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February 2008 : Report from Paraguay

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Jennifer Ungemach is Ecology Action’s Liaison to Latin American Projects.  These are her notes from a 3-Month Course she taught at the Paraguay Foundation agricultural school in Paraguay.

September 23rd – This week’s highlights included marking all the new beds, a trip to an organic vegetable farm, and some honest discussion about the implementation of organic models. Some producers are truly not convinced of organic production, let alone Biointensive. One said: “If I go and do this, my neighbors will laugh in my face. The bottom line is money.” My strategy is to continue to arrange various experiences so that they can see other organic production here in the country. We continue to transition into more compost crops and a few summer vegetables. Temperatures are starting to rise with the beginning of spring, and we are in desperate need of further rains.

October 22nd – We have now almost finished the new part of the parcel. The last two beds on either side will be planted with velvet bean and sorghum or corn. Velvet bean grows into a tree-like plant that is often left in the ground 3 years to improve the soil. The front part of the parcel (the original beds) continues to transition. We have harvested all the saffron flowers and are waiting for the seeds. We continue to harvest chamomile flowers and flax seeds. Yesterday I picked basil seeds, anise seeds and cilantro, which we have in small quantities. We have a very interesting demonstration at the site. In a compost pile we have a very lively, very green volunteer tomato plant, without any signs of being ill. It happens to be beside the bed of tomatoes that have blight. I had a good conversation with the agronomist about the reasons it may be healthier: more beneficial micro-organisms in the compost to combat the pathogens, a volunteer seed, etc. This weekend we went to visit a permaculture site that works with bamboo. They are convinced by Biointensive in general. One example: before double-digging their (very sandy) soil, they never had a tomato produce anything.

November 9th – We finished the new addition to the parcel, bringing the beds to a total of 55. We traveled to CECTEC, an agroecology school based on the model of 2 weeks in class and 2 weeks at home to implement what they’ve learned. Their target students are sons and daughters of small producers. Our group gave a presentation on Biointensive and did short demonstrations on double-digging and close-spaced planting. From there we traveled to Las Colonias Unidas, one of the most powerful cooperatives in the country (very powerful soybean, sunflower and corn growers; almost all GMOs). Their education department has an initiative to promote organic and lower pesticides, especially with youth. We visited the garden started by a young woman who participated in our last workshop. The garden serves as a meeting point for other young people. We talked tentatively about future trainings and exchanges there.



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