Some of our farmers are so poor, and working soils that are so degraded, that they cannot profit from our Crédito Forestal or Rising Forests® Coffee programs, which obviously require some basic agricultural and economic function. Our "Parcela Agro-Ecológica" is a crop system designed for such farms. Through a one-time grant, the system jump-starts fertility over about an acre of the farm's most promising soil; in exchange, the farmer must agree to release less productive land for forest restoration, or to conserve established forest, if any remains on the farm. The parcela itself consists of a live-terraced, high-diversity, and intensively-managed “crop garden,” including about 20 crop species, both annual and perennial. The area is prepared by deep plowing, with oxen, and liberal applications of composted cow manure. A cow is also provided, to produce a little milk for the family, and a regular source of composted manure. The system is designed for long-term, sustainable production, and for flexibility (failure of one crop can be offset by improved harvest of another).
In 2012, we installed our first such parcela on the property of one of our poorest farmers, Quiterio Aquino. Quiterio is using the parcela, not just to feed his family, but for cash cropping too: his harvests are now large enough so that he has crops to sell. Revenue from his sales allowed him to build a new cabin on his farm, to improve his family's living conditions.
In 2014, we installed a second Parcela Agro-Ecológica. The beneficiary this time was another very poor Tree Bank farmer, Manuel Pérez Tejada.
Banner: First-year crops in the Parcela Agro-Ecológica on Quiterio Aquino's farm. Photo by Chris Bright.