Earth Day celebrations may last over a weekend but what about the long-term? Here are three examples of Spirit in Action partners promoting techniques that benefit the earth and their communities:
Ester shows the bounty from her family’s farm.
1. Intercropping in Malawi
Have you heard about the Three Sisters? Beans, squash, and corn grown together get the blue ribbon in the intercropping category. Corn stalks grow tall, beans use the stalks as bean poles, and squash leaves provide shade that stunts weeds and locks in the soil moisture. Also, the nutrients in bean plants keep the soil healthy year after year.
More and more people in Manyamula Village are adopting this beautiful combination that is good for the heavily-used farmland and reduces the amount of fertilizer needed. We visited Saul and Ester’s farm in 2011 where we saw their flourishing intercropping of beans and corn.
Saul and Ester are members of the MAVISALO Savings and Loans cooperative and they share and learn with the other 150 group members about intercropping and other sustainable farming techniques.
Beans planted at the base of the corn use the stalks as support.
SIA partners from 5 countries are enthusiastic to try new bio-intensive agriculture methods.
2. Ukweli Training Centre in Kenya
Anyone who has met Samuel Teimuge knows his passion for simple methods and technologies that can help people produce more food and protect the environment. At his Ukweli Training Centre in Eldoret, Kenya, local experts show groups of people from all over eastern Africa a sampling of these beneficial technologies. For example:
The kitchen garden plots use double-digging (a method of turning the soil before planting) and composting;
A chicken pen extends over a fish pond and chicken droppings fall into the water to provide nutrients to the fish, increasing the size of the fish (more about chicken-fish farming);
An agroforestry display shows about starting seedlings, and replanting and caring for trees; trees provide shade, fruit, and fencing, and absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
The poultry house over the fish pond provides plenty of nutrients!
Joshua shows off the great crops grown with compost and no other inputs! More food and less expensive to produce.
3. Side-by-side Comparisons
With such good results from simple agricultural techniques, why doesn’t everyone take on the methods? Joshua Machinga and his team at Common Ground know that old habits die hard, so they have planted two sets of crops to convince people to change.
The 5-year experiment places crops that use conventional fertilizers next to crops that use rich, organic compost to display tangible benefits of using compost for long-term soil health. The evidence right in front of people is pretty convincing!
*Spirit in Action has a number of resources about composting, double-digging, organizing model farm days, and intercropping available for free. If you would like me to send you any of these materials, please email the SIA office.
A Better Way to Grow Food (About methods that benefit small farmers)
How does your garden grow? (About the farms we saw in Malawi)
Planting trees for a “greener Kenya” (About the reforestation work of SIA SBF Coordinator, Dennis Kiprop)