Representatives from local partner Nord Sud realized very early on that they would have to gain the trust of the villagers if they were to be successful. They did this not by simply presenting the information and leaving, but staying and living in the village for 20 days of every month to work and teach alongside the villagers. It still took over 2 years of effort before the villagers began to accept the new ways of eating and farming. We saw a new 2-room school, and small metal bins they used to protect their crops from insects and rodents.
The biggest challenge for the program had been getting the people to accept new foods as part of their diet. The women formed a club to practice new recipes, and they compiled a cookbook. They now had tables full of new dishes to show us which they’d prepared with food from their farms. Whereas they used to go into town once a month to try to buy staples, they now go 2-3 times a week to sell their excess produce to high-end markets. The empowerment that growing, preparing and selling these vegetables has given to the women of the village can’t be overstated. The women have become respected members of the community, and the children are healthier, happier, and enjoy going to school.
As we found our way back down the mountain, it struck us that the difficult route we were on was their only way into the city, carrying their wares on their backs. The work that had been done was absolutely amazing, but I was overwhelmed when I realized that every single thing that I was looking at had been carried there on the backs of the villagers over the same 1.5 mile path we were on.
They had carried hundreds of 120 lb. bags of concrete, pieces of rebar, windows, doors and roofing for the school, the metal bins for the grain, and seeds. All of it, carried from the end of the road 1.5 miles away on the other side of the river! All that effort in order to build a better life for themselves and their children. They all know that someday there will be a good road that they can travel. Their dream continues as they plan for greenhouses and more.
I had first heard about Foods Resource Bank during a presentation by Norm Braksick at a farm show in 2003. As I sat and listened to him speak about the goal of sustainable ag programs in developing countries and how the money was raised through growing projects in the United States, it became very clear to me that my life was not going to be the same after that day. This program was going to give me and my wife the chance to give back some of the blessings we had received during our farming careers, to help those who needed a hand up to help themselves. As I stood in the village at Tacobamba, I realized the program represented all that Norm had talked about that day so long ago. To have the privilege of being there and knowing that the proceeds from the corn we grew and sold through our growing project went to Tacobamba, to plant crops that changed people’s lives and the lives of their children, is a feeling I will never forget.
The work in Tacobamba is not finished. They have plans for a greenhouse and more irrigation to capture water from the mountains for the dry season. I hope FRB can continue to support their efforts to be a model for the many villages nearby. Those villages can benefit from their experiences and knowledge and make the communities of Tacobamba a better place to live. Tacobamba, “just a name on a piece of paper.” Hardly!
An added plus was that five of our team had not previously been acquainted with FRB. They were from as far east as the Atlantic Ocean and as far west as the Pacific Ocean. They are now sold on FRB and will spread the story as they have seen it firsthand.
- A compilation of trip notes by Marilyn Emmert, Albion/Ft. Wayne IN Growing Project and Larry Winger, Oxford IN Growing Project