As an organization that works with small farmers and has an experimental farm of our own, we see the results of this reality on a daily basis. For three years, our region has suffered from drought. In an area like ours on the Caribbean coast of the country, where it used to rain eight months of the year, we are now grateful for the sporadic rains that moisten the land. Those who live off the land are only too aware of how many days go between rains as their crops, harvests, and their own lives depend on it. As others have pointed out, small farmers are the proverbial canary in the coal mine regarding climate change.
Sembrandopaz has long preached the need to be in harmony with nature. One of the most basic tenets of that is appreciating the importance of trees. Sadly, all over our region trees are cut down to put in pasture for cattle, oil palm for export of bio-fuels to wealthy nations, and as part of slash and burn peasant agriculture. Vast areas are deforested and the loss of trees has contributed to change in the local climate and the drying up of water sources. People are slow to see the connections and for those of us at Sembrandopaz it is truly heart-breaking to see people continue in their damaging practices.
At the Sembrandopaz farm, Villa Barbara, we strive to be an example of living in harmony with nature. To practice what we preach. Trees are conserved at all costs. New trees are being planted. Hillsides are no longer used for annual crops, but for tree crops. Slash and burn practices, only too common in our area and part of the local tradition, have been put to a stop. The renting of pasture, which brought in needed revenue for the farm, but damaged the land, is now more restricted and better managed. We use worm castings from our own worms to fertilize our crops and use organic insecticides such as neem, tobacco, and garlic concoctions to control pests.
Looking to a future of growing uncertainty regarding the rains, we are looking at ways to conserve and harvest water. The farm has three artificial ponds, only one of which actually collected water, but which also had leaks. In the last two years we repaired two of those ponds. This week we hired a bulldozer to deepen, lay the plastic lining in and raise the berm of the third pond that was always dry. We now have three ponds ready to collect water which we can then use to irrigate crops using drip irrigation, to raise fish, ducks and geese, and to beautify the landscape.
Likewise, we are planning on building a water harvesting system to collect the rain water from the farm house which could then be used for domestic uses.
The climate is changing—and we have to change with it. Sembrandopaz has already begun those changes and we hope our example will inspire others to do the same. We dare to dream that a better, greener future is possible based on reconciliation not only between humankind, but also between humans and nature.
— Lillian Hall