Friday, 14 July 2006 - 2:45 PM

“CIESA Project, a Biointensive Model for Food Security in Argentina”.

Juan Fernando Pia, CIESA (Research and Teaching Centre of Sustainable Agriculture), Las Golondrinas, Lago Puelo - Chubut, Argentina, Mark Jordan, CIESA, 31 Hall Road, Chelsea, VT 05038, and Conrado Tognetti, CEDHA & ARS, F.P. Moreno 1089 (8400), S.C. de Bariloche, Argentina.

Argentina has 286,000,000 ha of land area. In the richest region (Humid Pampa) where cereal crops such as wheat, soybean, and maize are grown, 100 tons of arable top soil are lost each year from each ha of arable through wind and water erosion and chemical contamination. This has resulted in degradation of 46 million ha of arable land or 16% of the total land area. The BIOINTENSIVE method has been demonstrated to provide a balanced diet for one person on a land surface of only 400 m2 in a sustainable way, increasing soil fertility in a closed system and building soils rather than degrading them. In contrast, from 1,000 to 6,000 m2 are needed to raise the food for one person in Argentina under the current agricultural practices and diets. CIESA, Center for Researching and Teaching in Sustainable Agriculture, was formed in 1993. Our principal aim was to develop a small training center and demonstration farm from which to teach regional food self-sufficiency, small scale organic farming and appropriate technology. After only 12 years CIESA is now teaching workshops (>45 to date) and training apprentices (one and two year apprenticeship programs) in Sustainable Biointensive Mini-Farming based on the Ecology Action model of the California-based organization led by John Jeavons. We also have a commercialization program consisting of direct delivery of assorted vegetables to family homes, sales at our farm, and a stand at the local feria three times a week during the growing season. We have taught directly or indirectly more than 2,000 people, and there are more than 550 Biointensive gardens and mini Farms in Argentina, Bolivia, Peru, Paraguay and Chile. We chose the BIOINTENSIVE approach because it is a complete food growing system as well as organic, low tech (all hand tools), and efficient in use of space and water. Typically it produces from 2 to 4 times the average yields for our region. It has low external inputs as we grow much of our own compost and fertilizer crops and provides seed for replanting. It continually builds soil quality, and is easily managed by individuals or small groups. When we started BIOINTENSIVE double digging in 1994 our garden had 7% organic matter in the first 30 centimeters of soil and 3% of organic matter in the second 30 cm. Six years later we have 8.3 % of organic matter in the first 30 cm and 7 % in the second 30 cm. We added 0.23 m3 of cured high carbon compost to each 10 m2 bed, once a year, during the first three years and 0.12 m3 the next three. The compost is produced in our garden in a closed system. We have shown that a single person working only 6 hours per day (during 9 months) can provide 40-60% of a vegetarian diet for a family of four and an annual income of between USA$500 and $1000 on only 500-800 m2 land (0.05-0.08 ha). The annual average rural worker income in Argentina is USA$ 200. CIESA has a special program for the arid Patagonia of Argentina, where in the last 10 years 40% of the indigenous farmers ran away from misery to the poor neighborhoods of the cities. In the city of Bariloche (100,000 people), Conrado Tognetti has been working with CEDHA (Center for Human and Environmental Rights) and ARB (Association of Recyclers of Bariloche) on a project utilizing biointensive agricultural techniques (using greenhouses and low level inputs) to safely feed poor families and generate income for child laborers at the Bariloche waste disposal site. CIESA also joins its efforts with the Rio Negro Province to develop 6 demonstration gardens in the arid patagonia. We hope that in the next 10 years we can stop indigenous rural emigration. In this manner we are working to achieve Sustainable Food Security. A travel grant from REAP ( has been secured to support transportation to and from the 18 WCSS to participate in symposium 4.2 b “Biologically Intensive Agriculture: An approach to combating hunger for the world's poor”.

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Back to The 18th World Congress of Soil Science (July 9-15, 2006)