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May 2005: International Partners

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Fernando Pia, director of CIESA in Argentina, continues his busy schedule, teaching workshops in Argentina, Bolivia and Chile. April 13 and 14 he gave a workshop at Santa Cruz de La Sierra in Bolivia. This was organized by Belinda Ferrufino, director of the Bolivian NGO ASEO. Fernando reports that there were 27 participants, 70% of whom were agronomic engineers, working in rural extension programs all around Bolivia. The participants, as noted on their evaluation sheets after the workshop, believe that the Biointensive system is a useful tool, particularly for small farmers and urban gardeners.

From April 19 to 23 Fernando taught a five-day workshop at CIESA for four people. Tomas Lazzari is a math and garden teacher who belongs to a foundation that has developed 10 primary and high schools in poor neighborhoods of Bariloche. The foundation president, a friend of Fernando's, wants to introduce the Biointensive method at the foundation schools, as soon as he can find a good teacher. Fernando notes that 50% of the Bariloche population lives under the poverty level. Carmen Cardenas teaches organic gardening to poor women in Neuquen. She also belongs to an NGO that works with hundreds of women. Carmen stated, "This kind of information I was looking for a long time." Luis Currhinca is an indigenous Mapuche who is the garden manager of the Biointensive demonstration garden at INTA Viedma. Jose Daniel Almonacid Cardenas works at a hotel whose owner is a former international rugby player and very well known in Argentina. The owner has visited CIESA and is thinking about developing a Biointensive garden to provide organic fresh produce for his customers.

Fernando also taught a workshop March 30 to April 1 at Escuela Agroecologica in Pirque, south of Santiago, Chile. He notes this is the first agroecological high school in Chile.

Sandra Mardigian, director of Kilili Self-Help Project, sent us a report on a project undertaken by fifth class students in Joshua Machinga's Pathfinder Academy, funded by the Mental Insight Foundation:
Twenty-one students, as well as school staff, trained members of Bafubi Women's Group in Matunda village, Trans-Nzoia district. The students had previously been trained at school on various methods of food production, nursery establishment, health care and extension techniques. Bafubi group has 30 members with 89 children, 50 of whom are HIV/AIDS positive. It was noted that their pieces of land were producing very little due to poor production skills. The students visited the group once a month and taught the women compost making and double-digging, with school staff visiting twice a month for followup. The students also helped group members establish beds and nurseries for tree seedlings and vegetables for the sick, while training the rest on other GROW BIOINTENSIVE techniques. A total of 89 gardens were established in Matunda and Kiminini.

Manor House Agricultural Centre The following are notes taken from recent reports sent by MHAC's director Emmanuel Omondi:

  • Income increased from about $100,000 in 2003 to about $150,000 in 2004. Due to MH's continuing efforts towards self-sufficiency, about 50% of its income is now being raised internally.
  • The Centre registered 30 first-year students this year in its two-year course. This is the largest number in a long time.
  • There are two participants at the Centre's three-month course, one from Chad in Central Africa and a Kenyan who works with International Childcare Trust, an organization whose mandate is to rehabilitate street children.
  • After a Land Use Design exercise held last November, MH is planning many changes in its current site use, one of which is to convert a netball field into a demonstration garden, with strict data collection and record keeping observed. In other areas, a variety of drought-resistant field crops will be grown, and an agroforestry wood lot will be grown in many of the open spaces.

Carol Vesecky, director of Biointensive for Russia, sent us a report on the activities of the NGO Viola, compiled by Ludmila Zhirina, co-director of the organization. Following is a summary of that report:
During the last part of 2004, Viola conducted seminars in Orel, east of Bryansk. This was a three-step project, starting in August when Ludmila Zhirina, Albina Samsonova and Oleg Zavarzin went to Orel State University for three days to help plan the seminars. Their main host was connected with the university's Natural Geography Department. A task group was organized among instructors, scientists and students, and a round table was held where Viola members spoke about GROW BIOINTENSIVE and its background. Times and locations were chosen and potential participants selected.

The theoretical seminar was conducted September 5-6 at the university, with 132 people attending, including leaders from the regional department of education, employees of the Institute of Advanced Educational Studies, scientists, school and university teachers, political figures, and horticulturists. Besides the three people mentioned above, seminar trainers included Igor Prokofiev and Nataliya Karyagina. Conference participants asked Viola to conduct several small seminars at several regional centers in the spring.

November 26-27 the second seminar was given, hands-on training at the university's agrobiological research station. For this seminar the students prepared short reports on the main vegetables that they themselves grow in their own gardens. The methods that they use were discussed and compared with GROW BIOINTENSIVE methods. All of the participants concluded that GB is an ecological farming method.

Viola also sent a report on its third year of researching the Biointensive method in the area heavily contaminated by the Chernobyl nuclear accident. Despite the contaminated soil, people still need to grow food to survive. The research showed that double-digging and the use of compost significantly reduce the uptake of radionuclides by the plants. Viola is now looking for US-based researchers they can network with.



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