As farmers, the congregation of Iglesia Presbyteriana Monte Sinai decided agriculture was its initial highest priority in helping the village of Nimasac. Responding to their request for help, Cary Presbyterian Church’s Guatemala mission* implemented an agricultural sustainability project to improve and expand growing crops in 2015. Before this project, their only field crop was corn. “We didn’t know we could grow anything else at this altitude,” one farmer said. “We just grew what our fathers grew.” Chickens for meat and a few pigs were the only other agricultural products.
Esperanza secured the services of a Guatemalan agricultural engineer with experience in rural Guatemala. Offering one workshop a month, Edwar used a proven plan to educate and work with a dozen participants: men and women, younger farmers, and older farmers. The objectives for the workshop focused on the following results:
- Producing more food
- Improving agro-ecological farm management
- Generating income
- Producing more food in crucial times of the year
- Attaining a healthy environment
- Having food security
- Achieving sustainability farms
The ten-month series of workshops included the following:
- Producing tomatoes and peppers under controlled conditions (using macrotunnels or greenhouses).
- Allowing produce to be grown in summer and winter
- Introduction of a potato crop (a first for the area) as well as broccoli and cabbage.
- Proper management and improved production practices for chickens destined for sale.
- Using vaccines for poultry, pigs, sheep, cows, and antibiotics to protect them from disease. Also review which drugs to apply to small livestock such as vitamins, minerals, wormers, and antibiotics.
- Teaching how to plant two improved varieties of white corn and yellow corn; how to disinfect seeds before planting corn, the amount of seeds to sow, and the saving of seeds.
- Pest control.
- The importance of agroforestry systems on land and availability of fruits that can provide healthier food for the family, such as apple, peach, plum, and cherry trees.
- Information about fertilizers.
A significant long-term benefit of the program was the establishment of a system for saving money, which every farmer is required to do. The last session of the program included a field trip to a farmer group which is practicing the very things they were taught,.
Phase 1 has been successfully completed. As funding allows, Phase 2 will begin soon. This phase will emphasize marketing products, introducing new crops, and reviewing best practices. Twelve farmers have signed up already for Phase 2. It is our desire to have this funded for 2019. If we receive enough funding, a second group of farmers could begin Phase 1, thus doubling the number of families served.
*Esperanza de Guatemala has grown out of the original mission of Cary Presbyterian, who remains a partner.