Monday, November 26, 2012

First week of work in El Salvador

El Salvador continued......
Last week was my first official week of work and true to Latin American culture, it got off to a slow start.
I did get a better look at the demonstration garden at the center in Cudidad Romero. I am still thinking about how to up grade the drip system there and stick with the original idea to create one using   various material readily available and spending as little money as possible.
I spent Thursday getting dirty working with Freddy and Geraldo, the two gardeners at the center. We spent the day making a batch of Bocashi compost. I was quite pleased until I heard the pile had to be turned everyday for the next two weeks. I never turn compost piles! I was pleased to learn that they are paying good attention to the composting process and turn the pile because it heats up too much other wise and kills all the microbiology. I am hoping we can build a few other piles and experiment with creating a quality compost that does not require the labour  of turning it!
Another exciting thing to me is their new seed bank! So great to see their traditional seeds beimg saved and re-used. There are 4 or 5 types of corn commonly used, about the same amount of beans and various other vegetables. Other farmers are dropping seeds by, so the collection is growing .

I took advantage of my weekend and headed up to Alergria a lovely small town on the side of the Volcano Tecapa. I got out for a 3 hour hike up
And over the volcano with a great of lakes, the rio Lempa, the Pacific and beyond. 
I better quit while I am ahead so to speak, this technology is getting the best of me and I am reduced to posting blogs using the screen on my I phone. So please excuse any typo's. Onward

Monday, November 19, 2012

El Salvador

Hey, I finally got back onto my blogspot! I have been living on El
Salvador these past three weeks, and today starts my first month volunteering with the Mangrove association.
I spent my first two weeks in the capital San Salvador living with a Salvadorian family attending classes in Spanish . My family consisted of two women who did a great job mothering me and showing me around. They fixed my hair, painted my fingernails, went to the beach with me and Nena took me out Salsa dancing.
Spanish classes were great. The second week I was the only student at my level, so I got some great private lessons. I spent my afternoons in a Cultural and Political program. This turned out to be daily field trips with Don Oscar a great guide, so well versed in history. He was delightful and we went to many  museums, a few cathedrals, the war memorial, the Jardin Botanical, a organic coffee plantation owed by a cooperative, the Devils door, which is a really great formation of rocks that affords a view of half the country. Keep in mind that El Salvador is the size of Virgina and takes about 3 hours to get across the entire country.
The violence and grief from the Civil war is still very present here . Everywhere you go there are paintings and posters of Father Romero. He made a profound statemt shortly before his assisination, he said"If they kill me, I will be resurrected in the actions of my people". I am also in awe of how involved and educated everyone seems to be about matters of Political and Social justice. Americans seem so uninformed and apathetic in comparison .
Let me give some quick background information. At the end of the Civil War, 12 years ago the peace accords broke up the largest land holdings on this country and started a process to give parcels
of land to campesinos. Some of this land has returned to larger holdings, but most of the land here in the Bajo Lempa region is now owned by small land owners and they are building new communities with schools, public water systems and farming.  I am continually impressed by their knowledge of the enviremt, and there willingness to make personal sacrifices for the bigger good. Let me give a specfic example or two. Last week I got to see a Mangrove restoration project. The people in the surrounding pueblos dig out a canal by hand, hauling mud out by hand on canoes. It took them about 3months. The results just 3 months later are astounding , partially because they did not have access to large earth moving equipment and so had a very low impact on the environment as they worked. Mangroves must have a certain mix of salt with fresh water to thrive. Then in this Eco system there is particular type of crab. The emviromental impact studies showed they could sustainably harvest about 2000 a month instead of the 5000 they were harvesting. So the communities came together and agreed to a system of harvesting so that they were harvesting the 2000 crabs instead of the 5000.
I must wrap things up for today, I need to pick up my bike from the repair shop now. I will get back soon and share more about the Agriculture here and get some photos posted .
Ciao Farmer Melinda