Campo Project Sustainability Update

PROJECT SUSTAINABILITY UPDATE

During the Fall 2015 semester immersions, Encuentro Dominicano students worked alongside community members in the farming community of Sabaneta de Matagrande to build and plant a greenhouse. The project continues to flourish today!

The following is an interview of Zeneida Perez transcribed by Juan Guzman. Perez is an ILAC health promoter (coperadora) in the community of Sabaneta de Matagrande. Initially published in the ILAC/CESI 2016 Annual Report.

"We are a group of women from the Mothers’ Club Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception in Sabaneta. The place where we live is a coffee-growing community. We make our living from the coffee harvest, but diseases (Coffee Leaf Rust, Coffee borer beetle) have been destroying our coffee trees.

When we saw that the farmers began to deforest at the end of the harvest in order to plant other crops, we came up with the idea of building a greenhouse where we could establish a coffee plant nursery of new and healthy trees that could be planted in the hills. We started with “ice-cream bean” trees, which give shade to coffee trees, and then we decided to switch to a coffee plant nursery. We went to ILAC in search of help and they came to meet us, and the project was launched.

It has been wonderful! Currently we have planted 5,000 young coffee plants that were produced here, 5,000 more are almost ready for planting, and another 5,000 have been ordered. Farmers buy the plants from us with great enthusiasm. The profits have helped us financially and at the same time we are solving the crisis created by diseases, due to the resistance of the coffee variety that we’re planting. We are also stopping the deforestation, as our hills were becoming bare because people wanted to plant other crops such as taro, and that level of deforestation was endangering our water sources.

We are 14 mothers involved in the work accompanied by our husbands and our children. In this community there are about 45 farmers and our plan is to provide them all the plants that they need and little by little completely reforest our hill.

The community is delighted with this project! Before women only did housework, but now we are working on developing our greenhouse. We prepare the dirt after bringing it here by horse, fill the bags, plant the young trees, we do the weeding, and we apply the fertilizer. The men are also excited - they thought it was impossible at first and now they are copying us! Plus, the plants are right here in the community, so the transportation costs have disappeared.

The first thing necessary for projects like this to work is teamwork between participants. Alone we can accomplish very little, but by joining together, having the same desire to work selflessly and having one common goal, everything is possible! I can testify to this because we are achieving our goals.

Thanks to God, we are united in this project and in our faith. We are a Catholic, Christian community with great faith in God. We recognize that we deforested our hill, but by raising awareness of the mistake we must continue onward and reforest. If we don’t reforest, then our water will run out and without water, what will we do on the mountain? Without water, what will those who live downhill from us who also need the water do?

The mothers' club is not only an economic initiative, rather the main purpose is to unify the community, to help ourselves not only materially but also spiritually, and to serve those in need. Advice or a helping hand is priceless and faith moves us to this action."