Friday, September 11, 2009
Integrated Farm Tour
Oscar Arias, owner of the integrated farm
Back in June, I went to a Women and Agriculture Conference that the Protected Areas Management project puts on every year. How it works is each PCV that wants to participate brings a woman from his or her community to the conference. During the conference, we learn about improved agricultural practices such as making organic compost or saving seeds, but we also talk about gender, self-esteem, and female leadership. This year, I took a woman from La Campa named Adelaida Gomez who works for a privately funded institution called CASM (Comisión de Acción Social Mennonita). This institution does a lot of really great development work in La Campa and other municipalities and their funds have not been cut because of the coup that happened here in the end of June.
During this conference, we visited an integrated farm on the north coast which interested Adelaida a lot. So much, in fact, that she went back to La Campa and organized a trip back up there with a group of 30 farmers from here! An integrated farm uses improved farming practices such as organic fertilizers and takes into consideration one´s health and the health of the environment. For example, instead of burning their fields every year, they let a plot of land rest for a season or two instead of stripping it year after year of all of its nutrients.
So, Adelaida, the other staff from CASM, three high school students doing their three month practice, and the farmers picked me up on the side of the road outside of Santa Rosa de Copan the next day. I spent the night in Santa Rosa because the day before I had taken a friend and her baby to a cleft lip medical brigade put on by Operation Smile. (Unfortunately, the baby was underweight five pounds and so they didn´t operate.) Adelaida and I rode in the front to give directions to the driver. Luckily, we didn´t get TOO lost finding our way back out to the farm because it´s pretty well hidden from the main road! On the way, we ran into some people peacefully protesting the return of president, Mel Zelaya. Road blocks have been very since the coup but luckily this protest was only blocking one lane, slowing down traffic but not completely stopping it. I had only heard about the protests but this was the first time that I actually saw one in action.
At the integrated farm called Naranjo Chino, we made insecticides and fungicides using natural ingredients like papaya leaves. We saw a compost latrine, a water filtration system using a barrel and some sand, a biodigestor, and an ecological oven among other things.
Making the fungicide - grinding papaya leaves
The other group making the insecticide
I love visiting integrated farms because usually the people who run the farms start off just like the farmers that we take to visit. The only difference is that they were willing to try different techniques to improve their farm. This means that the farmers of integrated farms can relate to other Honduran farmers and thus know how to teach them using many visuals and simple metaphors instead of listing off technical vocabulary that are above comprehension. They also know what to say to motivate them to change their farms or are familiar with the excuses and reasons why farmers are reluctant to change their practices. And the best part is that Honduran farmers are teaching Honduran farmers! There may have been some external aid at some point, but now the integrated farm we visited is 100% sustainable.
Banana trees with compost in between
Look at all the bananas they get on one branch!
Cutting up the trunks of banana trees to make an organic compost ¨salad¨
A man selling bananas in El Progreso on the north coast
The sunset on the way home