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.”