During the last six months working as Development Instructor in Ecuador we have worked with Humana Pueblo a Pueblo on many different projects as well as our own personal projects as Development Instructors. We are here as a team of 3 DIs from Richmond Vale Academy as part of the Fighting Shoulder to Shoulder with the Poor program. During my time here as a development instructor I have worked in the Community of Opoluca which is part of the district Paltas or Catacocha. I have worked with Humana to develop organic home gardens, compost production, and organic pesticides as well as working with large garden parcels and distributing saplings and seeds to the families in Opoluca. I myself have also given English classes as well as various other classes in the school as well as my personal project of building water filters to recycle water for use in gardens.
In the Barrio of Opoluca we work with 40 families in total. Around 30 of the families have organic gardens and the rest of the families either raise pigs or chickens. I only work directly with the gardens. We focus on making the gardens an integral part of the family’s everyday life and everyday diet. I focused on teaching the basics of seeding, planting and maintaining a garden. The families have knowledge about plants because they are farmers but the plants in the gardens are different plants so need different care. After my 6 months here the gardens have gone from just beginning to be seeded to being fully productive and seeding many of the plants again as well as producing seeds from the gardens. This means the families eat from the gardens almost every day and can become self-sufficient with re-planting the garden as well. The families work very hard in the gardens and do whatever they know how to to make their gardens better.
As part of the Organic Garden project we have a couple other projects alongside the normal gardens. One variation of the gardens for people that cannot make a full garden is a Alternative Garden. These would be gardens make from old bottles, tires, plastic tanks and other receptacles. These gardens can be put anywhere usually on the porch of someone’s house. We have started three of the gardens as of now to examine if they work well enough and to spread the idea around so anyone can begin a garden. As well as alternative gardens we have also begun teaching how to make organic pesticides from different ingredients, such as garlic, hot peppers, tobacco, insecticidal soap, and wood ash to name a few. A few of the families now use the organic pesticides in their gardens for protecting against worms and ants. Soon the uses of organic pesticides in the garden and eventually in the farms here in the project will be common practice. The last project started in Opoluca to supplement the organic gardens is the production of lombrecultura or worm compost. This is the most expensive fertilizer to buy in the market but can be produced at people homes for a very small cost and is the most beneficial fertilizer for the soil and the plants. As of now one large compost production bed has been made that can supply multiple families and in the future more can easily be started.
In Opoluca there is a small elementary school of about 50 students from 1st-7th grade. For 3 months in the school I worked teaching Basic English classes to the 5th-7th grade classes. I also gave sets of other various classes as well focusing on doing activities and games with the classes because they do not do a lot of interactive activities in the schools. I gave basic nutrition classes 2 times a week for a month as well as Natural Science classes to the older class about the cycles of seeds and life cycle of insects using games and activities.
In the last two months of my project here I began my personal project. A very big problem with the gardens here is the water shortages. The project I started to help this project is building small Sand/Carbon water filters to recycle water from hand washing clothes and washing machines. The project does not need any outside funding and is very cheap to implement because all of the materials for the filter are common place around people’s homes (sand, buckets, etc) or they are able to make it(Charcoal). I have worked with 18 families with gardens in Opoluca to begin building and using the water filters In their homes. The water is not pure enough for drinking but is perfect for use in home gardens. It has been a bit difficult getting families to continuously use the filters but if this project can be pushed farther it can really go a long way to solving the water shortage problems in the communities here in the project.