SHI & Peace Corps: 2 are better than 1
written by Anita Perez, Peace Corps Volunteer
Helen Keller said, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” Almost three years ago, SHI-Panama began putting this principal into action. They recognized that their effectiveness in preserving tropical rainforests while improving the lives of poor, rural families could be multiplied if they joined forces with other organizations. One of their most successful partnerships is with Peace Corps Panama. Both organizations have benefited tremendously, though the greatest gain has been to the families served.
SHI-Panama trains Peace Corps volunteers in topics related to sustainable agricultural production, equipping them to better support rural farming families at a national level. Volunteers are then assigned to live in SHI-Panama communities in the province of Cocle, helping to deliver the message of sustainability with greater frequency and intensity while providing families with additional technical assistance.
The alliance between SHI-Panama and Peace Corps Panama is a model that is worth replicating – with other organizations and ministries serving rural Panamanians and in other countries in which Sustainable Harvest International works. Collaborative efforts such as this eliminate the duplication of efforts, make the best use of resources and have a greater impact on those most in need.
"I am a third-year Peace Corps Volunteer in the sustainable agriculture program and I work closely with the SHI-Panama office. I admire the dedication and hard work that I see from the SHI-Panama staff as they continually try to improve life for rural Panamanians. They inspire me and my volunteers to continue! I admire Sustainable Harvest International and its goals, and I will continue to encourage my volunteers to work with your development professionals. Thank you for providing the world with such a wonderful organization!"
- Stephanie Westman, Peace Corps Coordinator - Cocle, Panama
SHI & Eco-Libris: Launching Culantro Rojo Organics
written by Eylon Israely
Some things are just meant to happen. There is no doubt Culantro Rojo Organics, Panama’s first organic C.S.A. supplied chiefly by SHI’s farmers, is one of those things.
When I relocated to Panama at the end of 2008 I was already part of Eco-Libris, a company that balances the environmental impact of the book publishing industry by planting trees. When Eco-Libris began, we were looking for planting partners that not only plant trees but also had the right consciousness when it came to sustainability, using local species and working closely with local communities. SHI is still one of our primary planting partners today, so when I moved to Panama I was very excited to finally visit the reforestation projects we were supporting all this time.
I visited the local office of SHI-Panama in Penonomé in June 2009, and the field trip to the local communities was an eye opener. My partner Claudia Martinez, who helped me communicate with my then poor Spanish, and I were amazed at the level of dedication and thoroughness of SHI’s work. We learned that the work is much more than reforestation; it is an actual transformation of whole communities to sustainable ways of living.
One of the challenges SHI-Panama was facing at that time was commercialization. In order to help ensure long lasting change, there needs to be also some financial benefits to sustainable living. While driving to Panama City we had the idea of starting a C.S.A.- (Community Supported Agriculture) inspired delivery service of fresh organic produce from SHI’s farmers to families in Panama City. After some research, we presented SHI with ideas and by the end of 2009, Culantro Rojo Organics was born.
There are two primary differences between the way a C.S.A. typically works in the U.S.A. or Europe and the way we operate. First, in order to educate the market, we started with subscriptions that are monthly and not seasonal. Second, we partnered with many small-scale subsistence farmers, not medium-sized family farms.
The first step was a pilot program, delivering a basket full of fresh organic produce to six close friends and their families every two weeks. To our delight, the pilot was a success and the number of subscribers began growing rapidly by word of mouth. Currently we have up to sixty monthly subscribers.
Our challenges are many, such as how to grow the number of subscribers while maintaining quantity and quality. Limited infrastructure makes the extreme Panama weather, such as the recent rainy season, a big challenge and makes supply fluctuate. However we are happy to say that in our first year of operation we are witnessing an amazing start and an increase in the local demand for organic food. We are growing together with SHI’s farmers, and it is an amazingly satisfying journey. Visit online: www.culantrorojo.com
SHI & Hancock Church: Reflections on Partnership, Community and Sustainability
written by Charlotte Dougherty
In January 2009, Hancock Church in Lexington, Massachussetts, initiated what has turned out to be a very fruitful partnership with Sustainable Harvest International (SHI). As part of Hancock’s Feeding 5000 initiative, we sought a global partner that could help us reach our goal of feeding 5,000 people a year, measured in days of food. Our partnership with SHI has allowed us to far exceed that goal, and it has done so in a way that has been abundant with many other unanticipated rewards.
Hancock Church is sponsoring SHI’s work in Piedras Negras, Honduras. The impact of our financial support of $3,000 per year for 3 to 5 years is immense – it enables 30 families to grow food needed to combat hunger, and it jumpstarts sustainable production of nutritious food for the community of 170 inhabitants for generations to come.
In addition to providing financial support, our partnership allows church members to take mission trips to Piedras Negras to help SHI implement its program there. On the trips, we not only build gardens and tree nurseries, but we also build lasting and meaningful relationships. Our Honduran friends graciously welcome us into their homes and lovingly prepare delicious meals to sustain us while we are there. The children actively engage in shared projects and exchange artwork with our church school children. The people of Piedras Negras are delighted that we care enough to return each year. As in any true partnership, the lives of all involved are enriched.
Our experiences in Piedras Negras also cause us to reflect on our own values and lifestyles. We witness the commitment that Honduran families make to alleviate their hunger – from the backbreaking tilling of small hillside plots of parched land, to hauling water, bottle-by-bottle, from a distant stream to water tender seedlings. We experience how community members support and train one another – sharing limited resources and tools, working together to build chicken coops and wood-conserving stoves for other families, and looking after each other’s children. We see adults in the community care for the land - nourishing it for future generations and devoting themselves to teaching children sustainable farming methods. This is community. This is sustainability. It is inspirational in motivating us to incorporate important values of community and sustainability in our own lives.
Through my personal experience in working with SHI, I am coming to realize that real social change happens from the bottom up in individuals, families and communities. This is how lives are transformed and positive impacts are sustained. This is what Hancock Church is doing with Sustainable Harvest International in Piedras Negras, Honduras.
SHI’s Institutional Giving Partners program has gone global! Located almost exactly in the center of Japan, SHI’s newest corporate partner, Maruhon, is a medium-sized Japanese building products importer and wholesaler.
President Noriyoshi Ito says, “We chose to support SHI because we appreciate their complete approach to active use of the forests. They are developing strong local communities and providing training on the best possible use of the local resources. As an international distributor of wood building products, we recognize that the only way to ensure a healthy forest resource for all uses in the future is through education and multi-use development. The forests need to benefit the local communities and the world as a whole.”
We are relieved to report in the aftermath of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Japan that Maruhon’s facilities and more importantly, all their employees, are safe.
Become an Institutional Giving Partner with your business or community group!
At SHI, we cannot achieve our humanitarian and environmental goals alone. Our success is made possible by a growing number of friends around the world, including reputable corporations, foundations & community groups.
For more information on any of our partnership opportunities, please visit our website at: sustainableharvest.org/partners Thank you!