ze geld om naar de universiteit te gaan en haalde in 2018 een diploma in bedrijfswetenschappen. Rebecca kreeg al snel een baan als boekhouder bij de Aryodi Bee Farm in Lira, in het noorden van Oeganda, een regio met een hoge jeugdwerkloosheid die nog herstellende is van de opstand van Lord’s Resistance Army, een gewelddadige rebellengroepering. De directeur waardeerde haar werk zo erg dat hij haar in dienst nam.

“In de loop der jaren ontwikkelde ik een echte passie voor bijen,” vertelt Rebecca, “en door praktische training werd ik zelf een expert in het houden van bijen. Telkens als ik de kans kreeg om boeren te bezoeken, was ik geschokt om te zien hoe ze het milieu vernietigden en vervuilden met landbouwchemicali√ęn, dus ik raakte diep overtuigd van de noodzaak om voor ons milieu te zorgen.”

Dus toen Access Agriculture een oproep deed voor jonge ondernemers om landbouwadviseurs te worden met een projector op zonne-energie om trainingsvideo’s voor boeren te vertonen, schreef Rebecca zich in. Nadat ze was geselecteerd als Entrepreneur for Rural Access (ERA), ontving ze de apparatuur en de training in 2021. Aanvankelijk bleef ze part-time werken, doch tegen het einde van het jaar nam ze ontslag om volledig op eigen benen te staan. Om haar nieuwe bedrijfsdienst te promoten was moed nodig. Gevraagd naar haar eerste marketingpoging, zei Rebecca dat ze haar gemeenschap in de kerk informeerde, aan het einde van de zondagsdienst.

“De eerste keer dat ik video’s moest vertonen aan een groep van 30 boeren, was ik echt bang. Ik vroeg me af of de apparatuur zou werken, naar welke video’s de boeren zouden vragen en of ik hun vragen na afloop zou kunnen beantwoorden,” herinnert Rebecca zich. Haar bezorgdheid verdween al snel. Boeren wilden weten welke video’s ze had over ma√Įs, dus liet ze er verschillende zien, waaronder die over de fall armyworm, een ernstige plaag die hele gewassen vernietigt. Boeren leerden hoe ze hun velden in de gaten konden houden om de plaag vroegtijdig te ontdekken en ze begonnen houtas te gebruiken in plaats van giftige pesticiden om de plaag te bestrijden.

Rebecca werd gevraagd om gedurende een aantal maanden tweewekelijkse shows te organiseren en doet dit nog steeds wanneer haar dat wordt gevraagd. Na onderhandeling met de leider van de lokale boerenorganisatie betaalt elke boer 1.000 Oegandese Shilling (0,25 euro) per show, waarbij ze drie tot vijf video’s in de lokale Luo-taal bekijken en bespreken. Sommige video’s zijn alleen in het Engels beschikbaar, dus vertaalt Rebecca ze voor de boeren. “Maar het is niet gemakkelijk om geld in te zamelen van individuele boeren en hen te mobiliseren voor elke show,” zegt ze.

De video’s maakten indruk op de boeren en de bal ging aan het rollen. Juliette Atoo, lid van een van de boerengroepen en lerares op een basisschool in het dorp Akecoyere, overtuigde haar collega’s van de kracht van deze video’s en zo werd de Barapwo basisschool Rebecca’s tweede klant, wat haar weer een unieke ervaring opleverde.

“De kinderen waren zo ge√Įnteresseerd om te leren en toen ik een maand later terugging, was ik echt verbaasd om te zien hoe ze zoveel dingen hadden toegepast in hun schooltuin: de afstand tussen groenten, het gebruik van as om hun groentegewassen te beschermen, compost maken, enzovoort. De school was blij omdat ze geen geld meer hoefden uit te geven aan landbouwchemicali√ęn en ze de kinderen een gezonde, biologische lunch konden aanbieden,” herinnert Rebecca zich.

Naarmate ze meer vertrouwen kreeg, volgden al snel nieuwe contracten met andere scholen. Voor elke klant onderhandelt Rebecca over de prijs, afhankelijk van de afstand die moet worden afgelegd, de accommodatie en het aantal kinderen dat de video’s bekijkt. Vaak worden er vijf video’s per dag vertoond gedurende twee opeenvolgende dagen, waarmee ze tussen de 120.000 en 200.000 Oegandese Shillings (30 tot 50 euro) verdient. Scholen blijven belangrijke klanten, omdat de Oegandese overheid vaardigheidstraining verplicht heeft gesteld. Naast huishoudkunde en computervaardigheden kunnen leerlingen ook kiezen voor landbouw, dus alle scholen hebben een praktische schoolboerderij en zijn potenti√ęle klanten.

Hoewel ze contact blijft houden met scholen, heeft Rebecca in de loop der tijd haar strategie deels gewijzigd. Ze benadert nu niet langer actief boerengroepen, maar onderzoekt welke NGO’s met boeren in de regio werken en welke projecten ze hebben of op het punt staan te starten. Nadat ze op internet heeft gezocht en achtergrondonderzoek heeft gedaan, is het gemakkelijker om projectmedewerkers te overtuigen van de waarde van de op video gebaseerde voorlichtingsdienst.

Omdat Rebecca, inmiddels moeder van vier kinderen, de kans niet wil missen om in te gaan op het toenemende aantal aanvragen voor haar video-adviesdienst, leidt ze momenteel een jonge man en jonge vrouw van begin twintig op om haar team te versterken.

Rebecca is haar eigen lijden als jonge moeder nooit vergeten en heeft de mogelijkheden ervaren die de video’s van Access Agriculture bieden. Daarom heeft ze ook besloten om haar eigen gemeenschapsorganisatie op te richten: het Netwerk voor Vrouwen in Actie, dat ze als liefdadigheidsinstelling runt. Nadat ze indruk had gemaakt op haar ouders, gaven ze haar in 2019 toestemming om een demonstratieboerderij (Newa Api Green Farm) op te zetten op het land van haar familie. Hier traint ze jonge meisjes en zwangere schoolverlaters in ambachtelijke vaardigheden, zoals het maken van papieren zakken, het weven van manden en het maken van bijenkorven met behulp van lokaal beschikbare materialen.

Traditionele bijenkorven zijn gemaakt van boomstammen, kleipotten en gevlochten manden besmeerd met koeienmest die in de bomen worden gehangen. Om de honing te verzamelen klimmen de boeren in de bomen en vernietigen ze de kolonies. Op een van de video’s die in Kenia werd gemaakt, leerden de leden van de vereniging hoe ze de bijen konden uitroken en niet vernietigen.

Op een andere video, gemaakt in Nepal, leerden de vrouwen houten bijenkasten te maken, die ze op bestelling voor boeren bouwen. Door de video realiseerden ze zich dat de huidige bijenkasten (Top Bar Hive) te groot waren. “Omdat kleine volken niet in staat zijn om de juiste temperatuur in de grote bijenkasten te genereren, hadden we slechts een succespercentage van 50%. Nu maken we onze bijenkasten kleiner en worden 8 op de 10 bijenkasten succesvol gekoloniseerd,” zegt Rebecca.

Jonge vrouwen hebben vaak geen eigen land, dus leden die dat willen kunnen hun bijenkorven op de demoboerderij zetten. “We hebben ook een honingpers. Vroeger brachten alle leden hun honing naar onze boerderij. Maar van de video’s hebben we geleerd dat we de honing gemakkelijk kunnen zeven door een schone doek nadat we de honing in de zon hebben gezet. Dus nu kunnen de vrouwen de honing direct bij hen thuis verwerken.”

De bijenteelt is een symbool van genezing geworden. Boeren begrijpen dat hun gewassen baat hebben bij bijen, dus de jonge imkervrouwen worden gewaardeerd voor hun diensten aan de boerengemeenschap. Maar ook ouders die eerst hun zwangere dochter hadden weggestuurd, beschaamd door het sociale stigma, beginnen hun ondernemende dochter weer te accepteren nu ze geld en voedsel naar haar ouders sturen.

“We hebben zelfs jonge vrouwen opgeleid tot honingoogsters, iets wat traditioneel alleen mannen doen. Als mensen in een dorp onze jonge meisjes in imkeroutfit in bomen zien klimmen, zijn ze verbaasd. Het is een krachtige boodschap voor jonge meisjes dat er altijd hoop is, zelfs als je het slachtoffer wordt van vroeg moederschap. Je leven is niet voorbij,” besluit Rebecca.

Neighborhood trees August 20th, 2023 by

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

Trees make a city feel like a decent place to live. That often means planting the trees, which help to cool cities, sequester carbon and provide a habitat for birds and other wildlife. But large-scale tree planting in a city can be difficult.

Cochabamba, Bolivia is one of many fast-growing, tropical cities. In the not-too-distant future, most of the world’s people may live in a city like this. Cochabamba is nestled in a large Andean valley, but in the last twenty years, the city has also spread into the nearby Sacaba Valley, which was formerly devoted to growing rainfed wheat. As late as the 1990s, the small town of Sacaba was just a few blocks wide. Now 220,000 people live in that valley, which has become part of metropolitan Cochabamba. The wheat fields of Sacaba have been replaced by a maze of asphalt streets, and neat homes of brick, cement and tile.

I was in Sacaba recently with my wife Ana, who introduced me to some people who are planting trees along the banks of a dry wash, the Waych’a Mayu. It was once a seasonal stream, but it is now dry all year. It has been blocked upstream by people who have built streets and causeways over it.

For the past 18 months, an architect, Alain Vimercati, and an agroforester, Ariel Ayma, have been working with local neighborhoods in Sacaba to organize tree planting. That included many meetings with the leaders and the residents of 12 grassroots neighborhood associations (OTBs‚ÄĒorganizaciones territoriales de base) to plan the project.

They decided to plant trees along the Waych’a Mayu, which still had some remnant forests of dryland trees, like molle and jarka. The local people had seen some of the long, shady parks in the older parts of Cochabamba. They were excited to have a green belt, five kilometers long, running through their own neighborhoods. Alain and Ariel, with the NGO Pro Hábitat, produced 2,400 tree seedlings in partnership with the local, public forestry school (ESFOR-UMSS). The local people dug the holes, planted the trees, and built small protective fences around them.

The trees were planted in January. In July, Ana and I went with about 20 people from some of the OTBs to see how the seedlings were doing. When we reached the line of trees, Ariel, the agro-forester, pointed out that the trees had more than doubled in size in just six months. Eighty percent of them had survived. But now they had to be maintained. It has been a dry year, and it hasn‚Äôt rained for five months. The trees were starting to wilt. Even so, Ariel encouraged the people by saying ‚Äúmaintenance is more important than water.‚ÄĚ He meant that while the trees did need some water, they also needed to be protected. It is important to reassure people that they won‚Äôt have to spend money on water. Many people in Sacaba have to buy their water. As we met, cistern trucks drove up and down the streets, offering 200 liters of water for 7 Bolivianos ($1).

The seedlings include a few hardy lemons, but most of the other species are native, dryland trees: guava, broadleaf hopbush (chacatea), jacaranda, tara, tipa, and ceibo.

Ariel used a pick and shovel to show the group how to clear a half-moon around the trees, to catch rain water. He has a Ph.D. in agroforestry, but he seems to love the physical work.

Ariel cut the weeds from around the first tree, and placed them around the base of the trunk, to shade the soil. The representatives from the OTBs, including a retired man, and a woman carrying a baby, quickly agreed to meet a week later, and to bring more people from each neighborhood, to help take care of the trees.

Ana and I went back the following Saturday. A Bolivian bank had paid for a tanker truck of water (16,000 liters, worth about $44). I was surprised how many people turned out, as many as fifteen or twenty at some OTBs. They used their own picks and shovels to quickly clean out the hole around each tree. Then they waited for the tanker truck to fill their barrels so the people from the neighborhoods could give each thirsty tree a bucketful of water. Ariel explained that a bit of water the first year will help the trees recover from the shock of being transplanted, then they should normally survive on rain water. The neighbors did feel a sense of ownership. Some of them told us that they occasionally poured a bucket of recycled water on the trees near their homes.

Ariel is also a professor of forestry, and some of his students had come to help advise the local people. But the residents did most of the work, and in most OTBs the trees were soon weeded and ready to be watered.

The people have settled in Sacaba from all over highland Bolivia, from Oruro, La Paz, Potosí and rural parts of Cochabamba. They have organized themselves into OTBs, which made it possible for Alain and Ariel to work with the neighborhood associations to plan the greenbelt and plant the trees. The cell phone also helps. A few years ago, people had to be invited by a local leader going door-to-door. At those few neighborhoods where no one showed up, Alain phoned the leader of the OTB, who rang up the neighbors. Sometimes within half an hour of making the first phone call, people were digging out the holes around each tree.

In the rapidly-growing cities of the developing world, many of the new residents are from farming communities, and they have rural skills, useful when planting trees. Their new neighborhoods will be much nicer places to live if they have trees. Hopefully, as this case shows, the tree species will be well suited to the local environment, and the local people will be empowered with a sense of ownership of their green areas.

Acknowledgements

Thanks to Alain Vimercati and Ariel Ayma of Pro H√°bitat, and to all the people who are planting and caring for the trees.

Scientific names

Molle Schinus molle

Jarka Parasenegalia visco (previously Acacia visco)

Guava Psidium guajava

Broadleaf hopbush (common name in Bolivia: chacatea), Dodonaea viscosa

Jacaranda Jacaranda mimosifolia

Tara Caesalpinia spinosa

Tipa Tipuana tipu

Ceibo Erythrina crista-galli

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ARBOLES DEL BARRIO

Jeff Bentley, 20 de agosto del 2023

Los árboles hacen que una ciudad sea más amena. A menudo hay que plantar los árboles, que ayudan a refrescar las ciudades, capturar carbono y crear un hábitat para la vida silvestre, como las aves. Pero plantar árboles a gran escala en una ciudad puede ser difícil.

Cochabamba, Bolivia es una de las muchas ciudades tropicales de r√°pido crecimiento. En un futuro pr√≥ximo, la mayor parte de la poblaci√≥n mundial podr√≠a vivir en una ciudad como √©sta. Cochabamba est√° anidada en un gran valle andino, pero en los √ļltimos veinte a√Īos la ciudad se ha extendido tambi√©n al cercano valle de Sacaba, antes sembrado en trigo de secano. En la d√©cada de los 1990, la peque√Īa ciudad de Sacaba s√≥lo ten√≠a unas manzanas de ancho. Ahora viven 220.000 personas en ese valle, que ha pasado a formar parte de la zona metropolitana de Cochabamba. Los trigales de Sacaba han sido sustituidos por un laberinto de calles asfaltadas y bonitas casas de ladrillo, cemento y teja.

Hace poco estuve en Sacaba con mi esposa Ana, que me present√≥ a unas personas que est√°n plantando √°rboles a orillas de un arroyo seco, el Waych’a Mayu. Antes era un arroyo estacional, pero ahora est√° seco todo el a√Īo. Ha sido bloqueado r√≠o arriba por personas que han construido calles y terraplenes sobre el curso del agua.

Durante los √ļltimos 18 meses, un arquitecto, Alain Vimercati, y un doctor en ciencias silvoagropecuarias, Ariel Ayma, han trabajado con los vecinos de Sacaba para organizar la plantaci√≥n de √°rboles. Eso incluy√≥ varias reuniones con los l√≠deres y los residentes de 12 organizaciones territoriales de base (OTBs) para planificar el proyecto.

Decidieron plantar √°rboles a lo largo del Waych’a Mayu, que a√ļn conservaba algunos bosques remanentes de √°rboles de secano, como molle y jarka. La poblaci√≥n local hab√≠a visto algunos de los largos parques arboleados de las zonas m√°s antiguas de Cochabamba. Estaban entusiasmados con la idea de tener un cintur√≥n verde de cinco kil√≥metros que atravesara sus barrios de ellos. Alain y Ariel, con la ONG Pro H√°bitat, produjeron 2.400 plantines de √°rboles en coordinaci√≥n con la Escuela de Ciencias Forestales (ESFOR-UMSS). Los vecinos cavaron los hoyos, plantaron los √°rboles y construyeron peque√Īos cercos protectores alrededor de cada uno.

Los √°rboles se plantaron en enero. En julio, Ana y yo fuimos con unas 20 personas de algunas de las OTBs a ver c√≥mo iban los plantines. Cuando llegamos a la l√≠nea de √°rboles, Ariel nos dijo que los √°rboles hab√≠an duplicado su tama√Īo en s√≥lo seis meses. El 80% hab√≠a sobrevivido. Pero ahora hab√≠a que mantenerlos. Ha sido un a√Īo seco y no ha llovido en cinco meses. Los √°rboles empezaban a marchitarse. Aun as√≠, Ariel anim√≥ a la gente diciendo que “el mantenimiento es m√°s importante que el agua”. Quer√≠a decir que, aunque los √°rboles necesitaban agua, tambi√©n hab√≠a que protegerlos. Es importante asegurar a la gente que no tendr√° que gastar dinero en agua. Muchos habitantes de Sacaba tienen que comprar el agua. Mientras nos reun√≠amos, camiones cisterna recorr√≠an las calles ofreciendo 200 litros de agua por 7 bolivianos (1 d√≥lar).

Entre los plantines hay algunos limones resistentes, pero la mayoría de las demás especies son árboles nativos de secano: guayaba, chacatea, jacarandá, tara, tipa y ceibo.

Ariel usó una picota y una pala para mostrar al grupo cómo limpiar una media luna alrededor de los árboles, para recoger el agua de lluvia. Tiene un doctorado, pero parece que le encanta el trabajo físico.

Ariel cortó el monte de alrededor del primer árbol y colocó la challa alrededor de la base del tronco, para dar sombra al suelo. Los representantes de las OTB, entre ellos un jubilado y una mujer con un bebé a cuestas, acordaron rápidamente reunirse una semana más tarde y traer a más gente de cada barrio para ayudar a cuidar los árboles.

Ana y yo volvimos el s√°bado siguiente. Un banco boliviano hab√≠a pagado un cami√≥n cisterna de agua (16.000 litros, por valor de unos 300 Bolivianos‚ÄĒ44 d√≥lares). Me sorprendi√≥ la cantidad de gente que acudi√≥, hasta quince o veinte en algunas OTBs. Usaron sus propias palas y picotas para limpiar r√°pidamente el agujero alrededor de cada √°rbol. Luego esperaron a que el cami√≥n cisterna llenara sus barriles para que los vecinos pudieran dar a cada √°rbol sediento un cubo lleno de agua. Ariel explic√≥ que un poco de agua el primer a√Īo ayudar√≠a a los √°rboles a recuperarse del shock de ser trasplantados, y que despu√©s deber√≠an sobrevivir normalmente con el agua de lluvia. Los vecinos estaban empezando a cuidar a los arbolitos. Algunos nos contaron que de vez en cuando echaban un cubo de agua reciclada en los √°rboles cercanos a sus casas.

Ariel es tambi√©n profesor universitario, y algunos de sus alumnos hab√≠an venido a ayudar a asesorar a los lugare√Īos. Pero los residentes hicieron la mayor parte del trabajo, y en la mayor√≠a de las OTBs los √°rboles pronto estaban limpiados y listos para ser regados.

La gente se ha asentado en Sacaba de toda la parte alta de Bolivia, de Oruro, La Paz, Potos√≠ y zonas rurales de Cochabamba. Se han organizado en OTBs, lo que ha permitido a Alain y Ariel trabajar con ellos para planificar el cintur√≥n verde y plantar los √°rboles. El celular tambi√©n ayuda. Hace unos a√Īos, la gente ten√≠a que ser invitada por un dirigente local que iba puerta en puerta. En los pocos barrios donde no aparec√≠a nadie, Alain telefoneaba al dirigente de la OTB, que llamaba a los vecinos. A veces, media hora despu√©s de la primera llamada, la gente ya estaba cavando los agujeros alrededor de cada √°rbol.

En las ciudades de r√°pido crecimiento del mundo en v√≠as del desarrollo, muchos de los nuevos residentes vienen de comunidades agr√≠colas y tienen conocimientos rurales, √ļtiles a la hora de plantar √°rboles. Sus nuevos barrios ser√°n lugares mucho m√°s agradables para vivir si tienen √°rboles. Ojal√° que, como demuestra este caso, las especies arb√≥reas se adapten bien al ambiente local y la gente local sea empoderada para adue√Īarse de sus √°reas verdes.

Agradecimientos

Gracias a Alain Vimercati y Ariel Ayma de Pro H√°bitat, y a todos los vecinos que plantan y cuidan sus √°rboles.

Nombres científicos

Molle Schinus molle

Jarka Parasenegalia visco (antes Acacia visco)

Guayaba Psidium guajava

Chacatea Dodonaea viscosa

Jacarand√° Jacaranda mimosifolia

Tara Caesalpinia spinosa

Tipa Tipuana tipu

Ceibo Erythrina crista-gall

También en el blog de Agro-Insight

The cherry on the pie

Experimentos con √°rboles

La manera correcta de distribuir los √°rboles

Videos sobre el cuidado de los √°rboles

Barreras vivas para proteger el suelo

Las plantas con flores atraen a los insectos que nos ayudan

Medias lunas

Regeneración manejada

 

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