Alliance for International Reforestation
:: AIR’s Main Activities: Farmer Training in Sustainable Agriculture
Educating the community groups about the importance of conserving the environment and the devastating impact of deforestation on the soil, food security, water sources, and air quality is an integral part of AIR’s projects. These educational programs have a life-long impact on attitudes and behavior in terms of conserving their lands.
A central part of AIR’s work is teaching Sustainable Farming methods to residents where AIR has established tree nurseries. It is clear that where farm land is extremely scarce, reforestation is only going to happen in combination with planting food crops—farming with beneficial trees (agro-forestry). AIR is also committed to sharply reducing and eventually eliminating use of chemical pesticides and herbicides on family farms.
Farmers often feel pressure to grow their own food crops and export crops with heavy use of chemicals—because it seems more profitable in the short-run. But this is highly destructive for future land use, and because the chemicals are usually used without protective clothing or training, they are extremely harmful to human health. Time and again, farmers tell us that since they have begun using AIR’s methods, “they feel better, and my children are not sick.” In addition, in just two years, farmers have as much as doubled their crop productivity without chemicals—because AIR plants fast-growing trees that enrich the soil.
What are the innovative methods used by AIR? First, all AIR technicians are Guatemalan and speak the Mayan language as well as Spanish, so they are non-threatening. Second, AIR technicians work with participating farmers for five years, until they have actually seen the benefits of sustainable farming on their health and their increased crops, and the protection trees give from mudslides, reduced soil erosion, etc, etc. Third, AIR technicians work with farmers in their own fields, implementing terracing, mapping out the best places for different crops, and planting the most beneficial trees.
Oftentimes, farmers are relearning methods forgotten from Mayan ancestral practices.
Fourth, farmers also set aside land only for reforestation, recognizing the benefits of these restored forests for themselves, for neighboring villages, and for the Earth.
technicians have produced a series of Manuals, in Spanish, with many
diagrams that assist them in their training. Over 1500 farmers have
now participated in this extraordinary, intensive training in
Building Fuel-Efficient Stoves