Back in October I spent two days with the Food for the Hungry (FH) team in Torotoro, Bolivia, to share the training on the Foundations for Farming Well-Watered Garden. During this time we planted a demonstration plot of maize where the team lives so that we could try out this method of farming, and see if it is something that FH in Bolivia wish to implement in its community development work.
The training went well, despite a few difficulties such as working with land that had already been ploughed prior to my arrival, and demonstrations that didn’t quite work exactly as they should. When it came to sharing I actually found it quite difficult to express the materials well in a second language. However despite these difficulties the team was able to understand the main concepts and we were able to successfully plant a 6x6m Well-Watered Garden of Maize. Doing this training also served to help strengthen the team in that region as it provided an opportunity for them to share and learn together as well as enjoying some fun and laughter along the way. Initially the plot had a high germination rate which was good, however, early on birds came and ate most of the seeds so they had to replanted again. In order to prevent the same thing happening again the team decided to put bottles next to each planting station and planted 5 seeds instead of 3, with the thought that 2 were for the birds and then 3 for them.
I originally had plans to return to the site in February, however bad weather and resulting storm damage and landslides meant that the trip had to be cancelled. In mid-March I was finally able to go back to Torotoro to see what had been happening whilst I was accompanying a team that was visiting our work zones. During this visit I had time to talk with some of the team who had been looking after the plot and hear their stories about how it had been going and the difficulties that they had faced. They really liked the idea of the standards and principles set by FfF though they have been a challenge for them to keep and at various times they have had to stop and go back and readjust what they were doing. The two most prominent examples of this were, 1: Watering of the plants, normally in Bolivia they either put on lots and lots of water or nothing at all, at times they forgot to water them and so had to keep working at it to try and make it a habit. 2: Thinning out the plants in the plant stations. This they found really hard to do, despite understanding the reasons why.
Recently they have had a problem with the birds eating the maize growing on the plants so they have been thinking about how they can stop them. Their plan is to put clear plastic bottles over the tops of the cobs to stop the birds. There hope now is that by the end of April the Maize will be ready to harvest.
Ruben the area coordinator has been very encouraged with this method of farming despite its problems, and the way the demonstration plot has turned out and is hoping that we can continue to experiment with this method in the coming growing season as well as trial the vegetable gardens. He is also hoping that we can start trials with some of the families in the communities where FH is working. So in April I hope to share my vision for using FfF within FH Bolivia with our new programs manager to get him onboard, and then in May I hope to be able to travel back to Torotoro to evaluate with the team their experiences and talk about the next steps to be able to move forward.