The Mennonites are a peaceful religious group from all over the world. Those that settled in the 'Chaco' (northern Paraguay, known as the thorny dessert) were largely from Canada and Germany hoping to escape conscription and compulsory service in the 1970's they were offered the chance to colonize a new promised farmland to protect the area from Bolivian invaision. In return they were aloud to set up their own communities and laws (still today they don't have to pay taxes). Obviously the first settlers had to build an awful lot, from houses to farm machinery to railroads -largely out of planks of wood - saw anyone?
The area is hot, windy and dry. Rains do come but unpredictably and bush fires and frequent. The soil is sandy which compounds the problems further, however the mennonites have been determined to succeed and in 40 years have established prosperous towns and businesses, large dairy co-ops and grow a mirriad of crops and raise a range of animals including dairy & beef cattle, goats and pigs. The crops are largely grass for grazing and forage, soyabeans, cotton, cassava and some maize / sorghum -as a visiting agronomist it amazed me they could grow anything and all without irrigation.
Wind and water erosion are big problems, shelter belts of trees have been and still are being planted to help alleviate the issue, however the evidence suggests they're only contributing a small amount. On the other hand their is no topsoil to blow away as there never has been any!
On the way home we stopped in at the Pecurray pig rehab project - the sound these guys make with their jaws is like hearing a man trap snap shut - scarry stuff - they handle them with a small scale cattle coural system. can't balme them either!
And purely for your entertainment - a sign from a toilet door at the Mennonite museum!