As you may have gathered from my last two posts (about green microenprenuers and green MFIs) I’ve been getting increasingly excited about the green side of microfinance and this post is no exception!!
I recently had the unique opportunity to spend some time at two agricultural schools funded by the Fundación Paraguaya, the first was, 9 hours from our base in Asunción, in Mbaracayu and the other, closer by – a ‘mere’ 2 hours, in Cerrito.
Besides the beauty and peace of the Paraguayan countryside and the exhilarating feeling of being out of the city and getting ‘down and dirty’, like Hannah mentioned in her post on our Mbaracayu visit, the wealth of knowledge that the students had about agriculture and sustainability was overwhelming – one easily forgot that the youngest ones were only 14 years old.
The Escuela Agricola de San Francisco in Cerrito was the model on which the all-girls school in Mbaracayu was based – alternating class, farm, tourism, kitchen and hotel work these kids learnt all the trades, specialising in their third and final year in what they enjoyed the most.
What struck me as most exciting about both these schools was their bioorganic, self-sufficient and sustainable aspect.
In Cerrito, like in Mbaracayu, the school owns and takes care of its own livestock, crops and vegetable gardens. They have plenty of animals: horses that are used for labour in the fields, cows and goats that are kept for milk, making cheese and, a Paraguayan favourite, dulce de leche, chickens for their eggs and, a recent development, for their meat, while pigs are sold off on markets.
They also have a bioorganic vegetable garden, where they grow more types of vegetables and herbs than I can name, and use the most innovative processes for maximum productivity. They also make their own compost and used various methods to create the best natural fertiliser; one example being putting worms in horse excrements to break it down organically and quickly to make a beautifully soft and fine final product. Both the staff and students seemed extremely up-to-date with all the latest bio intensive techniques available – I was really impressed!
What I liked the most about these schools is that they are entirely self-sufficient and sustainable. Once the school’s needs have been met, the students sell their produce – milk, eggs, cheese, dulce de leche, vegetables and herbs – door-to-door in the neighbourhood and once a week at an agro-market in Asunción. The profit earned from the sales is invested back into the school, whether it is for buying more seeds or some new plumbing, making them completely sustainable. Continue Reading →