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Biointensive Garden

Izalco, El Salvador
Update to the Board
June 19, 2010
Rainbow of Hope for Children
Structure of talk
Background on El Salvador and Bio-intensive
Detail of Rainbow support for program over
past 6 years
Path Forward
Rainbow of Hope Philosophy
We believe in the value of caring for the earth and
its people and that love has no geographical
We believe in the dignity of, and justice for, all
people, regardless of sex, race, creed, religion, or
We believe that as members of our global family, we
have a responsibility to work towards this vision.
We have abundant hope that together we can make
a difference
Rainbow of Hope in
El Salvador
Two of the United Nations Millennium Goals,
agreed to by all of the countries of the world, and
which are implicit in Rainbows philosophy, are:
1. to eradicate poverty and hunger and
2. to promote environmental sustainability.
Bio-intensive Mini-Farming
One of the options to
achieve these goals
involves the use of
organic biointensive
mini-farming techniques,
which enable
marginalized people to
become food self-
Land Base: 100 km x 200 km
Wet Season (tropical): May-October
Dry Season: November- April
Agriculture: Coffee,
seeds, cotton, sorghum,
shrimp, beef,dairy
Industry: food processing,
beverages, petroleum,
chemicals, fertilizer, textiles,
furniture, light metals
El Salvador: Geography
Location of garden
El Salvador: People
6.2 million
49% below poverty line, earning less than 3$ per day
10% unemployment
0-14 yrs: 38%
14-64 yrs: 57%
* 60% of the population is less than 25 years old
65+: 5%
Labor Force:
49% agriculture
15% industry
55% services
Diet of the poor consists mainly of corn and beans imported
food products are expensive
Agriculture Situation in El Salvador
Millions of agricultural workers have been displaced and their condition
worsened due to:
Destruction of cotton production during the 1980s civil wars
Collapse of the sugar industry in mid-1990s
3 years of drought severely reducing coffee production, followed by global
slump in coffee prices in late 90s
Hurricane Mitch in 1998 and earthquakes in 2001 caused major economic
Adoption of large scale agricultural practices is not affordable to those most in
need and are not environmentally sustainable
The large younger generation has little first hand agricultural experience, and
minimal access to land.
Providing people with the training to grow their own food and supplement their
incomes with the minimal resources they have has the potential to be the seed
for elevating them out of grinding poverty
Back ground: Biointensive
Organic Mini-farms
There are numerous
organic agriculture
techniques/models that can
be followed to enhance
small farm food security
In the case of the Rainbow
sponsored projects in El
Salvador, the bio-
intensive approach has
been adopted.
Back ground: Biointensive
Organic Mini-farms
The techniques being used, which are actually centuries old,
have been scientifically enhanced and adapted for
impoverished regions around the world by such people as
John Jeavons of Willits, California for the past 30 years.
A national university in Mexico City has trained 2 million
Mexicans in biointensive techniques over the last 15 years and
has targeted to introduce these techniques to all countries in
Central and South America in the next 5 years
Bio-intensive farming techniques
The key benefits of these techniques, which make them ideally suited to
marginalized people world wide, are that they:
Increase production up to 4 times per unit area relative to commercial
Are focussed on people with minimal land and resources, with farming
techniques developed and optimized for very small individual,
community and village plots
Do not require any machinery
Reduce water consumption by 50%
Reduce dependence on petroleum based fertilizer by extensive use of
Focus on utilization of natural insecticides and companion planting with
insect repellent plants
Overview of the Site and the
Bio-intensive Method
Biointensive gardening- key practices
Use of compost
Double digging
Close spacing of plants, correct crop rotations,
companion planting
Organic methods of pathogen and pest control
For more detail see John Jeavon`s book How to
Grow More Vegetables
Composting is a critical component
of any sustainable gardening method
At the Izalco garden, various forms
of composting are employed
Conventional biointensive methods,
bocashi (composting and
fermenting) and
All of which are used to improve
soil fertility, and eliminate the need
for inorganic fertilizer
Francisco and Santos
assembling a
compost pile
Mauricio watering a bocashi pile
Bio-intensive Gardening Methods: Composting
Double Digging is the second key component in the Bio-intensive method. It involves:
1) Carefully digging out the topsoil to expose the mineral subsoil
2) Compost is then added to the subsoil, and is mixed in thoroughly
3) The topsoil is then returned to the surface of this newly enriched layer.
This process increases the depth of productive root zone, and hence improves productivity
Bio-intensive Gardening Methods: Double Digging
The bottom line :
Great soil = great production
Brenda showing how deep the fork can be
easily sunk into a bed which has been double-dug,
The good soil extends even deeper.
The crops are planted in a closely spaced pattern
This provides for more production per unit area
But more importantly, the closely planted seedlings provide shade to lower
evaporation ( improved water use efficiency) and to discourage weeds.
Crops are rotated between the beds to prevent pathogen accumulation and to
enrich the soil by alternating nitrogen fixers with heavy feeders etc.
One of the
farmers leading a
workshop and
demonstrating a
plant spacing
frame to help
with seedling
Bio-intensive Gardening Methods:
Plant spacing, companion planting,
crop rotation
An array of biologic pest and pathogen control methods are
utilized at the site including an extract of these peppers
which is sprayed on soil and leaves
and which acts as a pesticide
Bio-intensive Gardening Methods:
Organic pest and pathogen control
Amendments such as lime
are also used
The site at Izalco is organized into 150 beds, which are each 4 feet by 25 feet.
Rainbow Organic Mini-farming
Demonstration Site : Izalco
The Izalco site, whose name
derives from that of the Izalco
volcano that towers over the
locality, is the focal organic mini-
farming demonstration site.
The site itself is the property of
the Sisters of the Immaculate
Heart of Mary who also manage
the Izalco Orphanage, where
they care for and feed around 90
Objectives for Izalco Demonstration
Create a demonstration site for organic and bio-
intensive agricultural techniques and adapt those
techniques to Salvadorian climate, soils and plant
Train farmers from the region in basic agricultural skills,
and who also agree to train other residents of their local
Supplement the normal corn and beans diet of the
orphanage with organically grown vegetables and fruit
Support provided by
Rainbow of Hope for Children
Support provided for 6 years 2004 through 2010
Support provided in the form of :
a) equipment and infrastructure
b) salaries
Support provided by
Rainbow of Hope for Children
Equipment and infrastructure :
Drilling and installation of water well for irrigation and drinking water,
including payment of montly power bill for groundwater pump
Purchase and installation of drip irrigation system for 100 beds
Purchase and installation of greenhouse for seedling production
Purchase and installation of vermiculture compst system
Gardening tools, seeds, fruit tree seedlings, other miscellaneous materials
and equipment to support garden over the 6 years
The site for the garden was a donated 3 acre field near the orphanage.
It had been used for sugar cane and corn production.
Work started in 2004 with drilling and installation of a well and water tower to allow for
irrigation of the garden through the dry season (November through April)
This allows for year round production from the garden
Drip irrigation installation 2004
Drip irrigation reduces water
consumption and allows
continuous cultivation even
through the 5-month dry season
November to April.
Irrigated beds 2009
Water Tower
November 2004
Water Tower
April 2009
Papaya Trees over time
Check out those
Panorama of garden as viewed from the water tower
April 2009
In 2006 Rainbow sponsored construction of a greenhouse for starting the
seedlings used for out-planting, and for growing tomatoes and peppers, which
cannot tolerate the intense sun in El Salvador
Original greenhouse for seedlings, and shade cloths for tomatoes (2004)
New greenhouse for seedlings and tomatoes being constructed 2006(l), and in April 2009(r)
In 2007, Rainbow funded the construction
of a pair vermiculture compost units
Alec enjoying the
Support provided by
Rainbow of Hope for Children
for 55 farmers over the 6 years
approximately 6 farmers per year until 2009 when reduced to 3 farmers
per year
Support provided by
Rainbow of Hope for Children
for organic agriculture technical
agrologist specialized in organic
agriculture who provided:
training workshops for
trouble shot pest and disease
problems in the garden as
they arose and thereby
trained the farmers in plant
pathology and methods of
organic pest control,
trained farmers in a variety
of composting methods
including vermiculture and
Mauricio, our agrologist
Support provided by
Rainbow of Hope for Children
for monthly visits to the
orphanage by a nutritionist
to assess childrens
nutritional status,
provide advice and
track changes in their
nutritional status as a
consequence of increased
consumption of organic
garden vegetables
Support provided by
Rainbow of Hope for Children
For El Salvadorian
project coordinator who
coordinated all
purchases and training
and documented results
and financial aspects of
the project for required
Brenda Carpio, our program coordinator, without
whom the project would never have succeeded,
here with Juan, a boy from the orphanage
As with all projects, the first few years were ones of learning and trial
and error,
Seed supply issues:
donated seed from Europe, North America had poor germination,
finding local seed sources with good germination was also a challenge
(suspect old seed in many stores- i.e. foreign suppliers dump expired
seed into third world markets)
Suitable crops
some crops were not successful due to the elevation, very hot
temperatures encountered in Izalco (eg. Brussel sprouts, tomato)
Optimizing early identification and treatment with the appropriate
organic pest controls took time as the farmers learned and techniques
were adapted
Over time the vegetable production has steadily increased
This is because of:
the improved soil conditions due to use of double digging and compost
Improved soil conditions result in healthier plants, and greater
fruit/vegetable production
Also, with Mauricios excellent help, much greater knowledge about
organic controls for insects and pathogens have been imparted to the
farmers, leading to much healthier crops.
Also, over the last 2 years we have had Santos as a lead farmer- this
consistency at the training site has been crucial. His presence, his ability
to put into practice all of the biointensive and organic methods taught by
Mauricio, and his excellent mentorship and leadership with the other
farmers has led to improved productivity of the site.
At Izalco, the farmers have
produced 47 different types of
vegetables, various medicinal
plants and fruit trees
Year of project
Outcomes: Economics
Please note that for the previous and upcoming
graphs, the productivity is recorded as value of the
crop in dollars
This is because most of the food from the garden was
utilized to feed the 90 children at the orphanage, only
noni fruit was sold as a cash crop
The graphs show the value of the garden to the
orphanage, as these costs were NOT incurred, rather the
money that would have been used to purchase these
vegetables before, could then be redirected to purchase
of other necessities
All produce from the garden has gone to
feed the 90 children of the orphanage-
with yields increasing over time from
$6,0000 to $15,0000 dollars worth of
food annually
The children play in the garden and, when it is possible, the
older children participate in some of the farm activities like
planting and harvesting
Playing in the orchard
Madre Ursula has set up
a playground with donated
Some of the boys
having fun planting
55 farmers have been employed and trained in a range of
organic agriculture techniques at the site
work terms ranging from 1 to 12 months
Shorter 1 and 2 day training sessions have also been
conducted for local farmers and community groups, as well
as demonstrations for visitors from Universities in Central
America, environmental organizations and international and
national governmental and nongovernmental organizations.
Since 2004, approximately
600 people have come to
visit and/or have received
demonstrations or training.
The site has also been
featured on national El
Salvadorian T.V. and radio.
The Izalco Mini-farm demonstration site has
been very successful
In 2009 we achieved our goal of a self
sustaining garden, where the amounts of
production now exceed the monetary inputs!
This on top of meeting all of our other goals to
adapt the biointensive organic techniques to Salvadorian
climate, soils and plant species,
train farmers from the region in basic agricultural skills who
also agree to train other residents of their local communities
(55 farmers with intensive training, over 600 visitors received
workshop level training, new gardens being established in
adjacent communities)
supplement the normal corn and beans diet of the orphanage
with organically grown vegetables and fruit ($6,000 to $15,000
of fruit and vegetables provided for the 90 children each year)
expose children to a working farm where they periodically help
with planting, weeding and harvesting.
This is a remarkable achievement and is a testament to the
hard work of the farmers, our agronomist Mauricio, and our
El Salvadorian coordinator, Brenda
Ongoing Funding
In order to be truly self sufficient,
the garden would have to start
selling some of its produce, which
would lessen the amount of food
going to the orphanage
We would like to continue
supporting this very important
project and the orphanage by
continuing to support:
wages for the farmers and
electricity costs to run the pump
for the irrigation.
Ongoing Funding
We are asking Rainbow of Hope
supporters to consider adopting
a farmer.
One farmers wages and
training for 1 month cost
If this money can be raised:
the garden can be maintained at
its full capacity and
continue to feed the children of
the orphanage while
reaching out to the communities
to improve their food security
through training in organic
Thank You for
Your Time !