I’m a city slicker, I’ll admit. I’ve lived most of my life in the inner city. But I know a bit about agriculture from working at a farmer’s market, selling the occasional wheelbarrow of cantelope or fresh corn to neighbors, and visiting my grandpas’ farms.?And then?I lived with some coffee growers, working on a documentary about them. What they are doing is great. They’re working together to clean each other’s land, basically weeding the farm. (You can see this documentary, “En La Unión Está La Fuerza” here)
What I didn’t realize at the time was the alternative. The other, much more common method, is simply to burn the fields. Flying in to Honduras 3 weeks ago today, I noticed so many pillars of smoke. With my current schedule, I’m getting out into the countryside about 2 or 3 times each week. And every single time I have seen multiple fires. In the last 3 weeks, it has only rained once, meaning it is very dry. The fires spread quickly, and at night it is almost cool to see the fires far off. Yesterday I drove through an area completely devastated by the fires- I was waiting for a fireball to come down from the sky.
So what are the results of this? Well, immediate effects include a very hazy sky, and poor air quality. I’ve been battling a cold for about a week now. Not fun stuff. Long term, it has the potential to be devastating for the land. There are some short term benefits, a quick rise in the pH levels, for instance. This makes it a cheap fertilizer. But it also depletes nutrients, and contributes to errosion. (Thinking I’m smart, eh? I just looked it up on Wikipedia, silly.) After suffering from Hurricane Mitch, I would hope that Honduras would pay more attention to erosion.