The birthday girl!

The birthday girl!

 

 Having strong connections to the communities we work with is one of the most important things for us here at AASD, and we think in social change generally; for ownership, sustainability, and fun. So we were pumped to be invited to Wensislada’s birthday celebration in Choquecancha, a member of the Winay Warmi Women’s Weaving group. After traveling three hours, we arrived to her house full of family(four generations), friends, great food (of course cuy was on the menu!), and good times. It wasn’t long before libations were broken out to cheers to good health and a happy birthday!! After singing happy birthday (in Spanish, English, and Quechua), the dancing began and kept us on our feet most of the night. After a good sleep and another great meal in the morning, we gathered with the weaving group to buy a batch of their amazing and beautiful textiles for more INKAcases! Exciting times all around.

Check out the photos  and like us on Facebook for more exciting updates!

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Check out this fun article I stumbled upon, 16 Foods That’ll Re-Grow from Kitchen Scraps. Some crops include onion, leeks, garlic, and the one that surprised me the most, pineapple.

It’s interesting to see how some plants will grow out of what we normally consider scraps or the waste parts thrown out when cooking. This type of information is applicable to anyone gardening for fun or even for small-scale farmers that don’t necessarily always have access to new seeds or time/space to let certain crops such as onions go to seed. Pretty neat!

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It’s Team Peru season! If you’re a regular follower of AASD you’re most likely a member of  a past Team Peru crew (or two) or you’ve heard all about it. Team Peru is a group of graduate students from the Monterey Institute of International Studies (this year we also have one Middlebury fellow) who spend a summer immersed in life in Peru working with the AASD. We’re three weeks deep into the summer session with Team Peru and things are getting interesting.

This summer Team Peru is exploring options for connecting small, local producers with markets. These producers are either already, or willing to begin, producing ecologically if there is a way, an outlet, for ecologically produced goods. These small producers must have an incentive to continue producing ecologically as it often means more time spent working with their land to ensure it is healthy and in tune with natural processes.

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Ecological production focuses on using resources at hand but also working within the natural cycles and processes of nature. This takes time and care; thus, many producers believe their products deserve a higher value. Many see no value in selling their produce in the local markets for the same price as agrochemical producers sell their goods. Some farmers have even taken extra time to gain a regional ecological certification that is recognized nationally throughout Peru. But what value does such a certificate have if the majority  of current  buyers are not seeking such a product?

While this certificate is a huge step forward, we still see the potential to do more with this proof of ecological production. There is an opportunity to use the certificate as a point of organization and a launch pad for reaching markets that place a higher value on such goods.   This project is about connecting ecological farmers with a market that values the quality of a chemical free good for a range of reasons from human to ecological health to just the desire to support local, small-scale farmers working to produce safe and healthy vegetables.

We’re in the thick of information gathering as you can see from these photos of a recent interview with Placido, a small ecological/organic farmer in Calca. He is explaining why he sees value in producing organically and why he seeks a better market where he can sell his goods at a higher price. He also explained a bit about what he believes are the main challenges holding others from joining the movement.Very interesting! Check back in for updates and findings about this project soon. Team Peru will be sharing insights from interviews and personal reflections throughout their exploration this summer.

Want to learn more about Team Peru? Read about past experiences on the Team Peru blog.

Grow your soil first, your food second. This is a piece of advice many ecological growers are familiar with.

So how exactly does one grow a mass of brownish black dirt? Soil is a living and thriving thing. It is a substrate hosting microbes, bacteria, and a multitude of nutrients, the most important for plant growth being Calcium, Potassium, Nitrogen, Magnesium, and Phosphorus.  The soil feeds living microbes. Healthy soil is teeming with living matter from microscopic material to slimy earthworms. The things we put into or take out of the soil in agriculture can either improve the health of this living system or severely deplete it of nutrients.

For example, chemical based agriculture pumps alien sources of synthetic chemicals into soil to feed crops rather than relying on the natural occurring substances to do so. Intensive farming of one crop, monocropping, sucks too much out of the soil substrate. Soon farmers are left with a dead brown mass that once was home to millions of thriving microbes. In order to continue growing crops, farmers must pump more external, synthetic substances into the depleted soil, essentially just using the dirt as a place to put plants who then eat these synthetic fertilizers.

The alternative to this model is feeding the soil so it grows and in turn provides nutrients to support the growth of healthy crops in a more natural way. This can only be done by harnessing the power of nature and working with, not controlling or depleting, ecological nutrient cycles. AASD and many other ecological growers grow the soil through natural fertility building techniques such as compost and bocashi. These materials restore the nutrients we took out of the soil with the previous crops. And most importantly, we rotate crops.

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Different types of crops take different nutrients out of the soil and put other ones back in during their growing cycle. In order to ensure the balance of nutrients is restored, we can rotate crops based on the ratio of nutrients they give and take. For example, lettuce feeds heavily on nitrogen.  So we don’t want to plant kale after  lettuce which because both are what we call heavy feeders. Instead, we want to balance this nutrient load out. We use the above chart to help plan this rotation. This is a simplified version to help one remember which plants usually give, take, or lightly feed on nitrogen. Of course, other nutrients are restored through this balance too. Normally we rotate our crops by fruiting varieties (tomatoes) to leafing varieties (lettuce) to rooting varieties (onions) to leguminous varieties ( beans). With this rotation, we can help restore the nutrient balance, growing our soil, and in turn growing healthy plants. ~Kat

Photo by FAO/Simon Maina

Photo by FAO/Simon Maina

“We need to be able to focus CAADP on sustaining the momentum on three or four issues. One is women’s engagement in agriculture, in decision making and in policy formulation. Secondly youth engagement is critical for us to be able to move the younger generation forward. And thirdly, we need to be conscious of and responsive to the needs of climate change, in terms of building resilience of communities.” – Buba Khan, ActionAid International

Although this quote from the New Agriculturalist Article, Investing in Agriculture, refers to agricultural development in Africa, it is a statement that could easily apply to key focus areas for agricultural development in Peru. In fact, these are really focus areas for any country hoping to advance its agricultural sector and most of all to strengthen it. Resilience to climate change, reduced vulnerability to shocks, and just general development of food systems depends on key actors such as women and the future leaders of any country. So even though here at AASD we often focus on very localized, solutions, it is always useful to pay attention to the larger trends going on around the world in regards to agriculture and development.

 

 

 

 

Check out our photos from the 1st Demo Farm open house held yesterday, Sunday October 17th.

Click here to view the whole photo album on  Andean Alliance facebook page!