Don Adolfo Project: Pasture to Agroforestry near Livingston, Guatemala

Arnoldo from Apro-Sarstun helping plant some rambutan.

Introducing the Don Adolfo Project (DAP).  Named after the pioneering landowner where the project takes place, the DAP converts former cow pasture into an agroforestry, ecosystem restoration and educational site.   Furthermore, this pilot project will develop a model for land development and cooperation between landowner (Don Adolfo) and tenant (me, Sean Dixon-Sullivan), while employing, training and eventually encouraging self-ownership for local campesinos.

The Deal
First, workers from Contour Lines Corp., including myself and three campesinos from Tatin, installed 1,151 meters of contour lines across the 0.87-hectare (2.15 acres) site.  Along the lines we planted Don Adolfo's 200 fruit trees—mango, rambutan, avacado, lemon and orange—and between we've begun planting shorter-term crops, which will eventually include cassava, sweet potato, pineapple and banana.  The deal is we can cultivate his land rent-free, harvesting all short-term crops we wish, as long as we keep his fruit trees weeded, until the trees take over after around three years.  It's a win-win situation.  We get land rent-free, he gets free labor to establish his orchard.

Actually it's win-win-win, as the local ecology gets erosion control, soil-building and biodiversity.

Don Adolfo and Sean Dixon-Sullivan meeting to
plan the project.

Don Adolfo showing off
his beloved Hormigo trees.
The Objectives
  1. Economic
       -Organic produce.  Worker/community sustenance as well as income from local and foreign sales.  Produce includes both short-term (cassava, banana, taro) and long-term crops (fruit trees),  all with value-adding potential such as chips, flours and jams.
       -Employment. For three local campesinos (as well as training and eventually ownership of own enterprises)
       -Tourism.  Hiking, camping, bird-watching eco-tourism and agro-tourism.
  2. Environmental.  Using agroecological methods, such as erosion control lines, cover-crops and mulching, polycultures and organic pesticides, fungicides and fertilizers:
       -Ecosystem restoration.  From eroding cow pastures to (agro)forests
       -Ecosystem services.  [see Funding, below].
  3. Social.
       -Education.  In sustainable agriculture practices (contour lines, organic fertilizers and pest control, mulching, composting etc.) through training employees, hosting workshops and guiding tours.  The DAP site is perfectly situated along the main road for demonstration purposes.
       -Health.  Supplying local, organic food should improve diets and reduce malnutrition.  Improved ecosystems should reduce stress, micro-climate extremes, air pollution, etc.
       -Cultural.  Improved food-autonomy, less dependence on foreign imports.  Furthermore, locals may develop greater appreciation for their native ecosystem, and possibly by extension for their Mayan ancestry, through the common principles of farming ecologically. 

The Costs
Initial costs, including fencing, clearing, planting and buying seedlings are Q14,300, or $1,830.  Subsequent costs for each new short-term crop (every 6 months) are Q6,450, or $826.

The DAP site from the top of the valley, before.

The DAP site from the top of the valley, after.

The DAP site from the bottom of the valley, before.

The Dap site from the bottom of the valley, after.

Don Adolfo marking which trees for preserving
 and which for mulching.

For this pilot project, Contour Lines Corp will receive profit from the short-term crops.  However, our higher goal is not the profit itself but the proof that such a model is profitable.  The local campesinos hired to install and maintain the system will be receiving training throughout the project's duration, and ultimately will be encouraged to replicate the model and run their own enterprises [local villages cultivate communal land].  Profits from this site will fund future sites.

For the Model, the tenant and landowner will receive the profits from the short and long term crops, respectively.  These profits help develop the poor, local economies and incentivize the adoption of these regenerative agriculture methods.

Don Carlos, Eugenio and Victor, the project's workforce,
 local campesinos and students of agroforestry.

Funding Sources
The startup costs (listed above) will ideally be covered by donations from non-profits or social services.  These funds are needed, without which local campesinos could never afford the initial investment in startup.  While they will eventually gain profits, funding their startup is justified from multiple points of view:
  1. Compensation for the ecosystem services. These agroforesty/reforestation methods provide us benefits, such as carbon sequestration, erosion control, wildlife habitat and rainwater purification.
  2. Investment in development.  Such a profitable model develops local economies, increases tax revenue, and produces needed commodities such as food and timber.  Funding such development could be seen as subsidies, better investments than the chemical/industrial agriculture currently being subsidized by banks and governments on a large scale.
  3. Charitable causes.  Providing opportunity, education and healthy, organic food to poor communities matches initiatives currently being funded by religious and social organizations worldwide.  Most of all developing this economic model encourages the more beneficial form of "teach a man to fish" charity.
Visiting Don Carlos in Tatin to survey potential project sites.

Next up
We visit Tatin, the distant aldea (village) where live Don Carlos, Higinio and Victor live, to plan the next projects.  There the community council grants up to 4 hectares (8 acres) to each campesino family.  Most families rotate their land between fallow and corn production for sustenance.  During my visit (Feb. 9, 2019) several campesinos including Victor and Don Carlos, expressed their desire to convert portions of their land away from chemical, monoculture corn and towards more economic and ecologic agroforestry systems.

Victor Chun Caal Sr. shows his pineapple plantation.

So far six campesinos so far are interested in converting one hectare each following the DAP agroforesty model.  The main difference from DAP would be instead of a landowner/tenant arrangement, these local farmers would retain all rights to the land and the produce and would supply all needed labor (about 30 man/days per 1 hectare for installation).  Meanwhile this organization would supply the tree seedlings, about 200 per hectare (about Q4,400 or $560) in addition to any needed planning and extension services.

Please donate to help install their agroforestry systems.  Button above.  Only $20 covers five rambutan, eight mango or ten citrus trees.  Contour Lines is registered as a 501(c)(3) for tax-deductible donations.

Special Thanks to
-Don Adolfo of Livingston, Guatemala
-Don Carlos Caal Romero, Higinio Chub Ax, Victor Chun Caal Sr. & Jr. and Ernesto Ax Chun, campesinos of Tatin
-Arnoldo Ax Chun and Samuel Coc of Apro-Sarstun
-Dwight Carter of Fruta del Mundo
-Thomas Leonard of Contour Lines Corp
-Juan Pablo Martinez and the rest of the Wübu Team


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