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.

10,000 Trees for Haiti

Labadee, Haiti map
Labadee, Haiti

Together with Jam Cruise 10, Positive Legacy, and Sustainable Organic Integrated Livelihoods (SOIL), we are planting 10,000 native tree seeds today in Labadee, Haiti! This hands on project is part of Positive Legacy’s mission “to create meaningful opportunities for music fans and musicians to become active participants in reducing the environmental impact of the events we participate in, and to do something positive for the communities we visit.”

The trees will be transported to a nursery built at SOIL’s compound in Cap Haitien, Haiti and will be raised with care for introduction into communities around Northern Haiti. If every passenger and artist participates in the project by taking just a few minutes to contribute, we can easily reach our goal of planting 10,000 seedlings to start the nursery.

Haiti tree seedling
Native tree seedling

Thousands of diverse indigenous seeds will be made available for this activity, ensuring that our efforts will increase biodiversity, stabilize hillsides, improve soil quality, provide food security and create income-generating activities for the communities of northern Haiti.

Stay tuned for photos and video of the tree planting event.

Thank you to Positive Legacy, SOIL, and all the Jam Cruisers for making this event possible!

Notes from the Field: Composting Latrines Improve Water, Soil, and Health

by Claudia Menendez, International Program Coordinator


Here are some before and after photos of latrines in El Salvador. Our latrines are composting latrines with 2 compartments: one side is in use at one time. When it becomes full the other side is in use, giving the full side 6-9 months to decompose and dry up. When side B is full side A is cleaned out by shoveling the humanure or compost out of the compartment; the mixture is then used as soil or tilled into fields. And the cycle continues!

So far we are part way through the first cycle. We have asked the first 10 families of the pilot project to stop using Side A and allow it to decompose and dry so that we can make monitor the drying cycle and clean out process.

These latrines will have long-term improvement on community health by reducing  soil and groundwater contamination and related parasitic diseases.

How Does a Dry Composting Latrine Work?

The dry compost latrines consist of two chambers made of concrete cinder blocks with a toilet seat, including urine diverter, placed over each of the chambers.  After each use, stove ash, compost, and/or sawdust is added inside the chamber to reduce odors and keep the chamber dry. It also includes a vent to allow fresh air to circulate and further dry the solid matter.  After one chamber is filled it is left to dry during six to eight month periods while the second chamber is in use. The contents of the first chamber are then transformed into a rich fertilizer that can be used on surrounding crops or trees after a drying period under the sun and mixed with a 1:1 ratio of earth.  One dry composting latrine can serve families of more than six people for over 10 years with proper maintenance.