We build skills that help farming families have a better life in their own villages.
For over 10 years Sustainable Villages Honduras and its predecessor organizations have worked to help families live a better life where they are … without having to migrate within or beyond Honduras.
The Department of Santa Barbara (which functions like a state in the US) is richly endowed with natural resources, but also maintains one of the highest levels of poverty in Honduras. 80% of the families depend on farming, but traditional methods of slash-and-burn, growing only corn and bean, and the use of chemical fertilizers, have led to depleted soil and and hungry or malnourished people.
The villages in which these families live are located in a large watershed on the side of a mountain named Las Nieves. The high elevation forested area in the watershed supplies all the water which the communities depend. Deforestation and decisions by the large landowners to cut the timber and to grow crops at these high altitudes threatens the water needed for household uses and for agriculture in the lower parts of the watershed.
Since 1995 Honduras is listed as one of the top three countries in the world at risk from climate change in the Global Climate Risk Index published by Germanwatch. Drought is not the only effect of climate change, the unpredictability of the rains – either too much or too little --may decrease or even destroy the crop for that season. Without learning new sustainable agricultural methods and using drought resistant seeds, families no longer feel secure in their ability to feed themselves.
Our program helps them face these three challenges of poverty, lack of water, climate change.
We work with driven leaders to build Stronger communities
Candida Murillo is a single mother who had no idea how she was going to feed her children when the SVH began in 2008. Within a few years, hard work in her kitchen garden and one-acre field produced enough to feed and support her family during most of the year. The photo shows Candida next to a silo for the corn and beans she grew, built by an SVH farmer from another village, Jesus Briones. With the silo for storage she could make more money by selling the corn when there was higher demand for it.
Candida had always loved the forests. When she was ready to learn more, she became familiar with forest plants that flavor food and provide natural medicines. From that experience, she began to collect the seeds of the Masica Tree, sacred to the Mayans. When ground, the powdered seeds are put in water or milk and given to infants and children to prevent malnutrition. Recently Candida began a community project to protect a local water spring in La Majada, planting trees including the Masica around it. Sustainable agriculture and forest protection – they are all part of the goal of sustainability, according to Candida.
Natividad Pena has fed his family by fishing in the nearby river and growing beans and rice in a field an hour’s walk away and up a steep slope. In the past few years neither has been successful because of river water contamination and climate change. In 2015 he left to try to migrate to the United States but was injured and returned home with a plan to try again. While he was home, he joined the SVH program at Roy’s invitation. A small cement sink which drained water into the garden and some fruit trees brought immediate benefits.
In the summer of 2016 drought destroyed two rice plantings. Drought resistant seeds provided by Vecinos Honduras resulted in a good harvest that same year. The photo shows Natividad with his gandul beans, even more nutritious than the traditional red beans. Altagracias, his wife, bought three milk goats bought with income from the sale of Natividad’s crops. Natividad no longer makes plans to flee to the U.S.
Bienvenida Aguilar has long been known in her community for her concern about health. Using make natural medicines from wild plants she now helps children with asthma. Several years ago she began to make compost and use some new techniques in her garden.
In 2015 attracted by the Vecinos Honduras approach of farmers teaching farmers, her husband, Ángel Amaya Aleman, began to move away from old planting techniques in their fields and gardens. In addition he planted trial plots with different seeds to see for himself which ones worked the best. Then he was told of an interesting way to control a particular type of worms. He put sugar water on small seedlings which attracted ants and wasps which, in turn, ate the particular type of worms destroying those seedlings. He was rewarded with his largest harvest ever. In 2016 Bienvenida and Ángel invited others to visit them so they could share their experience with the new farming practices. The menu for their guests? Tomatillos, mustard greens, corn on the cob and other vegetables and fruits they had grown.