Mexico and Latin America
Juan Manuel Martinez, Director of ECOPOL, was recently re-elected as President of Mexico’s national committee to write the regulations for organic agriculture. Because a majority of organic growers in Mexico grow large-scale for export, Juan says: “I don’t expect to obtain great results but I do expect to have the tiebreaking vote.” Juan is now in the midst of a demanding schedule, giving follow-up workshops that were requested by people at the Six-Day Workshop in Costa Rica. He was in Peru June 17th to July 4th, where he gave three 3-day workshops, made presentations and appeared on TV programs. His last workshop was at the farm of Yesica Cusiyupanqui, who had recently returned from a 5-month internship at Ecology Action. Juan said: “Yesica organized a workshop for 110 participants. However, she gave a diploma to only 70 of them because she applied really drastic criteria regarding attendance and participation.”
Juan’s next stop was in the Dominican Republic, where he spent 10 days. Among other activities, he gave a 3-day workshop, five 3-hour seminars and two 4-hour workshops. Since then he has been in both Bolivia and Paraguay. In Bolivia, he gave 5 workshops and in Paraguay he and Fernando Pia gave a workshop at the San Francisco Agricultural School, which has 200 Biointensive beds and is taking steps to become a demonstration/mini-ag center site. Jennifer Ungemach, an intern at Ecology Action during the 2006 growing season, traveled to Paraguay at the same time to assess the program there. Jennifer is now Ecology Action’s Latin American Liaison.
We received reports from the NGO Viola about two families living in areas contaminated by the Chernobyl nuclear accident who are now using GROW BIOINTENSIVE. The reports were translated by Carol Vesecky, Director of Biointensive for Russia:
In this family there are seven people: the parents Zoya and Sergey Ryzhakov, their son Nikolai, their daughter Tatiana, her husband Ivan Pushnoi, and their children Olya (age two) and Denis (age one). They have a big house (seven rooms), a garden (2000 m2), an area with pollin-bearing plants (2000 m2), an orchard with 40 adult trees, ten colonies of bees, and domestic animals. Financially this family lives at the average Russian level, but almost all members of the family have many chronic diseases connected with living in the radiation zone.
While Tatiana and Ivan were university students, they attended Saturday classes on GROW BIOINTENSIVE conducted by members of Viola from October to March for all those interested in organic agriculture. Tatiana and Ivan were interested that, according to data from Viola’s experiments, the plants grown by the Biointensive method have far fewer radionuclides. This is very important for their family; they grow all the foodstuffs and medicinal plants that they consume.
In 2002 they started to use the Biointensive method on 600 m2 of their plot to grow vegetables and medicinal plants. They noticed that using the Biointensive method they don’t have to use chemical fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides which would end up in the vegetables themselves. Grown without chemical additives, these vegetables, even carrots, stopped causing allergies and gastric diseases. They were able to give the juice of relatively pure plants to their small children, and could use medicinal plants more often.
This family now has started to plant berry bushes and fruit trees in their Biointensive plot. They are very grateful to Viola for giving them new information about Biointensive.
The Samsonov family lives in the city of Novozybkov, which is called the “capital” of the radiation zone. They have a small wooden house with three rooms and a field of 2000 m2. The parents, Nikolai and Tatiana, are former teachers. In the radiation zone a man retires at 55 and a woman at 50. That’s why they are both pensioners. Their daughter Svetlana and her husband Ivan graduated from the faculty of biology two years ago at the university, and they are also teachers in Novozybkov. Last year Svetlana’s first daughter Masha was born, and now Svetlana doesn’t work; she is at home with her daughter. From their salaries and from the State all of them together receive $300 to support five persons. That’s not enough to live; therefore, they are trying to grow all of their food on their own plot and in small sheds (hens, pigs).
In 2002, when Svetlana and Ivan were students at the university in Bryansk, they learned about the Biointensive method at a seminar organized by Viola. They closely read John Jeavons’ book and several times came to consultations at Viola’s Ecocenter. Viola even gave them vegetable and grain seeds to start working with the Biointensive method. In 2003 this family established a Biointensive plot with an area of 200 m2. On this small plot they obtained yields 3-4 times greater than those they earlier gathered in the same area by the traditional method.
There were many reasons for this: in Russia by the traditional method, seeds are sown once a year, and far from each other. Therefore, on the traditional Russian beds there are many weeds between the vegetable rows. But now in the Biointensive plot, where the plants are grown with hexagonal spacing, they grew 2.5 times more, they shaded the soil, weeds did not grow, and the moisture was conserved. The Samsonovs were really delighted to get such a big crop, and they returned as a family to the seminar, which was organized by Viola in Novozybkov.
At that seminar, Viola members Igor Prokofiev, Ludmila Zhirina, Albina Samsonova, and Oleg Zavarzin gathered only those inhabitants of Novozybkov who had already started to use the Biointensive method. The Viola members provided much additional information. For example, Viola suggested that the experiment participants bring vegetables and medicinal plants, which were gathered from both traditional and Biointensive plots to a special laboratory for analysis of the radionuclide levels.
The Samsonov family brought for analysis the grain which had been grown to feed their chickens and pigs, squash, pumpkins, greens, and onions. They did not pay for the analysis; since 2002 Viola has received financial support for this kind of analyses from Biointensive for Russia. All the Samsonov family members were pleasantly surprised that in the plants which have been grown with the Biointensive method, the quantity of radionuclides is less than in the plants that have been cultivated by the traditional method. This number varied from 1.5 to 3 times, depending on the crop.
In 2005 Carol Vesecky was introduced to this family and their experiment. The elder members of the family told Carol that they have already started to sell a portion of the produce they harvest, especially greens: lettuce, dill, parsley, and green onions. Every year they enlarge the Biointensive field a little, and they are really glad to have come to know the Biointensive method.
We received an extensive annual report from Alex Kachan, as well as a letter describing his new demonstration garden site. The following are excerpts:
“This year was also very significant in that I moved and shifted the center of my activity from Kfar Galim Youth Village to Im HaAdama farm.” Alex describes it as in central Israel, about 4 acres in the middle of a national park. “During the 70s the farm was a commercial flower farm for export and later on a commercial culinary herb farm. For about 10 years the farm has been abandoned. … In my new location … I received an incredible opportunity to realize my dream: the creation of an agricultural model that is both sustainable and able to provide enough income to live well from being a mini-farmer. This opportunity came in the form of a kind landowner that provides me the land, water, equipment and all other needs to start a mini-farm. … I have been in this farm [since December 2005]. After finishing much infrastructure work that was needed in the farm and planting a vineyard with 120 grape vines (3 varieties suitable for this land for fresh eating and making raisins, all on round DD beds) only now [the end of July] I have started creating my GROW BIOINTENSIVE demonstration garden.” Alex sent us a map: the garden is round, shaped like a peace sign, with the inner “Y” main pathways. There are 144 sq. meters for beds.
Alex’s reports on the number of GROW BIOINTENSIVE workshops that he gave or facilitated during the year, in his current site and other places in Israel, is very impressive: two 8-hour seed-saving workshops, one 3-day workshop, five 2-day workshops, seven 1-day workshops, as well as making presentations to a variety of groups, helping a community with field work, and giving GROW BIOINTENSIVE demonstrations under the auspices of other events.