Today is World Soil Day. As you know, Heifer's mission is to end hunger and poverty and care for the Earth. When we say "Earth," we mean "earth," too. It's kind of a no-brainer that, as an organization promoting sustainable agriculture around the world, we've got a stake in helping our project communities improve their soil.
When I was in Peru, I visited the small farm of a woman named Dolores Delgado. The very first thing Dolores showed us was a poster illustrating the agroecological cycle of her farm. Part of this cycle was the elaborate recipe for liquid compost she and her husband learned through the Heifer project. You could really tell Dolores has this science down. She collects manure and urine from her guinea pigs and adds it to her vermicomposting (composting with worms, in case you didn't take Latin) pile. When that compost is ready, she puts it and a whole long list of other ingredients into a big drum to ferment into a product called "biol." Then, instead of spraying chemical fertilizers (which, let's face it, aren't good for anybody), she and her husband us a simple spray backpack to apply the organic biol fertilizer.
Dolores has crafted her guinea pig cages so collecting their manure and urine is a relatively easy task.
Dolores shows us her worm composting pile.
Although the project she's participating in was fairly new at the time of our visit, Dolores had already taken composting and improving her farm's soil to a scientific level.
In addition to knowing they're improving the soil and protecting the environment, Dolores and her husband don't have to worry about exposing themselves or their livestock to dangerous chemicals.
This is what a lot of the terrain looks like in the parts of Peru we visiteda bit on the barren side.
Improving the soil on Dolores's farmand on any otherhas many implications. In the part of the world where she lives, the soil is generally pretty poor. Instead of neglecting the soil, leading to soil erosion, Dolores grows nutritious fodder for her guinea pigs, which also means she doesn't have to spend as much money feeding them. Her vegetable garden yields significantly better results than before she began using agroecological practices.
Compare this with the photo above. A huge difference, right?