Greetings from the beautiful farmland of North Africa!
This past week has been in the 40’s C (100’s for those of you who speak Fahrenheit)! Farmers carefully ration their water via drip irrigation systems, run-off dikes and underground diffusers, but this is the time of year that exposed top-soils are either lost to wind or baked into dead, concrete-like clods. Farmers are looking for ways to preserve the tenuous life in them, and that’s part of what my colleagues and I hope to contribute.
Over the last month and a half, I’ve had the pleasure of visiting several farms and getting to know the landscape of the northeast a bit better. It is beautiful! I’m a country-girl at heart but am used to adapting to my surroundings. The chance to get out into the fresh air, ride in the back of a pickup truck and tramp through fields and orchards makes my heart happy, and these recent visits have revived a part of me that has been sleeping lately in the city. Some of you have heard me try to express the impression that comes to me on these farms while standing in wide-open spaces or high up on hills overlooking the Mediterranean. Sometimes I say to myself, "I'm at the top of Africa!" and it feels like standing at the beginning of the world.
When I’m not busy trying to catch up on existent literature concerning local soils (mostly available in French), I’m listening to my colleagues advise farmers regarding legumes and nitrogen-fixing plants that they can use to help hold their farms in place and simultaneously aerate their soil, make nutrients more accessible to the crops they are growing for sale, improve water catchment and drainage, attract beneficial insects to do battle with pests, feed livestock and enrich the terrain for future crops.
While these principles are not new to me, I’m on a learning curve for what they look like in my current context.
Surviving the elements, let alone producing fruit amidst them, is a constant struggle here. How much more so within the human existence that populates the landscape. The vignettes of summertime remind me of how vital it is that we stay connected to our Vine!
About the Author: Kimberly is an IDEAS Associate and agricultural specialist. She works alongside local farmers in rural North Africa, giving them access to resources, techniques, information and hope.