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.

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