Fruit Trees and Women’s Leadership with CONFRAS

SHARE El Salvador, The Fruit Tree Planting Foundation, and 091CONFRAS are partnering together to train 120 farmers and 75 school students in planting and caring for over 3,500 Cacao and 1,500 Ojushte trees in La Paz, El Salvador. The trees will be planted in cooperatives where local women farmers receive training and continued guidance from trained agronomists and in schools where the trees will provide food for students and serve as an active learning environment for students to discover traditional agricultural methods of their region

In contrast to annual crops the deep root systems of Ojushte and cacao trees continue to absorb water from deep within the earth during times of  droughts and during floods these roots prevent the trees from washing away. Ojushte is a traditional grain that is high in protein and Vitamin B, it can be used in a similar way as corn, to make tortillas, tamales, etc. Cacao is also a traditional fruit, used to make chocolate. In indigenous Salvadoran cultures this was referred to as the “food of the Gods” and cacao beans were used as currency. Today, it is a crop that can produce a sustainable income for farmers. This income can send children to school, cover medical costs, and other expenses rural families often cannot afford. The trees will also prevent erosion increase biodiversity in this deforested region and livestock can live of the leaves and twigs of these plants once they are fully grown. 

Food prices in El Salvador are skyrocketing; the price of beans – a staple of the Salvadoran diet – has risen from $0.52 to $1.24 per pound over the past two years. Droughts and floods destroy crops year after year, forcing El Salvador to import basic grains, which in turn continues to drive up prices. In October 2011, floods destroyed 98 million pounds of corn, 36 millions pounds of beans, and 22 million pounds of sorghum. In 2012, a severe drought has destroyed 10% of the corn grown in El Salvador. The droughts and floods are exacerbated by the fact that El Salvador is the second most deforested nation in this hemisphere, second only to Haiti. Deforestation leads to erosion, land slides, and the loss of nutrient filled top soil.

Jaime Alonso Areba and Ilana Minia have four children and make a variety of chocolate paste from the different types of cacoa beans grown within the coop

Jaime Alonso Areba and Ilana Minia have four children and make a variety of chocolate paste from the different types of cacoa beans grown within the co-op

Ojushte and Cacao trees are native to this region of El Salvador and have will continue to provide fruit for years to come. These trees will provide food that is high in protein and anti-oxidants for school children and families through out this region. Women leaders from 12 cooperatives through out the region will receive valuable agricultural training and take this knowledge back to their cooperatives where they will train other associates. SHARE and CONFRAS recognize that women are key to developing sustainable projects that benefit entire communities. When women are educated they reinvest their income into their families and communities. With only 33% of Salvadoran women between the ages of 5 and 18 enrolled in school and the second highest feminicide rate in the world, Women’s Empowerment is one of SHARE’s core values.

Through this partnership more than 120 cooperative members will have a reliable income to support their families for generations. The trees will prevent erosion and increase biodiversity in the region, reducing the impact of floods that previously washed out entire fields of corn and beans.

The Fruit Tree Planting Foundation (FTPF) will visit El Salvador from July 6-10, 2013. The foundation is dedicated to planting fruitful trees and plants to alleviate hunger, combat global warming, strengthen communities, and improve the surrounding air, soil, and water. This film chronicles the FTPF’s launch of a similar effort to plant 5,800 fruit trees for low-income schools, communities, and families in Sao Paulo state, Brazil in March, 2013. SHARE congratulates the FTPF on their work in Brazil and looks forward to collaborating with this groundbreaking organization in El Salvador. 

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