Agave Power Regreening the Desert in Mexico
This documentary concerns an inspirational project to regreen the Mexican desert using agave cactus and mesquite trees. Owing to increasing desertification, 90% of Mexican family farms have ceased to be viable. This virtual collapse of small farm agriculture puts increasing pressuring on Mexican farmers to emigrate to the US.
Farmers participating in the agave project, plant an estimated 1,000 agave cacti per acre with 250 mesquite trees interspersed between them. Planted in a thin layer of compost mixed with biochar,* the agave and mesquite trees (which are nitrogen fixing**) increase water retention up to 70%, while simultaneously increasing soil fertility. The agave pull the moisture they need from the air.
Agave trimming can begin after a year, and the dead leaves are fermented together with protein-rich mesquite pods. The resulting fodder costs 5 cents a day to feed sheep and other herds during Mexico’s eight month dry season.
*Biochar is charcoal that is produced by pyrolysis of biomass in the absence of oxygen. Used to enrich soil carbon, it can endure in soil for thousands of years.
**Nitrogen fixing plants host specialized bacteria on their roots that can pull nitrogen from the atmosphere increase soil nitrogen for plant nutrition.