Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from Jack Goodman, a volunteer from the Princeton Novogratz Bridge Year Program. We are happy to be back to working with volunteers like Jack in Bolivia!
Providing a Week-Long Agriculture Seminar in Cochabamba
For Ely, an agriculture student from the small town of Vinto, the study of farm management is about so much more than proper pigpen fumigation or seed germination techniques; instead, it’s an important means of discovering innovation and achieving economic self-sustainability. Indeed, in a country where—according to most recent World Bank estimates—over 30 percent of men and women are employed in agriculture, the value of such an education in transforming lives for the better cannot be overstated. For Fidel, it’s a means of learning to work the land more efficiently and to improve his quality of life; for Ubedia, it’s an opportunity to escape the doldrums of office work; and for Juan, whose family operates a small farm and lecheria, it’s a chance to enhance the livelihoods of those he cares about most.
Pictures From the Seminar
These students, and 23 more like them seeking técnico degrees in agriculture (26 students and 3 teachers in total), recently participated in a week-long seminar at Mano a Mano’s Center for Ecological Agriculture (CEA) in El Abra, Sacaba, Cochabamba. There, in a blend of theoretical workshops led by successful professionals in the world of agriculture and hands-on practice at Mano a Mano’s organic teaching farm, the students developed their pre-existing knowledge on the essentials of soil management, livestock upkeep, crop cultivation, sustainable construction, and more. They were also exposed to practical techniques at the cutting edge of Bolivian food production, ranging from hydroponic (soil-free) lettuce growth to gas biogeneration powered by animal waste. The students were engrossed with the biogenerator in particular, a large black tarp containing easily-obtainable microbes that naturally break down waste products into methane gas and the potent fertilizer biol. This straightforward biogeneration technology is emblematic of CEA’s commitment to bringing implementable, creative, and exciting solutions to common agricultural problems—like waste disposal—faced throughout Bolivia. Additionally, students were shown firsthand the power of a farm management system in which resources are innovatively used and re-used to integrate disparate aspects of production, conserve energy, and increase efficiency: excess or unusable seeds intended for human consumption become feed for animals, whose aforementioned waste fertilizes fields and powers stoves.
All told, students were challenged to build upon the body of knowledge they brought from previous educational experiences and their own traditional farming practices.
A Global Perspective
Importantly, the agricultural education provided by Mano a Mano does not stop at the level of individual farm management but considers the ramifications of food production on the wider world. In a series of workshops on climate change, water scarcity, and greenhouse gas emissions, students were introduced to the pressing environmental challenges faced by Bolivia specifically and the world at large. In addition, they were invited to consider the simple ways in which their farming practices can be more environmentally conscious. Reusing plastic bottles to contain evaporation and conserve water while irrigating, fertilizing plants with organic material instead of chemical products, and sowing a diversity of crops to combat erosion were just some of the pragmatic methods of fighting climate change to which students were exposed. In a concluding workshop on healthy eating, students also thought critically about their own food habits and the relationship between agriculture and personal health.
In just one week of intensive instruction, Mano a Mano’s Center for Ecological Agriculture helped 26 students on their journey to economic self-determination through food production, all while affirming the importance of environmental conscientiousness and resource conservation. By continuing to offer our expertise to the next generation of Bolivian agriculture workers, we know we can make the future of farming in our country more sustainable, intelligent, and economically viable for millions of students just like Ely.
Jack Goodman Bio
Jack Goodman is a volunteer from Chicago, Illinois. A participant in the Novogratz Bridge Year Program, Jack is interested in rural development, cultural exploration, and sustainable growth. Jack will remain in Bolivia through May before returning to the United States, where he is a student at Princeton University in New Jersey.
“The Novogratz Bridge Year is a nine-month, tuition-free program that allows newly admitted undergraduates to begin their Princeton experience with a year of community-engaged learning at one of five international locations. Bridge Year participants study the local language, live with carefully selected homestay families, and take part in a variety of cultural enrichment activities, while learning with and from community partners through their community engagement.
Application to the Novogratz Bridge Year Program is open to all incoming first-year Princeton undergraduate students.”
Learn More About Mano a Mano’s Center for Ecological Agriculture
- 5-Day Agriculture Workshop for Universidad “Siglo XX” Students (August 2022)
- Training Farmers and Building Greenhouses: Mano a Mano’s Center for Ecological Agriculture in 2021
- Training Farmers to Prepare Organic Fertilizer in Arampampa, Bolivia (June 2022)
- Moving Another Step Forward in Mano a Mano’s Long-Term Sustainability
- Greenhouses in Corani Pampa with First Crops Growing
- The CEA site serves as the base for many US & international interns and volunteers that spend time working with Mano a Mano in Bolivia, which was not possible for the most part in 2020, 2021, or most of 2022 due to COVID. But we are excited to have Jack and other volunteers starting to arrive again! Read about their experiences at the CEA: Morgan Harden, Lindsay Emi, Sam Klein, Samantha Carter, or just search CEA.