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Validating local knowledge July 26th, 2020 by

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

Paul and I have written earlier stories in this blog about the yapuchiris, expert farmer-researcher-extensionists on the semi-arid, high plains of Bolivia. At 4000 meters above sea level (over 13,000 feet), seasoned farmers know how to observe plants and animals, clouds and stars, to predict the weather, especially to answer the Big Question on their minds: when will the rains start, so I can plant my crop?

All of the yapuchiris know some traditional ways of predicting the weather. Some yapuchiris also write their observations on a special chart they have designed with their agronomist colleagues at Prosuco, an organization in La Paz. The chart, called a Pachagrama, allows the yapuchiris to record the weather each day of the year, just by penciling in a few dots, so they can see if their predictions come true, and how the rains, frosts and hail affect their crops.

It can be daunting to prove the value of local knowledge, but it is worth trying.

Eleodoro Baldivieso is an agronomist with Prosuco, which has spent much of the past year studying the results of the Pachagrama weather-tracking charts. As he explained to me recently, Prosuco took four complete Pachagramas (each one filled out over seven years) containing 42 cases; each case is a field observed over a single season by one of the yapuchiris. Comparing the predicted weather with the recorded weather allowed Prosuco to see if the Pachagramas had helped to manage risk, mainly by planting a couple of weeks early, on time, or two weeks late.

Frost, hail and unpredictable rainfall are the three main weather risks to the potato and quinoa crops on the Altiplano. In October, a little rain falls, hopefully enough to plant a crop, followed by more rain in the following months. Average annual rainfall is only 800 mm (about 30 inches) in the northern Altiplano, and a dry year can destroy the crop.

For the 42 cases the study compared the yapuchiri’s judgement on the harvest (poor, regular, or good) with extreme weather events (like frost), and the planting date (early, middle or late) to see if variations in the planting date (based on weather predictions) helped to avoid losses and bring in a harvest.

The study found that crops planted two weeks apart can suffer damage at different growth stages of the plant. For example, problems with rainfall are especially risky soon after potatoes are planted, affecting crops planted early and mid-season. Frost is more of a risk for early potatoes at the start of the season, and for late potatoes when they are flowering. Hail is devastating when it falls as the mid and late planted potatoes are flowering.

The yapuchiris are often able to accurately predict frost, hail, and rainfall patterns months in advance. Scientific meteorology does a good job predicting such weather a few days away, but not several months in advance. When you plant your potatoes, modern forecasts cannot tell you what the weather will be like when the crop is flowering. Forecasting the weather in a challenging environment is helpful, at least some of the time. Planting two weeks early or two weeks late may help farmers take best advantage of the rain, but then expose the crop to frost or hail. Changing the planting dates can help farmers avoid one risk, but not another.

The weather is so complicated that risk can never be completely managed. And because scientific meteorology cannot predict hail and frost months in advance, local knowledge fills a void that science may never replace.

Previous blog stories

Cultivating pride in the Andes

To see the future

Predicting the weather

Watch the video

Recording the weather

Watch the presentation by Eleodoro Baldivieso (in Spanish)

http://andescdp.org/cdp16/seminarios/seminario_4_respondiendo_amenazas_productivas/yapuchiris_Prosuco

Acknowledgement

This work with weather is funded by the McKnight Foundation’s Collaborative Crop Research Program (CCRP). Francisco Condori, Luciano Mamani, Félix Yana and Santos Quispe are the yapuchiris who participated in this research. Thanks to Eleodoro Baldivieso, María Quispe, and Sonia Laura of Prosuco for reading and commenting on a previous version of this story. The first two photos are courtesy of Prosuco.

VALIDANDO LOS CONOCIMIENTOS LOCALES

Por Jeff Bentley

26 de julio del 2020

Paul y yo hemos escrito historias anteriores en este blog sobre los Yapuchiris, expertos agricultores-investigadores y extensionistas en el Altiplano semi√°rido boliviano. A los 4000 metros sobre el nivel del mar, los agricultores experimentados saben c√≥mo observar plantas y animales, nubes y estrellas para predecir el clima, especialmente para responder a la Gran Pregunta en sus mentes ¬Ņcu√°ndo comenzar√°n las lluvias para yo pueda sembrar mi chacra?

Todos los Yapuchiris conocen algunas formas tradicionales de predecir el tiempo. Algunos Yapuchiris tambi√©n apuntan sus observaciones en un cuadro especial que han dise√Īado con sus colegas, los ingenieros agr√≥nomos de Prosuco, una organizaci√≥n en La Paz. El cuadro, llamado Pachagrama, permite a los Yapuchiris registrar el tiempo cada d√≠a del a√Īo, con s√≥lo dibujar algunos puntos, para que puedan ver si sus predicciones se hagan realidad y como las lluvias, heladas y granizadas afectan sus cultivos.

Puede ser difícil comprobar ese conocimiento local, pero vale la pena intentarlo.

El Ing. Eleodoro Baldivieso, de Prosuco, ha pasado gran parte del a√Īo pasado estudiando los resultados de los Pachagramas. C√≥mo √©l me explic√≥ hace poco, Prosuco tom√≥ cuatro Pachagramas completos (de siete campa√Īas agr√≠colas) y 42 casos; cada caso es una parcela observada durante una campa√Īa por uno de los yapuchiris. El comparar el tiempo previsto con el tiempo registrado permiti√≥ a Prosuco ver si los Pachagramas hab√≠an ayudado a manejar el riesgo, principalmente mediante la siembra temprana (dos semanas antes), intermedia y tard√≠a (dos semanas despu√©s).

Las heladas, el granizo y la lluvia impredecible son los tres principales riesgos meteorol√≥gicos para los cultivos de papa y quinua en el Altiplano. En octubre cae un poco de lluvia, con la esperanza de que sea suficiente para sembrar un cultivo, seguida hasta marzo por m√°s lluvia. La precipitaci√≥n media anual es s√≥lo 800 mm en el Altiplano Norte, y un a√Īo seco puede destruir la cosecha, lo mismo que un a√Īo con mucha lluvia.

Para los 42 casos el estudio comparó la evaluación del Yapchiri de la cosecha (malo, regular, o bueno) con eventos extremos de tiempo (como heladas), con las fechas de siembra (temprano, mediano, o tarde) para ver si el variar la fecha de siembra (basado en el pronóstico del Yapuchiri) ayudó a evitar pérdidas y lograr una cosecha.

El estudio hall√≥ que los cultivos sembrados a dos semanas de diferencia pueden sufrir da√Īo en diferentes etapas de crecimiento da las plantas. Por ejemplo, los problemas con las lluvias son especialmente arriesgados poco despu√©s de la siembra de la papa, afectando m√°s a la siembra tempran, a principios y mediados de la temporada. Las heladas son m√°s riesgosas para las papas tempranas al comienzo de la temporada, y para las papas tard√≠as justo en la √©poca de floraci√≥n. El granizo es devastador para las siembras intermedias y tard√≠as, si la papa est√° en flor.

Los Yapuchiris a menudo son capaces de predecir con certeza las heladas, el granizo y los patrones de lluvia, con meses de antelaci√≥n. La meteorolog√≠a cient√≠fica a menudo puede predecir ese tiempo a unos pocos d√≠as, pero con meses de anticipaci√≥n. Cuando siembras tu papa, el pron√≥stico moderno no te puede decir c√≥mo ser√° el tiempo cuando tu cultivo est√° en flor. Pronosticar el tiempo en un entorno desafiante es √ļtil, al menos parte del tiempo. Sembrar dos semanas antes o dos semanas despu√©s puede ayudar a los agricultores a aprovechar mejor la lluvia, pero se expone el cultivo a las heladas o granizo, cuando es m√°s vulnerable. Cambiar las fechas de siembra puede ayudar a los agricultores a evitar uno de los riesgos, pero no siempre a todos.

El clima es tan complicado que el riesgo nunca puede ser manejado completamente. Y debido a que la meteorología científica no puede predecir el granizo y las heladas con meses de anticipación, el conocimiento local llena un vacío que la ciencia tal vez nunca reemplace.

Historias previas del blog

Cultivando orgullo en los Andes

Conocer el futuro

Prediciendo el clima

Ver el video

Hacer un registro del clima

Vea la presentaci√≥n por Eleodoro Baldivieso (en espa√Īol)

http://andescdp.org/cdp16/seminarios/seminario_4_respondiendo_amenazas_productivas/yapuchiris_Prosuco

Agradecimiento

Este trabajo con el clima es financiado por el Programa Colaborativo de Investigación sobre Cultivos (CCRP) de la Fundación McKnight. Francisco Condori, Luciano Mamani, Félix Yana y Santos Quispe son los Yapuchiris que participaron en esta investigación. Gracias a Eleodoro Baldivieso, María Quispe, y Sonia Laura de Prosuco por leer y hacer comentaros sobre una versión previa de esta historia. Las primeras dos fotos son cortesía de Prosuco.

Pay and learn July 19th, 2020 by

Vea la versi√≥n en espa√Īol a continuaci√≥n Extensionists often give information away for free, but selling it may get you a more tuned-in audience. This is the conclusion of researcher G√©rard Zoundji and colleagues in a recent paper published in Experimental Agriculture.

Zoundji compared three groups of people in West Africa who had received DVDs with farmer learning videos. One video collection covered topics related to vegetable production and another showed how to manage the parasitic weed striga. The videos could be shown in multiple local languages, or in English or French.

When NGOs in Benin gave the DVDs to organized farmers, they tended to watch the videos, and they experimented with planting styles and other ideas shown in the videos. But some farmers who got DVDs for free did not show the videos to friends and neighbors, complaining that they needed fuel for their generators, or other support.

Audience appreciation improved when DVDs were shared by NGOs that were committed to the topic and the communities. In Mali, organizations that had taught striga management realized the importance of the weed, and arranged screenings of the videos in villages. Professional staff from the NGOs were on hand to answer people’s questions after the show. The NGOs left copies of the DVD with local people who usually self-organized to watch the videos again later, to study the content. Farmers experimented keenly with the ideas they had learned, such as planting legumes between rows of cereal crops, to control striga naturally.

But the big payoff came when farmers bought the DVDs cold, off-the-shelf in shops. Most only paid a dollar or two for the DVDs on vegetable production, but buying the information gave it value. All of these paying customers watched the videos and most of them showed the videos at home to friends and neighbors. They found the agricultural ideas useful; some bought drip irrigation equipment they had seen on screen. Others learned to manage nematodes (microscopic worms) without chemical pesticides.

Farmers who bought the DVDs also experimented with the digital technology used to show the videos. Nearly 15% bought DVD players to watch the videos. Some loaned the DVDs to their children at university, who copied the DVDs from the disk, converted them to a phone-friendly format (3gp) and then loaded the videos onto the mobile devices of friends and colleagues.

Selling information draws a self-selected audience: interested people who will take the content seriously. Expert extensionists who appreciate the videos can also demonstrate their value by organizing video shows that respectfully engage with the communities and their leaders. But when DVDs are simply given away, even though they contain cinematic-quality videos on crucial topics, farmers may watch the videos and value them, or not. People who pay for information see its importance.

Further reading

Zoundji, G√©rard C., Florent Okry, Simplice D. Vodouh√™, Jeffery W. Bentley, and Loes Witteveen 2020 Commercial Channels vs Free Distribution and Screening of Learning Videos: A Case Study from Benin and Mali. Experimental Agriculture. DOI: 10.1017/S0014479720000149.  

Related blog stories

Private screenings

Call anytime

Sorghum and millets on the rise

Watch the videos

The 11 fighting striga videos

And the 9 vegetable videos:

Managing vegetable nematodes

Making a chilli seedbed

Insect nets in seedbeds

Transplanting chillies

Drying and storing chillies

Making chilli powder

Drip irrigation for tomato

Reviving soils with mucuna

Managing soil fertility

PAGAR Y APRENDER

por Jeff Bentley, 19 de julio del 2020

Los extensionistas a menudo dan informaci√≥n gratis, pero se puede conseguir un p√ļblico m√°s atento si cobra. Esta es la conclusi√≥n del investigador G√©rard Zoundji y sus colegas en un reciente art√≠culo publicado en Experimental Agriculture.

Zoundji compar√≥ tres grupos de personas en √Āfrica occidental que hab√≠an recibido un DVD con videos de aprendizaje para agricultores. Hab√≠a una colecci√≥n de videos sobre la producci√≥n de hortalizas y otra del manejo de la estriga, una maleza paras√≠tica. Los videos pod√≠an mostrarse en varios idiomas locales, o en ingl√©s o franc√©s.

Cuando las ONGs de Benín entregaron los DVDs a los agricultores organizados, tendían a ver los videos y experimentar con los estilos de siembra y otras ideas que se apreciaban en los videos. Pero algunos agricultores que recibieron los DVDs gratis no mostraron los videos a amigos y vecinos, quejándose de que necesitaban combustible para sus generadores, u otro tipo de apoyo.

La apreciaci√≥n del p√ļblico mejor√≥ cuando los DVD fueron compartidos por ONGs comprometidas con el tema y las comunidades. En Mal√≠, las organizaciones que hab√≠an ense√Īado el manejo de la estriga se dieron cuenta de la importancia de la maleza y organizaron proyecciones de los videos en las aldeas. El personal profesional de las ONGs estaba disponible para responder a las preguntas de la gente despu√©s de la proyecci√≥n. Las ONGs dejaron copias del DVD con los habitantes locales, que por lo general se organizaron por su cuenta para volver a ver los videos m√°s tarde, para estudiar el contenido. Los agricultores experimentaron intensamente con las ideas que hab√≠an aprendido, como sembrar leguminosas entre los surcos de cereales, para controlar la estriga de forma natural.

Pero la gran recompensa era cuando los agricultores compraron los DVDs por su cuenta, en las tiendas. La mayoría sólo pagó un dólar o dos por los DVDs sobre las hortalizas, pero el comprar la información le dio valor. Todos los clientes que pagaron vieron los videos y la mayoría los mostraron en casa a amigos y vecinos. Les servían las ideas agrícolas; algunos compraron equipos de riego por goteo que habían visto en la pantalla. Otros aprendieron a manejar nematodos (gusanos microscópicos) sin plaguicidas químicos.

Los agricultores que compraron los DVDs también experimentaron con la tecnología digital que se usa para mostrar los videos. Casi el 15% compró lectores de DVD para ver los videos. Algunos prestaron los DVD a sus hijos en la universidad, quienes copiaron los videos del disco, los convirtieron a un formato apto para teléfonos (3gp) y luego cargaron los videos en los dispositivos móviles de amigos y colegas.

La venta de informaci√≥n atrae a un p√ļblico auto seleccionado: personas interesadas que se tomar√°n el contenido en serio. Los extensionistas expertos que aprecian los videos tambi√©n demuestran su valor organizando programas de video de forma respetuosa con las comunidades y sus l√≠deres. Pero cuando los DVDs se regalan as√≠ no m√°s, aunque contengan videos de calidad cinematogr√°fica sobre temas cruciales, los agricultores pueden ver los videos y valorarlos, o no. Las personas que pagan por la informaci√≥n aprecian su importancia.

Lectura adicional

Zoundji, G√©rard C., Florent Okry, Simplice D. Vodouh√™, Jeffery W. Bentley, and Loes Witteveen 2020 Commercial Channels vs Free Distribution and Screening of Learning Videos: A Case Study from Benin and Mali. Experimental Agriculture. DOI: 10.1017/S0014479720000149.  

Historias de blog sobre temas relacionados

Private screenings

Call anytime

Sorghum and millets on the rise

Vea los videos

Los 11 videos: fighting striga

De los cuales algunos est√°n en espa√Īol:

La micro dosis

Revivir el suelo con la mucuna

Animales, √°rboles y cultivos

Y los 9 videos sobre hortalizas:

El manejo de nematodos en hortalizas                

Redes contra insectos en alm√°cigo

Riego por goteo para el tomate

Revivir el suelo con la mucuna

Manejo de la fertilidad del suelo

Making a chilli seedbed

Transplanting chillies

Drying and storing chillies

Learning to teach June 7th, 2020 by

Versi√≥n en espa√Īol a continuaci√≥n

A really good teacher will teach you both subject matter and how to explain it to others. Elías Sánchez mentored thousands of Central Americans in organic agriculture. He started his adult life as a rural schoolteacher because he wanted to help people. But he soon realized that rural people needed agricultural training as much as the usual school subjects, so he studied agronomy and became an extension agent. When he found government bureaucracy too limiting, he started a teaching farm called Loma Linda, in Santa Lucía, in a pine-covered canyon in the mountains above Tegucigalpa, Honduras. That’s where I met him, in the late 1980s.

Loma Linda had dormitories, a classroom and a dining hall, where 30 farmers could come in to take a five-day course, usually paid for by NGOs or development projects. These were the days when donors were generous with NGOs in Honduras.

In the short course, don El√≠as, as everyone called him, taught an effective alternative to slash-and-burn agriculture. Don El√≠as expected people to make radical changes in how they farmed, after attending his course.  At the time, the forests on the steep hillsides were rapidly disappearing as people cut and burned trees, brush and crop residues before planting maize fields. The smoke was so thick in the springtime that every year the Tegucigalpa airport had to close because pilots couldn‚Äôt see the runway. There was also widespread soil erosion.

Don Elías taught his adult students how to build terraces, plant vegetables, fruits and grains, to make compost and natural remedies for pests and diseases. Thousands of smallholders from all over Honduras took don Elías’ course and slowly began to burn less, and to use organic fertilizer. He was pretty convincing; I’ve made compost ever since taking his course.

Don Elías realized that his audience didn’t see manure as fertilizer. Honduran smallholders would let manure pile up in the corral, and never think of spreading it on nearby maize fields. He held long discussions with the farmers to define organic matter (as anything living or that had once been alive, or came from a plant or animal). Then he taught them that any organic matter could be made into fertilizer. He kept his explanations simple and avoided pedantic words.

During the course we would eat fresh vegetables from the teaching farm for lunch, then get our hands dirty, making new compost heaps and spreading fertilizer from ones that were ready to use. ‚ÄúCompost needs two things,‚ÄĚ don El√≠as would say: ‚Äúwater and air.‚ÄĚ He taught that rain usually provided enough water, and by making compost above ground, air could circulate, as long as you didn‚Äôt pack the material.  But for good measure he would heap the organic matter around a thick wooden pole, which he would then pull out, to leave an air hole. Don Elias said that you could make compost in a pit, but it was more work. He did advise us to scrape the leaves and other debris off of the soil surface, so the compost was in contact with the dirt, where the soil-dwelling bacteria would help to start the decomposition.

Don Elías knew that the smallholders already worked hard, so his innovations had to be easy to use. Compost heaps could be left until they decomposed into rich, black earth. Turning wasn’t necessary. He taught people to make compost in the field, so they wouldn’t have to carry the materials very far.

I recalled El√≠as S√°nchez last week, when I dug up one of our compost pits at home (a perfect quarantine activity). We don‚Äôt make compost piles, because we live in the city and our compost includes some ugly garbage. Sometimes we cover the pits with soil and grow something on top (a trick I learned from a farmer in Mali: Playing with rabbits).  Although our compost pit is unlike the compost piles that don El√≠as used to make, ours followed all his basic principles.

1) It was made from organic matter.

2) It had air pockets, from cardboard boxes I left in it, which in due time decomposed.

3) It had water. While digging it out I found a couple of teaspoons I had accidentally tossed out with the dishwater. Soapy water may kill beneficial microorganisms, so I won’t try it again. Even after thirty years I’m still learning.

4) I didn’t work too hard on this compost pit. I never did turn it.

The compost was worth it, rich and black, full of earthworms, retaining moisture for several days once we spread it on the soil. Don Elías would have been pleased. He would also be pleased that many farmers, teaching farms and organizations in Latin America have adopted his ideas about organic agriculture.

To be a good mentor, teach the basic principles of subjects that students want to learn about. Show people how to make a prototype and then encourage them to keep on experimenting. Innovations need to be adapted if they’re going to be used for a lifetime.

Related blog stories

Trying it yourself

Training trees

Friendly germs

Earthworms from India to Bolivia

A revolution for our soil

Related videos

Living windbreaks to protect the soil

Mulch for a better soil and crop

Composting to beat striga

And other videos about Sustainable Land Management

Acknowledgement

Thanks to Keith Andrews, Eric Boa and Paul Van Mele for excellent comments on a previous version of this story.

APRENDER A ENSE√ĎAR

Por Jeff Bentley, 7 de junio del 2020

Un buen profesor no solo te ense√Īa la materia sino c√≥mo explicarla tambi√©n. El√≠as S√°nchez fue mentor de miles de centroamericanos en la agricultura org√°nica. Empez√≥ su vida adulta como maestro de escuela rural porque quer√≠a ayudar a la gente. Pero pronto se dio cuenta de que la gente del campo necesitaba aprender m√°s de la agricultura, as√≠ que estudi√≥ agronom√≠a y se hizo un extensionista. Cuando se dio cuenta de que la burocracia gubernamental era demasiado limitante, comenz√≥ una granja de aprendizaje llamada Loma Linda, en Santa Luc√≠a, en un ca√Ī√≥n cubierto de pinos en las monta√Īas cerca de Tegucigalpa, Honduras. All√≠ es donde lo conoc√≠, a finales de los 80.

Loma Linda tenía dormitorios, un aula y un comedor, donde 30 agricultores podían entrar para tomar un curso de cinco días, normalmente pagado por una ONG o por proyectos de desarrollo. Eran los días en que los donantes eran generosos con las ONGs en Honduras.

En el curso corto, don El√≠as, como todos le llamaban, ense√Īaba una alternativa eficaz a la agricultura de tala y quema. Don El√≠as esperaba que la gente hiciera cambios radicales en la forma de cultivar, despu√©s de asistir a su curso.  En ese momento, los bosques de las escarpadas laderas estaban desapareciendo r√°pidamente, ya que la gente cortaba y quemaba √°rboles, matorrales y rastrojos antes de sembrar milpa. El humo era tan espeso en la primavera que cada a√Īo el aeropuerto de Tegucigalpa ten√≠a que cerrar porque los pilotos no pod√≠an ver la pista. Tambi√©n se produjo bastante erosi√≥n del suelo.

Don El√≠as ense√Ī√≥ a sus alumnos adultos a construir terrazas, a sembrar verduras, frutas y granos, a hacer abono y remedios naturales para las plagas y enfermedades. Miles de peque√Īos agricultores de toda Honduras tomaron el curso de don El√≠as y poco a poco empezaron a quemar menos, y a usar fertilizante org√°nico. El fue bastante convincente; he hecho compost desde que tom√© su curso.

Don El√≠as se dio cuenta de que su p√ļblico no ve√≠a el esti√©rcol como fertilizante. Los peque√Īos propietarios hondure√Īos dejaban el esti√©rcol apilado en el corral y nunca pensaban en esparcirlo en los maizales cercanos. Mantuvo largas discusiones con los agricultores para definir la materia org√°nica (como cualquier cosa viviente o que alguna vez estuvo viva, o que salga de una planta o animal). Luego les ense√Ī√≥ que cualquier materia org√°nica pod√≠a convertirse en fertilizante. Manten√≠a sus explicaciones simples y evitaba las palabras pedantes.

Durante el curso almorz√°bamos hortalizas frescas de la finca, luego nos ensuci√°bamos las manos, haciendo nuevas aboneras y esparciendo el fertilizante de las que estaban listas para usar. “El abono necesita dos cosas”, dec√≠a don El√≠as: “agua y aire”. Ense√Ī√≥ que la lluvia usualmente daba suficiente agua, y al hacer abono en cima la tierra, el aire pod√≠a circular, si no se empacara el material.  Pero por si acaso, hac√≠a la abonera alrededor de un grueso poste de madera, que luego sacaba, para dejar un agujero de aire. Don El√≠as dijo que se pod√≠a hacer abono bajo tierra, pero era m√°s trabajo. Nos aconsej√≥ que rasp√°ramos las hojas y otros desechos de la superficie del suelo, para que el abono estuviera en contacto con la tierra, donde las bacterias que viven en el suelo ayudar√≠an a iniciar la descomposici√≥n.

Don El√≠as sab√≠a que los peque√Īos agricultores ya trabajaban duro, as√≠ que sus innovaciones ten√≠an que ser f√°ciles de usar. Se pod√≠an dejar la abonera hasta que se descompusieran en una tierra rica y negra. No era necesario moverla. Ense√Ī√≥ a la gente a hacer compost en el campo, para que no tuvieran que llevar los materiales muy lejos.

Record√© a El√≠as S√°nchez la semana pasada, cuando desenterr√© una de nuestras aboneras en casa (una perfecta actividad de cuarentena). No hacemos abonera sobre el suelo, porque vivimos en la ciudad y nuestro abono incluye alguna basura fea. Hacemos el abono en una fosa que a veces tapamos con tierra y cultivamos algo encima (un truco que aprend√≠ de un agricultor en Mali: Playing with rabbits).  Aunque nuestra abonera enterrada no es como las que don El√≠as sol√≠a hacer sobre el suelo, la nuestra segu√≠a todos sus principios b√°sicos.

1) Estaba hecha de materia org√°nica.

2) Tenía bolsones de aire, de cajas de cartón que metí, que con el tiempo se descompusieron.

3) Ten√≠a agua. Mientras desenterraba el composte encontr√© un par de cucharaditas que hab√≠a tirado accidentalmente con el agua lavar los trastos. El agua jabonosa puede matar a los microorganismos buenos, as√≠ que no lo intentar√© de nuevo. Incluso despu√©s de treinta a√Īos todav√≠a estoy aprendiendo.

4) No trabajé muy duro en esta abonera. Nunca la movía.

El abono valió la pena, rico y negro, lleno de lombrices, reteniendo la humedad durante varios días una vez que lo esparcimos en el suelo. Don Elías habría estado encantado. También estaría contento de que muchos agricultores, fincas educativas y organizaciones en América Latina hayan adoptado sus ideas sobre la agricultura orgánica.

Para ser un buen mentor, ense√Īa los principios b√°sicos de las materias que los estudiantes quieren aprender. Mostrar a la gente c√≥mo hacer un prototipo y luego animarlos a seguir experimentando. Los alumnos tienen que adue√Īarse de las innovaciones, para seguir adapt√°ndolas toda la vida.

Historias sobre temas parecidos  

Trying it yourself

Training trees

Microbios amigables

Lombrices de tierra de la i India a Bolivia

Una revolución para nuestro suelo

Videos relacionados

Barreras vivas para proteger el suelo

El mulch mejora el suelo y la cosecha

Composting to beat striga

Manejo sostenible de la tierra

Agradecimientos

Gracias a Keith Andrews, Eric Boa y Paul Van Mele por sus excelentes comentarios sobre una versión previa de esta historia.

Training trees May 10th, 2020 by

Many people are familiar with pruning trees, but on a recent course organised by the association of ecological gardeners (VELT) in Bocholt, Limburg, Belgium, I learned another important trick to shape trees and harvest more fruit. By training trees, you make branches grow in the direction you want. That sounds easy enough, but back home, when trying to apply this to our own fruit trees, I learned once more the importance of understanding the principles, and then adapting them to the local conditions.

Pierre Zanders, the trainer from VELT, explained to us that branches that grow straight upright have tremendous vigour and just continue growing up without giving fruits. The more you can get a branch to grow horizontally, the more fruit it will produce. Young branches that are weighed down by too much fruit can break, so ideally you should aim to train branches to grow at angles between 45 and 60 degrees.

Pierre is such an expert on fruit trees that he is often asked to travel to share his skills. He proudly told us a story about the time he was invited to the USA to train thousands of mature fruit trees. While the job was scheduled to take 6 weeks, Pierre finished the job in just two weeks. In disbelief, the owner of the groves had to accept that Pierre had a much faster way of training branches.

‚ÄúIf you have to train older trees,‚ÄĚ Pierre told us, ‚Äúyou don‚Äôt need any branch spreaders that cost money. The only thing you need is a very sharp knife. Up in the trees, you find enough wood that can be used as a branch spreader. Prune a stick that is as thick as the twig you want to bend lower. In the stick you have removed from the tree, cut a notch at one end of the stick and then cut the stick to the right length. Fix one end of the stick onto the main tree trunk, and place the end with the notch around the twig you want to bend. Gently push the stick down until the twig reaches the desired angle.‚ÄĚ The owner was amazed. This seasoned fruit expert from Belgium had not used any of the commercial branch spreaders the owner had bought to train his trees.

Pierre laughingly provokes us: ‚Äúwhy pay money if you can do it much simpler and much faster? Besides, with my technique nobody needs to go back into the orchard a few months later to collect any tree training devices. Over time, the branches will start to grow in the desired direction and the little sticks that I used as branch spreader can stay in the tree or may eventually be blown away by the wind. So, you save money twice.‚ÄĚ

During Pierre’s pruning course, we learned that for younger trees it is useful to hang weights to the branches, or to tie strings and use pegs to fix the string down to the soil. After the course I talked to my friend, Johan Hons, an organic farmer, and he kindly gave me a roll of string and taught me a useful knot to loosely tie the string around twigs and branches.

A few days after training my 20 or so fruit trees, I saw in dismay how some of the branches had snapped. ‚ÄúTerrible, how could this happen,‚ÄĚ I wondered. ‚ÄúDid I bend them too much?‚ÄĚ Taking a closer look at the damage, I noticed some wool on the strings. Apparently, the sheep grazing under my fruit trees had started rubbing themselves against these strings. It was too much for some of the young branches to take.

That was the time I had to come up with my own solution. All my fruit trees have a mesh wire tree shelter guard around their trunk to protect their bark from the sheep. By placing a bamboo stick through the holes at the top of the mesh, I could fix my strings to the bamboo, above reach of the sheep. The two short strings down from the bamboo to the mesh ensure that the bamboo does not snap in half with the pulling forces from the branches.

Farming is about observing what works and what doesn’t work…. If you understand the basic principles of a technology, it is easier to make workable adaptations. Pierre and Johan both gave me good ideas about how to spread branches so they do not grow straight up. But after my sheep undid their good suggestions, I could still invent my own technique, because Pierre had taught me the underlying principle: more horizontal branches produce more flowers and therefore more fruit.

Related videos

Staking and pruning passion fruit

Growing annual crops in cashew orchards

Coffee: stumping & pruning

The right way to distribute trees February 23rd, 2020 by

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

There is a right way and a wrong way to distribute tree seedlings, as I realized recently.

The wrong way. Some 30 years ago, I was visiting a family in a Honduran village, Galeras, when a pickup truck from the Ministry of Agriculture pulled up. Two men unloaded little black plastic bags, each holding a strange, broad-leafed tree seedling.

A woman emerged from the car and without pausing to greet us, she made a breathless speech. ‚ÄúWe are giving you little trees to plant. They are good for shade, for timber, for firewood, and cattle can eat the leaves. They are called ‚Ķ‚ÄĚ and she rattled off a long, cumbersome scientific name.

‚ÄúWhat is the common name?‚ÄĚ I asked.

‚ÄúOh, I don‚Äôt know that, just plant them.‚ÄĚ

And then the Ministry people got back in their car and drove off to the next house. In the following weeks, I saw little seedlings piled in front of many homes in Galeras. These trees, which came unannounced and uninvited, were all left to die.

The right way. This week, I visited the communities of Collpa Cala Cala and Collpa Centro, with extensionists from a Bolivian NGO, Fundación Agrecol Andes, which has 20 years of experience in high Andean communities.

This time I was inside the pickup, with the project staff. The team had gone in the day before with a bigger truck, to deliver 5000 pine seedlings to Collpa Cala Cala, and 3600 to Collpa Centro, and more trees to two other villages.  This morning, the little trees were glistening with dew in a cow pasture‚ÄĒthe cows were tethered out of reach of the seedlings. The locals soon gathered around us, and in the native language, Quechua, Tito Villarroel (the project coordinator) reminded them that the goal was for ‚Äúeach family to plant the trees that they ordered.‚ÄĚ He went on, ‚ÄúPlease count out the number of trees you ordered.‚ÄĚ Each family had asked for 100 to 500 seedlings.

Tito asked if anyone from the community wanted to speak. Two local men, don Marco and don Juevenal both thanked the project, and said they were sorry it was ending. They said they would like to get trees for two more years.

I asked some of the farmers why they wanted pine trees. ‚ÄúFor the timber,‚ÄĚ they said. ‚ÄúEither to sell or to use ourselves.‚ÄĚ

The project team read the names of each subscribed family, to make sure they were all there, and gave each one a new steel pick, a wooden handle and a hoe, so they would have the right tools to plant the trees. Each family also got a bag of bread rolls and a whole, raw chicken, and a two-liter bottle of soda pop. This food will help to feed the family for the day they take off from their other work to plant the trees.

Each family has agreed to plant the trees in a place of their choosing, where they can protect the trees from roaming livestock. Many of the trees will be planted near people’s homes, or in other places where it is easy to see the animals from the village. The previous year, these same villagers also planted trees, now growing in small stands.

Tito and his colleagues will come back the following week. Each village gets a follow up visit every week. Over the next few visits, the NGO extensionists will make sure that there are no unforeseen problems. But there is little doubt that these folks will plant their trees.

The team hopes that the trees will help to keep the soil on the steep slopes and out of the streams that provide drinking water to the valley below. Almost all of the land around these communities is quite steep, so no matter where the trees are planted, they should help to manage soil erosion. The NGO would have liked to have planted native trees, rather than pines, which are not native to South America. But the local people wanted pine trees, and so that’s what they got.

The moral of the story is, local people will plant and manage forestry trees if:

  • The tree species is of interest to the communities
  • The trees are accompanied by tools, food or other things of value that stimulate folks to invest in planting trees
  • Local people are consulted about the project beforehand and organized

Cynics complain that development work is going in circles, but that’s not true. Like any skill, community development work improves with practice.

Related blog story

Slow Recovery

Related videos

Living windbreaks to protect the soil

Parkland agroforestry

Farmer managed forest regeneration

Further reading

Bentley, Jeffery W. & Jorge Valencia 2003 ‚ÄúLearning about Trees in a Quechua-Speaking Andean Community in Bolivia,‚ÄĚ pp. 69-134. In Paul Van Mele (ed.) Way Out of the Woods: Learning How to Manage Trees and Forests. Newbury, UK: CPL Press. 143 pp.

Acknowledgements

Thanks to Fundación Agrecol Andes, for inviting me to see their work. Thanks to the project team, including Alexandra Flores, David Torrico, Nelson Daga and Edgar Hinojosa. This project was funded by CRS (Catholic Relief Services) with additional funding by the Coca Cola Foundation. The soft drinks distributed on this visit were from a Bolivian bottler, not Coke.

LA MANERA CORRECTA DE DISTRIBUIR LOS √ĀRBOLES

Por Jeff Bentley

23 de febrero del 2020

Los plantines de √°rboles se pueden distribuir de forma correcta, o incorrecta, como me di cuenta recientemente.

La manera incorrecta. Hace unos 30 a√Īos, yo estaba visitando a una familia en una aldea hondure√Īa, Galeras, cuando lleg√≥ una camioneta del Ministerio de Agricultura. Dos hombres descargaron peque√Īas bolsas de pl√°stico negro. Cada bolsa ten√≠a el plant√≠n de un √°rbol desconocido, de hoja ancha.

Una mujer se baj√≥ del carro y sin tomar la molestia de saludarnos, hizo un discurso r√°pido, memorizado. “Les estamos dejando unos peque√Īos √°rboles para que los planten. Sirven para la sombra, para la madera, para la le√Īa, y el ganado puede comer las hojas. Se llaman …” y nos dio un largo y engorroso nombre cient√≠fico.

“¬ŅCu√°l es el nombre com√ļn?” Pregunt√©.

“Oh, no lo s√©, s√≥lo pl√°ntenlas.”

Y sin más ceremonia, la gente del Ministerio volvió a su carro y se fue a la próxima casa. En las semanas siguientes, vi bultos de plantitas frente a muchas casas en Galeras. Estos árboles, que llegaron sin aviso y sin invitación, lentamente se murieran.

La manera correcta. Esta semana, visit√© las comunidades de Collpa Cala Cala y Collpa Centro, con extensionistas de una ONG boliviana, Fundaci√≥n AGRECOL Andes, que tiene 20 a√Īos de experiencia en comunidades altoandinas.

Esta vez, estuve dentro de la camioneta, con la gente del proyecto. El equipo hab√≠a entrado el d√≠a anterior con un cami√≥n m√°s grande, para entregar 5000 plantines de pino a Collpa Cala Cala, y 3600 arbolitos a la Collpa Centro, y m√°s plantines a otras dos comunidades.  Esa ma√Īana, los arbolitos brillaban con el roc√≠o en el prado de las vacas, las cuales estaban atadas fuera del alcance de los plantines. Los comuneros pronto se reunieron a nuestro alrededor, y hablando en el idioma ancestral, quechua, Tito Villarroel (el coordinador del proyecto) les record√≥ que el objetivo era que “cada familia plante los √°rboles que hab√≠a ordenado”. Continu√≥: “Por favor, cuenten el n√ļmero de plantines que pidieron”. Cada familia hab√≠a pedido de 100 a 500 plantines.

Tito pregunt√≥ si alguien de la comunidad quer√≠a hablar. Dos hombres locales, don Marco y don Juvenal, agradecieron el proyecto y dijeron que no quer√≠an que se acabara. Dijeron que les gustar√≠a tener √°rboles durante dos a√Īos m√°s.

Pregunt√© a algunos de los agricultores por qu√© quer√≠an pinos. “Por la madera”, dijeron. “Para venderla o para usarla nosotros mismos”.

El equipo pasó lista y dio a cada familia suscrita una nueva picota, un mango de madera y un azadón, para que tuvieran las herramientas adecuadas para plantar los árboles. Cada familia también recibió una bolsa de pan, un pollo crudo entero, y una botella de refresco de dos litros. Esta comida ayudará a alimentar a la familia el día que planten los árboles.

Cada familia ha acordado plantar los √°rboles en un lugar de su elecci√≥n, donde puedan proteger los √°rboles del ganado suelto. Muchos de los √°rboles se plantan cerca de las casas de la gente, o en otros lugares donde es f√°cil ver los animales de la comunidad. El a√Īo anterior, estos mismos vecinos tambi√©n plantaron √°rboles, que ahora crecen en peque√Īos manchones alrededor de las comunidades.

Tito y sus colegas volverán la semana siguiente. Cada comunidad recibe una visita de seguimiento cada semana. En las próximas visitas, los extensionistas de la ONG se asegurarán de que no haya problemas imprevistos. Pero hay pocas dudas de que la gente plantará sus árboles.

El equipo espera que los árboles ayuden a conservar el suelo en las laderas empinadas, para proteger a las quebradas que dan agua potable al valle de abajo. Casi toda la tierra alrededor de estas comunidades es bastante escarpada, por lo que no importa dónde se planten los árboles, ayudará a manejar la erosión del suelo. A la ONG le hubiera gustado plantar árboles nativos, en lugar de pinos, que no son nativos de Sudamérica. Pero la gente local quería pinos, y eso es lo que obtuvieron.

La moraleja es que la gente local plantar√° y manejar√° los √°rboles forestales si:

РLas especies de árboles son de interés para las comunidades

– Los √°rboles van acompa√Īados de herramientas, alimentos u otras cosas de valor que estimulan a la gente a invertir en la plantaci√≥n de √°rboles

РSe consulta a la población local sobre el proyecto de antemano y se organiza

Los cínicos se quejan de que el trabajo de desarrollo sólo da vueltas, pero eso no es cierto. Como cualquier habilidad, el trabajo de desarrollo de la comunidad mejora con la práctica.

Un blog previo que le podría interesar

Recuperación lenta

Videos sobre la reforestación

Barreras vivas para proteger el suelo

Agroforestería del bosque ralo

Regeneración del bosque manejada por agricultores

Lectura

Bentley, Jeffery W. & Jorge Valencia 2003 ‚ÄúAprendiendo sobre √Ārboles en una Comunidad Andina de Habla Quechua en Bolivia,‚ÄĚ pp. 69-134. In Paul Van Mele (ed.) Way Out of the Woods: Learning How to Manage Trees and Forests. Newbury, UK: CPL Press. 143 pp.

Agradecimientos

Gracias a la Fundación AGRECOL Andes, por invitarme a ver este trabajo. Gracias al equipo de trabajo, incluyendo a Alexandra Flores, Nelson Daga, David Torrico y Edgar Hinojosa. Este proyecto fue financiado por CRS (Catholic Relief Services) con fondos adicionales de la Fundación Coca Cola. Los refrescos distribuidos en esta visita fueron de una embotelladora boliviana, no de la Coca Cola.

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