|A cacao and banana farm located near Puyo|
Nowhere have I found this to be more evident than in Esfuerzo, a small community I have been working with about an hour outside of Puyo. There is a very dedicated group of women in Esfuerzo who run a large scale compost project funded by the municipality, and they want to work on collectively growing vegetables as well. These women come from farming families--cattle, dairy and sugarcane are the financial backbone of the community--but vegetable production is little practiced, and with good reason. The rainforest, while incredibly ecologically diverse, is not a good place to grow vegetables. The pounding rain washes away topsoil and nutrients and acidifies the soil, and the high humidity makes it incredibly difficult to manage disease and fungus in the crops.
Luckily, difficult is a long way from impossible, and this group of women certainly is up to the challenge. They are dedicated to their work and the group they have formed. They meet twice a week to accept hundreds of pounds of organic waste delivered from the Puyo fruit and vegetable market and turn it into compost. The process requires a lot of hard work that is both physically demanding and sometimes pretty gross (finding bags of rotting meat mixed in with the vegetable scraps is a common occurrence). In addition to the compost project, they have also spearheaded a community wide reforestation project with the help of a Peace Corps volunteer.
|Alex works with community members to prepare a bed|
The work day I enjoyed most was two weeks ago when we started seeds for transplants. I have always loved working with seeds. The different shapes, sizes and even smells of the seeds are fascinating, and these little pellets hold a lot of promise for the coming season and all the delicious vegetables to come. If you ever get the chance to smell a handful of carrot seed or immerse your hand in a bag of broccoli seed, maybe you will know what I am talking about. Here around Puyo, unfortunately, seeds are few and far between. The ag supply stores around here are focused on animal and limited cash crop production. Whereas in the states I can choose from dozens of varieties of tomatoes to plant, when I went to the biggest ag supply store in town, they had several packets of seeds simply labeled tomato, without providing the name of the variety. Most of the available seeds are years old and packaged in clear packets, unprotected from air, moisture or light.
|Sowing seeds with the women's group in Esfuerzo|