Open Day a Big Success

On Friday we held an Open Day at our new Project Center in San Marcos.  It’s always a bit nerve wracking just before an event like this, waiting to see what the results of all that effort will be and wondering how many farmers will decide to make the trip, but it turns out we needn’t have worried. We had a great turn out, with 4 different communities represented, including the remote San Rafael and Betania. We even had quite a few women attend, something we have been pushing for as it’s really important for the whole family to understand the value of Inga and support each other in the decision to give up slash and burn.

Local farmer Fuastino’s 7 year old Inga alley plot is just beside our Project Center land, so after providing everyone with breakfast we walked up to his plot. With the visiting families sat on piles on Inga firewood, looking across at a field of flourishing Inga-grown maize, the team outlined the benefits of switching to Inga alley cropping.

Faustino told his own personal story of how this land was originally his fathers, and the first year that they cleared and burnt it, they got a great harvest. The next was less good, and the 3rd even worse. They planted larger and larger areas to try to get a decent harvest but the amount of maize produced continued to go down, even as the effort they were putting in went up exponentially. Seeing that things would only get worse if they carried on this way, Faustino started looking for an alternative. He tried out a whole range of option, but only Inga was really able to make the difference and transform his situation. He’s been using it ever since.

This was followed by plenty of questions and a really interesting discussion on everything from the practicalities of alley cropping – which variety of Inga is best, whether any pests attack the Inga, how best to plant and manage it to prevent erosion – to other broader issues, such as how Inga can help to provide security for the future, whether from economic crisis, worsening climate change or the threat of hurricanes washing the topsoil from your fields. For farmers like these, achieving this kind of security and autonomy is vital and it’s really encouraging to see farmers starting to view Inga as a solution to some of these issues.

By the end of the day, the majority of the farmers seemed like they had been convinced by what they had seen and the testimonies they’d heard and nearly all of them put down their names and numbers so that we can begin to work with them to set up Inga plots of their own. And to cap it all off, the farmers from Betania community decided they wanted to invite us to come and give a talk in their village, as they think there could be plenty of other families who would jump at the idea of Inga if they had the chance.

For more pictures from the event, check out our Pinterest Page.