WHO WE ARE SERVICES RESOURCES




Most recent stories ›
AgroInsight RSS feed
Blog

Choosing to farm August 8th, 2021 by

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

Growing up on a mixed dairy farm in Sacaba, Bolivia, Alicia Garc√≠a was always interested in agriculture. This year, Alicia and her sister built two greenhouses and grew winter tomatoes (in June and July, in Bolivia). But as the temperature dropped near freezing several times, the plants ‚Äúburned‚ÄĚ or died back. Alicia admits that the first winter was a learning experience. In Cochabamba tomatoes are a summer crop, so Alicia was surprised with the cold damage, but she is sure that next winter, she will manage better. To keep learning, she left one row of the damaged tomatoes standing, to see if they could recover, but she has replanted most of the greenhouse with lettuce and other leafy greens. Aphids are a tomato pest, but Alicia manages them with homemade sulfur lime and an ash-and-soap blend. Alicia fertilizes the soil with manure from her family‚Äôs cows and with biol (made from manure fermented in water).

As another innovation, Alicia is growing apples as an agroforestry system. (Earlier I wrote about some of the agroforestry pioneers in Cochabamba, Apple futures, Farming with trees). Alicia planted her apple seedlings a year and a half ago, and while they are still small she grows broad beans, onions, broccoli and cabbage in between the little trees. This makes use of the land, and keeps down the weeds.

She’s also had some help along the way. When she was just 13 she began taking farming classes from the Center for Technical Teaching for Women (CETM). For the past 10 years, Agrecol Andes (an NGO that promotes agroecology) has helped Alicia and other farmers to sell their ecological produce in coordination with the municipal government (see blog An exit strategy). Last year, Alicia and her sister built two greenhouses, with support from a government program, The Rural Alliances Project Rurales (PAR).

This experience shows that a young woman can be interested in agriculture enough to assume long-term commitments like a greenhouse and an apple orchard. Alicia has a lot in her favor: institutional support for training, investment and marketing, a family that provides land and manure, and she lives in an attractive community. The family home is just past the edge of the small city of Sacaba, which has all the basic services (like banks, hospitals, and shopping). And Sacaba itself is a half-hour drive from the big city of Cochabamba. In Bolivia, rural migration is draining the countryside, but small cities like Sacaba are growing rapidly. The city also offers opportunities for farmers. Every Friday, Alicia and other farmers meet at a city park in Sacaba to sell produce to local people.

I asked Alicia why she had gone into farming. I thought she might say to make money. She surprised me a bit when said ‚ÄúWhat I like is the chance to work with nature.‚ÄĚ

In other words, a lifestyle decision. She finds the work enjoyable, and she likes to farm without chemicals. Alicia explained ‚ÄúMy parents never used pesticides on their farm. Even when the neighbors sprayed their maize and potatoes, my parents didn‚Äôt.‚ÄĚ

Alicia is now in university and has one year left to finish her degree in architecture. After graduation she would like to open her own office and go into landscaping, combining architecture with her love of plants and the outdoors.

Alicia doesn’t farm like her parents did. They didn’t grow vegetables or fruit trees, but she builds on their experience and with appropriate help, was able to start a greenhouse and an orchard while still attending university. Agriculture can capture the imagination of the best and brightest young people.

Acknowledgments

Thanks to Alicia for receiving us in her orchard and in her greenhouse. Thanks to Ing. Alberto C√°rdenas and Ing. Alexander Espinoza for organizing this visit, where consumers were able to meet farmers. Alberto and Alexander work for the Agrecol Andes Foundation, in Cochabamba. Alicia and Alberto commented on a previous version of this story.

Previous Agro-Insight blogs

Strawberry fields once again

Friendly germs

OPTANDO POR LA AGRICULTURA

Por Jeff Bentley, 8 de agosto del 2021

Al crecer en la finca lechera de su familia en Sacaba, Bolivia, Alicia Garc√≠a siempre se interes√≥ por la agricultura. Este a√Īo, Alicia y su hermana construyeron dos invernaderos, y lograron producir tomates de invierno (junio y julio, en Bolivia). Pero como la temperatura baj√≥ cerca de cero grados varias veces, las plantas se “quemaron” o sea se muri√≥ parte de su follaje. Alicia reconoce que el primer invierno fue una experiencia de aprendizaje. En Cochabamba los tomates son un cultivo de verano, as√≠ que Alicia se sorprendi√≥ con los da√Īos causados por el fr√≠o, pero est√° segura de que el pr√≥ximo invierno se las arreglar√° mejor. Para seguir aprendiendo, dej√≥ una hilera de tomates da√Īados en pie, para ver si se recuperaban, pero ha replantado la mayor parte del invernadero con lechuga y otras verduras de hoja verde. Los pulgones son una plaga del tomate, pero Alicia los controla con sulfoc√°lcico y un caldo de ceniza y jab√≥n. Alicia abona la tierra con el esti√©rcol de las vacas de su familia y con biol (hecho de esti√©rcol fermentado en agua).

Como otra innovaci√≥n, Alicia ha plantado manzanos como sistema agroforestal. (He escrito sobre algunos de los pioneros de la agroforester√≠a en Cochabamba, Manzanos del futuro, La agricultura con √°rboles). Alicia plant√≥ sus plantines de manzano hace un a√Īo y medio y, mientras son peque√Īos, ella cultiva habas, cebollas, br√≥coli y repollo entre los arbolitos. As√≠ aprovecha la tierra y evita las malezas.

A lo largo de los a√Īos Alicia ha tenido apoyo de varios tipos. A los 13 a√Īos empez√≥ a pasar clases de agricultura en el Centro de Ense√Īanza T√©cnica para la Mujer (CETM). Desde hace tres a√Īos la Fundaci√≥n Agrecol Andes, una ONG que promueve la agroecolog√≠a, ayuda a Alicia y a otros agricultores a vender sus productos ecol√≥gicos (v√©ase el blog, Estrategia de salida), con un sistema participativo de garant√≠a, a trav√©s de un convenio con el Gobierno Municipal de Sacaba. ¬†El a√Īo pasado, Alicia y su hermana construyeron dos invernaderos, con el apoyo de un programa gubernamental, el Proyecto de Alianzas Rurales (PAR).

Esta experiencia demuestra que una mujer joven puede interesarse por la agricultura lo suficiente como para asumir compromisos a largo plazo, como un invernadero y un huerto de manzanos. Alicia tiene mucho a su favor: apoyo institucional para la capacitaci√≥n, la inversi√≥n y la comercializaci√≥n, una familia que le proporciona la tierra y el abono, y vive en una comunidad atractiva. Vive cerca de la peque√Īa ciudad de Sacaba, que tiene todos los servicios b√°sicos (como bancos, hospitales y tiendas). Y Sacaba est√° a media hora en auto de la gran ciudad de Cochabamba. En Bolivia mucha gente est√° abandonando las comunidades rurales, pero las ciudades peque√Īas como Sacaba est√°n creciendo r√°pidamente. La ciudad tambi√©n ofrece oportunidades para los agricultores. Todos los viernes, Alicia y otros agricultores se re√ļnen en un parque de la ciudad de Sacaba para vender productos a la poblaci√≥n local.

Le pregunt√© a Alicia por qu√© se hab√≠a dedicado a la agricultura. Pensaba que dir√≠a que lo hac√≠a para ganar dinero. Me sorprendi√≥ un poco cuando dijo: “Lo que me llama la atenci√≥n de la agricultura es la naturaleza”.

En otras palabras, una decisi√≥n de estilo de vida. El trabajo le resulta agradable y le gusta cultivar sin productos qu√≠micos. Alicia tambi√©n explic√≥: “Mis padres nunca usaron qu√≠micos. Incluso cuando los vecinos fumigaban su ma√≠z y sus papas, mis padres no lo hac√≠an”.

Actualmente, Alicia est√° en la universidad y le queda un a√Īo para terminar la carrera de arquitectura. Despu√©s de graduarse le gustar√≠a abrir su propia oficina y dedicarse al paisajismo, combinando la arquitectura con su amor por las plantas y el trabajo al aire libre.

Alicia no trabaja la tierra como lo hacían sus papás. Ellos no cultivaban verduras ni árboles frutales, pero ella se basa en la experiencia de ellos y, con la ayuda adecuada, pudo poner en marcha un invernadero y un huerto mientras seguía asistiendo a la universidad. La agricultura puede captar la imaginación de las jóvenes listas y bien preparadas.

Agradecimientos

Gracias a Alicia por recibirnos en su huerto y su invernadero. Gracias a los Ing. Alberto Cárdenas y Alexander Espinoza por organizar esta visita, entre consumidores y agricultores. Alberto y Alexander trabajan para la Fundación Agrecol Andes, en Cochabamba. Alicia y Alberto comentaron sobre una versión previa de este blog.

Artículos relacionados del blog de Agro-Insight

En el frutillar de nuevo

Microbios amigables

Principles matter July 18th, 2021 by

In this age of restricted travel, when webinars have taken the place of conferences, at first I missed face-to-face meetings a lot. But virtual events do allow one to get exposed to far more ideas than before. This is also the case when digital learning is introduced to farmers. Farmers are increasingly getting information online, like videos. But the videos have to be properly designed. Unlike following a cooking recipe on a Youtube video, in agriculture, recipes must be accompanied by basic principles, so that farmers can decide how to experiment with the new ideas.

I was reminded of this recently during a webinar on the Community-Based Natural Farming Programme in Andhra Pradesh, India. One of the speakers was Vijay Kumar, one of the driving forces behind the programme, which aims to scale up agroecology to millions of farmers in Andhra Pradesh. Vijay is a humble, highly-respected former civil servant. He is much in demand, so meeting him in person would be a challenge, but introduced by a mutual colleague, I was fortunate to have already met him several times on Zoom. Vijay appreciates that Access Agriculture stands for quality training videos that enable South-South learning. According to him, the collaboration with Access Agriculture offers opportunities to help scale community-based natural farming from India to Africa and beyond. It is fortunate to have strong allies who understand the challenges of scaling and that to be cost-effective, one cannot simply visit all the world’s farmers in person.

Still, many people think that farmers can only learn from fellow farmers who live nearby and speak the same language, and that training videos are only useful when they are made locally. The many experiences from local partners with Access Agriculture training videos show that farmers do learn from their peers across cultures, on different continents. Farmers are motivated when they see how fellow farmers in other parts of the world solve their own problems. Access Agriculture videos are effective across borders in part because they explain the scientific principles behind technologies, and not just show how to do things. Vijay is convinced that scientific knowledge and farmer knowledge need to go hand in hand to promote agroecology.

The second speaker at the natural farming conference was Walter Jehne, a renowned Australian soil microbiologist, who talked about the need to build up soil organic matter and micro-organisms as a way to revive soils and cool the planet. I was pleased that he also stressed the importance of principles. When one of the Indian participants asked Walter if he could provide the recipe, he smilingly and patiently explained: ‚ÄúWe should focus on the underlying principles, as principles apply across the globe, irrespective of where you are. You need organic matter, you need to build up good soil micro-organisms and make use of natural growth promotors. If a recipe tells you to use cow dung, but you don‚Äôt have cows, what can you do? If for instance you have reindeer, their dung will work just as well. You don‚Äôt have to be dogmatic about it.‚Ä̬† In two of my earlier blogs (Trying it yourself and Reviving soils) I did exactly do that back home: use ingredients that were available to me: sheep dung, leaves of oak trees in the garden, wheat straw, and so on, but building on ideas from Indian farmers.

Farmers have creative minds and this creativity is fed by basic principles: while recipes surely help, a better understanding of underlying scientific principles are what matter most when it comes down to adaptation to local contexts. We, at Access Agriculture are thrilled to join Andhra Pradesh’s efforts to spread Community-Based Natural Farming across the globe.

Related webinars

365 Days Green Cover & Pre-Monsoon Dry Sowing (PMDS) – Walter Jehne – Streamed on 6th July 12:30 pm

Restoring the water cycles to cool the climate

Related blogs

Trying it yourself

Reviving soils

Effective micro-organisms

Friendly germs

Earthworms from India to Bolivia

A revolution for our soil

Damaging the soil and our health with chemical reductionism

Related videos

Good microbes for plants and soil

Organic biofertilizer in liquid and solid form

Coir pith

Mulch for a better soil and crop

Vermiwash: an organic tonic for crops

Making a vermicompost bed

Inspiring video platforms

Access Agriculture: hosts over 220 training videos in over 90 languages on a diversity of crops and livestock, sustainable soil and water management, basic food processing, etc. Each video describes underlying principles, as such encouraging people to experiment with new ideas.

EcoAgtube: a social media video platform where anyone from across the globe can upload their own videos related to natural farming and circular economy.

Teaching the farmers of tomorrow with videos May 23rd, 2021 by

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

Youth around the world are leaving agriculture, but many would stay on the farm if they had appropriate technologies and better social services, as Professor Alejandro Bonifacio explained to me recently.

Dr. Bonifacio is from the rural Altiplano, the high plains of Bolivia. At 4,000 meters above sea level, it is some of the highest farmland in the world. Bonifacio has a PhD in plant breeding, and besides directing an agricultural research station in Viacha on the Altiplano, he teaches plant breeding part-time at the public university in La Paz (Universidad Mayor de San Andrés).

The university attracts many rural youths. Every year Bonifacio asks his new class of students to introduce themselves one-by-one and to tell where they come from, and to talk about their parents and their grandparents.

This year about 20% of the students in Bonifacio’s class are still living on the farm, and taking their classes online. Another 50% are the children or grandchildren of farmers, but are now living in the city. Many of these agronomy students would be more interested in taking over their parents’ farm, if not for a couple of problems.

One limitation is the lack of services in the rural areas: poor schools, bad roads, the lack of clinics, and no electricity or running water. While this is slowly improving, Covid has added a new twist, locking young people out of many of the places they liked to go to, and not just bars and restaurants. One advantage of city life is having access to medical attention, but this past year the students said it was as though the cities had no hospitals, because they were full of Covid patients. Classes were all on-line, and so the countryside began to look like a nicer place to live than the city. Many students went home to their rural communities, where there was much more freedom of movement than in the city.

Dr. Bonifacio told me that even when the youth do go home, they don’t want to farm exactly like their parents did. The youngsters don’t go in for all the backbreaking work with picks and shovels, but there is a lack of appropriate technology oriented towards young, family farmers, such as small, affordable machinery. Young farmers are also interested in exploiting emerging markets for differentiated produce, such as food that is free of pesticides. Organic agriculture also helps to save on production costs, as long as farmers have practical alternatives to agrochemicals.

Fortunately, there are videos on appropriate technologies, and Professor Bonifacio shows them in class. Today‚Äôs youth have grown up with videos, and find them convincing. Every year, Bonifacio organizes a forum for about 50 students on plant breeding and crop disease. He assigns the students three videos to watch, to discuss later in the forum. One of his favorites is Growing lupin without disease, which shows some organic methods for keeping the crop healthy. Bonifacio encourages the students to watch the video in Spanish, and Quechua or Aymara. Many of the students speak Quechua or Aymara, or both, besides Spanish. Some feel that they are forgetting their native language. ‚ÄúThe videos help the students to learn technical terms, like the names of plant diseases, in their native languages,‚ÄĚ Bonifacio says.

During the Covid lockdown, Prof. Bonifacio moved his forum online and sent the students links to the videos. In the forum, some of the students said that while they were home they could identify the symptoms of lupine disease, thanks to the video.

Bonifacio logs onto Access Agriculture from time to time to see which new videos have been posted in Spanish, to select some to show to his students, so they can get some of the information they need to become the farmers of tomorrow.

Kids who grow up on small farms often go to university as a bridge to getting a decent job in the city. But others study agriculture, and would return to farming, if they had appropriate technology for family farming, and services like electricity and high-speed internet.

Related Agro-Insight blogs

Awakening the seeds

Quinoa, lost and found

Videos to teach kids good attitudes

No land, no water, no problem

Videos from Access Agriculture

Check out these youth-friendly videos with appropriate technology. Besides videos in English, www.accessagriculture.org has:

104 videos in Spanish

Eight videos in Aymara

And eight in Quechua

ENSE√ĎAR A LOS AGRICULTORES DEL MA√ĎANA CON VIDEOS

Por Jeff Bentley, 23 de mayo del 2021

Por todas partes del mundo, los jóvenes abandonan la agricultura, pero muchos seguirían cultivando si tuvieran tecnologías apropiadas y mejores servicios sociales, como me explicó recientemente el docente Alejandro Bonifacio.

El Dr. Bonifacio es originario del Altiplano de Bolivia. A 4.000 metros sobre el nivel del mar, es una de las tierras agr√≠colas m√°s altas del mundo. Bonifacio tiene un doctorado en fitomejoramiento y, adem√°s de ser jefe de una estaci√≥n de investigaci√≥n agr√≠cola en Viacha, en el Altiplano, ense√Īa fitomeoramiento a tiempo parcial en la universidad p√ļblica de La Paz (Universidad Mayor de San Andr√©s).

La universidad atrae a muchos j√≥venes rurales. Cada a√Īo, Bonifacio pide a su nueva clase de estudiantes que se presenten uno por uno y digan de d√≥nde vienen, y que hablen de sus padres y sus abuelos.

Este a√Īo, alrededor del 20% de los estudiantes de la clase de Bonifacio siguen viviendo en el √°rea rural, desde donde se conectan a las clases virtuales. Otro 50% son hijos o nietos de agricultores, pero ahora viven en la ciudad. Muchos de estos estudiantes de agronom√≠a estar√≠an m√°s interesados en trabajar el terreno sus padres, si no fuera por un par de problemas.

Una limitaci√≥n es la falta de servicios en las zonas rurales: colegios deficientes, carreteras en mal estado, la falta de cl√≠nicas, luz y agua potable. Aunque esto est√° mejorando poco a poco, Covid ha introducido cambios, porque los j√≥venes ya no pueden ir a muchos de los lugares que les gustaban, y no s√≥lo las discotecas y los restaurantes. Una de las ventajas de la vida urbana es tener acceso a la atenci√≥n m√©dica, pero este √ļltimo a√Īo los estudiantes dijeron que era como si las ciudades no tuvieran hospitales, porque estaban llenos de pacientes de Covid. Las clases eran todas en l√≠nea, por lo que el campo empez√≥ a parecer un lugar m√°s agradable para vivir que la ciudad. Muchos estudiantes se fueron a sus comunidades rurales, donde hab√≠a m√°s libertad de movimiento que en la ciudad.

El Dr. Bonifacio me dijo que, incluso cuando los j√≥venes vuelven a casa, no quieren trabajar la tierra tal como lo hac√≠an sus padres. Los j√≥venes no se dedican al trabajo agotador con palas y picotas, pero hace falta la tecnolog√≠a adecuada orientada a los j√≥venes agricultores familiares, por ejemplo, la maquinaria peque√Īa y asequible. Los j√≥venes agricultores tambi√©n quieren explotar los mercados emergentes de productos diferenciados, como los alimentos libres de plaguicidas. La agricultura org√°nica tambi√©n ayuda a ahorrar costes de producci√≥n, siempre que los agricultores tengan alternativas pr√°cticas a los productos agroqu√≠micos.

Afortunadamente, existen videos sobre tecnolog√≠as adecuadas, y el Dr. Bonifacio los muestra en clase. Los j√≥venes de hoy conocen los videos desde su infancia, y los encuentran convincentes. Cada a√Īo, Bonifacio organiza un foro para unos 50 estudiantes sobre el fitomejoramiento y las enfermedades. Asigna a los alumnos tres videos para que los vean y los discutan despu√©s en el foro. Uno de sus favoritos es Producir tarwi sin enfermedad, que muestra algunos m√©todos org√°nicos para mantener el lupino sano. Bonifacio anima a los estudiantes a ver el video en espa√Īol y en quechua o aymara. Muchos de los estudiantes hablan quechua o aymara, o ambos, adem√°s del castellano. Algunos sienten que est√°n olvidando su lengua materna. “Los videos ayudan a los alumnos a aprender t√©rminos t√©cnicos, como los nombres de las enfermedades de las plantas, en sus idiomas nativos”, dice Bonifacio.

Durante la cuarentena de Covid, el Dr. Bonifacio trasladó su foro a Internet y envió a los estudiantes enlaces a los videos. En el foro, algunos de los estudiantes dijeron que mientras estaban en casa podían identificar los síntomas de la enfermedad del tarwi (lupino), gracias al video.

Bonifacio entra en la p√°gina web de Access Agriculture de vez en cuando para ver qu√© nuevos videos se han publicado en espa√Īol, para seleccionar algunos y ense√Ī√°rselos a sus alumnos, para que aprendan algo de la informaci√≥n que necesitan para ser los agricultores del futuro.

Los hijos de agricultores suelen usar a la universidad como puente para conseguir un buen trabajo en la ciudad. Pero otros estudian agronomía, y volverían al agro, si tuvieran tecnología apropiada para la agricultura familiar, y servicios como electricidad e Internet de alta velocidad.

Historias relacionadas en el blog de Agro-Insight

Despertando las semillas

Quinoa, lost and found

Videos to teach kids good attitudes

Sin tierra, sin agua, no hay problema

Videos de Access Agriculture

Vea algunos de estos videos apropiados para agricultores jóvenes en https://www.accessagriculture.org/es. Incluso, Access Agriculture tiene:

104 videos en castellano

Ocho videos en aymara

Y ocho en quechua

 

Videos to teach kids good attitudes March 7th, 2021 by

Kenyan schools recently moved away from memorizing facts, and towards learning skills, knowledge and attitudes. This ‚Äúcompetency based curriculum (CBC)‚ÄĚ includes new topics like ICT, and agriculture. Lawrence Njagi, the CEO of Mountain Top Educational Publishers, explained that the challenge was finding a way to integrate both subjects. He eventually decided that the best way was with videos from Access Agriculture.

In 2020, Mountain Top published a new textbook for fourth and fifth graders, to build students’ confidence step-by-step. The text book lists URLs for almost 20 videos on Access Agriculture, on gardening, legumes, pumpkins, small animals, innovative gardening, and mulching. Teachers help students to pick a video topic, type in the URL and watch it.

‚ÄúThey can watch the videos in either English or Kiswahili‚ÄĚ, Lawrence explains. ‚ÄúIt was great, because they could hear the voices of African people on the videos.‚ÄĚ

Ninety percent of the schools in Kenya are on the national electric grid, and 70% of those have access to Wi-Fi, including some schools in poor and remote areas. Watching the videos was ‚Äúan equalizing factor for those who could download,‚ÄĚ Lawrence says.

The students watch a video on, for example, making a vegetable seedbed. The textbook comes with a teachers’ guide that explains how to lead the children in a project. The teacher organises them in groups and the kids make a seedbed and plant  kale in the school garden. The children also watch videos on how to make compost. Then they make the compost and fertilise their vegetables. The project lasts a whole term. The kids eat some of the vegetables, and on Parents’ Day, the proud students show their produce to the adults, who are allowed to buy some, teaching the students another valuable lesson: farms can make money.

This is important, because the Kenyan government is now encouraging young people to stay in the countryside. There are no more jobs in the cities. Young Kenyans have to employ themselves, and feed others while ensuring that Kenya is a food sovereign nation.

Kenya’s schools were closed for the Covid pandemic, but they opened in October and November of 2020. During the closure, some schools and students tried to continue their studies with textbooks, educational TV and radio, and the internet. Some continued to watch Access Agriculture videos during the lockdown.

It is too soon to judge how well the learning videos have helped teach the next generation of farmers to have a good attitude about farming, but the stakes are high: Kenya has 1.2 million pupils in each of the grades 4 and 5, in 25,000 schools. When they sit for their exams in July of 2021, Mountain Top and the educators will measure the results of the videos. But Lawrence is optimistic. ‚ÄúWe are equipping the children to produce food for themselves, and to sell.‚ÄĚ

Watch the videos

Making a chilli seedbed

Composting to beat striga

Mulch for a better soil and crop

Videos in Swahili

Access Agriculture has 130 videos in the Kiswahili language. Check them out here.

Videos in other languages of Kenya

Access Agriculture has videos in some of the other languages of Kenya as well: Ateso, Dholuo, Kalenjin, Kiembu, Kikuyu, Luhya, and Samburu.

Municipal compost: Teaching city governments December 27th, 2020 by

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

Much of farm produce ends up in city landfills, but with a little work and some smart ideas, towns can recycle their organic waste, as I saw recently in Tiquipaya, a small city in metropolitan Cochabamba, Bolivia.

For over ten years, Tiquipaya’s municipal composter has turned some of the city’s trash into the best organic fertilizer. Ing. Denis Sánchez, who runs the city composter, obviously loves his work and is happy to show groups around the tidy (and fly-free) operation.

The first stop is reception, where garbage trucks and cooperating citizens dump off refuse: the garden trimmings from the city‚Äôs parks, wilted flowers from the cemetery, waste from the market, and trash from nearly half of the municipality‚Äôs households. At reception, Denis‚Äô crew does their most tedious task, separating the plastic from the organic. Cooked food waste is a nuisance because it rots quickly and has ‚Äúvery bad microbes,‚ÄĚ as Denis puts it.

Denis is certain that the compost picks up good microbes from its surroundings. Compost‚Äôs good microbes smell good and the only slightly bad odor is from the fresh garbage in the reception area. The composter is only four blocks from the town square, so the city government would not tolerate any bad smells. In reception, the fresh, ‚Äúgreen‚ÄĚ refuse is mixed about half and half with ‚Äúbrown‚ÄĚ waste, such as dried tree leaves pruned from city parks. Mixing was easier when the compost plant had a chipping machine that would chop up all the tree branches. The machine broke down a few years ago, so now the crew occasionally gets a caterpillar to come in and roll over the tree branches to break them up. The small bits go into the compost and the big pieces are sold as firewood.

From reception, the blend of brown and green trash goes to the ‚Äúforced air‚ÄĚ section. Compost needs air, which can be provided by turning over the pile, but that‚Äôs a lot of work. At the Tiquipaya plant, perforated hoses force air up into each 40-ton pile of compost. The crew waters the compost once a week, for seven weeks, and during that time they do turn it one time, for an even decomposition.

After seven weeks the compost is taken to mature, like a fine wine. It is heaped up and every week it is watered, and also turned with a little front-end loader. The aged compost is then sifted in a rotating drum to remove any big pieces. The resulting fine compost is then sold to the public.  The municipality also fertilizes Tiquipaya‚Äôs city parks with the compost, so they do not have to buy any fertilizer. The city also uses the compost as potting soil to grow ornamental plants.

Of course, it’s not all easy. One limitation is education. The municipal market has separate bins for organic and plastic garbage, but most patrons toss all their trash into one can or the other. Three of the city’s eight garbage routes send a truck one day a week to collect organic trash from households. On each ride, Denis sends a member of staff along to remind residents to leave out their plastics and cooked food waste. It’s a constant job to educate the public, so sometimes the municipality rewards cooperating families with plants.

A second limitation is labor. Even with some clever machines, the hard-working staff (three full-time and four part-time, besides Denis) can process about 5.5 tons of trash per day, of the 40 tons that Tiquipaya produces. The city could compost 20 tons of rubbish, with a bit more space, additional workers and investment.

Denis says that it costs 312 Bs. ($44) to make a cubic meter of compost, which he sells for 120 Bs. ($17), a loss he has to accept because ‚Äúno one would pay its true cost.‚ÄĚ

The plant was created with an investment of 1,734,000 Bs. ($246,000) and has an annual labor cost of 185,000 Bs. ($26,000), financed by the municipal government. The compost plant has had financial and technical support from Catalonia and Japan.

The crew seems to be enjoying their morning at the plant. It is light, active work in the glorious Andean sunshine with friendly colleagues.

Tiquipaya’s large neighbor, the city of Cochabamba, has a wretched problem with its landfill, now full and rising like a tower while the surrounding residents often protest by blockading out the garbage trucks, forcing the trash to pile up in city streets.

Cities have to invest to properly dispose of their garbage. People who make trash (including the plastics industry) can be charged for its disposal. The public needs to be taught how to buy food with less plastic wrapping and how to recycle green waste at home. The good news is that cities can recycle much of their rubbish, selling the plastics, and producing compost to improve the soil and replace chemical fertilizer.

Denis thinks of his plant as a school, where others can learn. In fact, several small cities (Sacaba, Vinto, Villazón, and some in the valleys of Santa Cruz) have started similar plants on the Tiquipaya model. Denis is proud to show his work to others.

With some enlightened investment, a city can turn its garbage into useful products and green jobs while avoiding unsustainable landfills, which simply bury the nutrients that farmers have won from the soil.

Related Agro-Insight blog stories

Reviving soils

Learning to teach

Trash to treasure

Smelling is believing

Offbeat urban fertilizer

Related videos

Organic biofertilizer in liquid and solid form

Good microbes for plants and soil

Compost from rice straw

Composting to beat striga

COMPOST MUNICIPAL: UNA ESCUELA PARA LAS ALCALD√ćAS

Por Jeff Bentley

27 de diciembre del 2020

Mucha de la producci√≥n agr√≠cola termina en los rellenos sanitarios urbanos, pero con un poco de esfuerzo y unas ideas claras, los municipios pueden reciclar su basura org√°nica, como vi hace poco en Tiquipaya, una peque√Īa ciudad en el eje metropolitano de Cochabamba, Bolivia.

Hace m√°s de diez a√Īos, la compostera municipal de Tiquipaya ha convertido parte de su basura en un excelente fertilizante org√°nico. El Ing. Denis S√°nchez dirige la compostera, y obviamente le encanta su trabajo y el mostrar su planta bien ordenada (y libre de moscas) a grupos de ciudadanos.

En la primera parada, la recepci√≥n, los camiones basureros y algunos vecinos colaboradores, dejan su basura, las podas del ornato p√ļblico, flores marchitadas del cementerio, basura del mercado y de casi la mitad de las familias del municipio. En recepci√≥n, los trabajadores realizan lo m√°s tedioso, separando los pl√°sticos de los org√°nicos. Los restos de la comida son una molestia porque se pudren r√°pidamente y tienen ‚Äúalgunos microbios muy malos,‚ÄĚ como Denis explica.

Denis afirma que el compost adquiere buenos microbios de su entorno. Los microbios buenos huelen bien y el √ļnico olor un poco desagradable viene de la basura fresca en recepci√≥n. La planta est√° apenas a cuatro cuadras de la plaza principal, y la alcald√≠a no tolerar√≠a ning√ļn mal olor. En recepci√≥n, la basura fresca, la ‚Äúverde‚ÄĚ, se llena mitad-mitad con los desechos ‚Äúmarrones‚ÄĚ tales como la hojarasca de los parques urbanos. El mezclarlo era m√°s f√°cil cuando la compostera ten√≠a una m√°quina que picaba todas las ramas. La m√°quina se descompuso hace algunos a√Īos, y ahora de vez en cuando traen una oruga que pisotea las ramas para quebrarlas. Los pedazos peque√Īos entran al compost y las piezas grandes se venden como le√Īa.

Despu√©s de la recepci√≥n, la mezcla de basura verde y marr√≥n pasa a la secci√≥n de ‚Äúaireaci√≥n forzada‚ÄĚ. El compost necesita aire, que se puede proveer con el volteo, pero es mucho trabajo. En la compostera de Tiquipaya, usan tuber√≠a perforada para empujar el aire a cada pila de 40 toneladas de compost. Riegan las pilas una vez a la semana, durante siete semanas, y durante ese tiempo las voltean una vez, para lograr una descomposici√≥n pareja.

A las siete semanas, llevan el compost a madurarse, como un vino fino. Hacen montones de compost que se riegan y se voltean cada semana con una m√°quina mini cargadora. El compost madurado es cernido en un dron rotatorio para sacar cualquier objeto grande. El compost fino se vende al p√ļblico. La alcald√≠a fertiliza los parques de Tiquipaya con el compost, as√≠ que no tienen que comprar fertilizante. Adem√°s, usan el compost como sustrato para producir plantas ornamentales.

Claro que cuesta trabajo. Una limitaci√≥n es la educaci√≥n. El mercado municipal tiene basureros separados para pl√°sticos y org√°nicos, aunque los usuarios a veces mezclan todo. Tres de las ocho rutas del carro basurero recogen solo residuos org√°nicos un d√≠a de la semana, y cada vez, Denis manda un funcionario de la planta para hacerle recuerdo a la gente que no incluyan sus pl√°sticos ni sus restos de comida. La educaci√≥n p√ļblica es un esfuerzo constante. De vez en cuando regalan plantas para premiar a los buenos vecinos.

Una segunda limitante es la mano de obra. Aun con maquinaria, el esmerado personal (tres a tiempo completo y cuatro a tiempo parcial, además del Ing. Denis) logra procesar unas 5.5 toneladas de basura por día, de las 40 toneladas que Tiquipaya produce. Con un poco más de espacio, personal, e inversión podrían compostar 20 toneladas.

Denis cuenta que cuesta 312 Bs. ($44) hacer un metro c√ļbico de compost, lo cual vende por 120 Bs. ($17), una p√©rdida que se acepta porque ‚Äúnadie pagar√≠a su costo real.‚ÄĚ

La planta se cre√≥ con una inversi√≥n de 1,734,000 Bs. ($246,000) y tiene un costo anual de mano de obra de 185,000 Bs. ($26,000), financiada por la alcald√≠a. La compostera ha tenido apoyo financiero y t√©cnico de Catalu√Īa y del Jap√≥n.

Parece que los trabajadores municipales disfrutan de su trabajo en la planta. Es trabajo físico, pero liviano al aire libre mientras que permite la charla entre colegas.

La ciudad vecina a Tiquipaya, Cochabamba, tiene un problema severo con su relleno sanitario, que ahora está lleno y crece como una torre, mientras los vecinos frecuentemente protestan, bloqueando la entrada a los camiones basureros, hasta que la basura se deja en montículos por toda la ciudad.

Las ciudades tienen que invertir para deshacerse correctamente de su basura. Se puede cobrar impuestos a la gente que genera la basura, incluso a las industrias de los pl√°sticos. Hay que ense√Īar al p√ļblico a comprar comida con menos envases pl√°sticos, y c√≥mo reciclar la basura verde en casa. La buena noticia es que las ciudades pueden reciclar gran parte su basura, vendiendo los pl√°sticos y produciendo compost para mejorar el suelo y para reemplazar a los fertilizantes qu√≠micos.

Denis piensa en su planta como una escuela, donde otros pueden aprender. De hecho, varias ciudades peque√Īas (Sacaba, Vinto, Villaz√≥n, y algunas en los valles de Santa Cruz), han construido plantas similares, usando el modelo de Tiquipaya. Denis est√° dispuesto a compartir sus conocimientos con otra gente interesada, sintiendo mucho orgullo por lo logrado.

Con un poco de inversi√≥n inteligente, una ciudad puede convertir su basura en productos √ļtiles e √≠tems de trabajo verde, mientras evita los rellenos no sostenibles, que simplemente entierran los nutrientes ganados con tanto esfuerzo por la producci√≥n agr√≠cola.

Previos relatos en nuestro blog

Reviving soils

Aprender a ense√Īar

Trash to treasure

Smelling is believing

Offbeat urban fertilizer

Videos relacionados

Organic biofertilizer in liquid and solid form

Buenos microbios para plantas y suelo

Compost from rice straw

Composting to beat striga

Design by Olean webdesign