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Fight Malnutrition in Rural Guatemala

by Aldea Maya assistance For Mayan Families Society
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Fight Malnutrition in Rural Guatemala
Fight Malnutrition in Rural Guatemala
Fight Malnutrition in Rural Guatemala
Fight Malnutrition in Rural Guatemala
Fight Malnutrition in Rural Guatemala
Fight Malnutrition in Rural Guatemala
Fight Malnutrition in Rural Guatemala
Fight Malnutrition in Rural Guatemala
Fight Malnutrition in Rural Guatemala
Fight Malnutrition in Rural Guatemala
Fight Malnutrition in Rural Guatemala
Fight Malnutrition in Rural Guatemala
Fight Malnutrition in Rural Guatemala
Fight Malnutrition in Rural Guatemala
Fight Malnutrition in Rural Guatemala
creating healthy soil by layering organic material
creating healthy soil by layering organic material

The highlands of Guatemala have many industrial greenhouse to enable companies and individuals to grow items like tomatoes during the rainy season. Tomatoes do not enjoy their leaves being watered and can  become disease ridden if grown outdoors during the rainy season.

Unfortunately these tomato plants are regularily sprayed with toxic pesticides that are neither good for humans or the lake the village borders.

We wanted to build a better greenhouse system that did not rely on non organic chemical pesticides or fertilizers. We also challenged ourselves to install a water system that was effective yet inexpensive and therefore a  possible watering solution for poor farmers.

We started by making sure there was airflow in our greenhouse to limit the spread of disease. Air circulation also created healthy, strong plants as the young seadling develop hearty stems with a light breeze. 

We wanted to have nutritious soil with worms. We did this by layering manure, carboard, weed from the lake, leaves, wood ash, wood chips, coffee pulp, food scraps and our organic bokashi. We ensured we had 4 times more carbon to nitrogen layers and created a nutritious loamy soil that our plants thrive in. We also added microorganisms and compost tea. We will never have to add a non organic fertilizer.

To ensure that we will not need to spray with non organic pesticides we work hard to have healthy plants that can fight diseases easier. We also preemptively remove lower leaves and spray with several organic fertilizers that we make from horsetail, garlic, hot peppers and other items we grow in our garden.

Ollas are the ancient technology that we are using to effectively water our greenhouse plant using non glazed terracotta jugs. These semi buried containers slowly disperse water to the roots of the plants. We did numerous experiments to see which size and number of pots created the perfect soil moisture level. One purchased these pots will last for generations and are very cost effective.

Not only do we want to produce a plethora of yummy organic tomatoes, peppers and melons for the families in Chuk Muk, we also want to give tours and courses to the local farmers to show them how to build a better greenhouse.

putting in the terracotta ollas for watering
putting in the terracotta ollas for watering
making screened wiindows for airflow
making screened wiindows for airflow
watching our tomatoes, melon and peppers flourish
watching our tomatoes, melon and peppers flourish
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Francisco with slow to bolt cilantro
Francisco with slow to bolt cilantro

In November until January the students are  on holidays, so nobody here to nibble around  the garden, but all our veggie beds are full of vegetables. 

Do you know why we’ve been planting so many to harvest in this period?

Because our goal with these veggies, will be to save seeds !

By saving seeds we aims to be more self-sufficient, and also to work with nature by selecting the seeds that could work best in our environment.

Vandana Shiva, philosopher and physicist, explains “[saving seeds] is a convergence of human intelligence and nature’s intelligence.” Humans have been selecting seeds for thousands of years, to choose that would fit best and their needs (productivity, taste, appearance, etc.) and their environment (cliimate, soil, tolerance to pest, disease, drought, floods, etc.). To make it short and a tiny philosophical: “The seed in its essence is all of the past evolution of the Earth, the evolution of human history, and the potential for future evolution. The seed is the embodiment of culture because culture shaped the seed with careful selection—women picked the best, diversified. So from one grass you get 200,000 rices.” (Vandana Shiva).

This is why we are basically waiting for all these perfectly beautiful and ready vegetables, to grow too big, loose their potential taste, make flowers, then produce seeds that we will harvest, dry and keep in our seed bank.

One seed we are very excited about is a slow to bolt cilantro seed. Cilantro is a difficult plant to harvest as it often goes to seed before you can eat it. We are trying this slow to bolt cilantro seed in the Guatemalan highlands to see if it will grow well here. It has been amazing. The cilantro plants have not bolted for several weeks and are so tall. Ironically, we are now waiting for it to go to seed. We are planning on using this plant and it seeds to help generate a cash crop to keep this project sustainable.

January is here and the students are  back to helping, tasting and learning in the garden.

These radish seeds are not quite ready to harvest
These radish seeds are not quite ready to harvest
A mom adding plants to our worm home
A mom adding plants to our worm home
Trying spicy nasturtium flowers
Trying spicy nasturtium flowers
So many seeds from the mustard family
So many seeds from the mustard family
In a few weeks we can collect these bean seeds
In a few weeks we can collect these bean seeds
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Planting bean seeds
Planting bean seeds

We have started hands on workshops with different elementary school grades.

The grade 3 students are planting 3 different types of bush beans. We are experimenting to see which one germinates first, which variety produces the most beans and how quickly each one produces beans. The class is broken into 3 groups and each group is germinating seeds in a petri dish so they can observe the whole germination process.

The grade 5 students are also working with legumes. They started by making little pots using toilet rolls.We then added the wonderful bokashi compost soil made in our biofactory.The class is divided into 5 groups, each group is sewing a different type of legumes. We are experimenting with organic, non GMO seeds. We want to see which seeds grow best in the highlands as well as add some biodiversity. The students will be collecting seeds from their plants enabling this project to be sustainable. Of course, they will also get to eat their yummy beans.

 We also are teaching about the importance of organic gardens and companion planting. We  had 2 of our sponsored students collecting marigold seeds. We are planting marigolds in our garden to attract beneficial insects and repel harmful ones, especially around tomato plants.

Our future goal is to produce enough wonderful soil and seeds so that the children can start home gardens.

watching them grow in petri dish
watching them grow in petri dish
Making little pots from toilet rolls
Making little pots from toilet rolls
Using  bokashi soil made in our biofactory
Using bokashi soil made in our biofactory
Our biodiversity experiment
Our biodiversity experiment
Seed collection before we replant
Seed collection before we replant
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New greenhouse under construction
New greenhouse under construction

It is amazing the difference a few months can make. The Chuk Muk Elementary garden is being made into an organic oasis. The main garden has been transformed into a sun design with raised bamboo beds that are several feet deep. To create some shade ( and supply food) fruit trees have been planted at the outer edge. This area is so increadably rocky we were left with a plethora of rocks once we had created the garden beds. We used some to build a herb area in the centre, which the grade one students loved planting. The rest we used to construct a thick rock entrance wall. On this wall we planted dragon fuit...so it is both beautiful and functional.

One of our university students, Francisco, is studying agriculture. He has been doing his practicum at the Chuk Muk school. His big project was designing and constructing our new greenhouse.

It is so much fun watching this garden project bear fruit.

Grade one students planting in the herb garden
Grade one students planting in the herb garden
Aerial view of garden
Aerial view of garden
Child size garden tools make planting easy
Child size garden tools make planting easy
Rock entrance with dragonfruit
Rock entrance with dragonfruit
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Collecting bamboo
Collecting bamboo

We are ever so excited about the new school garden in Chuk Muk. The whole community is participating in making this garden a success and this is no mean feat.

The elementary teachers, the parents of our sponsor students, students and our Guatemalan Board of Directors have all been going up into the mountains to collect bamboo for building garden beds and structures. We have started making our own organic fertilizers as well as an organic compost accelerant. We have been able to make several tons of organic compost to put in our new garden beds.

The next task was digging through rocks to create the lower part of the garden beds. We have then filled the beds with our compost, coffee pulp, leaves, manure, mountain dirt and weed from the lake. We are now ready to start planting in rich, loamy soil.

The goal of this project is to help feed the 500 elementary students healthy, nutritious food and to teach the community about the value of organic gardening. This project would not be sustainable without community support and we are pleased that we have a committed group.

 

 

Making organic fertilizers
Making organic fertilizers
Collecting mountain dirt
Collecting mountain dirt
Digging down to make the garden beds
Digging down to make the garden beds
Layers the new beds with leaves, compost etc
Layers the new beds with leaves, compost etc
a completed garden bed
a completed garden bed
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Organization Information

Aldea Maya assistance For Mayan Families Society

Location: Qualicum, BC - Canada
Website:
Project Leader:
Louise Sosa
Qualicum, BC Canada

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