This past fiscal year, rural families working with SHI-Nicaragua improved 1,000 acres through sustainable farming, agroforestry and reforestation. Families planted a variety of tree and fruit species in their mixed-use forests, including avocado, oranges, star apple (Chrysophyllum cainito), peach palm, rambutan and partridge wood (Andira inermis). Families are planting green manures and cover crops in and around their basic grains, like corn, beans and taro, to improve nitrogen levels in the soil and reduce weed growth.
Families in Nicaragua are optimistic about their future and the techniques they have implemented. Isabel Gamez of El Panchon says, “I have diversified my farm and implemented organic farming techniques that benefit my family.”
Lastly, SHI-Nicaragua put the finishing touches on its 15.5 acre demonstration farm, Center for the Family and the Environment. Staff, community members and participants can enjoy the Center as it serves the public and improves the farming techniques taught to participants.
With the rains of the new season having begun and the first crops beginning to emerge, SHI-Honduras is hopeful that harvests will again be bountiful and provide the 500+ participant families with not only sufficient food to eat, but also enough surplus to generate additional income.
In addition to improving the nutrition and income of rural farming families, SHI-Honduras successfully planted over 103,000 trees and initiated work in Sulaco, Yoro. Families in Sulaco are already composting kitchen waste and crop residue, and beginning preparation of raised beds for their future vegetable gardens. Though still in their first phase, families in Sulaco are eager to learn other means of soil conservation and sustainable farming.
Following a two week intensive course on permaculture, organic farming and chromatography, staff has broadened their knowledge and will be staging similar trainings for their co-workers and program participants. Additional emphasis on economically viable, low-input farming systems will contribute to a healthier and greener future for many of Honduras´ rural poor.
Though the dry season is long over, and the flooding of the Mojo River has begun, the land remains scarred by the slashing and burning that typically occurs in May. Despite these environmental challenges, SHI-Belize has helped to plant over 45,000 trees and diversify participant farms so that they can cultivate on a more permanent basis versus the using migratory techniques of others.
Along with the hardwoods and fruit trees planted, participant families are producing cash-crops, like cacao and ginger. Recently, families have begun planting the leguminous drumstick tree (Moringa oleifera) in their agroforestry systems to utilize their nutrient rich leaves in a ginger tea/spice powder. The tea is currently sold by local restaurants and stores, but there are plans to expand that market elsewhere in the country and possibly abroad.
SHI-Belize is also innovating in areas that reduce costs and waste, such as a new approach to tree nurseries. Hollowed plantain and banana trunks sliced in 12” and 18” sections serve as a decomposable alternative to plastic nursery bags and reduce post-transplant stress.
SHI-Panama staff and families consider their recent commercialization of produce as a monumental step forward. In the past, most families would sell their produce for whatever price a middle-man would offer. Now, seventeen families in El Entradero sell their produce in Panama City via a CSA model (Community Supported Agriculture) in partnership with a local business, Culantro Rojo.
SHI-Panama is setting the stage to open three new rural community loan banks in El Entradero. Also, with co-financing from Fundacion Natura, SHI-Panama is beginning a project in the Panama Canal Watershed zone which focuses on home gardens and wood conserving stoves. This project will be a starting point for SHI-Panama to establish itself in this environmentally sensitive region of the country.
SHI-Panama has recently established 25 biointensive gardens and has begun soil testing in the communities of Pagua and San Juanito. In the last year, SHI-Panama participants successfully converted 59 acres to sustainable land use practices, while reforesting 22 acres with 15,986 trees.
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Voices from the Field