|El Limonal, Imbabura, Ecuador|
(projects i'm involved in)
Ibarra - Imbabura, EC
(projects i'm following)
Land Rehabilitation and Ecological Restoration - Ecuador
I grew up in a densely populated part of Europe, in a quiet middle class town, at the time of the consumer boom in the fifties. Cycling the countryside as a child, I saw pristine landscapes converted into landfills, supermarkets and industrial parks. I cried.
Trained in mechanics, I moved to Ecuador in 1990 as a technical assistant with an Indian Kichwa transport Coop. After buying a property on a hill depleted of topsoil, in 1995, on the western slopes of the Andes, I looked for a method to restore and reforest the degraded land. Agroforestry and Permaculture were the answer. Lots of literature, visits to permaculture sites and a permaculture course pointed me in the right direction.
Since the first days, I have been planting trees (also bamboos, palms, vines and nitrogen fixing plants) and I keep planting for the production of food, biodiversity, firewood, materials for construction, tools and – above all – biomass, tons of biomass, both above the ground in the form of vegetation and in the soil in the form of micro-organisms. Therefore, I produce organic matter such as compost, ground cover, wood piles and Biol.
In the first years, the restoration (or rehabilitation) was slow. Also, I committed a lot of errors, making the wrong choice of plants, not taking into account fierce enemies such as leaf cutter ants, parasite plants and climate change. Due to the massive deforestation during the last 65 years, rain patterns in the region altered completely, the soil is now exposed to prolonged dry periods followed by heavy pouring down which deplete the soil of its rich top layer.
Despite these difficult conditions, the property converted into a lush forest, an island of vibrant green, which I baptized “Bosque de Paz”. Small wildlife came back to the property: squirrel, porcupine, armadillo, weasel and agouti. While there were 12 species of birds observed in 1995, birdwatchers identified last year 87 species in and around the farm. Fifteen different species of giant bamboo, planted along the Guallupe river developed into a Bamboo Park (Parque Bambú) and became an attraction for visitors.
I recently bought an adjoining piece of land up river. With the help of volunteers and local laborers, we set up a dam to catch water from the river in order to irrigate the lower part of the farm. We cut out the invasive and dominating bamboo grass, the first step in the long process of restoration. We planted already a lot of trees but a lot more trees, bamboos, palms and climbers have to be brought in to complete the process.
I am a member of a local farmer´s organization. Despite the disappointing results of community projects in the surrounding villages, I still believe that community building is the only way to restore landscapes and families.
In a joint effort to overcome the severe drought in the dry season, I work together with 7 neighbors downriver to set up a second water system. In order not to depend on electric pumps, we catch water upstream and - with the help of gravity - distribute it over the different properties, through irrigation pipes and swales. With water available, neighbors will also be able to restore their fields and make them productive and abundant.
I produced a documentary (in Spanish) about agroecology which can be seen on Youtube at:
¨Yo me quedo aquí¨ Documental sobre la agroecología. Duración: 50 minutos http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MfGlj6rKVvY
After many years of searching and experimenting to find the ideal erosion barrier, Vetiver proved to be the best solution for erosion control, soil conservation and slope stabilization.
Interested in volunteering in a subtropical area of Ecuador? Or you want to learn about Permaculture?
What problems does the agro-industry entail and what solutions does agro-ecology provide?