Digging In

We believe that if we’re truly practicing ABCD (Asset-based Community Development), we need to do it with everyone. As a result, we’ve been able to help Ada and Eduardo start to improve their situation as well with the help of a good friend here in Santa Cruz. Bryan is here working with Canadian Peacemakers International to improve the access of 7-9 grade education, and the program has been very successful. In addition, he has extensive experience in small-scale sustainable agriculture in developing African nations. So, together we started working with Ada in one of her passions – to have her very own vegetables and fruits right there at the house.

ABCD hinges on using a person’s talents, resources, and passions to go the farthest with the development process. Ada has a huge desire to grow things, a little land, and has been trying to start some plants for a while now.  So, everything lined up well to start helping her move towards her dream of eating better and growing her own food. However, Ada’s yard has next to no plant cover and the erosion has been severe. So, our first step was to slow down the damage that the tropical rains were doing to the property.

To slow down the runoff, we used a method called contour ditching. This practice uses ditches dug along level contours on a slope to slow down and detain running water so that it has time to seep into the soil instead of picking up speed and soil with it. On the downhill side of these ditches, deep-rooted species are planted to add a backbone deep into the soil. We used a very deep-rooted grass (Valadiana, their roots can grow to 35ft deep in 2 years), and a fast-growing leguminous tree (Leuceana) for this purpose. In addition, we also planted some ornamental peanut (also a legume) as a ground cover to begin improving the rest of the soil, as well as prevent splash erosion.

To find the level contours, we used a (semi-)primitive water level. The basic principal is that water in a tube will always make itself level. So, we tied a 100ft tube to two poles and marked them as level next to each other. We then kept one stationary on the contour and moved the other to other parts of the yard to find the line. To measure it, you just check the water level against the mark on the pole. 

We helped a couple of days for a couple of hours, but Eduardo and Ada did the majority of the work. Not only does the result give some order to the yard some order, it works! Since they were installed, we’ve had 4 straight days of steady rain. Eduardo said that they worked really well. The water ran into the ditches, sat and slowly leached into the soil instead of sweeping more soil off the property. The rooting plants are already showing new growth and will look great in a couple of months. We’ll work with Ada and Eduardo next year to figure out what they want to grow.

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