Alva was born and raised in the southwestern Guatemalan department of Jutiapa, but soon felt that the land there was not as suitable for growing crops as in other areas. She eventually moved her family to the department of Petén in the north where she purchased a small plot of fertile land.
There, one of her neighbors invited her to attend agricultural training led by FRB’s local partner APIDEC in its Guatemala Four Departments program. Although Alva was afraid at first that others wouldn’t let her join the program, they quickly accepted her. She eventually began to form new relationships, regularly attending workshops and learning alongside the other participants.
After a few years of living in Petén, her son married a woman named Sheyla who was from his mother’s hometown in Jutiapa. Sheyla was heartily welcomed by Alva and their new community. The two women now work their gardens side-by-side.
Both Alva and Sheyla say they’ve been encouraged by their friendship and how it has strengthened the bond between their families. The women have learned many new cultivation techniques, such as how to diversify their crops, make organic insecticides, construct their own seedbeds, and graft plants. The families are growing many varieties of crops on their plots and are now able to sell their produce. Their economic well-being has improved as a result of training and practice, and they saved enough money to start a fish hatchery, further diversifying their families’ diets. Alva and Sheyla have begun to teach their children how to grow food, and many people from their community come to see how they plant and grow produce on such a small plot of land.
Alva feels blessed to have been a part of APIDEC’s training and now teaches others in her community what she has learned.
Guatemala-Four Departments encompasses 25 communities, 750 households, and 4,500 individuals
My name is Martha Elena. I’ve always enjoyed having plants in my yard, and used to try to grow vegetables but without much success; they would wilt and not produce. I figured my soil wasn’t any good, or I just didn’t have a “green thumb.” I also got very discouraged when the animals would eat all my plants.
Then, a year ago, I participated in a workshop with ACJ about how to grow a vegetable garden. They showed us pictures of how folks like me had done it in other communities where they work. I agreed to give it another try, so the technical staff showed me how to prepare the earth for planting and how to use recycled materials like plastic bottles and other containers to plant in.
We constructed raised beds, out of the way of the animals. I was worried about how I would get enough water for my plants, but the ACJ staff assured me that they wouldn’t need as much in the containers. It was very satisfying for me to find that I could harvest lots of vegetables like onions, cucumber, beets, peppers and tomato after all. What’s more, our family can enjoy eating all our fresh produce knowing we aren’t consuming toxic chemicals, because we know what we put in our soil.
I’ve also learned how to keep my own seeds for planting. That helps me save money because I don’t need to buy seeds or fresh vegetables any more. And I’ve started a small business pickling vegetables from my garden to sell to local restaurants. My kids are learning right along with me, since they help me with our garden. They’ve learned about recycling at school, and they like to find ways to make good use of our plastic garbage.
I’m grateful to God for giving me strength and perseverance, and I hope to continue learning about how to grow healthier, tastier food in my garden.
FRB’s local partner, ACJ, has learned that women are motivated by concern for their children to learn to grow, prepare and eat healthy foods. Using creative planting containers like sacks, bottles, or raised beds makes it easy for them to look after their vegetables close to their homes. Not only do containers conserve more water than traditional open beds – especially important during the dry season – but placing them close to their homes means they don’t have to carry water very far, and can re-use wash water for their plants.
Nicaragua-Boaco encompasses 8 communities, 210 households, and 860 individuals