HELP Ramón AND HIS FAMILY REBUILD THEIR LIFE

SUYAPA, HONDURAS -- Ramón Barahona and his wife, Sonia Salquero are great farmers, parents, and community members. They live with their six children in Suyapa, Honduras. In fact, they're such exemplary farmers that they were featured in our most recent promotional video.

Recently, Ramón and Sonia lost their home in an electrical fire. Made of wood, the house burned quickly, destroying all that it contained. Luckily, nobody was home at the time. In addition to losing their home Ramón and Sonia also lost the materials they used for making and selling plantain chips--a significant part of their income.

Sustainable Harvest International field staff Consuelo, Franklin, and Oscar were passing through Suyapa when they saw the house smoking--very little of it left standing. They immediately stopped to find out what happened.

Here's what Franklin reported:

Ramón was very hurt. His voice broke at times, especially at the thought of the children that had suddenly become homeless despite all the work he and Sonia were doing to provide for them.
"Look at the innocent children," Ramón said. "They keep playing. They do not know or realize that we do not have a home anymore. How will I provide a roof for them? Where will we sleep?"
As Ramón spoke, he constantly intertwined his fingers and crossed his legs. Sitting there in the plastic chair, he watched everything that he and Sonia worked for for so many years suddenly disappear.
Sonia sat on the floor, helplessly watching her home burn. She didn't move from where she sat. She repeated, "What are we going to do? Now that we have nothing?" with a shaky voice and tears rolling down her cheeks. The children kept playing as the house burned.  
Community members in Suyapa were surprised at the tragedy and its magnitude, especially for such a humble and hard-working family. Though their neighbors offered their support and promised to help however they could most families in the Suyapa area live in poverty and can't help financially, which is the kind of help that is needed most.

One week after the fire, Ramón and Sonia were celebrated along with the other families who were graduating from our 5-year program. As a stellar farmer, Ramón was asked to speak to the crowd that had gathered. Though still very enthusiastic about carrying on the work he's learned through working with our dedicated field trainers, Ramón is worried about being able to keep going with the work. Rebuilding a home is both expensive and time-consuming. In the meantime, they still need to keep tending the beautiful forest garden that provides them with plentiful food to eat and coffee to sell. Currently, they're staying at Ramón's mother's house, where all eight of them sleep on air mattresses in the living room.

The good news is that everything is going to be okay.

Because of skills learned through Sustainable Harvest International, Rámon and his family have the capacity to rebuild their home and their small business and recover from this disaster much quicker than they would have otherwise. Support is needed to meet their immediate basic needs but in the long term the family will continue to be leaders in their community.

Want to help out? You can! For this special situation, we are running a VERY SHORT campaign to help Ramón and Sonia raise part of the money they need to rebuild their home and get back on track. 

Our goal is to raise $850 by July 29th to cover the cost of building materials. This is only 35% of what is needed--the rest will come from local organizations and government institutions. Members of our field staff have generously offered to help Ramón and Sonia rebuild when the time comes.

Find out more about the campaign by visiting our fundraising page. Have questions? Want to learn more about how you can help pitch in or spread the word? Shoot us an email at hello@sustainableharvest.org.

Special thanks to Sustainable Harvest International Honduras field staff Consuelo Hernandez, Oscar Robles, Franklin Paz for their support of Ramón, Sonia, and their family. Also to Nathan Johnson of Yoveo Media for donating beautiful footage of Ramón's family for use in our campaign video.

NOTE: Our mission is to provide farming families in Central America with the training and tools to preserve tropical forests while overcoming poverty. This particular project is a special case and is not a general fundraising campaign. If we raise the $850 before July 29th, we will immediately stop the campaign.

 


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Parakeets and All

by Florence reed

"Just as I took one last look back at their farm, a flock of parakeets flew overhead and landed in one of the farm’s tall trees that had dropped its leaves for the dry season—a reminder of how all life on this beautiful planet benefits from the healthy ecosystem on Isabel’s farm."

"Just as I took one last look back at their farm, a flock of parakeets flew overhead and landed in one of the farm’s tall trees that had dropped its leaves for the dry season—a reminder of how all life on this beautiful planet benefits from the healthy ecosystem on Isabel’s farm."

BELLA FLORIDA, PANAMA—It had been six years since I last visited Isabel’s farm and I didn’t know what to expect. The sound of rocks scraping the bottom of the rental car had gotten worse since picking up three additional passengers. After thirty minutes of jolting along the dusty road, I was relieved when we had to walk the last quarter mile. The hedge of hibiscus preceding the path to Isabel’s house looked the same, but the farm beyond looked less abundant than I remembered. I began to worry that our efforts had been in vain.

As my feet met the dry, hard-packed clay ground I remembered the transformation of this farm during the five years that Isabel had been in our program. When his family began working with us in 2003, they produced a few, meager crops grown by rotating from one small, burned plot to the next. By the time they graduated from our program in 2008, an abundant farm had replaced the old growing system.

Isabel’s family, too, had blossomed with the fruits of their labor. The first few times that I walked up the dirt path to their home, Isabel’s wife and two daughters ran and hid in their mud-walled house, peeking at me from behind a handmade curtain. Isabel spoke quietly, rarely looking me in the eye. By the time Isabel graduated from our program, however, he spoke easily to me and other visitors about the new farming practices that had brought so many benefits to his land and family.

Isabel in 2009

Isabel in 2009

During my last visits, even his wife and teenaged daughters came out of their new, larger cement house. They no longer seemed ashamed of their short stature and bowed legs—probably a result of childhood malnutrition. Increased income from the farm had even allowed Isabel to send both daughters to high school—a dream that had seemed far out of reach when he first start working with us.

Continuing along the path to Isabel’s home, I saw no signs of burning. I also saw evidence of soil conservation techniques we teach, such as terracing and erosion barriers. This was encouraging, but by the time I reached the house, I saw only limited evidence that we had ever worked here.

A loud “Buenas tardes!” from me brought Isabel’s oldest daughter, Aracelys, and then his wife, Nelly, out of the house. Aracelys walked right up to shake my hand and chatted comfortably with me. Nelly hung back by the house, but also shook my hand when I approached, telling me that Isabel was away for the day. Both looked happy and healthy.

So far so good, I thought, but now I was the nervous one, as I asked how the farm was doing.

“It’s not very good right now because of the long dry season,” they answered. “Would you like to see our coffee plants?”

Como no,” I said. Sure.

A short walk down a path behind the house brought us to the edge of a large vegetable garden half the size of a football field. I was pleased to see raised beds just the way that Isabel had learned to make them with our field trainers. Many of the beds had crisp, green plants growing in them—peppers, tomatoes, green onion, parsley, and others. Still, Aracelys and Nelly were quick to tell me that some of the beds had been left unplanted because it had been so dry and they had to carry water by hand from the only spring that still had water.

Then I understood why I hadn’t seen more crops growing between the road and the house. We were at the end of a long dry season and that part of the farm was far from their water source.

Beyond the garden, two seedbeds full of vegetable seedlings indicated that the garden was still very important to them. Turning around, my eyes widened upon seeing over 100 pineapple plants, most of which had sweet-smelling fruits growing on them. Aracelys told me that they started growing pineapple with us ten years ago and had never stopped. I noted the leaves carefully left on the ground around the plants for mulch to maintain what humidity was in the soil and smother the weeds.

A few more steps and we came to a plot of coffee plants whose dark red berries stood out against the bright green leaves. The coffee grew in the shade of many taller trees.

As we stood admiring the coffee, I asked Aracelys if she was helping her parents on the farm.

“I’m studying at the university,” she replied. In English!

Thrown by a sudden shift in my own perception of this young woman, I finally responded in my first language, which I never expected to hear from Aracelys. “Wow! You speak English very well. Congratulations! What are you studying?”

“English,” she said. “My younger sister started at the university right after high school and is graduating soon. I started later.”

We switched back to Spanish so that Nelly could participate in the conversation too. I told Nelly that I couldn’t believe how well her daughter communicated in English. At first, Nelly didn’t answer, but then broke into a big smile.

Aracelys (one of Isabel's daughters) and Nelly (Isabel's wife)

Aracelys (one of Isabel's daughters) and Nelly (Isabel's wife)

As I left the farm, I couldn’t contain my smile either having seen that this family was continuing to improve their circumstances based on the sustainable farming practices they had learned with us all those years ago.

Just as I took one last look back at their farm, a flock of parakeets flew overhead and landed in one of the farm’s tall trees that had dropped its leaves for the dry season—a reminder of how all life on this beautiful planet benefits from the healthy ecosystem on Isabel’s farm.

Isabel and Nelly's farm

Isabel and Nelly's farm


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Were You At The Asticou?

A lovely time was had by all at our recent dinner event at the Asticou!

The harbor glistened in the distance, trees stood tall around us, and the sun set gracefully as friends of Sustainable Harvest International—both old and new—gathered on the Asticou’s historic patio. It was an honor to have 12 of our board members present for the occasion—traveling from as far as Berea, Kentucky and as close as Mount Desert, Maine.

Steve Richards, Chair of our Board of Directors, welcomed guests and announced the recent recognition of our Executive Director, Renée Johnson, as an emerging leader, from InsideNGO. Congratulations, Renée!

Florence Reed, our Founder and President, shared a story about a recent visit with a farming family in Panama who graduated from our program back in 2008—a story that will soon be shared on this very blog! Stay tuned!

Among the many delightful guests present was artist and activist Robert Shetterley, who also spoke before the meal. Robert praised Sustainable Harvest International for being a model of how to engage marginalized people in bettering themselves from the bottom up—and for our focus on healthy food and healthy responsibilities. Additional praise was put forward for how we manage to do all of this without being overtly political. We were honored to have Robert there alongside the portrait he painted of Florence for his Americans Who Tell the Truth portrait series.

Guests came away with an ecologically packed bag of spices grown by farmers that work with us in Belize, a copy of our new brochure, a sticker with our new logo on it, and the feeling that they were (and are) a part of something good!

Want to learn about how you can host an event that makes everyone feel good? Get in touch!



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It Takes All Kinds? Not When it Comes to Farming!

Do y'all know Food Tank? If not, you should! Their mission is to build a global community for safe, healthy, nourished eaters. One part of their mission is to create space for dialogue surrounding food issues--a space that our president and founder, Florence Reed, dove into today with her article, "No, It Does Not Take All Kinds of Farming to Feed the World."

Read the article here. Share it with your community. Let's get talking. Then, let's get acting! Happy reading!


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Graduation in El Tulé!

What's happening in there? A celebration! After seven years of hard work and training, 33 farming families are graduating from Sustainable Harvest International's innovative 5-phase program.

What's happening in there? A celebration! After seven years of hard work and training, 33 farming families are graduating from Sustainable Harvest International's innovative 5-phase program.

El Tulé, Honduras

The room was packed. Proud farming families were dressed in their best clothing. Babies were asleep in their mother’s or brother’s arms. The doors and windows were adorned with palms and bunches of plantains hung from the ceiling like chandeliers.

The families present had arrived in myriad ways—some on foot, some in the backs of trucks or on motorcycles—however they could. Each of these families began working with Sustainable Harvest International field trainers in 2008. Before working with Sustainable Harvest International, their lives were very different. The land they farmed on looked different. In fact, the land they lived on looked different, too.

The graduation ceremony was a chance for these graduating families to speak directly to their peers and fellow farmers, and to the board and staff members who traveled to El Tulé to be a part of the festivities.

As Ma Jesús Cortés said, “Sustainable Harvest International taught us to organize ourselves. With the help of my field trainer, I began to really work. Now we grow cabbage and all kinds of vegetables. We also grow rice, beans, and corn, all grown with natural fertilizer. I’ve planted many trees. We learned how to use organic waste and dead barriers on the hillsides to prevent erosion and loss of soil. After five years of training, I can now feed my children, who are growing up healthy. I’m not the same woman I was before. Now I can do the work of a man and a woman.”

Another participant, José Abel Tabora, said, “When Sustainable Harvest International first came to our village, we said, ‘Okay, we’ll take on this challenge.’ They gave me the training I needed to do what I wanted to do and I wasn’t pushed to do anything I didn’t want to. Now, I’ve reforested a big area. I have a plot of coffee, all grown organically. I’ve learned how to protect and conserve water. And, my family is producing 100% of the food we consume.”

A graduation, by definition, is full of celebration, recognition, and praise. It is often accompanied by delicious food and festivities. This graduation was no different. The food—prepared by Sustainable Harvest Honduras field staff and participating families—was sourced entirely from participating families’ farms. Pickled carrots. Juicy beans full of protein. Fresh juicy tomatoes. Hearty hard-boiled eggs. A veritable feast!

The food was just one of the highlights of the day. The pride emanating from both the families and their field trainers was palpable.

The edges of the hall were filled with participants selling their products—there was honey. Coffee. Coffee with cardamom. Coffee with ginger. Plantain chips. Plantain chips with barbecue flavoring made from scratch! Pickled carrots and onions! Sweets flavored with lemon rinds! Families who participate in our programs are not just farmers; they are entrepreneurs, using innovation to add more value (and shelf-life) to their products. Next to these products, each participant displayed bound business plans, created with the help of Sustainable Harvest International Honduras’s Small Business Coordinator, Franklin Paz.

This particular community has not only Sustainable Harvest International to thank, but also, the Trinidad Conservation Project, an independent collective of donors from the Washington DC region whose continued support of these communities over the years has been vital. The Trinidad Conservation Project’s support allowed field trainers to continue to make their way up into the hills of Santa Barbara, rain or shine, to continue working closely with each of the families in this cohort.

Though after graduating, these farming families will no longer receive frequent visits from their field trainers, the training they received has empowered them to continue furthering themselves and the people around them. The training Sustainable Harvest International provides is contagious and has sustainable, long-term impact. And we’ll never be too far away…

With a glowing smile, José Abel Tabora reminded everyone, “Sustainable Harvest International is with us spiritually. What you taught us will continue to stay with us for long after we graduate.”

 

Want to learn more about how you can help empower a whole community to preserve the forests that surround them and overcome poverty through sustainable agriculture? Contact us.

 

 


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