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February 2006: International Partners

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Juan Manuel Martinez, Director of ECOPOL, sent us a report on one of his stops during his trip to Ecuador in June last year:

During my last day in Quito I visited the children’s boarding school, Yachay Washi. In Quechua, this means house of wisdom. The garden is really beautiful and the best thing is that everybody knows that it was created with the principles of the Biointensive method. They know the double-digging technique, the importance of compost, how to build seedbeds and plant seedlings, and the names of all the crops and medicinal herbs. They also explained to me how to control diseases and insects: they bury some small jars with a little water and brown sugar in the beds. Attracted by the sweet smell, a lot of insects are trapped, particularly coleopterans. Since the garden is very small (6 beds) and they need a lot of food, I told them about the Norogachi effect. [This refers to a boarding school in the Tarahumara Sierra in Mexico, where Biointensive techniques were taught to indigenous children. When they went home on the weekends, they taught their parents, and so more food was available.] They loved it and asked me some questions about the Tarahumaras.

Laura, a teacher for 60 boys and girls, told us that those boarding schools had been created because those kids [indigenous] are discriminated against in ordinary schools and when they arrive there they are suffering the effects of institutional, social and family mistreatment. In those schools they teach them to appreciate their roots, culture, grandparents and environment. They call Mother Nature "Pacha Mama" and they call the soil "Alpa Mama." In accordance with the Andean view of the world they love trees; they hug them, talk to them and when they are sad they go to them in order to be comforted. One of the grandparents told me about an Andean prophecy that says that in 500 years (these times) human beings of different color skin and race will unite to renew the world. It was a visit that made me feel full of spirituality and energy.

In another report, Juan wrote: Urcuqui is a county in Ecuador whose mayor is really into the Biointensive method. During my last visit he requested help to turn his county into the first one in Ecuador in which all its towns use the method. The good news is that he already gave Mercedes two hectares with water and a fence, a house for the promoters and a workshop with sewing machines to install a school for the natives of the area.


Sandra Mardigian, Director of Kilili Self Help Project, which funds GROW BIOINTENSIVE training for farmers in Kenya, sent us this report. It is a summary of a report submitted to Kilili Self Help Project by Baldas K. Murambakania and James Wafula Nyongesa:

Kilili Self Help Project’s trainers qualify by graduating in good standing from a two-year course in the GROW BIOINTENSIVE method at Manor House Agricultural Centre (MHAC). Baldas Murambakania graduated in 2000 and returned to his home in Lugulu, a place completely isolated from any Biointensive influence.

Baldas’ first step was to create a Biointensive demonstration site with 50 composted, double-dug beds and 15 different crops. Next, Baldas recruited eight local self-help groups with 540 farmers to organize under his umbrella organization, Integrated Rural Community Empowerment Programme (IRCEP), with the slogan, "Bye to Hunger", and the goal of "empowering small-holder farmers with sound agricultural skills, hence helping to address food insecurity and income generation."

Baldas’ next step was to conduct a survey, which determined that most of the 540 IRCEP farmers’ families could not afford to grow enough food for three meals per day because of fertilizer and other artificial input costs. In economic terms, their family income amounted to less than zero. Baldas encouraged James Wafula Nyongesa to attend Manor House Agricultural Centre. James graduated in 2003, and IRCEP’s Biointensive trainers became a team of two.

From 2001 through 2004, Baldas and James trained a total of 300 farmers from the groups under IRCEP’s umbrella. In 2005, all remaining members "demanded Biointensive training", and Baldas’ original goal to train every one of the 540 members was attained. Moreover, the 540 trained farmers had trained other farmers, especially other members of their families. When Baldas and James held an open house at their demonstration site, 800 farmers attended.

Baldas and James conducted a follow-up survey in 2005. Findings were dramatic. The farmers were now providing three nutritious meals a day for their families and generating, on average, $30/month in income from excess crops sold at market. "An interview with the area administration chief revealed a decrease in rural to urban migration in search of jobs for the past 1-1/2 years. Also there is a drastic drop in local brewing of illegal drinks such as ‘chang aa’ by most women because of the introduction of sustainable GROW BIOINTENSIVE methods to subsidize their income and food for their family."

Kilili Self Help Project is located at 260 Marion Avenue, Mill Valley CA 94941; phone: (415) 380-0687; This organization works at the grassroots level to help poor rural farmers in Kenya gain food security. Donations are gratefully accepted and all are channeled to this worthwhile work.


We received a report from Naqibullah Salik, Director of the Afghan Organic Agriculture Training Center in Kabul. He believes that the Center is one of the most important projects in the country because 95% of the people live below the poverty line, 90% of the people don’t have access to healthy food, and most farmers can’t produce healthy food.

Their accomplishments for last year: they improved soil fertility; gave three courses for Kabul, Logar and Ministry of Agriculture employees; gave two composting courses for Badam Bagh and Research Institute staff, and established an irrigation system for the project. The yields from the project were two times greater than the average yield in Afghanistan. This was particularly notable since the soil was in very bad condition with less than 1% organic matter and a pH of about 8.5. They also do not have access to good-quality seeds.



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