Much of the work we do in Honduras is based on fincas, small farms which are owned by local people or by the COMUCAP cooperation. We help out the women by preparing the soil, weeding the area and planting under the guidance of Progressio development worker, Roger Diaz. Roger’s job is to travel around the area and introduce agroecological techniques to small-scale farmers. Agroecology is the ‘application to the design and management of sustainable agroecosystems.’ This means that it is a way of developing the traditional knowledge of agriculture to create more ecologically friendly and economic ways of growing food. Roger works with many women from COMUCAP to improve their yields and quality of produce.
This week our volunteer group returned to Alba’s farm. Alba is a COMUCAP associate and we worked on her field 3 weeks ago. We went back to see the progress made after we had planted cabbages and broccoli but to our surprise what we found was a half-eaten field! The pipes of the irrigation system had also broken further up the mountain where it collects river water and then distributes it onto Alba’s plot of land in a ‘drip system’. This is intended to save energy and conserve water, as these are often scarce resources in such small communities. As the system had failed, many of the plants were vulnerable to insects and caterpillars which had eaten through the leaves. The break in the pipe also meant that less water was being delivered to the houses in the community, so Alba had to make the decision to direct the water away from the field to the houses where it was most needed.
Agroecology techniques, such as introducing economic irrigation systems, are designed to help both the farmer and the ecosystem. Also, by using renewable resources like homemade, natural fertilisers, rather than imported chemicals, they can minimise the amount of toxins going into the soil. Roger is going to take fertilizer and natural pesticide to Alba’s farm this week and show her how to apply it to her land in order to restore the health of her crop.
Another important agroecology technique is to diversify crops. Many farmers only plant one or two types of vegetable but by planting a variety of crops throughout the year, they maximise their potential for profit as well as avoid dependence on single crops. This also helps to maximise long term benefits of the farm. The agroecology method is intended to create farms which can be maintained for generations to come. By focussing on this and not just annual profits, small scale farmers can create more sustainability and eventually provide better for their families. Alba has decided to invest her small profit in a new water tank. This will hopefully prevent problems with the irrigation system again in the future and therefore maximise the productivity of her farm.
Blog written by Rose Forman
Photos by Rose Forman, Maddie Dicks and Alice Pepper