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FROM SUBSISTENCE TO SURPLUS: HELPING FARMERS IN RURAL PERU TO INCREASE CROP PRODUCTION BY IMPROVING SOILS

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"Seventy five percent of the world's poor live in rural areas of developing countries, where most people's livelihoods rely directly on agriculture." (USAid, 2014) Reduced levels of crop production and

"Seventy five percent of the world's poor live in rural areas of developing countries, where most people's livelihoods rely directly on agriculture." (USAid, 2014) Reduced levels of crop production and the accompanying problems of malnourishment exist all over the world. In rural Peru, for example, 11 percent of the population is malnourished. (Global Healthfacts.org, 2012) Since the success in agriculture relies importantly on the fertility of the soil, it is imperative that any efforts at reversing this trend be primarily directed at improving the existing soils. This, in turn, will increase crop yields, and if done properly, will also conserve natural resources and maximize profits for farmers. In order to improve the lives of those at the bottom of the pyramid through agriculture, certain tools and knowledge must be provided in order to empower such persons to help themselves. An ancient method of soil improvement, known as Terra Preta do Indio (Indian dark earth), was discovered by Anthropologists in the 1800's. These dark, carbon-rich, soils are notable for their high fertility, high amounts of plant available nutrients, and their high moisture retention rates. The key to their long-lasting fertility and durability is the presence of high levels of biochar, a highly stable organic carbon \u2014 produced when organic matter (crop residues, food waste, manure, etc.) is burned at low temperatures in the absence of oxygen. Research has shown that when charcoal (biochar) and fertilizers are combined, it can yield as much as 880 percent more than when fertilizers are used by themselves. (Steiner, University of Bayreuth, 2004)

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  • 2014-12