Monday, June 23, 2008

Back from Honduras!

Let me tell you about a big problem in the Opalaca Mountains of Honduras. Well actually, this is a problem anywhere there is subsistence farming on hillsides.

It goes like this. A farmer needs more land to grow whatever, so he clear cuts a hillside. He then plants beans, corn, coffee, bananas, or more likely a combination of two or more of these. After a few years, the hill will no longer grow corn, and production of other items is likely declining as well. Eventually, the hillside will likely be abandoned to the forest once again. However, the damage has been done. The hillside will likely have lost several inches, even feet of topsoil, and perhaps may have even been subject to landslides.

Enter SALT farming. That's Sloping Agricultural Land Technology to those acronym lovers out there. Using leguminous trees and a few new farming tactics, a farmer will create terraces that not only allow permanent use of a piece of hillside land, but also reduce and even reverse the loss of topsoil and other erosion-caused problems.

Here, I have a picture of exactly what I was talking about. A hillside has just recently been cleared to plant coffee. You can even see some small areas where there have already been small mudslides. The yearling coffee plants are in the foreground.

This activity touches so many facets of the things that I am interested in. First, the people. Clear cutting a forest hillside is backbreaking labor when you only have a machete. This time, and time spent traveling to newer fields at increasing distances from the home takes away from time better spent farming or building a family. Secondly, the washed topsoil makes silty streams and the fertilizer used to try to maintain corn production destroys streams and lakes at lower elevations. I believe we can help these impoverished farmers and their families have better lives, and that's really for me what it's all about. I hope to have more info regarding this stuff later on, but for now, look into SALT farming. It's good stuff.


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