Jacobo and the Traveling Potato

As we begin our final push of 2016 fundraising, we’re excited to bring you stories about the incredible effect your Annual Fund donations have on lives and landscapes in Central America. Stay tuned for more stories in our Changing Lives, Transforming Landscapes series!

Today, Program Impact Manager Ricardo Romero shares how one dedicated staff member and a very special vegetable are changing the way families in Honduras farm and eat!

  Jacobo Suazo has spent his career encouraging rural farmers to adopt healthier growing practices. What's his secret? The mighty sweet potato! - photo by Michele Christle

Jacobo Suazo has spent his career encouraging rural farmers to adopt healthier growing practices. What's his secret? The mighty sweet potato! - photo by Michele Christle

Jacobo Suazo has traveled around Honduras a lot over the course of his career, but he hasn’t traveled alone. Luckily, he’s had the company of a very old friend: the sweet potato! 

  Farmers in Santa Cruz del Dulce, Honduras, receive sweet potato shoots for their home gardens. - photo by Consuelo Hernandez

Farmers in Santa Cruz del Dulce, Honduras, receive sweet potato shoots for their home gardens. - photo by Consuelo Hernandez

Jacobo met this particular variety of sweet potato in the Yoro region of Honduras in 2001, four years into his nearly 20-year tenure with Sustainable Harvest International.

Soon, all the families he was working with were planting sweet potatoes in their vegetable gardens. What was so exciting about the sweet potato? As a food, it was rich in vitamins and a healthy source of carbohydrates. And as a crop, it was high-yielding, robust, and easy to reproduce.

For Jacobo and the families he was working with in Yoro, nothing could have been better!

Later, Jacobo went to work in Santa Barbara, taking some shoots of this sweet potato to his newly assigned region. His sweet potatoes were an equally big hit with the farmers there.

Just like in Yoro, farmers in Santa Barbara grew mostly corn and beans. Diets lacked diversity, which causes malnutrition, and soil nutrients became depleted quickly. Jacobo and the sweet potato were helping to change all that, though! The sweet potatoes were just one part of many rich gardens that provided nutritious foods. Jacobo's miracle plant also allowed for diverse growing techniques that helped keep the soil on Santa Barabara farms healthy and fruitful.

  Jacobo joins Field Trainer Obed Goméz and farmer María Guerra in the village of La Laguna II. - photo by Franklin Paz

Jacobo joins Field Trainer Obed Goméz and farmer María Guerra in the village of La Laguna II. - photo by Franklin Paz

Eventually, Jacobo moved again, to the Comayagua region, and, of course, he took his old friend with him. Farmers there have loved it, too, and enjoyed the dark, nutrient-rich soil and colorful meals the sweet potato makes possible.

Now, Jacobo is our field coordinator in Honduras, meaning that he provides leadership to other field trainers and helps them reach the goals they have established with farmers who partner with us.

After traveling around Honduras with his sweet potato shoots, Jacobo recently visited the Yoro province, where he first began with this super food fifteen years ago.

He worked with the local field trainer in new partner communities there to provide workshops on planting, growing, and harvesting sweet potatoes. Before he left, there were shoots growing in all five of the communities in that region. The sweet potato has come home! Jacobo thinks it will be a great success in Yoro the second time around, too.

What a ride for this sweet potato variety, for Jacobo, and for our work in Honduras!

 

The education and potato shoots Jacobo has been providing farmers are made possible by donations to our Annual Fund. Won’t you join us in supporting Jacobo and his colleagues by donating today? With your help, our field staff can continue to provide essential training to rural farmers in Honduras, Belize, and Panama as they change lives and transform landscapes.