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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 The wheat fields of Sacaba have been replaced by a maze of asphalt streets, and neat homes of brick, cement and tile.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

Related Agro-Insight blogs

The cherry on the pie

Experiments with trees

The right way to distribute trees

Videos on caring for trees

Living windbreaks to protect the soil

Flowering plants attract the insects that help us

Demi lunes

Managed regeneration

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

 

Gabe Brown, agroecology on a commercial scale October 16th, 2022 by

Gabe Brown describes himself as a city boy from Bismarck, North Dakota, whose only dream was to be a farmer. As a young couple, Gabe and his wife, Shelly, bought her parent’s farm. Gabe followed in his father-in-law’s footsteps, with regular plowing and lots of chemical fertilizer. For four years in a row the family lost their crop to the weather: hail, and drought and once all their calves died in a blizzard. Gabe and Shelly both had to take full-time jobs to pay for the farm that they worked on weekends. After four years of failure, by 1998, Gabe planted his corn with very little chemical fertilizer, simply because he was out of money.

Gabe was surprised at how high the yields were. In the four years of crop failure, the soil had been improved by not being plowed, by having the covering of plants remain on the surface of the earth.

An avid learner and experimenter, Gabe attended talks, listened to other innovative farmers and to agricultural scientists. He tried planting mixes of many different plants as cover crops, always combining legumes and grasses. He learned to rotate the cattle in pastures, using electric fences.

Gabe’s cattle graze for a few days or sometimes for just a few hours on one small paddock, before being moved to another. Gabe estimates that the cows eat 25% of the plants and trample the rest. In recent years, Gabe and his son, Paul, have begun grazing sheep, pigs and chickens in the fields after the cattle have left the paddock.

The livestock defecate into the field, manuring it, and the plants respond to the impact of the animals by exuding metabolites (products used by, or made by an organism: usually a small molecule, such as alcohol, amino acids or vitamins). The metabolites from plants enrich the soil. Gabe’s system avoids the need to spread manure, or to cut fodder for the animals, cutting costs for fuel and labor, to save on transportation expenses. The soils on neighboring farms are yellow and lifeless. After some 20 years of practicing regenerative agriculture, Gabe compares the soil on Brown’s Ranch (as he calls his farm) to a crumbly, chocolate cake, and it is full of earthworms and other life.

Gabe openly questions the model taught to US farmers, that they should produce more to ‚Äúfeed the world‚ÄĚ. The world already produces enough food to feed 10 billion people, but 30% of it is wasted and many people do not receive enough food because of social and political problems, not agronomic ones.

Gabe doesn’t claim to produce more per acre of land than conventional farmers, but his diverse farm of 5,000 acres (2,000 hectares) yields meat, maize, vegetables, eggs and honey, and more profits than the farms around him. The Browns have earned a local reputation as producers of quality food, which they sell directly to consumers at top prices, at a farm shop on Brown’s Ranch.

American youth are getting out of agriculture, because it doesn’t pay. Avoiding chemicals saves the Browns so much money that Gabe’s son, Paul, is happy to take over the farm, innovating along the way. He invented a mobile chicken coop for free-range hens, for example.

Farmers should be able to make a living while improving the soil that supports the farm. Brown’s Ranch is a large, commercial farm, that earns an income for the family that runs it. This farm is proof of concept: agroecology is not hippie science. Regenerative agriculture can be used to grow high-quality food on a commercial scale, at a profit.

Further reading

Brown, Gabe 2018 Dirt to Soil: One Family’s Journey into Regenerative Agriculture. White River Junction, Vermont: Chelsea Green Publishing.

Related videos

Improved pasture for fertile soil

Rotational grazing

Related Agro-Insight blogs

Rotational grazing

Moveable pasture

Soil for a living planet

From soil fertility to cheese

Creativity of the commons

Killing the soil with chemicals (and bringing it back to life)

The nitrogen crisis

A revolution for our soil

The times they are a changing

The committee of the commons May 22nd, 2022 by

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

I usually take a dim view of bureaucracy, but a committee may help stop overgrazing as much as a good fence, as I learned this April, in the community of Canrey Chico, in Ancash, Peru.

About 1993, almost 30 years ago, a young teacher, Vidal Rond√°n, was hired to be a ranger in the Huascar√°n National Park. Two years later, he had been hired by the Mountain Institute, an NGO, to work with local communities in the high Andes around the park. In 1998 Vidal organized the farmers into a local agricultural research committee, also known as a CIAL. The committee had 11 farmer-members elected by their community to do research on a pressing problem.

The community loaned the CIAL a two-hectare plot to do experiments on cattle grazing for the 120 members of the Cordillera Blanca Farmers’ Association, which collectively managed the lands of a former hacienda. The CIAL spent a year studying topics like organic fertilization, irrigation and fencing. The results were so promising that the community gave the committee 40 hectares to do more experiments

As community member Dalia Rodríguez explained, before the CIAL, the cattle roamed loose, eating whatever grasses they wanted. Such permissive grazing may seem fine, but over the years the cows and sheep eat all their favorite grasses down to the nub, and the nasty plants encroach on the pasture.

In the 1990s, when the community learned about the CIAL‚Äôs research, they began rotating the cattle between smaller, fenced areas. That obliged the livestock to eat more plant species, not just the tastiest ones. As do√Īa Delia explained, in the dry season, folks began keeping the cattle on open pasture in the high country, and in the rainy season moving the cows to fenced grazing closer to the farmsteads.

The members of the Cordillera Blanca farmers’ association own about 600 head of cows, including 58 that are managed collectively. To avoid overgrazing, each community member is limited to a maximum of 25 cows. Movements and numbers of animals are overseen by a board of directors of the Cordillera Blanca Farmers’ Association, which has a president, vice-president, secretary, treasurer and various committees on areas like grazing, equipment, and fence. The board members and the committees meet once a month.

Paul and Marcella and I were lucky enough to visit Cordillera Blanca for one of their monthly meetings, which started promptly at 9 AM. Weather-beaten farmers, dressed in their work clothes, filled the small room of an old adobe house. After a while they sent word to Vidal, to say that we could come inside. We briefly discussed our project to film a video about grazing. They gave us permission, and then politely dismissed us. They had business to attend to, and they could manage without any advice from friendly outsiders.

These committees decide when to move cattle down from the high country. They make sure that they don’t put the livestock into a pasture until the grass has recovered, and the seed heads are mature enough to self-seed the next year’s pasture. The board and the committees decide on when to invest in repairing fences, with the members working together to dig the post holes and stretch the barbed wire. The 120 member households meet as needed, when decisions must be approved by all community members.

The board also hires a community cowboy, who along with his wife milks all of the cows in the collective herd and sells the milk back to local women, who make cheese, which they sell. Do√Īa Delia explains that they sell the cheese locally or feed it to their families. Selling the milk allows the community to earn an income to invest in fences, sprinkler irrigation or other tools. Rotational grazing and fences save the farmers time; they no longer have to spend hours looking for their cows.

Vidal and the CIAL are still jointly researching agricultural innovations, which the community manages within their own structure of committees. Fences may be useful bits of hardware for managing livestock, but a system of farmer-managed committees can be the software that makes the  communal grazing land work.

Related Agro-Insight blogs

Soil for a living planet

Mother and calf

Further reading

Bentley, Jeffery W., Sylvie Priou, Pedro Aley, Javier Correa, R√≥ger Torres, Hermeregildo Equise, Jos√© Luis Quiruchi & Oscar Barea 2006 ‚ÄúMethod, Creativity and CIALs.‚ÄĚ International Journal of Agricultural Resources, Governance and Ecology 5(1):90-105.

Acknowledgements

The visit to Peru to film various farmer-to-farmer training videos with farmers like do√Īa Delia was made possible with the kind support of the Collaborative Crop Research Program (CCRP) of the McKnight Foundation. Thanks to Vidal Rond√°n of the Mountain Institute for introducing us to the community.

Videos on community organization

Village savings and loan associations

Farmers’ rights to seeds: experiences from Guatemala

Working in groups to save water

COMIT√Č CAMPESINO

Jeff Bentley, 22 de mayo del 2022

Normalmente no soporto la burocracia, pero un comit√© puede ayudar a frenar el sobrepastoreo, junto con un buen cerco, como aprend√≠ este mes de abril en la comunidad de Canrey Chico, en Ancash, Per√ļ.

Hacia 1993, hace casi 30 a√Īos, un joven profesor, Vidal Rond√°n, fue contratado como guardaparque en el Parque Nacional Huascar√°n. Dos a√Īos despu√©s, fue contratado por el Instituto Monta√Īo, una ONG, para trabajar con las comunidades locales en las faldas andinas, alrededor del parque. En 1998, Vidal organiz√≥ a los agricultores en un comit√© local de investigaci√≥n agr√≠cola, tambi√©n conocido como CIAL. El comit√© ten√≠a 11 miembros agricultores elegidos por su comunidad para investigar un problema serio.

La comunidad prest√≥ al CIAL una parcela de dos hect√°reas para hacer experimentos sobre el pastoreo con los 120 miembros de la Asociaci√≥n Campesina de Cordillera Blanca, que maneja colectivamente las tierras de una antigua hacienda. Despu√©s de que el CIAL pasara un a√Īo estudiando temas como la fertilizaci√≥n org√°nica, el riego y los cercos, los resultados fueron tan prometedores que la comunidad prest√≥ al comit√© 40 hect√°reas para trabajar espec√≠ficamente en el pastoreo.

Como explic√≥ Dalia Rodr√≠guez, miembro de la comunidad, antes del CIAL el ganado andaba suelto, comiendo los pastos que le daban la gana. Un pastoreo tan permisivo puede parecer agradable, pero con el paso de los a√Īos las vacas y las ovejas se comen todas sus hierbas favoritas al ras del suelo, y las plantas desagradables invaden el pasto.

En la d√©cada de los 1990, cuando la comunidad aprendi√≥ de las investigaciones del CIAL, empezaron a rotar el ganado entre secciones m√°s peque√Īas y cercadas. Eso ¬†obliga al ganado a comer m√°s especies, no s√≥lo las m√°s sabrosas. Como explic√≥ do√Īa Delia, la gente empez√≥ a dejar el ganado en los pastos altos en la √©poca seca, y en la estaci√≥n lluviosa se bajaban a los pastos cercados m√°s cercanos a las casas de la gente.

Los miembros de la Asociaci√≥n Campesina ¬†Cordillera Blanca tienen unas 600 cabezas de ganado, de las cuales 58 se manejan colectivamente. Para evitar el sobrepastoreo, cada miembro de la comunidad est√° limitado a un m√°ximo de 25 vacas. Los movimientos y el n√ļmero de animales son supervisados por una junta directiva de la Asociaci√≥n, que tiene un presidente, un vicepresidente, un secretario, una tesorera y varios comit√©s sobre temas como el pastoreo, los equipos y el cercado. Los miembros de la junta directiva y los comit√©s se re√ļnen una vez al mes.

Paul, Marcella y yo tuvimos la suerte de visitar Cordillera Blanca para asistir a una de sus reuniones mensuales, que comenz√≥ puntualmente a las 9 de la ma√Īana. Los campesinos quemados del sol, vestidos con su ropa de trabajo, llenaban la peque√Īa sala de una vieja casa de adobe. Pasado un rato, avisaron a Vidal de que pod√≠amos entrar. Hablamos brevemente de nuestro proyecto de filmar un video sobre el pastoreo. Nos dieron permiso, y luego nos dejaron salir. Ten√≠an asuntos que atender, y pod√≠an arregl√°rselas sin el consejo de gente de afuera.

Estos comit√©s deciden cu√°ndo bajar el ganado de la zona alta. Se aseguran de no poner el ganado en un pasto hasta que se haya recuperado y est√° echando espigas, para auto-sembrar el pasto del a√Īo siguiente. La junta directiva y los comit√©s deciden cu√°ndo invertir en la reparaci√≥n de los cercos, y los miembros trabajan juntos para plantar los postes y tender el alambre de p√ļas. Los 120 hogares miembros se re√ļnen cuando es necesario, y las decisiones deben ser aprobadas por todos los miembros de la comunidad.

La junta tambi√©n contrata a un vaquero de la comunidad, que junto con su esposa orde√Īa todas las vacas del reba√Īo colectivo y vende la leche a las mujeres de la zona, que hacen queso. Do√Īa Delia explica que venden el queso localmente o se lo dan a sus familias. La venta de la leche permite a la comunidad obtener ingresos para invertir en cercos, riego por aspersi√≥n u otras herramientas. El pastoreo rotativo y los cercos ahorran tiempo a los ganaderos, que ya no tienen que pasar horas buscando a sus vacas.

Vidal y el CIAL siguen investigando conjuntamente las innovaciones agrícolas, que la comunidad gestiona dentro de su propia estructura de comités. Los cercos sirven para manejar el ganado, pero algunos comités organizados por los agricultores puede ser el software que haga funcionar el pastoreo comunal.

Previamente en el blog de Agro-Insight

Soil for a living planet

Mother and calf

Lectura adicional

Bentley, Jeffery W., Sylvie Priou, Pedro Aley, Javier Correa, R√≥ger Torres, Hermeregildo Equise, Jos√© Luis Quiruchi & Oscar Barea 2006 ‚ÄúMethod, Creativity and CIALs.‚ÄĚ International Journal of Agricultural Resources, Governance and Ecology 5(1):90-105.

Agradecimientos

Nuestra visita al Per√ļ para filmar varios videos agricultor-a-agricultor con agricultoras como do√Īa Delia fue posible gracias al generoso apoyo del Programa Colaborativo de Investigaci√≥n de Cultivos (CCRP) de la Fundaci√≥n McKnight. Gracias a Vidal Rond√°n del Instituto Monta√Īo por presentarnos a la comunidad.

Videos sobre organizaciones comunitarias

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Derechos de los agricultores y agricultoras a la semilla: Guatemala

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Farming as a lifestyle May 1st, 2022 by

Nederlandse versie hieronder

In the Andes mountains of Peru, cattle and sheep are part of many rural families’ livelihoods. Large landowners used to own haciendas, large farms and ranches, often spanning an area of several villages. But during the land reform of the 1990s the haciendas were divided up among the families who worked the land. Some of the extensive grazing lands were given to community associations. Today, many people in the communities own a few hectares of private land. Besides grazing their animals on their private paddocks, during part of the year they also let their animals graze on communal land.

During our filming trip, Marcella, Jeff and I spent a week interacting with farmers in the village of Canrey Chico, at about 3,200 meters above sea level. We learned that the community association regulates its communal grazing land carefully, through various local committees: some in charge of managing fences, others deal with managing the pasture, or selling the milk of the 58 community cows. On top of these, individual families own their own cows, about 550, an average of 6 cows per family. To avoid overgrazing, a household is not allowed to own more than 25 cows.

One day, we drove up the rocky road to visit farmers in what locals call the high country. At over 4,300 meters, the vegetation is much drier: patches of dried ichu, or needle grass, dot the rocky soil. Lichens and some delicate flowers become apparent only when one takes a closer look. Driving through a river with crystal clear water and breath-taking landscapes with snow-capped mountains lining the horizon, we wonder where we are heading. Then, all of a sudden, after having crossed another slope, we spot a small farmhouse with a green field that turns out to be oats on closer inspection..

Robert Balabarca, president of the Cordillera Blanca farmers’ association, who is our local guide, quickly notices that no one is at home. There is no telephone signal and the farmer whom we were supposed to meet has already left with his herd. This is a good reminder that farmers anywhere in the world are busy people, and one should never be late to an appointment. (We had spent more time than we had bargained for earlier that morning, admiring some native forest trees planted by the community to stop wind erosion). As we wonder what to do, Robert spots a woman with  a flock of sheep in the distance. With a little effort, we finally see them, too.  We start walking towards the flock with all our filming gear, crossing various bofedales, high Andean wetlands, where the stones are slippery with moss and the water is cold and can quickly fill your boots. We find the landscape difficult to walk through, but the shepherdess, Trinidad León moves her animals quickly through it and invites us to follow her to her house.

I notice a small dome-shaped, woven structure raised on wooden poles and I wonder what this is for, to be told that this is their cupboard where they keep their bread, cheese and other food, out of reach of animals.

Before we interview Trinidad on camera, she explains how they manage their dairy cows and sheep. Although they bought a small house in Huaraz, the nearest city, to send their children to secondary school, the couple has been living permanently in the countryside for 30 years, leading a simple life. They are one of the few families living on the communal land.

Trinidad and her husband keep their animals overnight in a corral, where the animals defecate and urinate, forming a thick crust of organic fertilizer. After 2 to 3 months, the family makes a corral in a different place, ploughs the manure into the soil and plants oats and barley as green fodder. The water that flows nearby helps to irrigate the plot in the dry season. Every day, they cut some fodder to feed the animals a nutritious meal when they return from grazing. After cutting all the green fodder, they let the animals graze on the stubble, while planting more fodder in a different corral. Jeff and I are intrigued by this highly creative way of ensuring fodder throughout the year, so we decide to capture all this on video to inspire farmers in other parts of the world.

‚ÄúMy sheep are nice and fat and ready to be sold,‚ÄĚ says Trinidad, while we give her a lift to town. When I ask her how she manages to get her sheep to town, she says that either people come with a truck to buy animals, or she walks them to the nearest village some 10 kilometres away, where she can load a few sheep onto a rural bus, going to the city.

This visit has shown once more how farming is not just a profession, but a functional lifestyle that some people are keen to preserve. Small-scale farming allows some people to live in a place they love, educate their children, and produce attractive products, like sheep and cheese, that city people want to buy.

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Acknowledgements

The visit to Peru to film various farmer-to-farmer training videos with farmers like Trinidad was made possible with the kind support of the Collaborative Crop Research Program (CCRP) of the McKnight Foundation. Thanks to Vidal Rond√°n of the Mountain Institute for introducing us to the community.

Videos on how to improve livestock

See the many training videos on livestock hosted on the Access Agriculture video platform.

 

Landbouw als levensstijl

In het Andesgebergte in Peru zijn runderen en schapen een onderdeel van het levensonderhoud van veel plattelandsgezinnen. Vroeger waren grootgrondbezitters eigenaar van haci√ęnda’s, grote boerderijen en ranches, die vaak een gebied van meerdere dorpen besloegen. Maar tijdens de landhervorming van de jaren ’90 werden de haciendas verdeeld onder de families die het land bewerkten. Sommige van de uitgestrekte weidegronden werden aan gemeenschapsverenigingen gegeven. Tegenwoordig bezitten veel mensen in de dorpen een paar hectare priv√©-land. Naast het weiden van hun dieren op hun priv√©weiden, laten zij hun dieren gedurende een deel van het jaar ook grazen op gemeenschapsgronden.

Tijdens onze filmreis hebben Marcella, Jeff en ik een week lang contact gehad met boeren in het dorp Canrey Chico, op ongeveer 3.200 meter boven zeeniveau. We leerden dat de gemeenschapsvereniging haar gemeenschappelijke weidegronden zorgvuldig regelt, via verschillende lokale comités: sommigen zijn belast met het beheer van omheiningen, anderen houden zich bezig met het beheer van de weides, of met de verkoop van de melk van de 58 gemeenschappelijke koeien. Daarnaast hebben individuele gezinnen hun eigen koeien, ongeveer 550, een gemiddelde van 6 koeien per gezin. Om overbegrazing te voorkomen, mag een gezin niet meer dan 25 koeien bezitten.

Op een dag reden we de rotsachtige weg op om boeren te bezoeken in wat de plaatselijke bevolking het hoogland noemt. Op een hoogte van meer dan 4.300 meter is de vegetatie veel droger: op de rotsige bodem groeien opgedroogde ichu, of naaldgras. Korstmossen en enkele tere bloemen worden pas duidelijk als je beter kijkt. Rijdend door een rivier met kristalhelder water en adembenemende landschappen met besneeuwde bergtoppen aan de horizon, vragen we ons af waar we heen gaan. Dan, plotseling, na weer een helling te hebben overgestoken, zien we een kleine boerderij met een groen veld dat van dichterbij haver blijkt te zijn.

Robert Balabarca, voorzitter van de boerenvereniging van de Cordillera Blanca, die onze plaatselijke gids is, merkt al snel dat er niemand thuis is. Er is geen telefoonsignaal en de boer die we zouden ontmoeten is al vertrokken met zijn kudde. Dit is een goede herinnering aan het feit dat boeren overal ter wereld drukbezette mensen zijn, en dat je nooit te laat op een afspraak moet komen. (We hadden eerder die ochtend meer tijd doorgebracht dan we hadden verwacht, toen we enkele inheemse bomen bewonderden die door de gemeenschap waren geplant om winderosie tegen te gaan). Terwijl we ons afvragen wat we moeten doen, ziet Robert in de verte een vrouw met een kudde schapen. Met een beetje moeite zien wij ze eindelijk ook.  Met al onze filmspullen beginnen we naar de kudde toe te lopen, dwars door verschillende bofedales, hooggelegen wetlands in de Andes, waar de stenen glibberig zijn van het mos en het water koud is en je schoenen snel vol kunnen lopen. We vinden het landschap moeilijk begaanbaar, maar de herderin, Trinidad León beweegt haar dieren er snel doorheen en nodigt ons uit haar te volgen naar haar huis.

Ik zie een kleine koepelvormige, gevlochten structuur op houten palen staan en vraag me af waar dit voor is, om te horen te krijgen dat dit hun kast is waar ze hun brood, kaas en ander voedsel bewaren, buiten het bereik van dieren.

Voordat we Trinidad voor de camera interviewen, legt ze uit hoe ze met hun melkkoeien en schapen omgaan. Hoewel ze een huisje kochten in Huaraz, de dichtstbijzijnde stad, om hun kinderen van secundair onderwijs te laten genieten, leven het echtpaar reeds 30 jaar permanent op het platteland om een eenvoudig leven te leiden. Ze zijn een van de weinige families die op het gemeenschapsland wonen.

Trinidad en haar man houden hun dieren ‘s nachts in een kraal, waar de dieren zich ontlasten en urineren en zo een dikke korst organische meststof vormen. Na 2 tot 3 maanden maakt de familie een kraal op een andere plaats, ploegt de mest in de grond en plant haver en gerst als groenvoeder. Het water dat in de buurt stroomt, helpt om het perceel in het droge seizoen te irrigeren. Elke dag snijden ze wat groenvoer om de dieren een voedzame maaltijd te geven als ze terugkomen van het grazen. Nadat al het groenvoer is gemaaid, laten ze de dieren grazen op de stoppels, terwijl ze in een andere kraal meer voer planten. Jeff en ik zijn ge√Įntrigeerd door deze uiterst creatieve manier om het hele jaar door voor veevoer te zorgen, dus besluiten we dit alles op video vast te leggen om boeren in andere delen van de wereld te inspireren.

“Mijn schapen zijn lekker dik en klaar om verkocht te worden,” zegt Trinidad, terwijl we haar een lift naar de stad geven. Als ik haar vraag hoe ze haar schapen naar de stad krijgt, zegt ze dat er ofwel mensen met een vrachtwagen komen om dieren te kopen, of dat ze ze naar het dichtstbijzijnde dorp zo’n 10 kilometer verderop brengt, waar ze een paar schapen op een plattelandsbus kan laden, die naar de stad gaat.

Dit bezoek heeft eens te meer aangetoond dat landbouw niet zomaar een beroep is, maar een functionele levensstijl die sommige mensen graag in stand willen houden. Kleinschalige landbouw stelt sommige mensen in staat te leven op een plek waar ze van houden, hun kinderen op te voeden, en aantrekkelijke producten te produceren, zoals schapen en kaas, die stadsmensen willen kopen.

The times they are a changing April 17th, 2022 by

Nederlandse versie hieronder

Talking with my neighbour farmers in Belgium, they all wonder how they will manage this year, as the cost of chemical fertilizers has risen by 500%. They now pay 1 Euro per kilogram of fertilizer. The recent Russian invasion of Ukraine will have serious consequences on the global food supply as Russia is the world’s top exporter of nitrogen fertilizers and the second leading supplier of both potassic and phosphorous fertilizers. While farmers across the globe are known to be creative and adaptive, the changes required in the near future will be of a scale unseen before. The spike in fuel and fertilizer prices may be a fundamental trigger.

In Belgium, 2018 and 2019 were extremely hot and dry. While some farmers thought it was necessary to start looking into growing other crops, most farmers pumped up more groundwater to irrigate their maize or pasture to feed their animals, even with signs of depleting groundwater reserves, which also affected the vitality and survival of trees.

The covid crisis during the following two years affected global trade and made everyone in the food sector realize how much we have become dependent on imports, be it for food, feed or materials needed to process and package food. To be less dependent on soya bean imports, many farmers in Belgium started to grow their own legume fodder like lucerne, a shift promoted by European policies.

While an acute crisis often makes people see things more clearly, some changes in our environment have been unnoticed to the public for decades; only now alarm bells are starting to go off. The long-term use of agrochemicals in monocrop farming has had a devastating effect on our biodiversity. In the beekeepers’ association of my eldest brother Wim in Flanders, in northern Belgium, all members, including those who had spent a lifetime caring for bees, reported that 3 out of 4 colonies died last winter. Jos Kerkhofs, my beekeeper friend in Erpekom in eastern Belgium where I live, told me the same trend is seen among the members of his association. While local honey has become a rare commodity this time of the year, the wider consequences on society are seriously worrying, as 84% of our crop species depend on honey bees and wild pollinators.

All above examples are what one refers to as external costs. An external cost is a cost not included in the market price of the goods and services being produced, or a cost that is not borne by those who create it. We have been pushing our economies beyond what our planet can cope with, beyond the so-called planetary boundaries. And as we start to realize, the external costs of climate change, depleting natural resources such as groundwater and loss of biodiversity will need to be paid by society.

Media plays a big role in sensitising people about these matters. In Belgium, the number of radio programmes and news items on these matters has sharply risen the last few months. Recently, a spokesperson from the food industry said that 3 out of 5 of the main food companies considered closing their doors. Because of the rising fuel prices and costs of raw materials, they were unable to continue providing food to supermarkets at the same rock bottom prices. Unless supermarkets showed some flexibility and are ready to pay more, food companies will go bankrupt.

Is this the era when cheap food will come to an end because it is no longer feasible to ignore the external costs? It definitely forces policy-makers, farmers and others in the food system to make drastic decisions and increasingly embrace natural farming, organic farming, home gardening, short food supply chains, and less processed food, all with full attention to caring for our environment and for our farmers. For sure, the sharp rise in costs of chemical fertilizer and other supplies will encourage more farmers across the globe to experiment with organic and ecological alternatives, like biofertilizers, organic growth promoters, intercropping, cover crops and mulch.

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De tijden veranderen

Als ik met mijn buurboeren in Belgi√ę praat, vragen zij zich allemaal af hoe zij het dit jaar zullen redden, nu de kosten van kunstmest met 500% zijn gestegen. Ze betalen nu 1 euro per kilo kunstmest. De recente Russische inval in Oekra√Įne zal ernstige gevolgen hebben voor de mondiale voedselvoorziening, aangezien Rusland ‘s werelds grootste exporteur van stikstofhoudende meststoffen is en de op √©√©n na grootste leverancier van zowel kaliumhoudende als fosforhoudende meststoffen. Hoewel landbouwers over de hele wereld bekend staan om hun creativiteit en aanpassingsvermogen, zullen de veranderingen die in de nabije toekomst nodig zullen zijn, van een nooit eerder geziene omvang zijn. De sterke stijging van de brandstof- en meststofprijzen kan een fundamentele trigger zijn.

In Belgi√ę waren 2018 en 2019 extreem warm en droog. Terwijl sommige boeren het nodig vonden om te gaan kijken naar het verbouwen van andere gewassen, pompten de meeste boeren meer grondwater op om hun ma√Įs of grasland te irrigeren om hun dieren te voeden, zelfs met tekenen van uitputting van de grondwaterreserves, wat ook de vitaliteit en het overleven van bomen aantastte.

De covid crisis in de daaropvolgende twee jaar be√Įnvloedde de wereldhandel en deed iedereen in de voedingssector beseffen hoezeer we afhankelijk zijn geworden van invoer, of het nu gaat om voedsel, diervoeder of materialen die nodig zijn om voedsel te verwerken en te verpakken. Om minder afhankelijk te zijn van de invoer van sojabonen, zijn veel boeren in Belgi√ę begonnen met het verbouwen van hun eigen vlinderbloemige voedergewassen zoals luzerne, een verschuiving die werd gestimuleerd door Europees beleid.

Terwijl een acute crisis de mensen vaak dingen duidelijker doet inzien, zijn sommige veranderingen in ons milieu decennialang onopgemerkt gebleven voor het publiek; nu pas beginnen de alarmbellen te rinkelen. Het langdurige gebruik van landbouwchemicali√ęn in de landbouw met monoculturen heeft een verwoestend effect gehad op onze biodiversiteit. In de imkervereniging van mijn oudste broer Wim in Vlaanderen, in het noorden van Belgi√ę, meldden alle leden, ook zij die hun hele leven voor bijen hadden gezorgd, dat 3 van de 4 kolonies vorige winter waren gestorven. Jos Kerkhofs, mijn bevriende imker in Erpekom in Oost-Belgi√ę, waar ik woon, vertelde me dat dezelfde tendens wordt waargenomen bij de leden van zijn vereniging. Terwijl lokale honing in deze tijd van het jaar een schaars goed is geworden, zijn de bredere gevolgen voor de samenleving ernstig zorgwekkend, aangezien 84% van onze gewassen afhankelijk is van bijen en wilde bestuivers.

Alle bovenstaande voorbeelden zijn wat men noemt externe kosten. Externe kosten zijn kosten die niet zijn opgenomen in de marktprijs van de geproduceerde goederen en diensten, of kosten die niet worden gedragen door degenen die ze veroorzaken. Wij hebben onze economie√ęn verder gedreven dan wat onze planeet aankan, voorbij de zogenaamde planetaire grenzen. En naarmate we ons dat beginnen te realiseren, zullen de externe kosten van de klimaatverandering, de uitputting van natuurlijke hulpbronnen zoals grondwater en het verlies van biodiversiteit door de samenleving moeten worden betaald.

De media spelen een grote rol bij het sensibiliseren van mensen over deze zaken. In Belgi√ę is het aantal radioprogramma’s en nieuwsberichten over deze kwesties de laatste maanden sterk toegenomen. Onlangs zei een woordvoerder van de voedingsindustrie dat 3 van de 5 belangrijkste voedingsbedrijven overwegen hun deuren te sluiten. Door de stijgende brandstofprijzen en grondstofkosten konden zij niet tegen dezelfde bodemprijzen levensmiddelen aan de supermarkten blijven leveren. Tenzij de supermarkten enige flexibiliteit aan de dag leggen en bereid zijn meer te betalen, zullen de levensmiddelenbedrijven failliet gaan.

Is dit het tijdperk waarin goedkoop voedsel tot een einde zal komen omdat het niet langer haalbaar is de externe kosten te negeren? Het dwingt beleidsmakers, boeren en anderen in het voedselsysteem zeker om drastische beslissingen te nemen en steeds meer te kiezen voor natuurlijke landbouw, biologische landbouw, moestuinieren, korte voedselvoorzieningsketens en minder bewerkt voedsel, allemaal met de volle aandacht voor de zorg voor ons milieu en voor onze boeren. Zeker is dat de sterk stijgende kosten van kunstmest en andere benodigdheden meer boeren over de hele wereld zullen aanmoedigen om te experimenteren met biologische en ecologische alternatieven, zoals bio-meststoffen, biologische groeistimulatoren, intercropping, bodembedekkers en mulch.

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