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.
Even though it is our smallest program, SHI-Panama has established itself in the Cocle region of Panama as a preeminent organization working on sustainable rural development. Partnering with local universities and NGOs, Peace Corps Panama and government agencies such as the Panamanian EPA, SHI-Panama has been pivotal in disseminating appropriate technologies, like wood-conserving stoves, and providing training in the core principles of sustainable small-scale farming.
By embracing new ideas, SHI-Panama is altering the face of sustainable agriculture, local markets and more. With the support of SHI business partner, Eco-Libris, the program is organizing bi-monthly “canastas” (or CSA - Community Supported Agriculture as termed in the US) of fresh produce from participants to interested clients in and around Panama City. Currently ten families from El Entradero and others from La Tranquilla, San Pedro and Bella Florida are participating, offering a variety of fresh vegetables and fruits, including bananas, plantains, tomatoes, parsley, celery, mustard greens, eggplant and more.
Staff are currently training on ecological and holistic pest management, a more evolved offshoot of Integrated Pest Management (IPM), and they are learning concepts related to bio-intensive gardens. Beginning in late winter/early spring, SHI-Panama will begin a comparative analysis of the ecological impact of bio-intensive gardens versus traditional gardens.
During the past fiscal year, SHI- Panamá expects to graduate 27 families in the communities of Bella Florida, Los Alonsos, La Cabuya, and La Mata, and begin incorporating new families into already participating communities.
Staff have received several trainings in collaboration with APOCHI, a collective of organic producers in Chiriqui, and is introducing families to nutrient dense crops like amaranth (calaloo). Over the next several months, we will be working to integrate various projects according to nutrient flow in order to produce zero waste. Systems will vary but consist of pig pens, duck and fish ponds, vegetable gardens and rice paddies.
During the last fiscal year ’09, we converted 174 acres to sustainable land use, installed more than 45 wood-conserving stoves, and provided direct market access for families through various local farmers markets and fairs.
SHI-Nicaragua continues its development of the Demonstration Farm in Bluefields. We recently broke ground on the main office/ dormitory structure, and are in the process of creating an integrated farm plan that will feature garden plots where local street children can plant vegetables and enjoy the nutritious harvest. Several families in the Kukra River zone are expected to graduate soon and we will begin work with more families. With the support of several organizations and local universities, we have developed new techniques to improve soil fertility and crop production.
Recently, we improved market access for families by installing a farm stand in Bluefields where families from Kukra River can sell their produce. The farmer’s market occurs every 15 days, and offers a wide variety of products including more than 30 vegetable and fruit varieties, organic compost, biofertilizer and more.
Antonio Ramirez and his family have been working with Sustainable Harvest since July 2008. He is married with 5 children. Prior to working with SHI, he was only growing basic crops, like corn, beans, cassava and some coffee. Now working with his field trainer, Jorge Rodriguez, he has diversified his plot with different vegetables like tomato, cabbage, onion, beets, mustard, pepper and watermelons, as well as coffee and timber-yielding trees.
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Voices from the Field