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Language or dialect? It’s complicated March 13th, 2022 by

Vea la versión en español a continuación

People who speak different dialects of the same language can understand each other. Unlike different languages, the dialects of those tongues are “mutually intelligible.” Americans and the British understand each other (almost always), because the US and the UK speak dialects of the same English language.

However, it’s complicated, as David Shariatmadari explains. Shariatmadari, non-fiction books editor at the Guardian, starts with the old joke: a language is a dialect with an army. The classic example is Danish, Norwegian and Swedish, which are all fairly similar, but for political reasons and national pride their governments use the schools and the media to maintain the uniqueness of these languages, which are often mutually intelligible.

Arabic is an example in the other direction. Spoken in some 20 countries with important differences between each nation, the Arab countries consider themselves speakers of one language, based on a shared tradition in classical Arabic literature, and other ties.

Shariatmadari doesn’t mention Quechua, a native language still spoken in the Andes, in Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia. Once the language of the Inca Empire, Quechua has lacked its own national army since the Spanish Conquest. Even so, sixteenth century Spanish clergy encouraged the Quechua language, because it was already widely spoken, and could be used for missionary work. When the Jesuits arrived in the Andes in the 16th century, they quickly learned Quechua, published a dictionary of the language and began teaching it in their universities.

After the Spanish-American wars of independence (1810-1825), the new republican governments largely dismissed Quechua, ignoring it in schools and discouraging anyone from writing it.

Quechua is now enjoying a comeback of sorts in Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador. For example, it is being taught in some schools. Google is available in Quechua, and there are articles in Wikipedia in Quechua (look for “Runa Simi”). Opinion is divided on whether Quechua is one language with different dialects or if it has evolved to be separate, closely related languages. The Bolivian government insists that Quechua is one language. In Ecuador, “Quechua” is called “Kichwa,” to emphasize that it is a language in its own right, and not a dialect of Quechua.

With Paul and Marcella, from Agro-Insight, we visited the province of Cotopaxi, in the Andes of Ecuador, Where the agronomists Diego Mina and Mayra Coro study the lupin bean with several communities. Diego and Mayra took us to a Kichwa-speaking community, Cuturiví Chico, where we got a chance to find out if the local people understood the Quechua version of our video on lupines. During a meeting with the community, Diego and Mayra invited them to watch the video, explaining that it had been filmed in Bolivia.

As the Quechua version of the video played, I watched the audience for their reaction. They smiled in appreciation. After all, videos in Quechua or Kichwa are rare. The farmers were absorbed in the 15-minute video all the way to the end.

Afterwards, Diego asked if they understood it. One person said he understood half. Another said “More than half, maybe 60%.” Then Diego asked the crucial question, “What was the video about?”

The villagers neatly summarized the video. Diseases of the lupin bean could be controlled by selecting the healthiest grains as seed, and burying the sick ones. But the video had also sparked their imaginations. One said that in a previous experience they had learned to sort healthy seed potatoes, and now that they had seen the same idea with lupin beans, they wondered if the seed of broad beans could also be sorted, to produce a healthier crop.

Diego still felt that the farmers hadn’t quite understood the video, so he showed the Spanish version. But this time, the reaction was muted. People watched politely, but they seemed a bit bored and at the end there was no new discussion.

Language and dialect are valid concepts, but “mutual intelligibility” can be influenced by visual communication, enunciation, and motivation. For example in this video, carefully edited images showed people separating healthy and diseased lupin beans, which may have helped the audience to understand the main idea, even if some of the words were unfamiliar.

Clarity of the speech also counts; this video was narrated by professional broadcasters who spoke Quechua as their native language, so it was well enunciated. Motivation also matters; if a topic is of interest, people will strain to understand it. Lupin beans are widely grown in Cuturiví Chico, and these farmers really wanted to know about managing the crop’s diseases.

Whether Ecuadorian Kichwa and Bolivian Quechua are separate languages or dialects of the same tongue is still up for debate among linguists. Fortunately, people also communicate visually (for example, with excellent photography); they understand more if the words are carefully and distinctly pronounced, and if the listeners are motivated by a topic that interests them.

Watch the video

You can see the video, Growing lupin without disease, in Quechua, Spanish, and English (besides other languages).

Further reading

Shariatmadari, David 2019 Don’t Believe a Word: The Surprising Truth about Language. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson.

Note on names

The lupine bean (Lupinus mutabilis) is called chocho in Ecuador, and tarwi in Bolivia.

Acknowledgements

Thanks to Diego Mina and Mayra Coro for introducing us the farmers in Cotopaxi, and for sharing their knowledge with us. Thanks also to Mayra and Diego, and to Eric Boa and Paul Van Mele for their valuable comments on a previous version of this blog. Diego and Mayra work for IRD (Institut de Recherche pour le Développement) with the AMIGO project. Our work was funded by the McKnight Foundation’s Collaborative Crop Research Program (CCRP).

Photos

Photos by Paul Van Mele and Jeff Bentley. Map from Wikimedia Commons

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Quechua_(with_country_names).svg.

¿IDIOMA O DIALECT? ES COMPLICADO

Jeff Bentley, 13 de marzo del 2021

Cuando la gente habla diferentes dialectos de una misma lengua, se entiende. A diferencia de los idiomas distintos, los dialectos de esas lenguas son “mutuamente inteligibles”. Los estadounidenses y los británicos se entienden (casi siempre), porque los Estados Unidos y el Reino Unido hablan dialectos de la misma lengua inglesa.

Sin embargo, es complicado, como explica David Shariatmadari, editor de libros de no ficción en The Guardian. Él comienza con el viejo chiste: un idioma es un dialecto con un ejército. El ejemplo clásico es el danés, el noruego y el sueco, que son bastante similares, pero por razones políticas y de orgullo nacional sus gobiernos usan las escuelas y los medios de comunicación para mantener cierta separación entre estas lenguas, que a menudo son mutuamente inteligibles.

El árabe es un ejemplo en la otra dirección. Hablado con importantes diferencias en una veintena de países, los países árabes se consideran hablantes de una sola lengua, basándose en su tradición compartida de la literatura árabe clásica, entre otras cosas.

Shariatmadari no menciona el quechua, una lengua nativa que todavía se habla en los Andes, en el Ecuador, Perú y Bolivia. El quechua, que fue la lengua del Imperio Inca, no ha tenido un ejército propio desde la conquista española. Pero los sacerdotes españoles del siglo XVI fomentaron la lengua quechua, porque ya mucha gente la hablaba, y era útil para la labor misionera. Cuando los jesuitas llegaron a los Andes en el siglo XVI, aprendieron rápidamente el quechua, publicaron un diccionario de la lengua y comenzaron a enseñarla en sus universidades.

Después de las guerras de independencia hispanoamericanas (1810-1825), los nuevos gobiernos republicanos desprestigiaron en gran medida el quechua, ignorándolo en las escuelas y fueron olvidando su escritura.

En la actualidad, el quechua está resurgiendo un poco en Bolivia, Perú y Ecuador. Por ejemplo, en algunos colegios lo están enseñando. Google está disponible en quechua, y Wikipedia tiene artículos en quechua (busque “Runa Simi”). Algunos discuten si el quechua es una lengua con varios dialectos o si son varios idiomas estrechamente relacionados. El gobierno boliviano insiste en que el quechua es una sola lengua. En Ecuador, el “quechua” se llama “kichwa”, para subrayar que es una lengua propia y no un dialecto del quechua.

Con Paul y Marcella, de Agro-Insight, visitamos la provincia de Cotopaxi, en los Andes del Ecuador, donde trabajan los ingenieros agrónomos Diego Mina y Mayra Coro, quienes investigan el chocho (lupino) con algunas comunidades. Diego y Mayra nos llevaron a una comunidad kichwa-hablante, Cuturiví Chico, donde pudimos averiguar si la gente local entendería la versión de nuestro video en quechua sobre lupino o tarwi. Durante una reunión con la comunidad, Diego y Mayra les pidieron que observen el video explicándoles que se había filmado en Bolivia.

Mientras se reproducía la versión quechua del video, observé la reacción del público. Sonrieron del puro gusto de ver el video. Después de todo, hay pocos videos en quechua o kichwa. Los campesinos estuvieron bien metidos en el video de 15 minutos hasta el final.

Después, Diego les preguntó si lo habían entendido. Uno de ellos dijo que había entendido la mitad. Otro dijo: “Más de la mitad, quizá el 60%”. Entonces Diego hizo la pregunta crucial: “¿De qué trataba el video?”.

Resumieron claramente el video. Las enfermedades del lupino podían controlarse seleccionando los granos más sanos como semilla y enterrando los enfermos. Pero el video también había despertado su imaginación. Uno de ellos dijo que en una experiencia anterior habían aprendido a clasificar semilla sana de papa, y ahora que habían visto la misma idea con el lupino, se preguntaban si la semilla de las habas también podría clasificarse, para producir una cosecha más sana.

Diego aún dudaba si los agricultores habían entendido bien el video, así que les mostró la versión en español. Esta vez la reacción fue más silenciosa. La gente parecía un poco aburrida, y al final no hubo ninguna nueva discusión.

La diferencia entre idioma y dialecto es real, pero la “inteligibilidad mutua” a menudo se influye por la comunicación visual, la pronunciación clara, y la motivación. Por ejemplo, en este video, las imágenes cuidadosamente editadas mostraban a personas que separaban los granos de lupino sanos de los enfermos, lo que puede haber ayudado a la audiencia a entender la idea principal, aunque desconocían algunas de las palabras.

La claridad del discurso también cuenta; este video fue narrado por locutores profesionales que hablaban quechua como lengua materna, por lo que estaba bien enunciado. La motivación también importa; si un tema es de interés, la gente se esfuerza por entenderlo. Los lupinos se cultivan ampliamente en Cuturiví Chico, y estos agricultores realmente querían saber cómo manejar las enfermedades del cultivo.

Si el kichwa ecuatoriano y el quechua boliviano son distintos idiomas o dialectos de una sola lengua es algo que los lingüistas todavía pueden discutir. Afortunadamente, las personas también se comunican visualmente (por ejemplo, con una excelente fotografía); entienden mejor si las palabras se pronuncian con cuidado y nitidez, y si los oyentes están motivados por un tema que les interesa.

Para ver el video

Puede ver el video, Producir tarwi sin enfermedad, en quechua, español, e inglés (además de otros idiomas).

Lectura adicional

Shariatmadari, David 2019 Don’t Believe a Word: The Surprising Truth about Language. Londres: Weidenfeld and Nicolson.

Una nota sobre los nombres

El lupino (Lupinus mutabilis) se llama chocho en el Ecuador, y tarwi en Bolivia.

Agradecimientos

Gracias a Diego Mina y Mayra Coro por presentarnos a la gente de Cotopaxi, y por compartir su conocimiento con nosotros. Gracias a Mayra y Diego, y a Eric Boa y Paul VAn Mele por sus valiosos comentarios sobre una versión previa de este blog. Diego y Mayra trabajan para IRD (Institut de Recherche pour le Développement), con el proyecto AMIGO. Nuestro trabajo fue financiado por Programa Colaborativo de Investigación de Cultivos (CCRP) de la Fundación McKnight.

Fotos

Fotos por Paul Van Mele y Jeff Bentley. Mapa de Wikimedia Commons

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Quechua_(with_country_names).svg.

 

More insects, fewer pests February 20th, 2022 by

Vea la versión en español a continuación

It’s one of the great secrets of ecology that few insect species are pests. Most insects help us, by pollinating our crops, making honey, or silk and by killing pest insects, either by hunting them or by parasitizing them. I was in Ecuador recently with Paul and Marcella from Agro-Insight, along with Ecuadorian colleagues Carmen Castillo, Mayra Coro and Diego Mina, to make a video on the insects that help us.

Our first stop was the home of Emma Román and her husband, Luis Plazarte, in Aláquez, a parish near the city of Latacunga, in the central Andes. On a small field behind their house, Emma explained that all flowering plants (trees, ornamentals or crops) attract insects, which feed on the pollen and nectar in the flowers. She has seen many beneficial insects: the bee fly, and the hairy fly, beetles (like the lady bird beetle), and true bugs. She adds “And there is a new one, the soldier fly.”

I was puzzled about new insect. Perhaps an introduced one? Then I realized that since doña Emma has received training in insect ecology from Mayra and Diego, and has planted more flowering plants, she has begun to notice more kinds of insects, which are also becoming more abundant, because of the flowers she plants. For example, she planted a row of lantana flowers to mark the boundary of her field. On the ground nearby, she pointed out some tiny spiders which we had not even noticed. “You can see this one is carrying her eggs with her,” she said, pointing to a whitish spider the size of a grain of rice. The family’s small field of oats is surrounded by pullilli shrubs, and other plants like chilca and the Andean cherry, which are visited by pollinating insects and others attracted by the plants’ flowers.

As doña Emma’s farm becomes insect-friendly, she notices more helpful insects. The larva of the bee fly hunts and eats small, soft insects. The hairy fly lays its eggs in other insects. The hairy fly larva hatches inside the victim, eating it from the inside out. That’s why doña Emma has few pests, even as she has more insects.

For doña Emma the big advantage is that she can produce maize, blackberries, and several kinds of vegetables with no pesticides. She says this means that she has tastier food that is healthier for her and for her family. And the diverse flowers around her house give her a sense of tranquility and harmony.

As doña Emma put it, “We plant a variety of plants for all kinds of insects, so that all the birds come, and they help us to conserve this ecosystem … to teach our children that there are these good insects and birds.”

Scientific names

Pullilli (familia Solanaceae)

Chilca is Baccharis latifolia

The Andean Cherry (Spanish: capulí) is Prunus serotina

The bee fly (Spanish: moscabeja) is Eristalis spp. (Syrphidae)

The hairy fly is the family Tachinidae.

The soldier fly (Spanish: mosca sapito) is Hedriodiscus spp.

Related video

The wasp that protects our crops

Acknowledgements

Thanks to Diego Mina and Mayra Coro for introducing us to doña Emma, and for identifying the plants and insects. Thanks also to Mayra and Diego for their valuable comments on a previous version of this blog. Diego and Mayra work for IRD (Institut de Recherche pour le Développement). Our work was funded by the McKnight Foundation’s Collaborative Crop Research Program (CCRP)

MÁS INSECTOS, MENOS PLAGAS

Por Jeff Bentley, 20 de febrero del 2022

Uno de los grandes secretos de la ecología es que pocas especies de insectos son plagas. La mayoría de los insectos nos ayudan polinizando nuestros cultivos, haciendo miel y matando a los insectos plaga, ya sea cazándolos o parasitándolos. Hace poco estuve en Ecuador con Paul y Marcella, de Agro-Insight, y los colegas ecuatorianos Carmen Castillo, Mayra Coro y Diego Mina, para hacer un video sobre los insectos que nos ayudan.

Primero, visitamos la casa de Emma Román y su marido, Luis Plazarte, en Aláquez, una parroquia cercana a la ciudad de Latacunga, en los Andes centrales. En un pequeño sembrío detrás de su casa, doña Emma nos explicó que todas las plantas con flores (árboles, plantas ornamentales o cultivos) atraen a los insectos, que se alimentan del polen y néctar. Ella ha visto muchos insectos que le ayudan: la moscabeja, la mosca peluda y escarabajos (como la mariquita) y algunos de los chinches. Y añade: “Y hay uno nuevo, la mosca sapito”.

Me quedé perplejo ante la idea de un nuevo insecto. ¿Quizás uno introducido? Entonces me di cuenta de que desde que doña Emma ha recibido capacitación en la ecología de los insectos de parte de Mayra y Diego, y ha plantado más plantas con flores, ella ha empezado a fijarse en más tipos de insectos. Por ejemplo, también plantó una hilera de flores de lantana para marcar el límite de su campo. En el suelo, debajo de los arbustos, señala unas arañas diminutas en las que no habíamos reparado. “Puedes ver que esta lleva sus huevos”, dice, señalando una araña blanquecina del tamaño de un grano de arroz. Su pequeño campo de avena está rodeado de arbustos de pullilli, chilca y capulí a donde llegan los insectos polinizadores, y además otros insectos son atraídos por las flores de estas plantas.

A medida que la granja de doña Emma se convierte en un lugar acogedor para los insectos, se da cuenta de que hay más insectos útiles. La larva de la mosca abeja caza y come insectos pequeños y blandos. Mientras que la mosca peluda pone sus huevos dentro de otros insectos, y las larvas de la mosca peluda nacen dentro de la víctima, comiéndola de adentro hacia afuera. Por eso doña Emma tiene pocas plagas, aunque tenga más insectos.

Para doña Emma, la gran ventaja es que puede producir maíz, moras y varios tipos de hortalizas sin plaguicidas. Dice que esto significa que tiene alimentos más sabrosos y saludables para ella y su familia. Y las diversas flores que rodean su casa le dan una sensación de tranquilidad y armonía.

Como dice doña Emma: “Sembramos variedades de plantas para que todo insecto, todo pájaro venga, y esté allí, nos ayudan a conservar este ecosistema, la naturaleza que es bien bonita para nosotros, para enseñar a nuestros hijos que tales insectos hay, tales pájaros existen.”

Nombres científicos

Pullilli (familia Solanaceae)

Chilca es Baccharis latifolia

Capulí es Prunus serotina

La moscabeja es Eristalis spp. (Syrphidae)

La mosca peluda es familia Tachinidae.

La mosca sapito es Hedriodiscus spp.

Video relacionado

La avispa que protege nuestros cultivos

Agradecimientos

Gracias a Diego Mina y Mayra Coro por presentarnos a doña Emma, y por identificar las plantas e insectos. Gracias a Mayra y Diego por sus valiosos comentarios sobre una versión previa de este blog. Diego y Mayra trabajan para IRD (Institut de Recherche pour le Développement). Nuestro trabajo fue financiado por Programa Colaborativo de Investigación de Cultivos (CCRP) de la Fundación McKnight.

 

Coconut coir dust July 4th, 2021 by

Many years ago, I wrote one of my first articles, on “Coconut Coir Dust Mulch in the Tropics” and published it in Humus News, a trilingual (Dutch, French, English) magazine from Comité Jean Pain, a Belgian non-profit association that has trained people from across the globe on compost making since 1978.

So recently, when one of our Indian video partners decided to make a training video on composting coir dust, I dug up my old article, and was pleasantly surprised to see that it still contained useful information.

Coconut coir dust or coir pith is the material that is left over after the fibres have been removed from the coconut husk. Coconut factories often have no idea what to do with this waste, so in many coastal areas in the humid tropics one can find heaps of this natural resource.

Whether economical or ecological motives are the driving force, in low external input agriculture systems in the tropics, farmers often use biowaste for soil conservation and sustainable land use.

While coir dust has negligible amounts of nitrogen, phosphorous, calcium and magnesium, making it a poor source of nutrients, it can store up to 8 times its dry weight in water. By applying a 15 cm thick layer of coir dust mulch around coconut seedlings in Sri Lanka, irrigation needs could be reduced by up to 55 %. In a pineapple coconut intercrop during the dry season, my coir paper reported that the top soil layer had a moisture content of 49 % under the mulch, compared to 10 % under a sandy ridge of the same height.

When coir dust mulch is applied to salt-sensitive plants care, has to be taken that the concentration of salt is not too high. The highest salt concentrations, though still low, are mainly observed in coir dust which is fresh and from coastal coconut trees. This salt concentration can be reduced by leaving the material in the rain, before applying the mulch in the field or nursery.

In a commercial tree nursery in Kenya, germination of cashew seeds is enhanced by applying a coir dust mulch. Besides, roots are not damaged after transplanting, thanks to the loose structure of the coir dust. Weeds in cashew plantations in India are suppressed by applying a layer of 7.5 cm of mulch in a 1.5 m radius around the trees. In Sri Lanka, this kind of mulch is mainly used in semi-perennial crops like pineapple and ginger. Coir dust mulch suppressed some of the world’s worst weeds, namely goatweed, purple nutsedge and the sensitive mimosa plant.

Besides suppressing weeds, coir dust mulch also helps to establish cover crops. Herbaceous legumes are often used as cover crop under coconut in Sri Lanka, but they are suppressed by weeds in dry weather. Applying coir dust tackles the weeds, but favors the leguminous cover crop during the dry season.

Coir dust consists mainly of lignin, a woody substance which is poorly biodegradable. About 90 % is organic matter and the C/N ratio is extremely high (> 130). The low pH of 4.5 – 5.5 offers an extra protection against biodegradation, as many micro-organisms do not survive once the pH drops below 4. Slow biodegradation of organic mulches has been recently more and more looked for, especially in the humid and sub-humid tropics, where fast mineralization of the organic matter and leaching of minterals are big problems. While coir dust can easily be applied as a mulch, the recently produced video suggests that it is better to compost the coir dust first when one wants to use it to improve the soil structure. The video shows how one can easily make one’s own organic decomposer that is rich in good microbes to break down the lignin.

Coir dust, being important to control weeds, improve soil physical conditions and increase water retention capacity, should be regarded as an important resource for soil conservation and sustainable land use in integrated cropping systems, and not as waste. The use of coir dust in the tropics, however, is not only hindered by a lack of knowledge, which the video aims to share, but is also seriously threatened as coir dust is increasingly exported to Europe where it is used as an horticulture substrate.

Further reading

Van Mele, P. 1997. Utilization of Coconut Coir Dust Mulch in the Tropics. Humus News, 13(1), p. 3-4.

Related blogs

Reviving soils

A revolution for our soil

Damaging the soil and our health with chemical reductionism

Related video

Coir pith – from waste to wealth

Inspiring 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 versión en español a continuación

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’s 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. “The videos help the students to learn technical terms, like the names of plant diseases, in their native languages,” 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

ENSEÑAR A LOS AGRICULTORES DEL MAÑANA 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 agrícolas más altas del mundo. Bonifacio tiene un doctorado en fitomejoramiento y, además de ser jefe de una estación de investigación agrícola en Viacha, en el Altiplano, enseña fitomeoramiento a tiempo parcial en la universidad pública de La Paz (Universidad Mayor de San Andrés).

La universidad atrae a muchos jóvenes rurales. Cada año, Bonifacio pide a su nueva clase de estudiantes que se presenten uno por uno y digan de dónde vienen, y que hablen de sus padres y sus abuelos.

Este año, alrededor del 20% de los estudiantes de la clase de Bonifacio siguen viviendo en el área 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 agronomía estarían más interesados en trabajar el terreno sus padres, si no fuera por un par de problemas.

Una limitación es la falta de servicios en las zonas rurales: colegios deficientes, carreteras en mal estado, la falta de clínicas, luz y agua potable. Aunque esto está mejorando poco a poco, Covid ha introducido cambios, porque los jóvenes ya no pueden ir a muchos de los lugares que les gustaban, y no sólo las discotecas y los restaurantes. Una de las ventajas de la vida urbana es tener acceso a la atención médica, pero este último año los estudiantes dijeron que era como si las ciudades no tuvieran hospitales, porque estaban llenos de pacientes de Covid. Las clases eran todas en línea, por lo que el campo empezó a parecer un lugar más agradable para vivir que la ciudad. Muchos estudiantes se fueron a sus comunidades rurales, donde había más libertad de movimiento que en la ciudad.

El Dr. Bonifacio me dijo que, incluso cuando los jóvenes vuelven a casa, no quieren trabajar la tierra tal como lo hacían sus padres. Los jóvenes no se dedican al trabajo agotador con palas y picotas, pero hace falta la tecnología adecuada orientada a los jóvenes agricultores familiares, por ejemplo, la maquinaria pequeña y asequible. Los jóvenes agricultores también quieren explotar los mercados emergentes de productos diferenciados, como los alimentos libres de plaguicidas. La agricultura orgánica también ayuda a ahorrar costes de producción, siempre que los agricultores tengan alternativas prácticas a los productos agroquímicos.

Afortunadamente, existen videos sobre tecnologías adecuadas, y el Dr. Bonifacio los muestra en clase. Los jóvenes de hoy conocen los videos desde su infancia, y los encuentran convincentes. Cada año, 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 después en el foro. Uno de sus favoritos es Producir tarwi sin enfermedad, que muestra algunos métodos orgánicos para mantener el lupino sano. Bonifacio anima a los estudiantes a ver el video en español y en quechua o aymara. Muchos de los estudiantes hablan quechua o aymara, o ambos, además del castellano. Algunos sienten que están olvidando su lengua materna. “Los videos ayudan a los alumnos a aprender términos técnicos, 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 página web de Access Agriculture de vez en cuando para ver qué nuevos videos se han publicado en español, para seleccionar algunos y enseñárselos a sus alumnos, para que aprendan algo de la información 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

 

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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