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Farmers from Puebla learn about conservation agriculture at El Batán

“We have the same amount of land but we need it to yield more, because every day there are more of us; we need a livelihood and we’re sad to see that our children, our brothers, and our family are leaving as farming’s not profitable for us.” said Maria del Carmen Puga Quezada, who was among 22 farmers who came to El Batán for an introduction to conservation agriculture (CA) course.

Two farmer organizations (El Surco de Nopalucan and Soñadores del Maíz de Coronango) from the state of Puebla learned about basic CA principles during 23-24 February 2009 in a course led by Bram Govaerts, CIMMYT crop systems management specialist.

“Four of the farmers will implement on-farm CA modules with the help of contracted extension services,” said Govaerts. “This reflects our hub concept for coordinated action and sustainable impact, and specifically to support farmers who help develop and disseminate the technology. These farmers can then train other farmers on how to implement CA.” CA techniques have been shown to improve soil structure, save water, and reduce labor and energy costs. “Farmers lack information, but somehow we’re getting it to them and opening the way for those with the resources and materials to use their imaginations to modify their machinery for CA.” said CIMMYT research assistant Adrián Martínez Barrera, who taught part of the workshop.

Participants learned about managing crop residues, advantages and disadvantages of CA, calibration of CA machinery, proper crop rotations, pest and weed control, and permanent beds, among other topics. “It’s not so much teaching the farmers, but rather showing them how CA works so they themselves can adapt the system to their needs and communities,” said Francisco Magallanes, El Batán station superintendent, who also gave part of the course.