On Saturday, October 13, the Azuero Earth Project brought together local farmers and community members for back-to-back hands-on lessons in sustainable land use techniques.
The AEP invited not one but two guest experts, Professor Manuel Cedeño, Director of Pablo Ballesteros School in Los Asientos and member of the silvopastoral cattle association APASPE, and our very own Jairo Batista, organic gardener extraordinaire.
Professor Cedeño spoke about how to build an ariete (also known as a “water hammer” or a “hydraulic ram”), a special type of self-powered water pump.
In the Azuero, riparian zones are often polluted and eroded by cattle that drink directly from streams. The ariete, Professor Cedeño explained, helps to resolve this problem by allowing farmers to pump water out of almost any stream without using electric or gas-powered pumps. An ariete works 24 hours a day and allows water to be pumped uphill over considerable distance even with low levels of water pressure. With an ariete, Professor Cedeño explained, one can fence off sensitive stream areas, store the pumped water in tanks, and safely provide it to the cattle in troughs.
Professor Cedeño also spoke about the simple low-cost design of the pump, explained how the pump is assembled, and showed a short video demonstration of a working ariete. Attendees then gathered in the yard to see a basic ariete in action. The simple ariete assembled on site was raffled off at the end of the day, and one lucky Valleriquito rancher headed home with his very own basic pump.
After a short break, Mr. Jairo Batista took the stage for the day’s second seminar: how to make and use bocashi, a special type of fermented organic fertilizer.
Mr. Batista began by explaining the importance of using organic fertilizers that, unlike chemical fertilizers, enrich soil over time, cost little, and provide plants with a wide range of nutrients.
Bocashi, Mr. Batista explained, is highly effective as a fertilizer and can be made from ingredients found on most farms. Bocashi is generally made from a mixture of manure, charcoal, ash, dirt, rice husks, molasses, water, and yeast, but many of the ingredients can be substituted if necessary. Mr. Batista explained the function of each ingredient in the mix, with different ingredients helping to regulate the fermentation, humidity, aeration, and body of the final product. Bocashi, according to Mr. Batista, is best applied deep in the soil, where it will nourish plant roots as they grow downwards.
After the presentation, attendees got to try their hand at mixing up their own batch of bocashi, with two groups competing to see who could mix the best batch. Bocashi must ferment for 15 days before it can be used, but participants were presented with small bags of ready-to-use bocashi to take home as rewards for their hard work.