Thursday, August 29, 2013

El Proyecto de Agricola – The past, the present, the future and the hope.

Youths from El Maizal & Izalco and Nelson Caranza Asst. Director


This picture is from an event our agricultural project held recently.  Senor Cabeza is the head of the Diocesan Agricultural projects and has been working with the Diocese for 12+ years. His Assistant is Senor Nelson Caranza, Nelson lives in our Community of El Maizal.  Senor Cabeza's original main task was overseeing the Centro de Capacion, El Maizal Divina Providencia, (The El Maizal Divine Providence Training Center). In his tenure as Director he has expanded the project to include 4 other communities; Congo, Izalco, Cuilapa and Amatal. Under his guidance and with the hard work of many dedicated members of the project, they have maximized the agricultural resources of the communities through extensive training in all phases of agriculture. 

Left to right - Senor Cabeza and Senor Nelson Caranza
Young Ladies of the Youth Agriculture Project
On the far left is Cristina, President of the youth Project

Initially the training was for all interested community members. Then the training was aimed at the jovenes (youths) and mujeres (women). The youths of the community belong to the 4C’s, Corazon (heart), Cabeza (head), Conicimiento (knowledge) and Cooperacion (Cooperation). Between the 5 communities there are almost 50 youths involved in the programs, with 17 members being from El Maizal. The house next to ours is used as a large storage shed for all their supplies.  Dianne and I get to see them daily. The womens group has 100 members with 20 of them from El Maizal. To give them their own identities and promote their own autonomy both groups are trained separately with meetings happening almost every week.

The Women's Agriculture Project logo

When the Agricultural project was 1st started in approximately 2002, Mr. Cabeza had the foresight that in order to be a steady revenue source for the Diocese, part of the project should be the forestry of hardwoods. With funding from ERD, U.S. Dioceses and U.S. Churches, in El Maizal we now have stands of Teak, Eucalyptus and African hardwoods.  These were all planted at different times so there will be multiple harvests going into the future. These stands are self-sustaining as the saplings at the base of the trees are dug up and used to start other stands. It’s always fun to speak with people from the U.S. who have visited El Maizal and some tell us how they were part of Mission Service groups who planted the original Teak Trees. Those same trees are only about 6 years from harvest and most of them stand over 20 feet tall now.

Harvesting Teak saplings

We also have Mango, Lime, and Coconut tree groves (you put the lime and the coconut and drink it all up, oops I digress).  There’s also Avocado, Black Pepper, Maringas (trees of life), Cinnamon (Canela), Guava, Jocote (local fruit), Plantain, Banana trees and Orange trees. They aren’t full-fledged groves but there are many of them in proximity to the groves I mentioned. Most of these trees you’ll recognize but you probably don’t know that they aren’t all native to El Salvador. They are the fruit (excuse the pun but I just had too) of one of Mr Cabeza’s ideas. He wanted to look at other areas of the world with similar climates, identify what they grow there and decide how they might benefit the people of El Salvador.
Mother and Child working the rice paddy

There are also vegetables grown in our 2 greenhouses. The greenhouses are large bamboo framed structures covered with heavy duty white netting that allows in sun and rain in but protects the vegetables from the very strong direct sunlight. In the greenhouse we grow various types of tomatos, pepinos (cucumbers), lechuga (lettuce), repillo (cabbage), cauliflower and radishes. Surrounding the Greenhouse, pinas (pineapples) are grown and another section is devoted to various spices such as chives, oregano, rosemary, spearmint and other. In this same area is a relatively large section reserved for planting of corn, in an area that is prone to collecting water run off there is a rice paddy and I recently helped plant soy in another area. All of these areas that I have mentioned are used as living classrooms for the 4C’s, the women’s group and other interested parties.

It’s all wonderful work and has improved the lives of the communities in many ways. In communities that rely heavily on Corn to feed themselves the fruits and vegetables provide additional vitamin rich food options to ward off malnutrition. This knowledge has allowed people who must watch every last penny to save money by increasing their harvests and growing additional foods instead of buying them. Finally as any farmer knows better than I, there’s a certain sense of accomplishment when cosecha (harvest) time comes and you see the production of all your labor.

There's  a part that I don't want overlooked. It's the future that is being built here. In many poor communities planning for the future is overlooked because trying to just achieve the daily needs takes all your time.  Planning is a luxury of free time that they don't have. In El Maizal it's not just the investment in trees, vegetables and fruits that will produce a brighter future, it's the investment in people. Between the women's and youths groups there are 150 people who now know or are in the process of learning how to better feed themselves and their families, invaluable life skills. All of them can take pride in their hard work and what they have accomplished. In the 150 people are 50 youths who have been given an option and opportunity (opportunity - another luxury not seen in poor communities) to improve their and their families future. Often the youths are described by a single story in El Salvador, Gangs and lives of crime. Projects like these help remove that stigma.

This project has planted seeds in more ways than one.

This is what we are about:
We plant seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.

ArchBishop - Oscar Romero


Tomas y Dianna


1 comment:

  1. Planting is about hope, as well as health. It's also another way of walking mano en mano, or hand in hand. Thank you for sharing your lives with the people of El Maizal, and thank you for sharing your experiences with us all!