Most local farmers in the Yalijux mountain range use the slash-and-burn method, which includes cutting and burning a piece of secondary shrub or primary forest.
Corn and beans are planted some days after the fields were burnt. Agriculture in villages near Chelemhá is focused on these two species. Wind and air erosion takes away a good part of the nutritious ash from the steep-sloped fields, which makes this kind of agriculture inefficient.
Soil and climate, however, offer good conditions for a diverse agriculture. One of UPROBON's main goals is to demonstrate the functionality of alternative, more efficient methods and new plants in order to motivate local farmers to apply the novelties.
Armin Schumacher of UPROBON lives in Chelemhá since 1997. He carried out field experiments with a variety of agricultural species. Without burning the fields, he successfully cultivates corn, beans, fig-leaf squash, carrots, celery, fennel, chard, red beets, spinach, asparagus, tree tomatoes, Peruvian carrot, different kinds of cabbage including brocoli, strawberries, blueberry, raspberries, spices and medical herbs, passion fruits, plums, avocadoes, apples, pears, peaches, anonas, naranjilla, vine and tea. Everything is grown organically without the use of pesticides. Meals in the Lodge are based on the organically grown vegetables and fruits. Fruit jams and naranjilla juice concentrate is produced in Chelemhá.
Arrayan (Myrica cerifera) is a common and fast-growing tree in secondary-growth scrub. The berries are covered by wax, and after boiling the fruits the wax can be harvested as material for producing candles, which are used in the Lodge.
The experiences gained are transmitted to schoolboys and girls from the neighboring communities during guided tours in the fields. UPROBON lends land to local farmers for growing corn under the condition they refrain from burning, in order to convince them of the advantages of the alternative method.