Farming Steep in the Andes

The Good, the Bad and the Pretty

Hiking above BaƱos Ecuador is like a tour of mountain farming techniques.  And in such steep mountains, where crops and orchards cling to 50 degree slopes or greater, the chosen techniques have profound consequences in the struggle between erosion and sustainability.  Others are just neat to see.  Overall the hike was fascinating to witness locals shape and be shaped by such an extreme yet beautiful environment.

The Good
A cornfield in rows that are mounded and perpendicular to the slope stops erosion from rainfall.  Periodic hedgerows do the same, as well as block erosion from wind.

The Bad
For comparison here´s a field of bare soil, nothing to stop rainwater from coalescing and accelerating.  

Gulley erosion is the result.

An excellent technique for moving soil to the road below.

The Ugly
Speaking of roads and erosion, what better way to wash mud off a mountain than to dig channels straight down it.

I´m standing in the drainage gulley and my knees are at current road level.  The grass line above my head must be close to the original ground level.  Also notice the depth of rich soil.  This region must have been forest for many thousands of years, or well-farmed for many hundreds.

This road is so old and eroded it nearly tunneled into the mountain, with squashes hanging in the trees above.
Wonder what´ll happen next.

The Interesting
 Tomate arbol (tree tomate) polycropped with sambo (bigass squash). 
More better examples in terms of erosion control; ground covers in the foreground and contoured rows in back.

Any guess on the line matrix?

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