Notes from the Field: Soil Conservation Project Gains Ground

By David Velasquez, Arboles y Agua para el Pueblo Forestry Technician
Translated and adapted by Claudia Menendez, International Program Coordinator

el salvador soil conservation
Francisco’s family depends on their land for their livelihood.

Francisco Sayes has been participating in the Soil Conservation Project since Trees, Water & People and Arboles y Agua para el Pueblo (AAP) initiated the workshop series in 2010. He understands that using good agricultural practices on his land helps minimize production costs and increases crop quality.

“The knowledge we’ve gained through the workshops have helped me save money, but most importantly they’ve improved the quality, taste, and health of my corn crop.”

The Soil Conservation Project taught Francisco how to use organic fertilizer, such as chicken manure, to improve crop results. Last year, he applied 20 sacks of organic chicken manure fertilizer on his corn crop. The cost of each sack is $1, compared to previous years when he spent $70 for one sack of chemical fertilizer. “This technique I learned not only helped me save $50, but I clearly noticed the corncobs were bigger, healthier, and the corn grain more solid.”

Francisco Sayes with his ‘A’ frame for digging contour lines on his farm in El Salvador.

Additionally, Francisco has gained a better understanding of the layout and topography of his land using an ‘A’ frame to dig contour lines, and has planted sorghum and grasses such as Vetiver. These help maximize rainfall absorption on the slopes, minimize soil erosion, and provide forage for his animals.

Along the perimeter of the 1.75 acres of farmland, Francisco has planted three species of hardwood trees as a living fence: Laurel criollo (Cordia alliodora), Madre cacao (Gliricidia sepium), and Memble (Poeppigia procera). He incorporates all the leaves, enriching and protecting the soil, and prunes the trees to control the amount of shade over the crops. In turn, the tree pruning provides Francisco and his family with their daily supply of firewood.

Since 2010, TWP and local partner AAP have trained more than 60 farmers in soil conservation methods. The most important and challenging part of this project is making sure that the farmers try implementing the techniques on their own land. David, AAP’s forestry technician and workshop facilitator, says that once farmers practice the techniques and see for themselves improved soil conditions and better crops, they realize that a little extra effort makes all the difference.