ANATOMY OF AN ECO-FARM
25 Jul, 2015 | Marina Poole
In Achocalla, farmer Telmo Nina shows me around the eco-farm he manages. He explains how each component of the operation has multiple benefits for the land and the grower, and exists in near-perfect equilibrium with the natural environment. From here, Nina and his team grow over 49 varieties of vegetables for Armonía restaurant in Sopocachi, and for distribution throughout La Paz.
Nina shows-off innovative techniques of working with the land, instead of contaminating and depleting it, resulting in overall-healthier systems. The soil is at the core of everything he does at the farm. His sowing, cultivating and harvesting methods rely on healthy “living” soil free of chemicals and pesticides.
‘’A plant [in this soil] has the advantage of being able to fight off diseases because it is well-powered,’ Nina explains, picking up a handful of compost. ‘It’s like a person. If you are well fed, you’re strong; you don’t get sick, you don’t catch a cold, nothing. But if you’re weak, if you don’t eat well, you’ll suffer from illness, stomach ache, etc.’
In the following image, we point to five features of Nina’s farm that make it sustainable. These sustainable technologies help provide healthy vegetables to the city.
Inside the adobe country house is an ecological bathroom that reduces the footprint of the home. To use it, visitors follow posted instructions to sit correctly on the toilet so that urine is caught separately from waste. After use, one simply dumps some of the “organic material” on top of the waste in order to mask the smell. Remarkably, there’s no smell whatsoever! Urine is used to enrich soil outside and Nina is testing the use of the waste for large inedible plants on the property.
· → adobe from Achocalla (pointing to the wall of the house)
· → 8 m^2 (showing width of the house)
In order to maintain warmth in the harsh frost season of the Altiplano, it’s important to cultivate next to water, like the Incans did. Canals are dug around fields and inside greenhouses for this reason.
(lagoon must be drawn near a canal)
Artificial ponds also regulate temperatures, as well as support life in the ecosystem. ‘This creates a home for little birds and ducks,’ who move in on their own, Nina explains.
‘We only need natural materials for the compost,’ Nina says. ‘We have regular sand and we use it to cap off the first layer of organic material. Then we put another layer of the organic material and add natural sheep manure. Next we need a little bit of carbon - normal coal, which we always have. All of these materials are at hand on the farmland. Finally, we place dried reeds on top to protect the compost like a skin, and the land does all the work.’
Nina’s team and a local university experiment with biogas, a liquid byproduct of treated manure. The odorless black liquid looks more like fuel for your car than something you’d trust to fuel your food, but there’s no arguing that the plants given this treatment grow taller than the others.
‘In the countryside people can live off of energy completely free,’ Nina says of their solar lamps.