Excursion to CASA BLANCA: a new meaning for “hands-on” or the power of guinea-pig poop

by Celia Vasquez and Sophie Medem

CasablancaThe excursion to CASA BLANCA on July 20th by the entire x-runner team was an experience that will not be forgotten. Prof. Ulises Moreno and his wife Dr. Carmen Morales shared a beautiful life lesson with us: the Peruvianprofessional can apply their knowledge and practical abilities in favor of the community andour entire country.

In the early 1980ies, just after getting married, Moreno and Morales began to build not only

 their home but also what later became to be the eco-agricultural farm CASA BLANCA, about 35 KM south of Lima.  On a dry piece of land no larger than two and a half acres, Don Ulises and his Wife applied all their knowledge about ecological agriculture, which until then they had only used in the lecture halls of the university. Their work is based on the cultivation of ecological crops without using fertilizers or insecticides. And what’s more, their two and a half acres of Land are home to over a thousand guinea-pigs, whose poop is used to produce biogas.

The breeding of guinea-pigs is crucial to the entire system since all the operations are based, in one way or another, on their excrements (guano). The animals are bred under the supervision of a zoologist and kept in corrals, five to six guinea-pigs per unit. They feed off fodder such as maize leaves, Camerún grass and bran. The average litter is of five or six,however the ideal number is four. The corrals are cleaned carefully on a regular basis, and their guano is recollected to produce compost. It is also used for the biodigester, which produces Biol, Biosol (fertilizer) and Biogas.

Getting to see the biodegester was a highlight for the team. It has a cylindrical shape and a capacity of 10m3, and its walls are made of extremely resistant bricks. There are three openings: one central and two lateral ones. The central opening is where the gas is extracted through a pipe. A self-made filter retains the sulphide hydrogen, permitting the pure methane (Biogas) to be extracted and used for cooking and light on the farm.

 One of the lateral openings is meant for “feeding” the digester with guano and water. The other opening is where the liquid called Biol is extracted. Biol can be used as foliar fertilizer.

 The entire process of producing Biogas is a very complex one, since it requires exact measurements and the right ingredients. Biodigestion takes places thanks to bacterial microorganisms found in the excrements.

 At the end of the tour we were shown a great variety of fruit trees and vegetables that are meant for internal use. We also learned about different irrigation techniques such as the drip-method watering and irrigation through special hoses.

 Thank you very much Prof. Ulises Moreno Moscoso and Dr. Carmen Felipe Morales for having us on your farm and teaching us about your successful ways of leading an agricultural farm in an ecological way.

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