by Kuzina Cheng (MLA '19)
While current uses of chemical fertilizers, pesticides and mechanical tillage may momentarily increase crop yields, it depletes the life-giving components of the soil; thus, diminishing its fertility transforming a vital resource, the soil, into a mere substrate. These agricultural practices along with deforestation have highly degraded the soils of San Martin Lachila and as a community who relies heavily on their crops for self-sustenance, the need for better soil management within the community is even more crucial. Through the implementation of three simple strategies – erosion control, soil amendments, and rotation – an improved agricultural system will begin to rebuild, regenerate and conserve the soil of San Martin Lachila.
Looking at the currently eroded hillsides, a new agricultural system that integrates a process of amending soils will begin to instill soil stewardship as well as provide a new hillside landscape for the community to enjoy. The site becomes a testing ground for the following parameters: the performance benefits of a terraced landscape for erosion control, soil regeneration and the use of windbreaks as linear corridors to begin to reestablish the once forested hillside of Cabo de Hacha. With plots specifically dedicated to producing soil and using plants as indicators of different soil qualities, this new agricultural system uses organic maintenance methods to sustain soil biology all the while allowing both the community and visitors to experience and learn about soil in a more tangible and direct way.