Tuesday, June 16, 2009


Manufactured HUMUS in Belize, made using earthworms, or vermiculture. This was done by organic vegetable advisor, Paula Vega.

* Paula Martinez Vega is the Food and Agriculture Organization consultant in organic vegetable growing. She is from Cuba.


There are two major problems and a whole lot of smaller ones, in vegetable growing in Belize. The first problem is finding the right kind of seed variety, for the time of year. Mostly this is divided between hot season and winter season varieties. There is a long way to go on this yet here in Belize. The second problem is getting the right kind of soil. You need humus for vegetables. Somebody from Arizona wrote me ( see down the BLOG articles ) on making humus out of Red Clay in Arizona and advising me to try it in Belize. We have too much clay in Belize, both red and black types. It gets really thick and hard at times of the year. At any rate, I decided to make a trip to Central Farm to talk about experiments with earth worms, like the earlier letter I got from Arizona.
First I talked to the chief of the Taiwanese Agriculture Mission. He said he was growing California Red earthworms in a compost pile at his experimental plot. I asked him about experimental trials with vegetables, with or without worms. He said, that earthworms were more for organic vegetable production. In commercial growing, tilling the soil to get aeration and using fertilizer, the process was less labor intensive for commercial purposes. He advised me to go see the ORGANIC EXPERT across the street. So I met the FAO consultant, Paula ( the Cuban ) and she was kind enough to show me her earth worms and humus. She said she is also growing the California Red worms, they are about 3 inches long and take about 45 days to make a crop of worms. You use them to make your humus. Converting clay soil into humus using worms
as an additive is my understanding. The soil looked really good. She said after that, the natural local 6 inch long Belize worm will do the rest. You don't need to use the shorter California Red worms in your beds. Local worms will make their way there if you have your humus right.
On the subject of commercial versus organic vegetable growing. She said that yes, the organic vegetables were more work and labor intensive. However, they grow bumper crops, bigger and healthier produce. In the commercial systems currently used in Belize, they kill the soil with chemicals, fertilizers and various fungus and virus and insect sprays. The soil is a living eco system full of many microscopic creatures that need to live in the soil in life cycles supportive of each other to get natural bumper crops. Once you use the chemicals to kill any part of the eco system, then the soil is only used to support the roots and stem. You must supply all the rest and that can get more expensive. Very expensive! Organic growing is cheaper, only involving more labor, but commercial chemical growing is faster, but kills the soil and invites pests, blights and other things, due to destroying the eco-system required to grow the plants.
Paula was an interesting person to talk to. She told me of the huge beds of humus making worms, shaded by plantains and bananas from the sun in Cuba, in long production rows. She also said that Belize is not yet making seeds and there is little or no understanding of how to make seeds that suit the local environment and climate at Central Farm Agriculture Station yet. She has been doing some local teaching on this subject at Santa Familiar Village, an agriculture village across the BRANCH MOUTH of the joining of the three rivers in Western Belize. The Mopan River, the Macal River which join and make the Belize River. I must go and see what she is doing there.
I've dealt with FAO consultants before over 40 years, mostly in fisheries experiments, and while Paula was very polite, I got the feeling she had not gotten the cooperation from Central Farm she expected. Which is par for the course with ALL the FAO Consultants I had ever dealt with, that ever came to Belize. Apparently there is no money from local government, and probably a fair amount of either resistance, or just plain apathy, from government workers, when foreign experts come in. The equipment and stuff they need is never forthcoming, despite joint partnership type deals arranged with FAO on paper. At any rate, I was VERY DISAPPOINTED she only had 4 more months to go on her contract, she said. I would have liked to get involved a lot more. I think once she is gone, ORGANIC farming knowledge is going to die a sudden death with her departure. I asked her if she would like to stay, or extend hoping she would. She said yes, since a lot of the remote farmers are really getting interested in organic growing, but there wasn't much time left for her contract.
I guess now it is up to me to lobby the government to lobby UN FAO to give her another two years. Then maybe I can join forces with her, provide her some local transportation and other accessories necessary for her expertise. I'll start with this online newsletter here. Failing that, I sure would like to take a sponsored trip to Cuba and see what they are doing in soil and vegetable growing and seed making.

No comments: