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Hügelkultur January 9th, 2022 by

Nederlandse versie hieronder

Hügelkultur

In my previous blog “Capturing carbon in our soils” I gave some examples of how to store carbon in a healthy, living soil by adding compost and mulch, reducing ploughing and using plants to create a permanent soil cover. But there is also a more direct way of adding carbon to the soil, a technique called hĂŒgelkultur, a name which may not be the easiest to pronounce, but the concept is quite simple.

Hügelkultur is a German term meaning “mound cultivation.” In this method one builds garden beds using woody material, some nitrogen-rich material such as grass clippings or manure, and soil with compost arranged in long, tunnel-shaped mounds. The wood can be piled directly on top of the soil, or placed in dug out trenches. Depending on the size of the logs or branches that form the core of the mound, the wood can take 10 to 15 years to completely decompose. Over the years, your soil life and soil structure improve.

A major benefit is that the beds enriched with organic matter hold water much better. As my wife Marcella and I used to frequently travel for longer periods for work, we were not always sure we would be at home to water our garden, so we figured this technique would suit us well. Especially since our soil is very sandy and does not retain water well. So, we started with our first hĂŒgelbed some 3 years ago.

First we dug out a 10-meter long, one-meter wide trench to a depth of 40 cm. Then we cleaned up a lot of the old wooden logs and pruned branches of sick trees. We covered the branches with chunks of grass sod turned upside down, and finally we topped the bed up with the top soil and compost. The bed was about 1.2 meter high. We thought from now on, growing vegetables would be easier with less need for watering, but it turned out slightly differently.

As we had no clear idea yet what we would plant the first year, we decided to sow a mix of wild flowering plants to provide food for pollinators, such as bees, bumble bees, hover flies and butterflies. Within less than 2 months the bed was exploding with colours and the buzzing was a feast for the ears. This was a great idea, and it gave us some time to think through what vegetables and herbs we would plant the coming season, and how to arrange the crops on the bed.

After we installed the wood bed the next 2 summers were extremely dry, so even though we thought that we would experience the benefits of the raised bed starting in the second year, it turned out that we still needed to water it on a weekly basis. At first, I was puzzled that the buried wood was not holding water, but then I realized that on top of the wood we had deposited a double layer of grass sod (we just had too much of it). This had created a thick layer that roots of our tomatoes and other plants could not penetrate to reach the deeper parts of the bed where the moist wood was slowly decomposing.

Marcella also realized that planting on a slope is not as easy as the simplified drawings show on permaculture websites. Also, when watering the water readily flowed down the slope without having time to infiltrate. It looked like our soil structure was still not optimal even though the entire bed was covered with a mix of plants: both flowering wild ones and cultivated ones. To keep water from flowing down the slopes, Marcella often created small terraces to plant young seedlings. Improving soil structure takes time, and the need for continuous mulching became apparent.

Last winter I decided to make some extra wood beds to plant my different varieties of red current, goose berries, blue honeysuckle, raspberry and blackberries. Facing North-South to capture optimal sunlight, I set out to dig three trenches, each about one and a half meter apart. To boost the decomposition of the woody material, this time I decided to soak each layer of the beds with a solution of good microbes (effective microorganisms or EM) which I had prepared from local materials (see: Reviving soils).

The beds looked really nice and natural next to our little birch forest, but after two months the perennial grasses had already completely invaded the moist and nutrient-rich beds. As one learns by doing, I decided to use leftover tiles to make a border around the beds, to try to and keep the grasses out.

It takes time to find out what works best for you, and the future will tell us if these hĂŒgelbeds will live up to our expectations. What may look easy and simple on paper often requires some some patience as one adapts the idea locally.

Read more

Q.L. Luo, C. Hentges, C. Wright. 2020. Sustainable Landscapes: Creating a HĂŒgelkultur for Gardening with Stormwater Management Benefits. Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service. Click here.

Related Agro-Insight blogs

Capturing carbon in our soils

Community and microbes

Experimenting with intercrops

Living Soil: A film review

Reviving soils

Inspiring knowledge platforms

Access Agriculture: https://www.accessagriculture.org is a specialised video platform with freely downloadable farmer training videos on ecological farming with a focus on the Global South.

EcoAgtube: https://www.ecoagtube.org is the alternative to Youtube where anyone from across the globe can upload their own videos related to ecological farming and circular economy.

 

HĂŒgelkultur

In mijn vorige blog “Koolstof vastleggen in onze bodems” gaf ik enkele voorbeelden van hoe koolstof kan worden opgeslagen in een gezonde, levende bodem door compost en mulch toe te voegen, minder te ploegen en planten te gebruiken om een permanente bodembedekking te creĂ«ren. Maar er is ook een meer directe manier om koolstof aan de bodem toe te voegen, een techniek die hĂŒgelkultur wordt genoemd, een naam die misschien niet de gemakkelijkste is om uit te spreken, maar het concept is vrij eenvoudig.

HĂŒgelkultur is een Duitse term die ” heuvelteelt ” betekent. Bij deze methode bouwt men tuinbedden met houtachtig materiaal, wat stikstofrijk materiaal zoals grasmaaisel of mest, en grond met compost, gerangschikt in lange, tunnelvormige heuvels. Het hout kan direct op de grond worden gestapeld, of in uitgegraven greppels worden geplaatst. Afhankelijk van de grootte van de stammen of takken die de kern van de hoop vormen, kan het 10 tot 15 jaar duren voordat het hout volledig is afgebroken. In de loop der jaren verbetert het bodemleven en de bodemstructuur.

Een groot voordeel is dat de bedden die verrijkt zijn met organisch materiaal veel beter water vasthouden. Omdat mijn vrouw Marcella en ik vaak voor langere periodes op reis waren voor ons werk, waren we er niet altijd zeker van dat we thuis zouden zijn om onze tuin water te geven, dus dachten we dat deze techniek goed bij ons zou passen. Vooral omdat onze grond erg zanderig is en niet goed water vasthoudt. Zo’n 3 jaar geleden zijn we dus begonnen met ons eerste hĂŒgelbed.

Eerst groeven we een sleuf van 10 meter lang en 1 meter breed tot een diepte van 40 cm. Daarna hebben we veel van de oude houten stammen en gesnoeide takken van zieke bomen opgeruimd. We bedekten de takken met omgedraaide graszoden en bedekten het bed met de bovenste laag aarde en compost. Het bed was ongeveer 1,2 meter hoog. We dachten dat het voortaan gemakkelijker zou zijn om groenten te kweken en minder water te moeten geven, maar dat pakte toch iets anders uit.

Omdat we nog geen duidelijk idee hadden wat we het eerste jaar zouden planten, besloten we een mix van wilde bloeiende planten te zaaien om voedsel te bieden aan bestuivers, zoals bijen, hommels, zweefvliegen en vlinders. In minder dan 2 maanden tijd was het bed een explosie van kleuren en het gezoem was een lust voor het oor. Dit was een geweldig idee, en het gaf ons wat tijd om na te denken over welke groenten en kruiden we het komende seizoen zouden planten, en hoe we de gewassen op het bed zouden rangschikken.

Nadat we het houten bed hadden geĂŻnstalleerd waren de volgende 2 zomers extreem droog, dus ook al dachten we dat we vanaf het tweede jaar de voordelen van het verhoogde bed zouden ervaren, het bleek dat we nog steeds wekelijks water moesten geven. Eerst was ik verbaasd dat het begraven hout geen water vasthield, maar toen realiseerde ik me dat we bovenop het hout een dubbele laag graszoden hadden gelegd (we hadden er gewoon te veel van). Hierdoor was een dikke laag ontstaan waar de wortels van onze tomaten en andere planten niet doorheen konden om de diepere delen van het bed te bereiken waar het vochtige hout langzaam aan het afbreken was.

Marcella realiseerde zich ook dat planten op een helling niet zo eenvoudig is als de vereenvoudigde tekeningen op permacultuur websites laten zien. Ook bij het bewateren stroomde het water gemakkelijk de helling af zonder tijd te hebben om te infiltreren. Het leek erop dat onze bodemstructuur nog steeds niet optimaal was, ook al was het hele bed bedekt met een mix van planten: zowel bloeiende wilde als gecultiveerde. Om te voorkomen dat het water langs de hellingen naar beneden stroomt, creëerde Marcella vaak kleine terrassen om jonge zaailingen te planten. Het verbeteren van de bodemstructuur kost tijd, en de noodzaak van continu mulchen werd duidelijk.

Vorige winter besloot ik enkele extra houten bedden te maken om mijn verschillende variëteiten van rode bessen, kruisbessen, honingbessen, frambozen en bramen te planten. Noord-zuid gericht om optimaal zonlicht op te vangen, begon ik met het graven van drie sleuven, elk ongeveer anderhalve meter uit elkaar. Om de afbraak van het houtachtige materiaal te stimuleren, besloot ik deze keer om elke laag van de bedden te doordrenken met een oplossing van goede microben (effectieve micro-organismen of EM) die ik had bereid uit plaatselijke materialen (zie blog: De bodem nieuw leven inblazen).

De bedden zagen er heel mooi en natuurlijk uit naast ons kleine berkenbosje, maar na twee maanden hadden de meerjarige grassen de vochtige en voedselrijke bedden al volledig ingenomen. Zoals je al doende leert, besloot ik om restjes tegels te gebruiken om een rand rond de bedden te maken, om te proberen de grassen buiten te houden.

Het kost tijd om uit te vinden wat voor jou het beste werkt, en de toekomst zal ons leren of deze hĂŒgelbedden aan onze verwachtingen zullen voldoen. Wat er op papier gemakkelijk en eenvoudig uitziet, vergt vaak enig geduld naarmate men het idee ter plaatse aanpast.

Experimenting with intercrops November 28th, 2021 by

Nederlandse versie hieronder

For thousands of years, farmers have been mixing crops in their fields to meet the diverse needs of their families and to reduce the risk of crop failure. But to know which crops combine well with each other is not an easy matter, and often requires some experimentation to find out what works best for you, as I found out this year in our home garden.

Three years ago, when we moved into our renovated house in Peer, Belgium, we established a raised garden bed from partially rotted woody material and plant debris topped with compost and soil. As this so-called hĂŒgelkultur is a great way to keep the soil fertile and moist, we figured this was a good way for us to grow plants without the need for watering them, especially as we are often away from home for several weeks to produce training videos with farmers.

As with many people, Covid has kept us grounded for the past two years. Without international travels we decided we should spend more time growing our own food.

On our 10 meters long, 2 meters wide and 1.5-meter-high bed, my wife Marcella has been growing a diversity of herbs, spices, vegetables and sweet maize. While we tried to anticipate which plants would prefer to grow where exactly on the bed (on the lower end or on top, on the south or north-facing side, in partial shade of the nearby goat willow or in full sunlight), this was clearly something that needed us to try out and observe as we went along.

Last winter, I decided to establish three new raised beds, each aligned north-south and 1.5 meters apart. On one bed I would grow goose berries, blue honeysuckle and red currant; the middle bed would be for my red and yellow raspberries and on the bed closest to the little forest, I would grow a few varieties of blackberries. Unlike with annual plants which you can put in a different location each season, deciding on where to plant which shrub and which variety took some careful thinking. One needs to take into account the plant’s architecture, how vigorous it grows, how it copes with strong winds and what level of shade it tolerates.

Having planted all my shrubs, I felt we could do a little more. Leaving the soil bare while the shrubs were still young did not seem like a good idea. I still had some strawberry plants that I wanted to give a new location. The fast-growing raspberries would soon crowd out my strawberries. And strawberries do not  thrive well in shade, so I decided to plant them on the first bed.

A few months later, in the spring, Marcella thought that her tomato seedlings that she had raised in the warmth of the house were ready for transplanting. Again, we brainstormed around the kitchen table where best we could plant them. “Tomato plants have deep roots and tomatoes need a lot of sun, so let us plant them in between our strawberry plants,” I suggested. To keep the mature tomato plants from shading out the newly planted berry shrubs, we planted them on the north side of the shrubs.

Friends and family said it would not work: growing tomatoes outdoors is asking for trouble, as the tomatoes would rot before they ripen. This may have been true with our traditional wet summers, but given the changing climate I figured it could work. After all, we didn’t have a choice as we don’t have a greenhouse.

One day, I was discussing with Bram Moeskops who manages the Organic Farm Knowledge platform for IFOAM Organics Europe. While he was giving me a virtual guided tour on their excellent platform, it was a real coincidence that he showed me one particular factsheet:

“On this factsheet,” Bram explained, “we show a new technology that we are trying to promote, namely tomato-strawberry intercropping. As the strawberries provide a living mulch, it avoids splashing rainwater to get on the tomato plants”. This was a great new insight. This added benefit hadn’t occurred to me even though

I knew that spores of various soil fungi are typically spread by splashing rain and cause tomato diseases.

Our tomato plants thrived, and surprised every visitor. After three years of extremely warm and dry summers, this year turned out to be the opposite. And in the end, months of high humidity also affected our plants. It was of some comfort to hear that all gardeners had faced the same problem, even those with greenhouses.

As our climate is changing, we will need to continue to experiment with cropping patterns. And the more we learn the better. Experimenting with permanent crops can take years, so it will be all the more important to share the results widely. Innovative platforms such as the Organic Farm Knowledge platform and the Access Agriculture video platform offers great ideas and needed scientific insights to help us make better decisions.

Related Agro-Insight blogs

Experiments with trees

Repurposing farm machinery

From Uniformity to Diversity

The rules and the players

Inspiring knowledge platforms

The Organic Farm Knowledge platform: https://organic-farmknowledge.org contains a wide range of tools and resources about organic agriculture in Europe.

Access Agriculture: https://www.accessagriculture.org is a specialised video platform with freely downloadable training videos on ecological farming with a focus on the Global South.

EcoAgtube: https://www.ecoagtube.org is the alternative to Youtube where anyone from across the globe can upload their own videos related to ecological farming and circular economy.

 

Experimenteren met mengteelten

Al duizenden jaren mengen boeren gewassen op hun akkers om te voorzien in de uiteenlopende behoeften van hun gezinnen en om het risico op mislukte oogsten te verkleinen. Maar weten welke gewassen goed met elkaar combineren is geen eenvoudige zaak en vereist vaak wat experimenteren om uit te zoeken wat voor jou het beste werkt, zoals ik dit jaar in onze eigen tuin ontdekte.

Drie jaar geleden, toen we verhuisden naar ons gerenoveerde huis in Peer, BelgiĂ«, hebben we een verhoogd tuinbed aangelegd van gedeeltelijk verrot houtmateriaal en plantenresten, aangevuld met compost en aarde. Aangezien deze zogenaamde hĂŒgelbedden de grond vruchtbaar en vochtig houden, vonden we dit een goede manier om planten te kweken zonder dat we ze water hoefden te geven, vooral omdat we vaak enkele weken van huis zijn om trainingsvideo’s met boeren te maken.

Zoals bij veel mensen heeft Covid ons de afgelopen twee jaar met beide voeten op de grond gehouden. Zonder internationale reizen besloten we dat we meer tijd moesten besteden aan het verbouwen van ons eigen voedsel.

Op ons 10 meter lange, 2 meter brede en 1,5 meter hoge hĂŒgelbed, heeft mijn vrouw Marcella een verscheidenheid aan kruiden, specerijen, groenten en zoete maĂŻs gekweekt. Hoewel we probeerden in te schatten welke planten waar precies op het bed het liefst zouden groeien (onderaan of bovenaan, op het zuiden of op het noorden, in de halfschaduw van de nabijgelegen boswilg of in het volle zonlicht), was dit duidelijk iets dat we moesten uitproberen en gaandeweg observeren.

Afgelopen winter besloot ik drie nieuwe verhoogde bedden aan te leggen, elk noord-zuid gericht en 1,5 meter uit elkaar. Op het ene bed zou ik kruisbessen, honingbes en rode bes telen; het middelste bed zou bestemd zijn voor mijn rode en gele frambozen en op het bed dat het dichtst bij het bosje lag, zou ik een paar bramensoorten telen. Anders dan bij eenjarige planten, die je elk seizoen op een andere plaats kunt zetten, moet je goed nadenken over waar je welke struik en welk ras wilt planten. Je moet rekening houden met de architectuur van de plant, hoe sterk hij groeit, hoe hij tegen sterke wind kan en hoeveel schaduw hij verdraagt.

Nadat ik al mijn struiken had geplant, vond ik dat we nog wel wat meer konden doen. De grond kaal laten terwijl de struiken nog jong waren, leek me geen goed idee. Ik had nog een paar aardbeiplanten die ik een nieuwe plek wilde geven. De snelgroeiende frambozen zouden mijn aardbeien snel verdringen. En aardbeien gedijen niet goed in de schaduw, dus besloot ik ze op het eerste bed te planten.

In de lente, brainstormden we rond de keukentafel waar we het beste onze tomatenzaailingen konden uitplanten. “Tomatenplanten hebben diepe wortels en tomaten hebben veel zon nodig, dus laten we ze tussen onze aardbeienplanten planten,” stelde ik voor. Om te voorkomen dat de volgroeide tomatenplanten de pas geplante bessenstruiken in de schaduw zouden stellen, plantten we ze aan de noordkant van de struiken.

Vrienden en familie zeiden dat dit niet zou werken: tomaten in de openlucht kweken is vragen om problemen, omdat de tomaten zouden rotten voordat ze rijp waren. Dat was misschien waar met onze traditionele natte zomers, maar gezien het veranderende klimaat dacht ik dat het zou kunnen werken. We hadden tenslotte geen keus, want we hebben geen serre.

Op een dag was ik in gesprek met Bram Moeskops, die het platform voor biologische landbouwkennis van IFOAM Organics Europe beheert. Terwijl hij me een virtuele rondleiding gaf op hun uitstekende platform, was het een echt toeval dat hij me Ă©Ă©n specifieke factsheet liet zien:

“Op deze factsheet,” legde Bram uit, “laten we een nieuwe technologie zien die we proberen te promoten, namelijk de tomaat-aardbei mengteelt. Omdat de aardbeien een levende mulch vormen, wordt vermeden dat opspattend regenwater op de tomatenplanten terechtkomt”. Dit was een geweldig nieuw inzicht. Dit extra voordeel was niet bij me opgekomen, hoewel ik wist dat sporen van verschillende bodemschimmels gewoonlijk worden verspreid door opspattend regenwater en alzo tomatenziektes veroorzaken.

Onze tomatenplanten floreerden, en verrasten iedere bezoeker. Na drie jaren van extreem warme en droge zomers, was dit jaar het tegenovergestelde. En jammer genoeg hebben de maanden van hoge vochtigheid uiteindelijk ook onze planten aangetast. Het was een troost te horen dat alle tuiniers met hetzelfde probleem te kampen hadden gehad, zelfs die met serres.

Aangezien ons klimaat verandert, zullen we moeten blijven experimenteren met teeltpatronen. En hoe meer we leren, hoe beter. Experimenteren met blijvende teelten kan jaren duren, dus is het des te belangrijker om de resultaten op grote schaal te delen. Innovatieve platforms zoals het platform Organic Farm Knowledge en het videoplatform Access Agriculture bieden goede ideeën en de nodige wetenschappelijke inzichten om ons te helpen betere beslissingen te nemen.

Inspirerende kennisplatformen

The Organic Farm Knowledge platform: https://organic-farmknowledge.org met informatie over biolandbouw in Europe.

Access Agriculture: https://www.accessagriculture.org  is een gespecialiseerd videoplatform met gratis te downloaden opleidingsvideo’s over ecologische landbouw met een focus op het Zuiden.

Black fire ants July 11th, 2021 by

The surest way to tell if you have black fire ants in your garden is to accidentally stand on or near their nest. The ants will crawl through your clothes first and then start stinging you all at once. You may have to go inside and take off your trousers to find all of the ants in your pants. A second diagnostic test of black fire ants is to plant a vegetable seedbed, and wait for it to come up, but it never does. The ants have eaten all your seeds.

These ants love seeds and they will dig up every one you plant in their foraging area.

You can try dousing their nest with boiling water, insecticide or gasoline (and then lighting it). I’m just kidding, but it may not even work; these ants are pretty tough. Or you can take Rachel Carson’s suggestion, and fight pests with biology, not chemistry.

Years ago, while working with my student Eloy GonzĂĄlez on his entomology thesis at El Zamorano, Honduras, by total serendipity we learned that fire ants can be perfectly controlled with raw grains of rice.

Here’s how it works. Plant your vegetable seedbed any way you like. Then sprinkle a handful of raw rice over the surface. The black fire ants are omnivorous, but they prefer dense food packages like seeds or other insects. The ants also know a bargain when they see one. The ants will haul off your rice grains and ignore your smaller, harder-to reach soil-covered vegetable seeds.

Once your vegetables come up, the black fire ants will lose interest in them. However, the ants will continue to patrol your vegetable patch, looking for insect pests to drag back to their nest, to eat.

If you don’t want to use rice, try bread crumbs, bits of stale tortillas or other food scraps.

In our garden, we have had no insect pests, except for the Mediterranean fruit flies. Our patchwork of many species of trees and vegetables confuses most insect pests. And because we have never applied insecticides, we have many beneficial insects that kill most of the herbivorous ones before they can become pests. We manage our black fire ants with the rice trick, and by not standing on their nests. They repay us by helping to keep our vegetables pest-free.

If you live outside of tropical Central or South America, you may never have to deal with black fire ants. But wherever you live, you can always look for ways to live with insects, with biology, not chemistry.

Further reading

Paul has his own story about Vietnamese farmers who educate weaver ants, to protect their orchards from insect pests.

Ants as friends.

Related Agro-Insight blog stories

Ants in the kitchen

Sugar sweet ants

The smell of ants

When ants and microbes join hands

Videos about insects that hunt and control insect pests, from Access Agriculture

The wasp that protects our crops

Promoting weaver ants in your orchard

Weaver ants against fruit flies

Scientific names

The black fire ant, also called the tropical fire ant, is Solenopsis genimata. The red fire ant, the so-called “imported” one is Solenopsis invicta. The red fire ant is native to Argentina, and slipped into the USA, possibly as a stowaway on a ship, after 1933. in Silent Spring, Rachel Carson tells the story of how the US Department of Agriculture lost its chemical war against the red fire ant. That red ant is still thriving in North America. Unlike the black fire ant, which builds discrete, ground-level nests, the red one builds, a tall, conspicuous entrance to its burrow.

Our valuable garbage June 27th, 2021 by

Vea la versión en español a continuación

Bolivia may have the world’s only singing garbage men. Three times a week, a garbage truck pulls up to our corner blaring the tune: Viva Cochabamba! That’s our signal that all the neighbors should take out the trash.

This bit of fun hides a serious problem. There’s nowhere to take all of that garbage. The landfill at Q’ara Q’ara, south of the city, is full, and is becoming a tower of sculpted refuse. Neighborhood organizations often block the road into the landfill (in protest of any number of grievances, not all of which are even related to the garbage). When that happens, trash piles up in mounds on Cochabamba’s streets.

There is not really another good site for a new landfill, since the valley is prime farmland, rapidly being paved over for streets and houses. Land is too expensive for the city to buy another big chunk to make another trash dump.

Some citizen’s groups are offering a solution. For example, Denis de la Barra has recently made a video, suggesting that people stop thinking of their organic refuse as garbage. Instead, Denis urges us to think of it as valuable raw material to make compost.

To make a motivational video, Denis wanted to interview people in Cochabamba and surrounding municipalities who had made compost for years and applied it to their gardens. He found some of these gardeners in the outer municipalities, but fewer in the city of Cochabamba, which has about a million people. Not everyone in town has space for a garden. Those who do, tend to have a manicured lawn and ornamental plants.

Ana and I have always made compost and several years ago we turned most of our front lawn into a vegetable garden, so Denis filmed part of his video at our house.

As Denis and colleagues explained later, on a radio panel discussion:

  • We all generate refuse, and local governments and citizens should take some responsibility for it.
  • Everything organic, from apple cores to lawn trimmings, can be recycled as valuable compost, and used as fertilizer, to grow healthy vegetables.
  • Citizens should share their experiences on composting and gardening.
  • Separate plastics from organic waste and only discard the non-organics, saving space in landfills.
  • We can all stop bringing home one-use plastic bags from the shops.

When people’s ideal garden is flowers around a smooth, green lawn (fertilized with chemicals), it may take a while to give compost and vegetables a chance. But this new video will get some people to start thinking about the connections between garbage, gardening and healthier food.

Related Agro-Insight blog story

Municipal compost: teaching city governments

Watch Denis’s video

Hacia una cultura de compostaje. Produced by the Grupo de Trabajo Cambio Climático y Justicia (CTCCJ—Working Group on Climate Change and Justice), Cochabamba. 2021.

Panel discussion

Denis discussed the video in a panel on Radio CEPRA, a community radio station in Cochabamba, hosted by Arnold Brouwer, featuring Tania Ricaldi, of the local public university (Universidad Mayor de San SimĂłn), and Ana Gonzales, agronomist and home gardener.

Access Agriculture Videos on making compost

Composting to beat striga

Compost from rice straw

NUESTRA BASURA VALIOSA

Por Jeff Bentley 27 de junio del 2021

Puede que Bolivia tenga los Ășnicos basureros cantantes del mundo. Tres veces por semana, un carro basurero llega a nuestra esquina haciendo sonar la canciĂłn: ÂĄViva Cochabamba! Es nuestra señal para que todos los vecinos saquemos la basura.

Este momento divertido esconde un grave problema. No hay dĂłnde llevar toda esa basura. El botadero de Q’ara Q’ara, al sur de la ciudad, estĂĄ lleno y se estĂĄ convirtiendo en una torre de basura. Las organizaciones vecinales suelen bloquear la carretera de acceso al basurero (en protesta por cualquiera demanda no satisfecha, no siembre relacionada con la basura). Cuando eso ocurre, la basura se amontona en las calles de Cochabamba.

En realidad, no hay otro lugar adecuado para un nuevo botadero, ya que el valle es tierra agrĂ­cola de primera, que se estĂĄ pavimentando rĂĄpidamente para construir calles y casas. El terreno es demasiado caro para que la ciudad compre otro pedazo grande para hacer otro basurero.

Algunos grupos de ciudadanos ofrecen una soluciĂłn. Por ejemplo, Denis de la Barra ha realizado recientemente un video en el que sugiere que la gente deje de considerar sus residuos orgĂĄnicos como basura. En su lugar, Denis nos insta a pensar en ella como una valiosa materia prima para hacer compost.

Para hacer un video motivador, Denis quiso entrevistar a personas de Cochabamba y de los municipios cercanos que habían hecho compost ya hace varios años y que lo habían aplicado a sus huertos. Encontró a algunos de estos jardineros en los municipios exteriores, pero menos en la ciudad de Cochabamba, que tiene cerca de un millón de habitantes. No todos los habitantes de la ciudad tienen espacio para un huerto. Los que lo tienen, suelen tener pasto y plantas ornamentales.

Ana y yo siempre hemos hecho compost y hace varios años convertimos la mayor parte de nuestro césped en un huerto, por lo que Denis filmó parte de su video en nuestra casa.

Como explicaron Denis y sus colegas mĂĄs tarde, en una mesa redonda de la radio:

– Todos generamos residuos, y los gobiernos locales y los ciudadanos deberĂ­an asumir alguna responsabilidad al respecto.

– Todo lo orgĂĄnico, desde las cĂĄscaras de las manzanas hasta el pasto cortado, puede reciclarse como valioso compost, y usarse como abono, para cultivar verduras sanas.

– Los ciudadanos deberĂ­an compartir sus experiencias sobre compostaje y jardinerĂ­a.

– Separar los plĂĄsticos de los residuos orgĂĄnicos y desechar sĂłlo los no orgĂĄnicos, para ahorrar espacio en los botaderos.

– Todos podemos dejar de llevar a casa bolsas de plĂĄstico de un solo uso de las tiendas.

Cuando el jardín ideal de la gente son las flores en torno a un césped liso y verde (abonado con productos químicos), puede ser difícil dar una oportunidad al compost y las verduras. Pero este nuevo video harå que algunas personas empiecen a pensar en las conexiones entre la basura, el huerto y los alimentos mås saludables.

Previamente en el blog de Agro-Insight

Compost municipal: una escuela para las alcaldĂ­as

Vea el video de Denis

Hacia una cultura de compostaje. Producido por el Grupo de Trabajo Cambio ClimĂĄtico y Justicia (CTCCJ), Cochabamba. 2021.

Panel

Denis hablĂł sobre su video en un panel en Radio CEPRA, una radio comunitaria en Cochabamba, moderado por Arnold Brouwer, con Tania Ricaldi de la Universidad Mayor de San SimĂłn y Ana Gonzales, ingeniero agrĂłnomo que tiene su huerto casero.

Videos de Access Agriculture sobre el hacer compost

Composting to beat striga

Compost from rice straw

A Greener Revolution in Africa May 2nd, 2021 by

After settling in the USA in the 1990s, Isaac Zama would visit his native Cameroon almost every year, until war broke out in late 2016, and it became too dangerous to go home. About that same time a new satellite TV company, the Southern Cameroons Broadcasting Corporation (SCBC), was formed to broadcast news and information in English. (Cameroon was formed from a French colony and part of a British one in 1961).

In 2018, Isaac approached SCBC to start a TV program on agriculture to help Southern Cameroonians who could no longer work as a result of the war, and the thousands of refugees who sought refuge in Nigeria. The broadcasters readily agreed. With his PhD in agriculture and rural development from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and his roots in a Cameroonian village, Isaac was well placed to find content that farmers back home would appreciate. “I did some research on the Internet, and I found Access Agriculture,” said Isaac. “I liked it so much that I watched every single video.”

Isaac soon started a TV program, Amba Farmers’ Voice, which began to air every Sunday at 4 PM, Cameroon time. It is rebroadcast several times a week to give more people a chance to watch the program. With frequent power cuts many are not able to tune in on Sundays.

The program is broadcast live from Isaac’s studio in Virginia. He starts with a basic introduction in West African Pidgin. “If I’m going to show a video on rabbits, I start by explaining what a is rabbit,” Isaac explains. “And that we can learn from farmers in Kenya how to build a rabbit house, and to care for these animals.” After playing an Access Agriculture video on the topic (in English), Isaac comments on it in Pidgin, for the older, rural viewers who may not speak English. His remarks are carefully scripted, and based on background reading and research.

The show lasts an hour or more and allows Isaac to play several videos. Amba Farmers’ Voice has its own Facebook and YouTube pages. While his program is on the air, Isaac checks out the Facebook page to get an idea of how many people are watching. A popular topic like caring for rabbits may have 1,000 viewers just on Facebook. But most people watch the satellite broadcast. SCBC estimates that two to three million people watch Amba Farmers’ Voice in Cameroon, but many others also watch it in Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone and even in some Francophone countries, like Benin and Gabon.

Some farmers reciprocate, sending Isaac pictures and videos that they have shot themselves, showing off their own experiments, adapting the ideas from the videos to conditions in Cameroon. Isaac heard from one group of “mothers in the village” who showed how they were using urine to fertilize their corn, after watching an Access Agriculture video from Uganda.

People in refugee camps watched the video on sack mounds, showing how to grow vegetables in a large, soil-filled bag. But gunny sacks were scarce in the refugee camp, so people improvised, filling plastic bags with earth and growing tomatoes in them, so they could grow some food within the confines of the camp.

Isaac mentioned that people were installing drip irrigation after seeing the video from Benin about it.

“That can be expensive,” I said. “People have to buy materials.”

“Not really,” Isaac answered. Gardeners take used drink bottles from garbage dumps, fill them with water, poke holes in the cap, and leave them to drip slowly on their plants.

After seeing the video from Benin on feeding giant African snails (for high-quality meat), one young man in the Southern Cameroons got used tires and stacked one on top of the other to make the snail pen. It’s an innovation he came up with after watching the Access Agriculture video. He puts two tires in a stack, puts the snails in the bottom, and feeds them banana peels and other fruit and vegetable waste. Isaac tells his audience “We don’t need to buy anything. Just open your eyes and adapt. See what you can find to use.”

Solar dryers were another topic that people adapted from the videos. To save money, they made the dryers from bamboo, instead of wood, and shared one between several families. As a further adaptation, people are drying grass in the solar dryer. Access Agriculture has four videos on using solar dryers to preserve high value produce like pineapples, mangoes and chillies, but none show grass drying. Isaac explains that you sprinkle a little salt on the grass as you dry it. Then, in the dry season you put the grass in water and it turns fresh again. Now he is encouraging youth to form groups so they can dry grass to store, to sell to farmers when forage is scarce.

I was delighted to see so many local experiments, just from people who watch videos on television, with no extension support.

All of this interaction, between Isaac Zama and his compatriots, the teaching, feedback and organisation, is all happening on TV and online. He hasn’t been to Cameroon since he started his program.  Isaac’s interaction with his audience amazes me. It’s a testimony to his talent, but also to the improved connectivity in rural Africa.

“People think that Africans don’t have cell phones,” Isaac says, “but 30% of the older farmers in villages have android phones. Their adult children, living in cities or abroad, buy phones for their parents so they can stay in touch and so they can see each other on WhatsApp.” Isaac adds that what farmers need now is an app so they can watch agricultural videos cheaper.

Dr. Isaac Zama wants to encourage other stations to broadcast farmer learning videos: “Those videos from Access Agriculture will revolutionize agriculture in Africa in two or three years, if our national leaders would just broadcast them on TV. The farmers would do it themselves, just from the information they can see on the videos.” Isaac is willing to collaborate with other TV stations across the world, to share his experience or to broadcast Amba Farmers Voice, but particularly with broadcasters in Africa who are interested in agricultural development

Related Agro-Insight blogs

To drip or not to drip

Drip irrigation saves water in South Sudan

Cell phones for smallholders

A connecting business

Staying grounded while on the air in Ghana

Watch the Access Agriculture videos mentioned in this story

How to build a rabbit house

Human urine as fertilizer

Using sack mounds to grow vegetables

Drip irrigation for tomato

Feeding snails

Solar drying pineapples, Making mango crisps, Solar drying of kale leaves and Solar drying of chillies

 

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