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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.

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Youth don’t hate agriculture June 20th, 2021 by

Rural youth are moving to the cities by the busload. Yet counter to the prevailing stereotype, many young people like village life and would be happy to go into farming, if it paid. This is one of the insights from a study of youth aspirations in East Africa that unfolds in three excellent country studies written by teams of social scientists, each working in their own country. Each study followed a parallel method, with dozens of interviews with individuals and groups in the local languages, making findings easy to compare across borders.

In Ethiopia many young people grow small plots of vegetables for sale, and would be glad to produce grains, legumes, eggs or dairy. Youth are often attracted to enterprises based on high-value produce that can be grown on the small plots of land that young people have.

Young people are also eager to get into post-harvest processing, transportation and marketing of farm produce, but they lack the contacts or the knowhow to get started. Ethiopian youth have little money to invest in farm businesses, so they often migrate to Saudi Arabia where well-paid manual work is available (or at least it was, before the pandemic).

In northern Uganda, researchers found that many youths wanted to get an education and a good job, but unwanted pregnancies and early marriage forced many to drop out of secondary school. If dreams of moving to the city and becoming a doctor, a lawyer or a teacher don’t work out, then agriculture is the fallback option for many young people. But, as in Ethiopia, young Ugandan farmers would like their work to pay more.

In Tanzania, many youths have been able to finish secondary school and some attend university. Even there, young people go to the city to escape poverty, not to get away from the village. Many youths are even returning, like one young man who quit his job as a shop assistant in town to go home and buy a plot of land to grow vegetables. Using the business skills he learned in town, he was also able to sell fish, and eventually invested in a successful, five acre (two hectare) cashew farm.

These three insightful studies from East Africa lament that extension services often ignore youth. But the studies also suggest to me that some of the brightest youth will still manage to find their way into agriculture. Every urban migrant becomes a new consumer, who has to buy food. As tropical cities mushroom, demand will grow for farm produce.

If youth want to stay in farming, they should be able to do so, but they will need investment capital, and training in topics like pest management and ways to make their produce more appealing for urban consumers. Improved infrastructure will not only make country life more attractive, but more productive. Better mobile phone connectivity will link smallholders with buyers and suppliers. Roads will help bring food to the cities. A constant electric supply will allow food to be processed, labeled and packaged in the countryside. New information services, including online videos, can also help give information that young farmers need to produce high-value produce.

Further reading

These three studies were all sponsored by the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT). You can find them here.

Boonabaana, Brenda, Peace Musiimenta, Margaret Najjingo Mangheni, and Jasper Bakeiha Ankunda 2020. Youth Realities, Aspirations, Transitions to Adulthood and Opportunity Structures in Uganda’s Dryland Areas. Report submitted to ICRISAT.

Endris, Getachew Shambel, and Jemal Yousuf Hassan 2020. Youth realities, aspirations, transitions to adulthood and opportunity structures in the drylands of Ethiopia. Report submitted to ICRISAT.

Mwaseba, Dismas L., Athman K. Ahmad and Kenneth M. Mapund 2020. Youth Realities, Aspirations and Transitions to Adulthood in Dryland Agriculture in Tanzania. Report submitted to ICRISAT.

Related Agro-Insight blog stories

Teaching the farmers of tomorrow with videos  

Videos to teach kids good attitudes

The next generation of farmers

Some videos of interest

Access Agriculture hosts videos to share information about profitable, ecologically-sound agriculture. Farmers of all ages can download videos on their smartphones in English and many other languages, for example:

For Ethiopia, check out these videos in Amharic, Oromo, Afar, and Arabic, Oromo,

For Tanzania, 122 videos in Swahili (Kiswahili), and others in Dholuo, and Tumbuka

For Uganda, Ateso, Kalenjin, Kiswahili, Luganda, Lugbara, Luo (Uganda), Runyakitara

To find videos in a language of your country, click here.

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

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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

 

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