“Many hands make light work.” In Haiti’s Northwest Department, this is more than just a common saying. This is the principle behind the work that Foods Resource Bank supports through CWS and other partners.
I recently traveled to Haiti and met with some of the cooperatives that the program supports. Through the work of local partner SKDE – translated to the Center for Christian Integrated Development – the program supports 12 cooperatives that reach nearly 5,000 families.
CWS, FRB, and Week of Compassion, Presbyterian Hunger Program and UMCOR hosted this informational webinar about the Gran Chaco Region.
The Chaco is the biggest forest reserve on the continent after the Amazon and the largest dry forest in the world. A major eco-system, it is also a region with great cultural diversity, home to 25 different indigenous ethnic groups including communities who for centuries lived as semi-nomadic hunter gatherers before losing most of their land.
Now in its tenth year the FRB Chaco Program supports efforts by the indigenous peoples to reclaim their ancestral lands and assists them to improve food security and nutrition.
Foods Resource Bank is a long-time partner and supporter of CWS development programs. As such, the CWS Board of Directors chose to honor FRB at its April meeting in northern Virginia. Here is an excerpt from the remarks of CWS Board of Directors Chair, Dr. Earl Trent:
“In recognition of its significant contributions to the mission of CWS;
Two of FRB's partners, Week of Compassion and Church World Service (CWS), support local Paraguayan partner Mingarã in the Chaco Region of Paraguay. Mingarã works with indigenous communities of the Chaco through assistance in accessing and securing ancestral land rights, promoting sustainable agriculture to provide food security and nutrition and facilitating access to safe water.
In March of this year I had the opportunity to spend time with the community of San Lazaro during a visit with Week of Compassion, CWS and Foods Resource Bank. Just days before Holy Week the visit brought to mind the Raising of Lazarus - miracles of Jesus which fill us with hope and life – as the inhabitants of the San Lazaro community, after decades of struggle, finally managed to move to a piece of land which is rightfully theirs.
My name is Melecio Cantoral Gonzalez. I am 30 years old. I live with my parents, my wife and my two small children. We live in the community of Bella Vista, near Nueva Frontera in Honduras, in a small home made of adobe with a metal roof. It has a kitchen, a living room, and one small bedroom. My wife and I share our room with our children. Together with my family I farm a little more than 4 acres.
I walk about 30 minutes to get to the land I farm, which is on a steep slope. I grow mainly corn, red beans, and coffee. A couple of years earlier I started to plant other crops because of training I had received. I learned that I can’t support my family with just corn and beans and I learned other things, too,
The year in the humanitarian world? It ends with agencies scrambling to respond to another typhoon in the Philippines (luckily not as severe as last year's but still plenty worrisome), as well as bravely continuing work in the ongoing Syrian refugee crisis.
What 2014 has principally been, though, is a year of constant and churning problems, in which the challenges of climate change and food security (the availability and access to food) became more acute and ever-more clear.
Please pray for the people of Haiti as they struggle with the effects of multiple droughts and resultant severe food shortages. This article from the BBC covers another aspect of desperation from lack of prospects: risking their lives on crowded boats as they seek work elsewhere. It mentions the area of Haiti where FRB's Haiti-Northwest program is working to help farmer cooperatives achieve food security in the face of natural disaster.
Every year thousands of Haitians risk their lives trying to make the perilous sea voyage from their country to one of its wealthier Caribbean neighbours in a bid for a better life.
They cram themselves into small boats which are often far from seaworthy. They run the risk of capsizing or being picked up by coastguard patrols.
Many feel this is their only option in a country which is not only the poorest in the western hemisphere but which was further destroyed by a devastating earthquake in 2010.
People from all over Haiti head to the north-west of the island to get onto these boats to leave their homeland, but most are from this impoverished region itself.
Because there is little government presence where FRB’s Haiti-Northwest program is working, local people understand the need to organize for the protection, development and growth of their communities. The twelve program communities have created cooperatives which address the varied needs and concerns of its members.
Training Co-ops provide training on many topics, among them appropriate agricultural techniques like intercropping as a way to take the best advantage of available land and ensure that, if one crop fails, the others might survive. More farmers are planting peanuts, congo beans (pigeon peas), and root crops like manioc (cassava) and sweet potato because of their excellent survival rates.
The goal of FRB’s Dominican Republic-Bateyes program is to reduce malnutrition and increase family incomes and the overall quality of life of Haitian immigrants and Dominicans of Haitian descent. These marginalized communities live in bateyes [ba TAY yace] — former sugar plantation work camps — and, recently ruled as “in transit” (though families may have lived in the country for four generations), are not generally eligible for government services.
Their situation is improving through the program: participants are learning new skills in crop management, soil preparation, community seed banks, nutrition, vegetable and small animal production, and efficient marketing of excess produce. Pass-on-the-gift projects with small animals afford participants a source of protein and income. Organizing committees help communities access basics such as water and education for their children.
Below is a prayer request for our partner staff with Honduras-Nueva Frontera program. Many have met Delmis during travels with FRB. She recently notified us that violence has suddenly erupted in Nueva Frontera.
Due to food scarcity and lack of employment people are becoming desperate and crime had been steadily rising. Organized criminal groups are now vying for control of the area and robberies are becoming quite common.