Community Voices: Carlos Humberto Gonzalez

by Megan Maiolo-Heath, Marketing Manager

Carlos Humberto Gonzalez

Working with local farmers throughout Central America is an important part of grassroots natural resource conservation programs. These dedicated and hardworking individuals know the local land, watersheds, biodiversity, and soils better than anyone and they are dependent on a healthy environment for their livelihoods.

Carlos Humberto Gonzalez is one of these farmers that left a lasting impression on me and my colleagues. Carlos was born and raised on his family’s small farm, located on a hill overlooking the rural town of El Porvenir, El Salvador. Now that his mother and father have passed on, the responsibilities of running the farm are all his. He grows a variety of crops, including tomatoes, eggplant, citrus trees, corn, and coffee and depends on the land for his survival.

drip irrigationAs we toured his property, he showed us how he had created an innovative drip irrigation system for his crops using plastic soda bottles and gravity. This system saves precious water, which at the time was hard to come by due to severe drought conditions.

Through our partnership with Arboles y Agua para El Pueblo, we were able to add a touch of chocolate or cacao (Theobroma cacao) to his plot of coffee, helping to improve the soil quality and increase the biodiversity of his land. These 50 trees will also produce a high-quality product that he can sell at the local market, helping to support his family and business.

“My father would be proud of what I have accomplished with our farm and my family will be happy that I can sell more products at market. I am very happy to have these new trees.”

As we looked out over the beautiful countryside, and Carlos pointed out various landmarks in the distance, I could sense how dedicated he was to his land and his country. To support reforestation efforts in El Salvador is an honor and we look forward to supporting many more farmers in the future.

To learn more about our work in El Salvador please visit our wesbite.

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.