Audubon grant jumpstarts production of a valuable water-saving crop
–This is the third in a series of five consecutive articles focusing on the important work being done by the Audubon grant program and the organizations receiving these grants
By Bruce Janklow
The San Miguel de Allende region is quickly approaching a water crisis. As residential, industrial and agricultural development increase at a rapid rate, it is clear that our limited water resources are being used at a much faster rate than they are being replenished.
Of all the uses of water within the region, agriculture is by far the biggest single user of water, with some estimates placing agricultural usage as high as 75 percent of all water consumption. Raising crops for animal feed requires the highest level of water consumption. This is because alfalfa, which is water-hungry, is the dominant crop used for animal fodder.
Cooperativa Kurate, a commercial agricultural cooperative located within the San Miguel municipality, has discovered an important new crop—the Moringa plant—which has the potential of providing an incredible level of nutrition for animals at less than 50 percent of the water need of alfalfa. The Moringa plant is tasty as well as nutritious for humans as well as animals. Because the Moringa plant contains seven times the vitamin C as oranges, four times the vitamin A as carrots, four times the calcium of milk and three times the potassium of bananas, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization has declared Moringa a super nutrient-dense food.
While Cooperativa Kurate is developing the Moringa plant as a commercial crop for sale to animal farmers and to food processors who can use Moringa leaves in pasta, bread, salads and cooked vegetables, they also want to help San Miguel farmers discover the many benefits of this plant. In addition to its water-saving and nutritional properties, this drought-tolerant plant also helps to prevent deforestation and soil depletion.
Sociedad Audubon de Mexico is providing Cooperativa Kurate with a financial grant that is enabling them to create a “train the trainer” program. It will instruct 45 local trainers, who in turn will teach hundreds of farm families about the benefits of the Moringa plant and how to cultivate the plant and harvest the leaves. As part of this program each newly trained trainer will be given a supply of young Moringa plants to serve as starter crops for farmers in their communities. Each new trainer will attend an onsite two-day seminar and receive written material. In addition, Cooperativa Kurate supervisors will monitor and assist through periodic in-the-field visits.
In order to make sure that the most qualified students are recruited for this program, three important NGOs who work in rural communities (CEDESA, CASA and Apoyo A Gente emprendora) have agreed to develop a recruiting process in cooperation with Cooperativa Kurate, apply it locally and deliver the best recruits possible.
Through this program, it is expected that within one year a core group of over 100 local farmers will be actively cultivating Moringa in a meaningful way, that the reliance on alfalfa will begin to decline and a positive contribution will be made to preserving our water supply, as well as providing important nutrition in rural communities for both humans and meat animals.
In the next two issues of Atención, articles will appear describing the environmentally important projects other Audubon grantees are implementing and how they will benefit the San Miguel community. If you would like to learn more about the Audubon Grant Program or would like to support it with your time and or money, please visit the Audubon website at www.audubonmex.org or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.