Grade 10 – Agriculture Outing to Manikata
Since the start of the Green Revolution, a series of developments into agricultural production, the mean crop yield shot up exponentially, virtually annihilating hunger in the developed world and saving thousands of lives in the developing one. However, this also led to increased use of synthetic fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides, which contributed to not only the increased rates of cancer in those that eat such crops, but also to the pollution of water reservoirs, causing the death of the local fish population living there and, in turn, the destabilization and possible eradication of the ecosystem the reservoir supported. Because of this, more and more people began to show concern for the environment, leading to an increase of interest in the Organic Movement, which proposed methods alternative to the ones used in the mass production of crops seen in the 1960’s, preferring such ways as using insects as natural pesticides and manure as fertilizer, thus drastically reducing not only the risk to the environment, but also a risk to human health.
While the European Union encourages organic farming in its member countries, this trend hasn’t developed much in Malta, where only 23 hectares being used organically. Now, however, schools are increasingly raising awareness on the matter, a prime example being the Geography trip that was undertaken by the Grade 10 Geography students to the Manikata valley, where a group of farmers banded together to form the Koperattiva Rurali Manikata, a cooperative whose mission is to “to safeguard rural life and traditions in the area around Manikata, especially farming, animal husbandry, the keeping of bees,… to contribute to the protection of the natural environment in the locality;” . We were escorted to a one such farm by the guide, a representative of the cooperative. On the way, she explained how, due to the farms being located at the bottom of the valley, the farmers enjoy the most fertile of soils found on the islands, as water erodes the soils found on the slopes down, giving the farmers a constant supply of soil. When we arrived, we were given information on how exactly a farmer can try to be organic and how he can encourage plant growth. One way is to use natural fertilizers, such as green manure, which is made of dried up leaves of plants from the legume family, such as the peas or beans. Another practice that is commonly used is crop rotation, which is when a farmer divides his field into four, three pieces of the land being planted with different types of crops, while the fourth piece is left unused, with the farmer switching the field use every year. This helped the soil to retain its nutrients, meaning that the need for fertilizers would be less. Farmers also use natural products (usually a mixture of water, garlic and chili) as rodent repellent, which not only doesn’t harm the pests, but also has no negative consequences on the plants. Another interesting way to keep out pests, this time bugs, was explained to be winding the wool from sheep around the trunk of a tree, thus not allowing the bugs to get to the fruit.
All in all, it is safe to assume that organic farming is a viable alternative to traditional farming in Malta, as it not only protects the environment and the species living in it, a growing issue due to the rapid urbanization of the island, but also produces crops of a higher quality and ones that contribute much less or even not at all to health problems in those that consume them. And while it may take some time, the growing awareness of this matter may mean, and I personally hope, that Malta will see an increase in such beneficial practices.
Avanes Khachaturov Grade 10.3
Feeding time …
Notes taking time…
Ms Joanne cuddling and patting the goats.
Students eating fresh Maltese bread with organic tomato paste and organically grown strawberries.
Students learning about the properties and methods of greenhouses.