One Honduran participant farmer in El Tule, Santa Barbara has begun to reforest his farm one row at a time.
Every afternoon Don Jesus carefully packs a dozen tree seedlings from the community tree nursery on the back of his horse. He leads the horse out to his farm with his children, where they run a piece of twine from one end of the farm to the next. Then they follow the line, carefully planting the seedlings along the contours of the slope. Each week, these rows fill in more of the open space of the farm and begin reforesting the area.
Sixta Alonzo, age 56, lives with her mother Maria Anacleta in Panama and began working with SHI five years ago. She has spent this time reforesting, cultivating her own plots of coffee, corn, plantains, yuca, and ñame (another root vegetable). The generosity of our supporters continues to allow Sixta and her mother to improve their health while restoring the environment for future generations.
Fathers’ dreams for their children often surround what athletics or interests they will share, what college they might attend, the career they will embark upon after graduation, and the happiness they will find later in life. But in the developing world, a father’s dreams for his children are often overshadowed by the struggle to meet his family’s most basic, immediate needs.
SHI-Nicaragua recently played host to a visit by SHI’s Board of Directors and the annual field staff meeting where staff from all four country programs gathered to share ideas, technology and improve on current work. Everyone contributed to the installation of appropriate technologies, such as drip irrigation, rain catchment tanks and water filters at the local program’s demonstration farm, Center for Families and the Environment. Nearing its completion, the Center serves to demonstrate such concepts as shade-grown cacao, bio-intensive gardens and trees grown to provide forage for goats. The Center assists the local community and offers at-risk youth a place of refuge and self-empowerment.
Program participants in Kukra River and Kukra Hill are busy building upon previous projects to improve soil fertility, which include the stimulation of indigenous micro-organism activity and reforestation efforts. With the support of other national and international organizations, SHI-Nicaragua and its participants have planted over 41,000 trees in environmentally sensitive areas and degraded lands throughout the Cerro Silva Reserve in the South Atlantic region of Nicaragua.
Written by Kevin Johnson
Does SHI’s work address the United Nations’ new goals?
1. Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
2. Achieve universal primary education
3. Promote gender equality and empower women
4. Reduce child mortality
5. Improve maternal health
6. Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
7. Ensure environmental sustainability
8. Develop a global partnership for development
The United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals are an unprecedented, collaborative global effort to improve quality of life around the world. These eight goals are meant to serve as focal points for the work of organizations like SHI, who are engaging directly with some of the most vulnerable people on the planet to help them meet their most basic challenges.
SHI proudly addresses several of these goals at once, with an emphasis on an integrated vision of sustainability. Take Millennium Development Goal #1, for example: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger. SHI’s efforts to sustainably improve production of staple crops (corn, beans, rice, cassava) while also diversifying traditional food production systems (incorporating fruit trees, non-traditional vegetable crops, etc) provide a more accessible, varied and healthy food base for participating families. SHI’s extension program emphasizes the use of local, natural resources – such as animal waste, kitchen scraps, ash, leaf litter and native leguminous cover crops – decreasing families’ dependence on harmful chemical fertilizers which also erode their economic independence. At the same time, by promoting organic agriculture methods, SHI is making great strides in ensuring environmental sustainability in our work sites (MDG # 7), improving maternal health (MDG #5), and even reducing child mortality (MDG #4). It is hard to fully assess the extent of our impact on our beneficiary communities, but without doubt, it is far-reaching.
One response to the UN’s call to “eradicate poverty” has been a renewed focus on the “green revolution”, which puts its confidence in large-scale, non-organic production of pest-resistant staple crops in order to maximize yields. Unfortunately, small-scale subsistence farmers must rely on selling a large portion, if not all of their products in order to recover their investment in genetically- modified seed, chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Too often the harvest is not consumed by its farmers, who have already put their health and the integrity of their environment in jeopardy in this new production system. Families become distanced or entirely cut off from the inputs of production, as well as the outputs.
In contrast, there are a wealth of social benefits to SHI’s work. The focus of our extension program is unequivocally on the well- being of the participant families, and making their lifestyles and production systems more fruitful and sustainable. Because SHI participants have been able to increase production on their land to the point of selling product to neighbors or local markets, many have enthusiastically reported that they are able to afford the cost of sending their kids to school (MDG #2). Also, since men often leave home for work, many women engage with SHI Field Trainers and become the primary caretakers and beneficiaries of projects like family gardens, wood-conserving stoves, and chicken coops. Some of the community loan funds SHI supports are comprised only of women, empowering them to invest their funds based on their needs and skills (MDG #3).
At SHI, we proudly put into practice the idea that success is measured in sustainability, and that these different issues are all aspects of the same challenge. We’re happy to be doing our part and providing a model for organizations to emulate in other parts of the world.
The way we work with Sustainable Harvest in the community is as a collective unit. What this means is that we now help one another on our land, sharing ideas, harvests, successes and failures. From day to day and week to week, the groups of families perform rotations, whereby no one family plot is worked on more than twice in one week. During the planting and harvesting of crops, rotations are at their peak.
SHI Youth will be the Farmers of the Future
Children are the future and in order to further our work we need to develop values in children that they can share with their parents.
~ Mercedes Alvarez, SHI Regional Coordinator
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Voices from the Field