Posts Tagged ‘Agriculture’
New Legislation Bans Chemicals, Aims to Prevent Kidney Failure
What do you do if one out of every four men in your town suffered from mysterious kidney failure?
This is a question that rural communities from San Vicente, El Salvador, to Sandamalgama, Sri Lanka, to Uddanamm, India have been asking since an epidemic started in the early 1990s.
What do the victims of Chronic Kidney Failure in these far reaching countries have in common? They have little formal education, work back-breaking agricultural jobs in sweltering temperatures, handle pesticides and fertilizers, and drink ground water from areas near where these pesticides and fertilizers were applied.
Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) has increased threefold in El Salvador since 1990, rising 25% in just the past 5 years, and is now the leading cause of hospitalized deaths in El Salvador. CKD has disproportionately affected young men who live in rural communities and work long hours harvesting sugar cane. Between 2005 and 2012, 1,500 men under the age of 19 were hospitalized for CKD (out of a total 40,000 hospitalized patients of all ages during the same period). In a national sample 95% of CKD patients worked as agricultural laborers where they were required to spray pesticides and fertilizers.
On September 5, 2013, forty-five Salvadoran legislators voted for and successfully passed the Law to Control the use of Pesticides and Fertilizers that was championed by SHARE’s partnering organization, CONFRAS. This legislation originally banned the use of 53 of the most toxic chemicals commonly found in fertilizers and pesticides in El Salvador and many believe are the main contributing factor of CKD. After the legislation was approved by the Salvadoran legislators, President Funes revised the law to only include 42 of these chemicals.
SHARE Visits a Local Farmer’s Market
Every 15 days, local farmers and artisans come together to sell their produce and simple crafts in the UCRES region of La Cabaña, just north of El Paisnal. You can find most anything at this colorful market, including: homemade candies, limes, homemade cheeses, cream, papaya, pineapple, spinach and other greens, loroco, squash, green peppers, ornamental plants, and a variety of fabric crafts, such as small thin towels called mantas, used for storing hot tortillas. An assortment of food is also available for purchase: coffee, homemade pastries, pasteles, and a cinnamon, rice, and milk snack known as arroz con leche.
Many of the women who participate in the farmers’ market received training in agricultural techniques and small business practices through SHARE’s partnering organization, UCRES. The 2013 women’s empowerment project, supported by SHARE’s Grassroots Partners, provided opportunities for women to learn to plant and manage their own home vegetable gardens, among many other skills. FECORACEN, a local agricultural cooperative affiliated with another SHARE partner, CONFRAS, facilitated workshops on organic fertilizers, garden set-up and management, soil types, and vegetable types and diseases.
Rosa Delia Pinto from San Antonio Grande was kind enough to share her experience as a vendor in the farmers’ market and participant in the garden workshops. Aside from tending her small garden, in which she grows eggplant, carrots, tomatoes, cabbage, green peppers, green onions, jicama, and jalapeño peppers, she is also very active in local organizations. She serves as the legal representative for the local women’s association, is a member of the Nonviolence Committee, and a literacy promoter with MINED (the Ministry of Education) in San Antonio Grande.
“(This project) has helped us immensely … even though it’s a small amount (that we sell in the markets) we almost always sell everything,” Rosa sells pineapple, loroco, homemade cheeses and cream, and arroz con leche at her small stand. She makes the cheese and cream herself from fresh local cow’s milk that she gets from El Verdío, a small community nearby.
Rosa’s story is just one small testament to the impact of regional women’s projects in El Salvador. SHARE is looking forward to continued support for 2014 projects, including additional home vegetable gardens in the UCRES region. Consider supporting women’s empowerment in El Salvador by purchasing a solidarity gift or making a donation.
Ricardo talks Agricultural Improvements and Food Sovereignty under FMLN
Part two of an interview with CONFRAS’ Ricardo Ramirez, social organizer, marking 4 years of the FMLN administration. CONFRAS is the Confederation of Federations of Agricultural Cooperatives from the Agricultural Reform. CONFRAS connects federations of agricultural cooperatives throughout El Salvador, facilitating economic and social development for its members of national agriculture cooperatives.
What improvements have you seen within the agricultural sector?
Distribution of agricultural packets to farmers has improved. Previously, the packets were used to make the rich richer. The government provided seed from former ARENA party leader Alfredo Cristiani’s seed company, Semillas Cristiani Burkhard. (The first ARENA president, Alfredo Cristiani, remains one of the most powerful businessmen in El Salvador.) Now, things are different. The government is giving out 375,000 agricultural packets to Salvadoran farmers. And, they’re doing something important: they’re not buying seed from Cristiani or Monsanto. Instead, they’re buying from Salvadoran cooperatives. Within CONFRAS’ network of cooperatives, 5 cooperatives are producing seed for the agricultural packets. Read More »
Rediscovering Roots: Benefits of Breadnuts
Have you ever had pancakes made with breadnut flour?They’re fluffy, sweet, and taste a little like chocolate.SHARE staff Katy Strader and Sarah Hall had the chance to try pancakes and other products made from breadnut, or ojushte, during a training session for farmers who are members of small agricultural cooperatives at CONFRAS, a SHARE partnering organization that represents 6,000 rural farmers, Center for Research and Transfer of Agro-Ecological Technology (CIETTA).
CIETTA hosted the first of two workshops for cooperative representatives today at their small institute near the Costa del Sol. While it was certainly a hot day, the information and samples made up for the heat! Katy and Sarah tried pancakes, horchata, atol, coffee and fruit salad, all made with breadnut flour. Native Pipiles recognized the benefits of ojushte, gathering the nuts to add nutrients to their diet. During El Salvador’s armed conflict, ojushte was consumed when corn was scarce, as its nutrient-rich profile encourages cultivation and consumption. For example, horchata made with breadnut flour is richer in calcium than a glass of milk. See the recipes for Ojuste Horchata and Ojuste Pancakes below!
Maria Santos, a representative of the San Luis el Mañadero Cooperative, explained how her family used to eat the breadnut as a staple of their diet:
Why did you attend the workshop on ojushte today?
I came because the workshop was to learn about how interesting the ojushte product is. And since I have already received some training on elaborating and using this seed, I thought it would be very interesting to come because I know that everyone that would come today would learn about this product. Because the reality is that this is found in our communities, but most people do not consider it important. But this product is nutritious. And it is also sustainable when there is lack of other basic grains. For example, in my community, when I was a young girl, my whole family used to eat it. We would collect it. We would eat it with lime and avocado and that was it. It was enough. It was sustainable. We did not think of other things. We did not have beans or rice. We had ojushte, lime, and avocado. That could be breakfast, lunch and dinner.
CONFRAS Defines Food Sovereignty
An interview with original CONFRAS founder, Miguel Aleman, and current CONFRAS president, Abel Nahin Lara Ruiz.
What is food sovereignty?
It is about food and land. We are capable of producing our own healthy food in a sustainable and environmentally friendly way. And we want and need proper land to do so. We want to produce our own food. We want to take charge of our lives.
What does food sovereignty mean in El Salvador?
In El Salvador we import more than 85% of our food. What we produce we are sending away. Why are we doing this? Because the right wing government wanted us to be a commercial economy. Instead of people who can feed themselves fresh food, we feed ourselves fast food, soda and more junk.
Food sovereignty would mean producing our own food, eating our own food, and sharing our knowledge of land, crops, and liberation. Food sovereignty means fighting for the right to land. That is why the land reform was and is so important.
What are some examples?
CONFRAS is an example of course. But mostly what we are doing with our campesino to campesino program is a tangible way to see food sovereignty. We also just pushed for the government to recognize as an official day, the day the land reform was signed.
The international community has helped us a lot with this. Because of their support we have been able to diversify our crops. We now have entire families growing tomatoes, fruit trees, and other crops.
Relief Update: October 2011 Flood
Last October, Tropical Depression 12-E dumped more than five feet of rain on El Salvador in less than ten days. The record shattering floods destroyed more than 165,000 pounds of basic grains, resulting in a loss of $800 million, 4% of El Salvador’s GDP. Over the course of one week 56,000 people were displaced and 8,118 homes and 900 schools were severely damaged.
The situation was dire, but because of SHARE’s individual donors, grassroots partners, and supporting foundations we were able to send more than $40,000 to support communities devastated by this deluge.
This is what we did together:
- 400 children and their parents received mosquito nets to protect them from malaria and dengue. The prevalence of both diseases increased dramatically in the months following the floods.
- A brigade of SHARE scholarship students carried food and supplies to 20 familieswho were stranded when the only bridge to their community, Santiago Torres, washed away.
- Provided 100 food and personal hygiene packages to families in the Puerto de La Libertad. Packages included corn flour, beans, rice, sugar, oil, cheese, and milk. Hygiene packages included soap, toothpaste, toothbrushes, toilet paper, diapers and heavy soap to clean homes.
- More than 200 leaders from over 100 communities received emergency preparedness
- training this spring. Last October, communities with these training experienced almost no loss of life.
- In the community of San Jose el Pacún 18 latrines were constructed. During the flood many latrines were destroyed, creating public health hazards.
- In Tecoluca, shelters received food and medical supplies for 1,759 people seeking refuge from the flooded Lempa River.
Maize and Beans at Risk: Threatens Economy
The success of maize and bean crops is crucial to life in El Salvador, where over one million farmers’ livelihoods depend on their cultivation. With higher temperatures and changes in rainfall patterns, a new report entitled, “Tortillas on the Roaster“, predicts that climate change will seriously threaten food security and transform the landscape in the region within the next ten years.
SHARE partners with several organizations that are striving for food security, economic sovereignty, and protection against climate change for Salvadoran communities. One such partner, the Confederation of Federations of Salvadoran Agrarian Reform (CONFRAS), represents 131 cooperatives inEl Salvador made up of over 5,911 rural farmers throughout El Salvador.
Through CONFRAS, SHARE supported the Campesino to Campesino (Farmer to Farmer) program for many years, facilitating a process in which rural farmers teach other rural farmers organic farming techniques. With SHARE’s support, grassroots work and popular education are currently empowering rural farmers to teach others sustainable methods, employing new technologies mixed with traditional farming techniques. As is evidenced by the Tortillas report, sustainable farming like this is the only way agriculture can recover and continue in Central America.
Cow Power: Dinora and the Mujeres Ganaderas
For Dinora Yanet Cruz Vasquez, cows populate the path to empowerment and sustainability. In 2001, Dinora became an active member of the Mujeres Ganaderas Cooperative in the Bajo Lempa River region. A SHARE partner, the Mujeres Ganaderas Cooperative provides small micro-credit loans, which allow hundreds of women like Dinora to sustain the needs of their household through the cattle program. Equipo Maíz, another SHARE partner, has provided training for the Mujeres Ganaderas in gender, women´s rights, and leadership, further compelling the women to move forward and build up the movement. Dinora and her husband originally bought a bull and two cows with the low-interest loan, providing Dinora the chance to improve her family’s economic situation.
Since then, Dinora has gained confidence in her own skills through carefully managing her loan and cattle. Along with her oldest daughter, Dinora actively participates in Mujeres Ganaderas meetings and even holds a place on the cooperative board of directors. Her oldest daughter has become involved as well, accompanying Dinora in her work and participating in the cooperative’s meetings. Dinora shares that her daughter is not shy at all, but rather speaks up at the meetings. The strength of her daughter’s voice is particularly significant, as many of the women in the Mujeres Ganaderas share that when they first started participating in the meetings they felt shy and uncertain. Through their participation they have learned to express themselves and share their opinions. In her daughter Dinora sees promise for the next generation. Being able to see this kind of tangible confirmation steadily builds confidence in the women’s movement.
From Floods to Droughts: Climate Change Continues.
This summer has demonstrated to be one the driest in the history of El Salvador, what with an average of 45 days with no rain. The regions of La Union, Usulutan, Morazan, and San Miguel are especially devastated as they have lost more than one million crates of corn. The crops produced in these four regions account for 17% of the basic grains produced in El Salvador.
The possibilities for rain are present, according to the ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (MARN). The country will be under the influence of El Niño and the affected regions can expect irregular rain showers in the coming months of September and October.
For now the Salvadoran government is distributing “agricultural packages” composed of corn seeds and extensive fertilizer. President Funes has announced that the situation is not dire as the rest of the national production of basic grains remain on track and food prices are not expected to increase as a result of this drought.
Even so we hope that the rains coming to El Salvador are sufficient to revitalize agriculture in these affected regions. This is yet another reminder that we cannot survive without water. Read more about this situation here