Thursday, July 8, 2010

Planting Seeds of Women's Empowerment in San Pablo Tacachico

The last workshop from women in San Pablo Tacachico in the home vegetable garden part of the SHARE-UCRES Strengthening Women’s Committees and Advocacy for the Defense of the Rio Sucio project was held on the muggy morning of April 28th at CORDES, a technical organization that works alongside CRIPDES, to provide training and assistance for livestock, agriculture, construction, and many other things. Their compound in San Pablo Tacachico is stunningly beautiful—murals painted all over, flowers in full bloom. Women are given a handbook after the five workshops that encompasses all they have learned, including information specific to the fruits and vegetables they will be planting in their home gardens, and have the direct number of a CORDES expert for any questions or support they may need throughout the process.

In this last workshop, where women from Rutilio Grande, La Joya, Huisisilapa, Ita Maura, Dimas Rodriguez, Amayo, San Jorge, Paso Hondo, William Fuentes and Las Arenas were present, we learn about papayas. In a climate as tropical as El Salvador, papaya thrives, and is both very nutritious and in high demand in the local market. We learn about different varieties of papaya, how to plant them, what kinds of fertilizers the plant needs, how long most will take to provide fruit, the importance of weeding and watering, and the different kinds of insects and diseases that will attack the papaya tree, as well as ways to fight these uninvited guests. “Fruits and vegetables,” we were told, “are like being pregnant—you have to give the plant the most vitamins when it is about to produce, while the fruit is growing, so what it gives will be healthy.” We talked about how water is crucial for the papaya, and lots of it, but to stay on guard for root rot: if the land turns into a swamp after heavy rains, we were advised, be sure to dig drainage canals.

Marisol, from Rutilio Grande, whose little girl stole the show, shared her thoughts on pest and disease prevention—“it´s like vaccinating your children before they get sick.” The most popular and effective organic insecticide? Blend garlic and/or hot chili peppers with water and spray on the plant. Bugs hate the taste and smell, and stay away.

Marisol, who shared a very difficult life story with me after the workshop had ended about violence and threats against her, which forced her and her family to flee from San Salvador back to Rutilio Grande, where she was born and raised, lives in a champita—a shack made out of corrugated tin and other collected, found materials—with her husband and four young children. She is incredibly bright and finds the confidence to participate. She is very excited about the vegetable garden initiative, as she and her husband scrape just enough together month to month for the basics—beans, rice and tortillas, but almost never vegetables and much less, fruit. She has already found a buyer for her tomatoes and cabbage—the pupusería in her community, who has also promised to buy mora and chipilin should she ever decide to grow them.

This kind of initiative was applauded and we talked about the additional need to care for fruits and vegetables that will go to market. Silvia, the UCRES Women’s Promoter, also underlined the purpose of the project—food security for families in the region. In that way, she encouraged the women to be sure that their families ate the tomatoes, green peppers, cucumbers and fruits they would be planting first, and then sell what was left over.

As the workshop wound to a close, Marisol offered a thanks for UCRES, CORDES and SHARE for making this activity possible and shared her excited for the project and the commitment the women assumed. Carmen, a women’s promoter, motivated the women by encouraging everyone to do work that they could be proud of, that UCRES could be proud of, and that the people who make this project possible could be proud of, too, and work hard to allow this project to benefit other women in the future.

We also took the opportunity to speak with Ana Ruth, the President of the community council in San Jorge, who spoke convincingly and clearly about the threat of GMO seeds and the importance of seeking out and saving semilla criolla, seeds native to El Salvador whose seeds can be saved and planted year after year. In learning and participating in these kinds of workshops, Ana Ruth shares that she makes a commitment to teach others in her community so that everyone can grow and participate in the community’s development.

Please see a video interview friend of SHARE Doriana West made of Ana Ruth as she speaks about her work in her community and the importance of workshops such as these:

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