Exciting field work updates, plus an opportunity to see our work in Guatemala!
March has been an amazing month for Semilla Neuva. Thanks to a generous donor we now have land for our Experimentation and Training Center! This is an amazing step in expanding our research capabilities and our ability to impact the region. We had an unbelievable month of conferences and witnessed the farmer to farmer model in action. It's been a busy and inspirational month! Are you ready to check out our programs in Guatemala? Check out our Immersion and Work trips offered this May and August!
Land Purchased for the Experimentation and Training Center!
Thanks to a very generous donation from Steve and Cece Hodges we finally have land for the the Semilla Nueva Experimentation and Training Center! The Experimentation and Training Center will be a staffed experimental farm located near Cuyo, Guatemala. It will provide much needed long term experimental data on sustainable agriculture technologies for sub-tropical corn production and a setting to train farmers and extensionists on these technologies.
Through the new Experimental and Training Center we will demonstrate the potential of sustainable agriculture technologies, and then encourage the Guatemalan government, and other NGOs nationally to duplicate their results. Just as important as farmer to farmer methods are for a village, experimental and training farms are for a whole region. They provide the backbone of new technologies and help to train those people who will work in those villages. If one of the reasons that Guatemala's agricultural situation is so dire is because the Guatemalan government's extension system is poor, then we need to come up with models for how it can work, not only at the village level, or the municipal level, but also at the research level. A special thank you to Steve and Cece for their support. They have truly given us a tool that will empower a region.
Ready to come see our programs in action?
Semilla Nueva has a series of trip opportunities for our supporters to come see our work in action! Our goal is to provide supporters an opportunity visit the sites where our projects take place, work together with Semilla Nueva's staff, and obtain a more intimate understanding of the work they are supporting. These trips are available to Rotary members, Semilla Nueva Board of Director members, SN Associate Board members, and potential new supporters.
Participants can choose between two types of trips. The Immersion Trip is intended for those who want to dive into the on-the-ground, hands-on work of Semilla Nueva in rural communities. You will spend the week living and working with Semilla Nueva staff in our partner communities. You will spend time helping farmers plant and/or harvest and spend time hanging out with the families, sharing meals and conversations. The second option, the Work Trip, is intended for those who would like to experience the work of Semilla Nueva on a day-trip basis and be able to return to a comfortable hotel afterward. You will work with farmers to plant and/or harvest during the day, but will return to the city of Retalhuleu in the evenings.
The next trips are coming up soon and will fill up fast! We are offering two trips in May (13-17 & 20-24) and two in August (12-16 & 19-23). For more information, contact Kristinlacy@semillanueva.org and check out Beth Markley's blog from her visit in October.
2013 Conference Success!
The 2013 Conferences have been an amazing demonstration of the impact of the Farmer to Farmer model. These conferences are a wonderful opportunity for our participant farmers to take charge and explain their tests and results to other farmers in the community. Their results, presentations, and leadership are what often lead to their neighbors signing on with Semilla Nueva, eager to care for their soils and their family. In most of our communities this is the first conference where farmers are sharing their own results directly with their community. In one community, A13, there were 36 participants in the conference. Their enthusiasm is inspiring and a testament to the power of the model. These conferences helped us to realize how empowering the programs really are and that the farmers and their families are taking ownership and taking charge of the programs to spread the word themselves.
Donor Spotlight: Bill English
Bill is an inspirational member of the Semilla Neuva community. He just returned from a trip to the field to check out our programs in action. His interest, enthusiasm and charisma are always appreciated by the Semilla Nueva staff and farmers.
Tell us a little about your background, what you do, and why.
In the '80's I started traveling in Latin America and quickly developed a love for the people, the culture, the language and the land. I lived in Chiapas, Mexico, for many years and have spent a fair amount of time in Guatemala, perhaps my favorite Latin American country. Last year I received an inheritance from my father and I have decided to donate that money to programs that fight the cruel effects of poverty and it seemed natural that I focus on Guatemala. I spent most of the last year researching NGO's, anti-poverty programs and agencies and generally educating myself on the various ways anti-poverty programs are being implemented around the world and assessing their pitfalls and their successes. It is a subject that does not lend itself to easy, definitive answers; I see it as a personal challenge to find those organizations that are developing strong, meaningful programs to improve peoples lives and making the best possible use of the funds they receive.
Why did you choose to support Semilla Nueva?
I found out about Semilla Nueva via various links and personal contacts while researching programs in Guatemala last year. I was impressed with what I was hearing and reading about their project and even more impressed after a face-to-face meeting with the staff in their offices in Quetzaltenango and conversations with Curt. They seem to have a good understanding of the problems they are trying to help people overcome and a down to earth, common sense approach to helping people deal with those problems. I felt a wonderful sense of dedication amongst everyone involved in Semilla Nueva and I feel they have a thorough knowledge of the agricultural and nutritional problems of the people they are serving. I love that their program stresses farmer-to-farmer methodology which is inherently sustainable.
We in the so-called 1st world tend to abuse the planet's resources in our endless pursuit of consumerism; people in the so-called 3rd world continue to try to eke out their sustenance from the land often using age-old farming practices that can be greatly improved upon by organizations like Semilla Nueva. Learning how to better care for the land and at the same time increase production translates into, among other things, improved nutrition and better health which leads to better school attendance by the children and more productive adults. Increased family income can mean more money spent for goods in the community which helps non-farm families. Nutrition and educating people as to its importance is vital in the battle against poverty. I feel Semilla Nueva deserves all the support they can get for the good work they are doing.
Campesina Highlight: Dina Amarilis Sarpec
Meet Dina Amarilis Sarpec, age 19 holding a basket of homemade pan de elote. "In December, I planted Quality Protein Maize with the seed Semilla Nueva gave me. Yesterday, I harvested some of this corn and today I made pan de elote. It was so good that we decided to take advantage of the extra bread we made to sell to our neighbors to earn a bit of extra money. The neighbors loved it, and all the bread was gone in under an hour!"
Dina Amarilis Sarpec was born and raised in Semillero La Playa. She moved to Conrado de la Cruz, after marrying her husband Josue, two years ago. As a young mother and wife far away from her hometown and family, Dina felt lonely in her new community. Since becoming involved in Semilla Nueva’s Nutrition Program, Dina has found a group of women that she can relate to, and with whom she can share the struggles and joys of motherhood. “I am thankful for Semilla Nueva’s Nutrition Program,” Dina said, “I have not only been able to learn new, healthy recipes but also have been able to learn from some of the other women in the group.”
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