Last week three donors flew down to Guatemala from Boise, Idaho with one goal: to see, feel, smell and taste the work of Semilla Nueva. This trip is designed for people who want to be at the heart of the hands-on, day-to-day work of Semilla Nueva in rural communities. Donors immersed themselves in Guatemalan culture by spending a week working alongside farmers in their communities.
Dawn Hickman, a member of the Semilla Nueva Associate Board, wanted to see in person what she has been diligently supporting for the past two years. Chris Sutton, an engineer at Hewlett Packard wanted to see if the speech he heard by Executive Director, Curt Bowen, was true. And Joye Jones, a seasoned traveller wanted to see for herself the work that Semilla Nueva claimed to be doing for the nutrition of rural Guatemalans.
And boy did they see.
From sleeping in the rustic bunkhouse in the community of Lupita, to waking up at 5:30am with the roosters to work alongside farmers in the steamy fields planting pigeonpea, this trip is a true insider’s glimpse of daily life in rural Guatemala. Here is a photo blog depicting their complete immersion trip, enjoy!
On Monday night, we arrived to the community of Willy Wood to a typical Guatemalan home cooked meal by one of our lead woman participants, Rosaura. Rosaura welcomed us with plates of beans, eggs, tortillas and fresh cheese!
Through the translating of Semilla Nueva Fellow, Haley Kirk, everyone was able to share stories, pictures and ask about each other lives. With children running in and out of the kitchen, it was a bustling and entertaining meal filled with good conversation and delicious food!
Bright and early on Tuesday we woke to plant chaya in the Semilla Nueva Experimental Farm. Chaya is a nutritional miracle plant that is native to Guatemala that can grow in hot, dry conditions. Semilla Nueva is working to reintroduce it to people’s diets because it is richer in iron than spinach, and is a powerful source of potassium and calcium. Cuttings from our chaya grown in the Experimental Farm will be distributed to our communities and given to the Ministry of Agriculture for national distribution.
Executive Director, Curt Bowen, gave a tour of the Experimental Farm showing donors the country’s most complete trial on sustainable agriculture with 21 different test plots, one of the largest seed trials in the country with 40 corn varieties tested, and the biggest pigeonpea trial in Latin America with 26 varieties from US, Africa and India.
Wednesday was the first day of pigeonpea planting in the community of Willy Wood! Semilla Nueva’s catchphrase for pigeonpea planting, Kuchubal, comes from the traditional Mayan practice of communal farming workdays. Throughout the month of September Semilla Nueva leads Kuchubales with groups of our promotores in each community, taking turns to plant pigeonpea on everyone’s land together until every farmer has an exciting new bean crop for February harvest. It was a day full of sweat and laughter!
Joye plants pigeonpea on Don Chepe’s plot of land. She uses a machete to dig small holes in between corn plants to place pigeonpea seeds. Pigeonpea provides farmers an extra source of income, a high-protein addition to their diet, firewood, and a green manure that helps naturally increase fertility in the soil.
As we stopped at each farmer’s piece of land, the farmer would distribute the seed used to plant his or her parcel. Pictured here is Romulo, a leader farmer in the community of Willy Wood before we began planting in his field.
Chris takes a rest on Abelino’s plot of land.
The team takes a break. Thanks to Rotary Club for the brand new Mazda, we would not have made it through the muddy roads without it!
After a long day of planting, the team sits down to eat lunch provided by the women’s food security groups. The women made a delicious pigeonpea hummus with tortillas and fresh cheese! A chance to cool off and talk with farmers.