Before partnering with FH, many communities farmed and gardened in ways they had done for centuries. While traditional farming methods are important, it’s also necessary to incorporate simple new agricultural techniques that keep soil healthy and diversify crops. As FH partners with communities, many are looking for better agricultural success. Implementing these new practices are the first place to start.
New crops mean better nutrition for communities. Children are receiving much-needed vitamins from these new vegetables.
FH hold agricultural training sessions to help farmers get on board with new agricultural techniques. They tell farmers that rotating crops on their land helps preserve and rebuild nutrients in the soil. Composting and mulch blanket techniques enrich soil and lead to better yields in the long run.
Here’s how some new key farming techniques are making all the difference!
Farmers in some regions are trained to create layers of mulch and sticks over their gardens, around the crops. These mulch blankets emulate the layer of leaves and sticks you’d find naturally under the canopy of a forest. The decomposing layer stops evaporation and keeps the dirt moist. It also prevents erosion and runoff. To top it off, weeding isn’t always necessary because the layer of mulch smothers weeds.
Crop rotation yields so many benefits for farmers. Instead of planting the same crop over and over again, switching the type of vegetable in any given plot of land can do a lot for soil nutrition. By rotating crops between root vegetables, leaf vegetables, and fruit vegetables, nitrogen is replenished in the soil. It even stops pests from spreading. Many farmers struggle with pest problems because certain bugs infeste specific crops. Rotating their crops takes away the homes of certain pests.
Composting is a widely-used technique of enriching soil, but this practice has become a staple in FH partner communities. Farmers are trained on mixing compost ingredients—how much green matter, food waste, or wood to include in it. Since implementing new composting techniques, farmers report greater yields and healthier crops.
Beetroots are a superfood packed with vitamins and minerals! Along with providing essential nutrients to a daily diet, beetroots lower blood pressure and contain antioxidants that help lower glucose levels and prevent diabetes. The leaves can even be eaten as greens, just like spinach!
Amaranth provides both grain and leafy greens. It’s a hardy plant that grows in many types of soil. The grain is similar to quinoa and it is high in protein. The leaves can also be eaten as greens which really help supplement the family diet with even more vitamins and minerals.
Pumpkins, butternut, watermelons, and zucchinis are all squashes that provide families with additional nutrients to their diets. They thrive in warmer weather where many FH partner communities are located.
Coffee is a crop that many families in FH partner communities grow to sell. It’s been a great way for many to boost their household incomes! On top of that, making tea from coffee leaves is also known to prevent inflammation.
Florencio envisioned more for his community. He’d grown up in Villa Hortensia II, and since he was a kid, many things had been the same. The majority of his community were subsistence farmers, and they’d planted the same crops year after year, in the same way.
Florencio thought back on the way he was raised. “Previously we had no idea what other crops we could produce in the community. Our parents and grandparents had taught us only to grow güisquil (a type of squash), corn, and beans and this allowed us to eat.” The entire community had stuck with the same methods of farming for generations.
And for generations, his community had been stuck in poverty.
It seemed like his life was running along the same track. Now that he was married with children, were his children destined for the same life as well?
In 2010, Food for the Hungry began working alongside leaders in the community of Villa Hortensia II. As FH staff presented community leaders with a vision for developing the community, Florencio jumped on many of the ideas.
Inspired to change his children’s lives, he became an advocate for agricultural training groups in the community. He knew if the farmers could become more successful, the income and the health of the community would grow as well.
“Thanks to FH, I have learned a lot about crops. Since FH started working in the community I have always participated in the workshops, I have learned ideas that will never die.” For the past eight years, Florencio has been leading a group of 10 farmers.
He was pleased to see that the new agricultural methods were having an effect on the community’s children. “Previously we thought that our children were well fed when they ate enough tortillas; now, I have noticed that the children that eat more vegetables, do not get sick that often, are more alert, and grow faster. Now the families vary their diet.”
Thanks to Florencio’s leadership and FH training workshops, the community of Villa Hortensia II has been blessed with better nutrition. And it’s unlocked more opportunities for the young people in Villa Hortensia II, including Florencio’s children. “I was very happy to see my son graduating, I never had this opportunity and this is thanks to the work of the community leaders. My son now wants to become an Agricultural Engineer, like the FH agricultural facilitator,” says Florencio, with tears in his eyes.
Florencio’s passion for farming is contagious, and so are the techniques he’s been teaching in workshops. Families are starting up small kitchen gardens, and farmers are growing healthier crops. These changes aren’t just the fruits of farming workshops, they are the yields of a thriving community.
I want to see healthy children, without malnutrition, and a thriving community that looks after their own development. May children succeed, may they fulfill their dreams, may they have a better life than I had.