Friday, July 31, 2009

Learning to Farm in the DR

by Doug Satre

This summer I had the opportunity to visit Floresta’s DR program with a team of high school students from Village Church. We came to the DR to work alongside farmers and their families, to gain a better understanding of their joys and struggles and to share the love of Christ, to pray and learn together and to gain a better understanding of Floresta’s work of community transformation.

Our first morning consisted of working on the 6-acre farm of Dario and Trini Baez in the village of Gajo las Flores. Dario and Trini have worked with Floresta for over 10 years and have seen their lives improve dramatically as a result; their children are pursuing higher education and they are less vulnerable to the effects of poor weather and crop failures.

Dario explained to us some of the challenges local farmers have faced: “When I first started farming here, most of the farmers in the area couldn’t get the loans they needed to get their farms established, to pay for the seeds, trees and animals they needed. As a result, they were forced, out of desperation, to sell their land and look for work in the city.”

In contrast, Dario and Trini were able to receive a loan from Floresta, which enabled them to plant an orchard of citrus trees. Today those trees are producing well, and they are just one component of an amazingly productive farm, which includes dairy cows, mango and banana, cassava and long beans.

Our task was to work in Dario and Trini’s bean field, a one-acre field filled with trellises for stringing long beans. Dario showed us the proper technique for training the beans up the trellis, and the 12 of us got to work. We worked steadily, despite the heat, and enjoyed talking with each other, with Dario, and with the Floresta staff as we looked after the beans.

These beans don’t look like much - and there were not any beans on the plants yet - but are actually one of the great success stories of Floresta’s work in the DR. Dario reported that the beans grow quickly and then produce for 9 months out of the year. At peak season, he harvests 900 pounds a week and employs six local workers. The beans are sold locally and for export to Europe. “We can produce a lot more food on a smaller farm,” Dario explains, “It helps us improves ourselves and preserves the surrounding environment, allowing the land to heal.”

Organic crops such as these beans are a great boon for farmers- they command a higher price and reward the farmers financially for protecting their health, land and crops from dangerous pesticides. Not only is Dario’s income raised, but additional jobs are created for local workers, and Dario can easily repay the occasional loan that he takes out from Floresta.

The idea of growing more food in less space became something of a theme for the week. Combining the right kinds of high-yield, marketable crops with the right techniques is a powerful combination. Although I had visited several Floresta programs before, including programs in the DR, I learned a ton about the importance of encouraging farmers to grow profitable crops. As Carlos Disla, Floresta’s Dominican Director puts it, “There needs to be an economic incentive for farmers to try new crops. When they see that they can make more money and take better care of their families, they are anxious to listen to us.”

Carlos also addressed the spiritual component of Floresta’s work. “We help the farmers increase their incomes, but we also teach them how to live in a way that pleases the Lord, and not to spend their money on the wrong things. Economic development has to go hand in hand with spiritual growth, in order for people’s lives to truly be changed.”

This dynamic was at work the next day in the village of Juan Adrian, when we helped do some work on Floresta’s first-ever greenhouse in the DR, a hydroponic greenhouse with room for over 1,000 plants. Pastor Hilario, who put us to work moving dirt and cutting plastic for the beds, could hardly contain his excitement. “The greenhouse has so many benefits,” he explained, “Less weeding, fewer pests, no need for pesticides, higher yields, less need to clear the forest for land, and higher income!”

It was hot, dusty work, and there was a fair amount of confusion, between our limited Spanish and the fact that this was the first time any of us had set up the special beds a hydroponic greenhouse requires. But everyone managed to keep working well as a team, and by the end of the afternoon we had the first bed laid out.

Our next day of farm work had us doing something different, filling small bags with soil to transplant thousands of seedling, which would then be used to reforest the surrounding community. After our introductions and a prayer to bless our morning, we worked alongside the men of the farmers cooperative, filling bags together while we got to know each other.

I was especially interested in learning how the cooperative works- how each farmer has his own field, but how they take turns assisting each other, depending on whose farm needs the most work. Here was a group of farmers who had really learned to work together for the good of the community, and who were reaping the benefits of their cooperation.

Once again, we planted special crops that would be a blessing to the community on multiple levels: Cacao trees, which grow quickly and are the source of chocolate. They are great for restoring damaged hillsides and produce substantial income. Passion fruit Vines- grow and fruit like crazy, resist disease and pests, and can be both used by families and sold. Eucalyptus- grows like a weed (six feet a year!) and regrows from the stump after it’s harvested. It’s used in all kinds of poles for construction. And on and on. By the end of the morning we had planted over 6,000 seeds and seedlings and felt that we had made a small contribution to the farmers’ work.



Thursday, July 30, 2009

Is There Hope for Haiti?

by Kate McElhinney

As the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, Haiti’s troubles are no secret. Daily headlines such as, “Haitian Migrant Shipwreck Kills 15, Dozens Missing” describe the plight of this impoverished country. Sadly, this is not new news, but astonishing news nonetheless. Out of sheer desperation, these Haitians risk their lives by packing into tiny 60 foot boats, sometimes carrying as many as 120 people, hoping to escape poverty and find work in the Bahamas or Florida.

Plant With Purpose works with rural farmers in Haiti to reverse this desperate cycle. We walk with the poor, teaching them sustainable living techniques. We plant trees to restore the land, we help enhance community development, and we provide micro-credit loans. Soon families are able to make a decent living at home, and the need to flee becomes obsolete.

By partnering with Plant With Purpose, you will become part of an effort to reverse deforestation and restore lives. Your support goes toward teaching farmers sustainable agro-forestry techniques, which allow people to become empowered as they replenish the land and ultimately are able to care for their families.

In the future, hopefully, Haitians will not need to flee their country because they will be flourishing in the new life they have created for themselves. Because of the efforts of organizations like Plant With Purpose, there is hope for Haiti.

To find out how you can help a community in Haiti, visit

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Plant With Purpose's Creative Response to Poverty and Deforestation

by Aly Lewis

Compassion requires creativity.  Like I said (or typed) on Monday, a compassionate response is a creative response. As I attempt to apply this to my own life, I’m struck by the sheer ingenuity and creativity of Plant With Purpose.  While my personal compassion level may sometimes come up short, the blend of creativity and compassion I witness daily through reports and testimonies from the field is enough to inspire even my skeptical heart to greater levels of both compassion and creativity. 

The beauty of Plant With Purpose doesn’t lie in a one-stop-cure-all community development model, but in the creativity and passions of the farmers themselves.  Sure we’ve found a way to make environmental restoration economically profitable, but the true beauty of Plant With Purpose is the community’s own involvement and contribution to the development process.  Plant With Purpose provides the training, technical assistance, and opportunities; communities provide the vision, creativity, and determination. They creatively use their God-given talents to pull themselves out of poverty, restore their land, and transform their communities. 

There’s no special prescription for compassion or sustainable development.  All of our programs are different—they don’t look the same from country to country or even from village to village within those countries. The basic premise is the same in all of our programs: we work with communities to improve their quality of life, restore relationships, and become self-sufficient, but each program has it’s own taste, flair, and idiosyncrasies. 

We’ve found that through training in agroforestry and sustainable agriculture techniques families can greatly improve their nutrition and crop yields.  We’ve found that microcredit distributed through community savings and loan groups can give otherwise hopeless farmers the opportunity to start small businesses that will alter the destiny of their family forever.  We’ve found that ecological household improvements such as composting latrines and fuel-efficient stoves help farmers conserve their precious resources while restoring the health of the land and the community.  But all of these projects combined aren’t a surefire recipe for success.   Community involvement and creativity is a must. 

What works in the upland hill tribes of Thailand may not work in Mixteco communities in Oaxaca, Mexico. Here’s just a few examples of the creative ways rural farmers around the globe are creatively working to transform their lives: 

Women in our Oaxaca program have formed handicrafts groups where they use sustainably harvested resources such as pine needles to make baskets they can then sell at local markets and improve their families’ economic situation.  Talk about a creative use of resources!  And in Tanzania, savings and loan groups are pooling their money together to begin special charitable funds within the groups, already using the fruits of their success to give back to their communities in creative ways. 

In the face of overwhelming poverty, suffering, and economic downturn, I’ve found that the loving response is the creative response, the individually tailored response.  PWP’s local, indigenous staff takes the time to get to know their beneficiaries, meet their children, see their farms, and work with them individually and as a community to transform their lives. 

I don’t know about you, but I can’t help but be excited about the creative, compassionate way Plant With Purpose is working with rural farmers to address complex problems of poverty, deforestation, and despair.  

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

'As an atheist, I truly believe Africa needs God' by Matthew Parris

posted by Corbyn Small
I must have read this article 5 times in the last few months and every time it encourages me more. Maybe it hasn't been long enough since I posted this article on our facebook accounts, but now that we have this great blog I felt like I should share it again with our new consistent readership. I have some comments placed below, but primarily I want you to read and comprehend just how confounding this article is.
Missionaries, not aid money, are the solution to Africa's biggest problem - the crushing passivity of the people's mindset
by Matthew Parris
an article from
December 27, 2008
Before Christmas I returned, after 45 years, to the country that as a boy I knew as Nyasaland. Today it's Malawi, and The Times Christmas Appeal includes a small British charity working there. Pump Aid helps rural communities to install a simple pump, letting people keep their village wells sealed and clean. I went to see this work.
It inspired me, renewing my flagging faith in development charities. But travelling in Malawi refreshed another belief, too: one I've been trying to banish all my life, but an observation I've been unable to avoid since my African childhood. It confounds my ideological beliefs, stubbornly refuses to fit my world view, and has embarrassed my growing belief that there is no God.
Now a confirmed atheist, I've become convinced of the enormous contribution that Christian evangelism makes in Africa: sharply distinct from the work of secular NGOs, government projects and international aid efforts. These alone will not do. Education and training alone will not do. In Africa Christianity changes people's hearts. It brings a spiritual transformation. The rebirth is real. The change is good.
I used to avoid this truth by applauding - as you can - the practical work of mission churches in Africa. It's a pity, I would say, that salvation is part of the package, but Christians black and white, working in Africa, do heal the sick, do teach people to read and write; and only the severest kind of secularist could see a mission hospital or school and say the world would be better without it. I would allow that if faith was needed to motivate missionaries to help, then, fine: but what counted was the help, not the faith.
But this doesn't fit the facts. Faith does more than support the missionary; it is also transferred to his flock. This is the effect that matters so immensely, and which I cannot help observing.
First, then, the observation. We had friends who were missionaries, and as a child I stayed often with them; I also stayed, alone with my little brother, in a traditional rural African village. In the city we had working for us Africans who had converted and were strong believers. The Christians were always different. Far from having cowed or confined its converts, their faith appeared to have liberated and relaxed them. There was a liveliness, a curiosity, an engagement with the world - a directness in their dealings with others - that seemed to be missing in traditional African life. They stood tall.
At 24, travelling by land across the continent reinforced this impression. From Algiers to Niger, Nigeria, Cameroon and the Central African Republic, then right through the Congo to Rwanda, Tanzania and Kenya, four student friends and I drove our old Land Rover to Nairobi.
We slept under the stars, so it was important as we reached the more populated and lawless parts of the sub-Sahara that every day we find somewhere safe by nightfall. Often near a mission.
Whenever we entered a territory worked by missionaries, we had to acknowledge that something changed in the faces of the people we passed and spoke to: something in their eyes, the way they approached you direct, man-to-man, without looking down or away. They had not become more deferential towards strangers - in some ways less so - but more open.
This time in Malawi it was the same. I met no missionaries. You do not encounter missionaries in the lobbies of expensive hotels discussing development strategy documents, as you do with the big NGOs. But instead I noticed that a handful of the most impressive African members of the Pump Aid team (largely from Zimbabwe) were, privately, strong Christians. “Privately” because the charity is entirely secular and I never heard any of its team so much as mention religion while working in the villages. But I picked up the Christian references in our conversations. One, I saw, was studying a devotional textbook in the car. One, on Sunday, went off to church at dawn for a two-hour service.
It would suit me to believe that their honesty, diligence and optimism in their work was unconnected with personal faith. Their work was secular, but surely affected by what they were. What they were was, in turn, influenced by a conception of man's place in the Universe that Christianity had taught.
There's long been a fashion among Western academic sociologists for placing tribal value systems within a ring fence, beyond critiques founded in our own culture: “theirs” and therefore best for “them”; authentic and of intrinsically equal worth to ours.
I don't follow this. I observe that tribal belief is no more peaceable than ours; and that it suppresses individuality. People think collectively; first in terms of the community, extended family and tribe. This rural-traditional mindset feeds into the “big man” and gangster politics of the African city: the exaggerated respect for a swaggering leader, and the (literal) inability to understand the whole idea of loyal opposition.
Anxiety - fear of evil spirits, of ancestors, of nature and the wild, of a tribal hierarchy, of quite everyday things - strikes deep into the whole structure of rural African thought. Every man has his place and, call it fear or respect, a great weight grinds down the individual spirit, stunting curiosity. People won't take the initiative, won't take things into their own hands or on their own shoulders.
How can I, as someone with a foot in both camps, explain? When the philosophical tourist moves from one world view to another he finds - at the very moment of passing into the new - that he loses the language to describe the landscape to the old. But let me try an example: the answer given by Sir Edmund Hillary to the question: Why climb the mountain? “Because it's there,” he said.
To the rural African mind, this is an explanation of why one would not climb the mountain. It's... well, there. Just there. Why interfere? Nothing to be done about it, or with it. Hillary's further explanation - that nobody else had climbed it - would stand as a second reason for passivity.
Christianity, post-Reformation and post-Luther, with its teaching of a direct, personal, two-way link between the individual and God, unmediated by the collective, and unsubordinate to any other human being, smashes straight through the philosphical/spiritual framework I've just described. It offers something to hold on to to those anxious to cast off a crushing tribal groupthink. That is why and how it liberates.
Those who want Africa to walk tall amid 21st-century global competition must not kid themselves that providing the material means or even the knowhow that accompanies what we call development will make the change. A whole belief system must first be supplanted.
And I'm afraid it has to be supplanted by another. Removing Christian evangelism from the African equation may leave the continent at the mercy of a malign fusion of Nike, the witch doctor, the mobile phone and the machete.
When I think of the situation in Africa and then read the words 'crushing passivity,' 'groupthink,' and 'collective' I cannot help but feel discouraged for a moment at the monumental task of changing the mindset of a country from despair to one of hope, dignity, and prosperity. Amazingly the words of encouragement come from a confirmed atheist, that a relationship with Jesus Christ, the creator of all things, changes the mind and heart of individuals.
I do not know that I can put it much better, and in fact have decided to leave this blog open to our readers. Thoughts?

Monday, July 27, 2009

Compassion and Creativity

by Aly Lewis

Does compassion require creativity?  Henri Nouwen would say yes.  I’ve been continuing to read Compassion by Henri Nouwen, Donald McNeil, and Douglas Morrison in hopes of being a little more inspired and slightly more equipped to lead a compassionate life.   Although I’ve been struck and challenged at many points in the book, my newest obsession is the idea that compassion requires creativity. Nouwen poses the question, “How can we creatively respond to Jesus’ call to be compassionate as your loving God is compassionate?” 

I expected to hear words like obedience, sacrifice, and servanthood (words I love to hate but secretly love because I’m actually a legalistic, rule-lover hidden beneath a sleek exterior of cynicism and tolerance), but I wasn’t expecting creativity. Creativity is a word I toss into my self-indulgent basket. Creativity is meant to impress and entertain, not serve.  Au contraire, says my good friend Henri.  Not only is creativity useful in responding to suffering in the world, but it is also necessary. 

A compassionate response is a creative response. 

Of course this isn’t a new idea—what, with the abundance of ministry groups designed to match passion and talent with community needs.  Churches have Creative Arts Ministries, surf outreach clubs, and even social networking ministries designed to bring the Good News to the blogosphere.  No excuses; everyone can serve! 

Compassion isn’t about following a list of rules and check boxes.  When we make creative use of our time, passions, and resources is when the most meaningful acts of service and lasting transformation can occur. 

Check back on Wednesday to find out how Plant With Purpose is creatively and compassionately responding to poverty around the world.  

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Meeting the Needs of the Poor

by Kate McElhinney

Want to sponsor a village but you don't have the resources? We're all on tight budgets these days due to the slumping economy. But it's important to remember that even though we are struggling, the poor feel the effects even more. For example, in Tanzania the main source of income for the entire region is tourism. Like most countries, locals depend on the influx of wealthy travelers to help cover the cost of feeding their families. For Tanzanians, guided tours of Mount Kilimanjaro bring in the base of their income. However as more and more Americans cut back on discretionary costs, the number of thrill seekers looking to climb the mountain is dwindling. This consequence trickles down to the poor, effecting their livelihood tremendously. If you're looking for a way to contribute but you're on a tight budget, consider talking to your Bible study, your school club, your book group, or friends and family to see if they would be interested in sponsoring a village together. My Bible study is sponsoring Panasawan in Thailand and it's been incredible to see how our contribution is making a difference. Villagers are able to meet the basic needs of their families by feeding their children, and trees are being planted to help restore the land and provide clean water. If you are interested in sponsoring a village, please click here to see our Grow a Village web page. Once there, you will see pictures of various villages we work with. Please click on the green donate button at the left to read more about each community. Thanks so much for your support!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

p+ART+y with a Purpose

Plant With Purpose would like to give a shout out to Brooke and Jason Evans for the great art show featuring their Fire and Flowers line they hosted Saturday night. Thanks for the magical evening of mustached guitars, classy tunes, and inspiring art on recycled doors. What’s really inspiring is the way they combine their passion for art and creating with a cause they care about (and we’re even more excited that the cause they happen to care about is Plant With Purpose!) What a great way to use your talents to make a difference in the lives of rural farmers! 

It’s not too late!  You can still buy their art on their online shop. Check out their awesome pieces and get inspired!


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Fun in the Sun

by Corbyn Small
This last weekend makes a perfect case for the reason I chose to live in San Diego. The 76 degree sunny weather with a strong breeze and 70 degree ocean water just doesn't get much better in my book, or blog if you will (a miserable attempt to be as witty as my superstar creative writing co-worker, Aly, who blogs Mondays and Wednesdays).
We kicked off the weekend in San Diego with a fun Friday lunch with a few staff members at a local park in the bay not too far from our office. We played frisbee and bocce ball after eating sack lunches and sitting in the shade. You may not consider throwing a frisbee upside down or in reverse as work related knowledge, but I like to think that somewhere down the line I will benefit from my newfound flying disc techniques. The rest of the weekend was filled with boats, sun, swimming, gallivanting, napping, and playing. I rejoined some of my Plant With Purpose co-workers and interns on Saturday night for an awesome event that we told you about last week called Fire and Flowers. The event had it all, music, art, refreshments and friends. I would love to tell you all about it, but in
order to make sure our reader/viewer ship gets their most out of their daily blog experience I am going to leave the storytelling up to Aly for that part of this wonderful weekend. Look forward to reading about that tomorrow when you get this blog in your inbox in the morning! (if you are not getting these blogs to your inbox, subscribe via email at the top of the blog and make life easier!)
P.S. In case you forgot to remember yesterday... The 40th year anniversary of Neil and Buzz's first steps on the moon in 1969 was yesterday! Check out the video on youtube. What would my generation ever do without youtube to share moments like these?

Monday, July 20, 2009

Be Choosy and Give to Specific Plant With Purpose Projects

by Aly Lewis

We all like options and for those of you with a penchant for both selectivity and specificity, the Plant With Purpose website has plenty of choices when it comes to helping out with PWP’s programs.  Not only can you give directly to a specific village (I sponsor Los Mogotes, DR), you can also give to specific aspects of our holistic development work.  If you cruise through our Sim City-esque Grow A Village pages, you can select our cute little icons (my favorite is the “farmer in action”) to learn more about specific projects such as Latrines, Business Skills and Loan Management Training, and Animal Husbandry. 

For example, for $30 per month you can help a community establish Family Gardens. Donating a family garden is a great way to make a huge difference in the quality of life of an entire family. The typical family garden usually provides enough for a family to feed themselves and have extra left over to sell. We teach families sustainable agriculture techniques to maximize productivity of their land, as well as what crops to plant to maximize nutrition. Family gardens improve health by decreasing food-born illness and by providing another source of income. Your donation to family gardens will improve the livelihood of an entire family and every recurring donation will be matched for the first year, doubling your impact!!

Another great project is our Women’s Empowerment fund. Numerous studies have shown that investing in women's education and development goes farther and accomplishes more than an equal investment in men. Evidence from micro-credit lending, for example, indicates that women have superior repayment rates, invest more productively, and are more risk-averse than men in similar situations. PWP helps empower women by establishing community banks and investing in women’s enterprise and artisan groups.  A recurring donation of $30 (or more!) per month toward Women’s Empowerment will impact an entire community by equipping women to pull themselves out of poverty and transform their lives and the lives of their families. 

Whether you’re interested in something tangible like Cisterns or something slightly more elusive such as contributing to Restored Relationships or Keeping A Family Together, there’s something for everyone on the PWP site.  So please be choosy, we don’t mind. 

To check out all of our life-changing projects, visit our Grow A Village pages and select away!  

Friday, July 17, 2009

Planting Beans in the DR

by Doug Satre
A couple of days ago, I returned from an incredible week in the Dominican Republic, where I had the opportunity to visit Plant With Purpose’s work with Dominican farmers. I traveled with a group of students from Village Church and it was an eye-opening experience for all of us. We worked alongside farmers in Zumbador and Juan Adrian, transplanting over 4,000 seedlings, weeding fields and training beans onto trellises.
One thing that I learned was the incredible benefit that comes to farmers in growing certain specialized crops, and being able to get those crops to both local and international markets. The most fascinating example was Floresta’s work with “Long Beans.” We spent our first morning trellising beans on the farm of Dario and Trini Baez, who patiently explained to us how to do our work, and also described for us the benefit the beans bring to his family. We were amazed!
On just one acre, Dario and Trini’s plants produce 900 lbs of beans every week, and the harvest lasts for 9 months. Some beans are consumed by the Baez family, or sold locally, but most are exported to Europe where there is a high premium paid for organic beans.
So with just one crop, several different things are happening- -Dario’s family raises a tremendous amount of food in a small space, which reduces the need to clear more forestland to grow less productive crops. -The premium paid for organic crops = extra income and also is healthier for the environment and people than if they had used pesticides. -Jobs are created- Dario and Trini hire 6 workers, three days a week, to pick all the beans. -The long harvest season, 9 months, means a nearly year-round source of income, which makes it easy for Dario to repay his Floresta loan and also enables him to plant fruit trees as a long-term investment in his farm.
All that from beans! As we finished our morning with Dario, he explained to us how in the past, farmers in his region had been forced to sell their land out of desperation, because crop yields were low and the farmers could not get the loans they needed to be able to invest in their farms. Dario and Trini’s story was so different! It was a great lesson to me as to the importance of promoting the right kind of crops, and also making low-interest loans available to farmers. It’s a powerful combination, one that is transforming lives of farmer’s like Dario and Trini.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Dreaming Together: A Community Approach to Planning

by Sarah Ferry, Tanzania Programs Officer During a recent trip to Africa, I met with local communities to create a five-year strategic plan for Plant With Purpose Tanzania. Our planning group consisted of the Plant With Purpose Tanzania staff, board members and community group members from each region we work in, as well as representatives from partnering government agencies. It was an exhilarating process, digging in to find the pulse of Plant With Purpose and deeply examining its past and future impact in the communities. It is so wonderful to have so many diverse stakeholders from all levels together to share, dream and design our future in this county.

During our first day together, members were beaming with stories of how important Plant With Purpose has been in transforming their communities. Many have been so grateful that Plant With Purpose Tanzania has been able to expand into new communities in different districts, which have not previously had organizations working with them because of their very remote locations.

Most recently, Plant With Purpose began working in the community of Bwambo, in the Same district. Here, women who have joined the group have already been astonished at the ability they have to save money and the power the savings has to reduce their vulnerability and provide them with confidence. It has only been three months since beginning work in this community, and people can already sense the transformation happening.

Together in small groups, the participants of the planning session described and created maps of the community after Plant With Purpose’s work. The vision that Plant With Purpose is helping communities achieve includes: a good house, parents having the ability to send their children and themselves through secondary and vocational schools and university, increased production of crops, strong leadership in the communities, a clean and healthy environment surrounded by trees and clean water sources, food security and good health.

The vision we strive for contains elements that Plant With Purpose does not have activities to address directly. For instance, Plant With Purpose does not build houses for people, and it is not an organization that sends children to school by distributing books, uniforms and school fees. We do not distribute food to hungry families. We do not send doctors to villages or pass out pharmaceuticals to the ill. How then can we claim to have a vision for our organization that proclaims health, food security, and education? This question was indeed raised in our meetings by some.

The response to this question quickly rose from the group: Plant With Purpose does not send children to school, but because of Plant With Purpose, parents can now afford to send their children to school. Plant With Purpose does not distribute food, but because of Plant With Purpose families’ nutrition improves and children do not go to bed hungry. Plant With Purpose does not send doctors into villages, but because of Plant With Purpose, people have the financial ability to go to the hospital and clinics.

Plant With Purpose’s work of community and economic development enables this vision of education, food security and health to take place. And because the community does it themselves, together with each other, they build love, peace and hope in the process. This complete vision could not be achieved if Plant With Purpose did things for the community, rather than enabling the community to do things for themselves.

Plant With Purpose focuses on the sustainability and overall health of the communities it serves, not solely on the power of the organization itself. As a person who focuses my own work on organizational health and development, I must admit that I found it a little unsettling at first that the organizational strategic plan focused much more on the community’s plans than the organization’s. Even though I am well familiar with Plant With Purpose's approach and uphold these values and virtues, I still assumed the strategic plan would be focused on the organization’s next five years. I am again coming face to face with the reality that makes Plant With Purpose unique. It is not about us. It is not about what we can do as an organization for these communities. It is about what the community can achieve with our encouragement and support.

I am so happy that more than half of the strategic planning group, who gathered to talk about the organization’s next five years, were beneficiaries themselves, living the program. It is this perspective and participation that mobilizes the groups to take on this plan themselves. This has made it about the community from the inside-out and about what the community will achieve, and how Plant With Purpose can help. This is so much more important than what Plant With Purpose will achieve for the community.

Of course, we worked on organizational goals in the end, but it was so great to see that the plan was not solely about us and for us as an organization, but is fundamentally for those we exist to serve. Many strategic plans are developed in a vacuum and upon completion are filed on a shelf not to be looked at until the next five to ten year planning process begins. The plan we created together this week was written on the hearts of those we are accountable to: our beneficiaries, and because of their involvement and commitment to the development of his plan, we can be assured that Plant With Purpose Tanzania will not only be held accountable by the communities for the plan, but it will be implemented by all of us, together. This ensures that we are moving forward together to achieve the vision that Plant With Purpose communities, staff and the board share for Tanzania.

This article was written by Plant With Purpose Programs Officer Sarah Ferry. Sarah oversees the strategic planning for Plant With Purpose Tanzania and travels there a couple times a year to meet with local communities and evaluate the program’s progress. To find out more about our programs in Tanzania and how you can help, please email You can also find out more on our website.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Local Bounty

by Aly Lewis

Apart from my business casual attire and lack of a wide-brimmed straw hat, I felt like a legitimate gardener this morning. After months of (not so) diligent watering and much anticipation, my Earthbox tomato plant—formerly known as the Tomato Terror—is finally producing! This morning I plucked three plump and delicious cherry tomatoes from the sprawling vine. I also counted 30 plus almost-ripe baby green tomato balls ripening steadily on the vine. Salsa fresca anyone?

In other news from the locally grown front, my roomies and I have invested in a CSA box, which allows us to receive an array of organic, locally grown produce from Be Wise Ranch every other week. Since our landlord will only allow us to plant an herb garden in our front yard and a girl can’t live on cilantro alone, we’ve opted to capitalize on our local farming community for our fruit and veggie needs. According to the Be Wise website, “A CSA, or Community Supported Agriculture, brings the consumer and the farmer together - enhancing ecological diversity, facilitating the recycling of important nutrients and waste products, and maximizing the self-sufficiency of family farms.

Basically we get really fresh, organically and locally grown produce to fill our skillets, salad mixers, and bellies, and local farmers get a steady supply of repeat local customers. Win, win, right? So far we’ve enjoyed a smattering of summer favorites from grapes and cherries to a delightful mix of spring greens perfect for salads. Next week’s box might even bring the much-coveted avocado. 

To find a CSA that fits your produce needs click here. Support locally grown agriculture and bring on the veggies!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Highlight on Charity: Water

by Corbyn Small

I have always had a love for water, whether it be in the backyard pools of Arizona, beaches of California, or lakes near my old home. Large bodies of water have never been far and have always been there for me to enjoy. While these forms of water are nice, this information has little to do with my blog today. The water I want to talk about is more along the lines of drinking water, which none of the above listed bodies of water supply a source of. But I do find it relevant to my own thought process and how I have taken it for granted.

I had never been too picky about the source of my drinking water until I went to school and lived in a dorm where it was a good idea to get water from someplace other than the bathroom faucet, as per suggestion by health officials. Some students bought Brita filters and others paid for the 5 gallon jugs of water to be delivered for some exorbitant price, while the rest bought 24 packs of bottled water from Vons grocery store to lug down to the dorm for their hydration needs. I have to admit I was of the latter for the first two years of my schooling, before the absurdity of paying for water combined with some knowledge about the energies that go into producing and recycling plastic water bottles (generally holding nothing but tap water from another region) got to my head.

Over the next two years, I made a few changes in my consumption of water habits. I switched to a Brita filter and encouraged others to as well, took shorter showers, and ended up being involved in a campaign around campus senior year to encourage others to limit their usage of single serving plastic bottles of water. Then with the money they might have spent on overpriced agua, we asked them find an organization that works to bring water to those who haven’t grown up around it their entire lives.

It is not an unknown fact that access to clean drinking water is not available around the world equally. My small realization that my own consumption habits could be changed and I could give to an organization that provided relief to those who need it most made me believe that I could change other people’s patterns of consumption to do the same!

Today I want to highlight Charity: Water, an organization based out of New York, because this is exactly what they are doing. They are passionately asking people to give up a part of themselves to help drill wells in the places that need it most. I will let their video speak for itself and allow you to check out their webpage.

I bring up this organization not only to promote the good they are doing, but also the necessity of the Plant With Purpose programs that work to provide clean water as well. Our focus is on restoring the aquifers that lie beneath the ground. Aquifers are the source that can be tapped by a well and are meant to be replenished by each year's annual rainy season. In the lands where trees are almost non-existent, when the short rainy season does come there is nothing in place in the layers of soil to retain and purify the water. Thus, the water runs off the surface, damaging the topsoil and carrying mud into overflowing streams. Our programs focus on restoring the quality to the land and keeping the water they do have access to clean and drinkable. Here is a link to more information.

So my purpose in sharing Charity: Water with you all is not just to highlight a great non-profit, but again to show the relationship between the land and the people who live on it. Take 3 minutes to check out Charity: Water’s video and ponder what you can do in your daily routine to break a habit and turn it into something that helps someone else.