Farmers directly depend on natural resources for securing their livelihood. Their crops grow in the soil. Water keeps their crops and animals alive. The nutrients in the soil feed their crops so that they can grow and thrive. Those farmers who primarily grow crops depend on good soil and water conservation measures for a good harvest. Others who primarily provide for their families by selling products from trees depend on sustainable forest management.
Farmers have much experience in growing crops and taking care of their animals; however, they often lack formal training in new or improved farming practices. They may not have had the time and the opportunity to systematically examine their farming practices and environment. Our agronomists support farmer groups as they learn about water, soil, plants and ecosystems. They play a key role in helping the farmers develop natural resource management strategies so that they can build and maintain solid livelihoods.
The ultimate goal Is to help our farmers to have a better understanding of the basic science behind key natural resources: how water moves across and under the land; how nutrients cycle through nature; why the soil’s organic content is important and how to increase it; why different types of plants and animals are necessary to maintain a health environment, as well as other important aspects. The goal is for each producer, with support from the agronomist, to develop their own natural resource management plan.
Some of the key concepts taught include:
- The water cycle: how water moves across and through the land including excessive water flows (that cause flooding or landslides) and the lack of sufficient water (drought).
- Managing water: tools to better manage rainfall including detailed information on managing excess water as well as improving absorption and conservation of water.
- Watersheds and watershed management: looks at erosion and tools to combat it.
- Soil composition: helps the farmer to maintain and improve plant productivity by providing an overview of the different types of soil and their main characteristics. The agronomists also work on helping our famers maintain soil health, such as nutrient and soil organic matter management.
- Soil fertility, soil nutrients and nutrient cycles: helps farmers learn about plan nutrient needs and organic or commercial fertilizers that can support these needs. The agronomists work with the farmers on the application of commercial fertilizer.
- Plant health: provides farmers with information on the nutrients that plants need to survive including favorable air, water and soil conditions as well as the dangers posed by pests and diseases.
- Ecosystems: helps farmers to identify which organisms interact with each other in their ecosystems, emphasizing the need to maintain balance.
- Sustainable use: we also work with farmers on how to manage the natural environment, including land use planning and how to consider ecosystem services. We emphasize the critical nature of maintaining natural resources for securing the livelihoods of future generations.
As part of the work to ensure water into the future on the land of Tierra Nueva, Nicaragua, a gravity-fed water system was built. This project not only serves the 150 families of Tierra Nueva, but another 1,500 area residents.