May 6, 2011

Guama Mia!

Guama Mia! The runaway Broadway hit about a young boy and his pet guama seed. What am I talking about. Okay, honestly, I just wanted to use the word “guama” in a pun. And that’s what I came up with. Mama Mia is a musical, right? Or am I way off?

At any rate, I want to tell you all about guama today. What’s guama, you ask? It’s the variety of tree that EcoLogic uses in the agroforestry parcels that we establish with rural farmers throughout tropical Central America. I had to throw “tropical” in there because it only grows in tropical climates, not up in the mountains. Guama is a pretty amazing tree and perfect for agroforestry in several of the regions where we work. The idea is to plant guama along with your crop, like corn. So you’ll have three rows of corn and a row of guama trees, three rows of corn, and a row of guama, etc. The guama trees provide shade for the corn, their leaves fall (TONS of leaves) and keep weeds from growing, once the leaves decompose they provide organic fertilizer that replenishes soil nutrients, and their lower branches (that grow really fast) can be trimmed and used for firewood. The result is a better crop, a higher yield, healthier soil, fuelwood, and far less time spent maintaining the parcel because weeds hardly can grow at all. Pretty amazing.

Last week I reported to you from Ixcán all about our community consultations. Well, I also was able to spend some time with a farmer, Don Salvador, who has an EcoLogic-supported guama parcel. Don Salvador is a volunteer “forest guard” for his community of San Pablo, and was in touch with EcoLogic several years ago because of the trainings we provided to local forest guards. He expressed interest in trying out guama on a part of his land, and in 2008, EcoLogic established a guama nursery on his land. Though Don Salvador admits that he was a bit skeptical at the beginning, he is now an unabashed believer.
Sebastian, our Regional Director, calls Don Salvador a guama “predicador” or preacher. He grows corn on his guama plot, and talked about how much he loves the guama plot in comparison to the rest of his land where he uses chemical fertilizers. He just did the year’s first corn harvest a few weeks ago, and he talked about the better product from the guama plot, the greater yield, the fact that he didn’t have to purchase fertilizer for the guama plot, and the healthier soil for the next crop.

Don Salvador also mentioned that other farmers are hearing about guama but are still unsure about the process. Without a doubt, though, he’s been convinced. And so have I. I’ve been to maybe 5 or 6 guama parcels now and keep hearing the same things Don Salvador spoke about. There are so many benefits that can positively impact subsistence farmers and the environment.

Okay, well I’m now back in our office for a few weeks after a few weeks of travel. I’ll keep the blog posts coming though. Hasta la próxima!

- Chris Patterson, Program Officer for EcoLogic
Chris collaborates closely with the senior program officer by writing grant proposals and project reports, investigating potential funders, and following trends in philanthropy, conservation, and international development. Chris was a fellow for the Ford Foundation's Difficult Dialogues Project and has documented his time working from EcoLogic's regional office in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala from March to June, 2011. 

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