The intense Guatemalan sun is beating down. There is Guatemalan marimba music and the sounds of laughing children in the background. The scent of freshly patted tortillas and pigeonpea beans fills the air around us. The Semilla Nueva staff, volunteers and over 200 locals crowd into the community center. We are at the Pigeonpea Fair!
On Sunday, June 3 the folks at Semilla Nueva put on their first ever Pigeonpea Fair in the community, Conrado De La Cruz. Semilla Nueva staff members, Anne Barkett and Crysta Caprio have been working in this community as a part of Semilla Nueva’s pilot nutrition project. The goal of this program is to build demand and enthusiasm for pigeonpea, while conveying important nutrition principles to women’s groups in our participant communities. Over the last 4 months, Crysta and Anne have developed and implemented a nutrition curriculum with the community, Conrado De La Cruz, with over 15 active women leaders–ranging from new, young mothers to grandmothers raising their grandchildren. This project culminated into the Pigeonpea Fair!
The idea and main drive behind the fair was to link knowledge and interest about pigeonpea with the community and highlight the work of the women’s group over the last few months. The women were able to share how they have planted pigeonpea on their own plots of land and in their own gardens. They explained that this bean crop is a great way to produce their own food- high in protein, minerals and vitamins. Now that the woman are involved in cooking pigeonpea and have found recipes they like and want to cook again, coupled with their husbands planting this bean crop in-between their rows of corn signifies that there is now a demand and enthusiasm for this bean crop in the community. This achievement means that we now have a model of the program to replicate in other communities.
The women’s group served pigeonpea dishes, a pigeonpea drink and other natural fruit drinks. The women quickly ran out of food, as members of the community eagerly lined up for more food! There was a soccer game, a dance off, hula hoop competitions and other fun games for the children to enjoy. Three different Nutrition Promotoras gave speeches about what they have learned about pigeonpea as a green manure and food source, as well as other nutritional principles and healthy habits. Watching the women share all that they have learned in this pilot program, the Semilla Nueva staff could not help but feel proud and happy of these women promatoras who can confidently advance the knowledge and interest of gandul in the community. The Semilla Nueva model really stresses the importance and need of locals learning and then becoming teachers so that the information learned is not lost and can be shared, long after Semilla Nueva is gone. These women are doing the work themselves, are agents for change, and that is what being a promatora means.
The fair culminated concluded with a presentation thanking the women for their hard work and presenting them with a Semilla Nueva cookbook. The fair was a great success according to Refugio De Leon, one of the women promotoras who spoke at the fair, “Practically, the whole community arrived- we ran out of food! All the children had a good time playing games, and I even got asked by some women to join our nutrition group.” Many women came up to the Semilla Nueva staff asking for seed, more information about pigeonpea and how to join the women’s group. The fair was successful in introducing the community, at large, about the potential impact and benefits of pigeonpea.
Now, the Nutrition Project will begin in two more communities- San Miguel Las Pilas and Andres Jiron. The expansion of this program is all thanks to the Rotary clubs of Rexburg, St. Anthony, Rigby, and Ketchum/Sun Valley–all from Idaho district 5400. Their contributions will ensure we can bring this project to new communities before the pigeonpea planting season begins! Be sure to stay connected to Semilla Nueva in the upcoming months to learn more about the expansion of this program.