Sustainable Family Farms Reducing Poverty and Deforestation in Central America
Tropical forests They mitigate global warming by absorbing CO2. They also allow rainfall to get down to underground aquifers thus providing for a constant supply of water throughout the year, while avoiding floods and siltation of coral reefs. This rainforest in Panama forms the watershed for the Panama Canal.
Over half of the world’s species of plants and animals live in tropical forests. Most of them have not even been discovered yet. Globally we are losing approximately seven species per day.
People also live in and around these forest and rely on them for their survival, but still destroy them.
Slash – And – Burn Farming Is the most common form of farming in Central America. Though it is not sustainable, farmers often know no other way to feed their families.
SHI focuses on teaching families alternatives to slash-and-burn or chemical-intensive farming, so they can have a decent standard of living without having to clear any more forest.
Field Trainers are the men and women who are at the heart of SHI’s work. Each field trainer works with an average of 35 families. The Field Trainers visit each participant’s farm every week or two for approximately five years and provide hands-on technical assistance.
SHI currently works in four countries: Belize, Honduras, Nicaragua & Panama We work in southern Belize, Toledo district SHI works in two districts of northern Honduras We work on the Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua We work in two districts of Panama
Sustainable techniques for growing traditional staple crops are the first priority. Simple practices such as using cover crops, mulch and compost allow farmers to grow a lot more of their traditional staple crops such as corn and beans on one piece of land without having to clear more forest.
Rice Paddies Growing rice in paddies instead of on burned hillsides allows for three harvests per year instead of just one and families harvest up to 8 times as much rice without clear more forest each year.
Family Gardens Improve the diets of families who did not eat garden vegetables before working with SHI.
Reforestation and Agroforestry SHI helps program participants, including school groups, to reforest denuded hillsides and incorporate trees into their farming systems.
Biodiversity and Economic Diversity are both enhanced by multi-story plantations that mimic a natural forest. Tall hardwood trees shade, smaller trees, bananas, coffee, ginger and other crops that do well in a forest environment. This diversity helps ensure that the farmer always has something to sell that is getting a good price at the time.
Hardwoods can shade cacao grown for chocolate. Vanilla vines can in turn be grown on the trees.
Healthy Soils create healthy farms that create healthy families that create healthy communities that create a healthy planet. Composting and bocashi Worm composting
A hillside once turned almost to desert by slash-and-burn farming is brought back to life with cover crops and other sustainable practices.
Erosion barriers preserve the now fertile soil, while natural pest control protects the new crop of onions planted to improve farm income as they get a better price than the corn previously grown on this hillside.
Improved Income Instead of earning $90 from slash-and-burn corn, this family earned over $2,000 from the sale of sustainably grown onions and these mustard greens.
Don Cheyo’s income has increased more than ten fold, while he protects the environment with sustainable farming practices.
Volunteers who stay at Cotton Tree Lodge in Belize
SHI’s Accomplishments <ul><li>Technical assistance provided to over 1,800 families in 120 communities </li></ul><ul><li>More than 9,000 acres of degraded land converted to sustainable uses </li></ul><ul><li>More than 45,000 acres of tropical forest saved from slash and burn </li></ul><ul><li>More than 2.3 million trees planted </li></ul><ul><li>More than 750 wood-conserving stoves (saving 7,500 trees per year) </li></ul><ul><li>23 community loan funds grown from $10,000 seed money to $30,000 capital </li></ul>
A Lot of Bang for the Buck! $16,000 supports the work of one field trainer for an entire year. $4,500 sponsors an entire village program for a whole year. $450 provides a family with technical support and materials for one year. $100 covers the costs of establishing a one acre sustainable farm plot. $50 buys the materials for a wood-conserving stove that will save 100 trees.