Friday, August 28, 2009

Women, Children and Winos

by Doug Satre

Earlier this month I had the privilege of visiting Plant With Purpose’s work in the Mixteca Alta region of Oaxaca, Mexico. Oaxaca is one of the poorest parts of Mexico, and the “Mixteca” is the poorest part of Oaxaca, seen by most outsiders as a hopeless backwater. On the day we spent in Oaxaca City, our tour guide, Raul, summed it up like this, “The only people who live up there are women, children and winos. The men are all gone.” While this was something of an overstatement, it pretty well summed up the challenges the Mixteca region faces; poverty has caused most of the working-age men to look for work elsewhere.

I don’t think Raul had actually ever been to the Mixteca, or at least not to the communities where PWP is working. If he had, he might have come away with a different impression. PWP works among 47 communities and is seeing a dramatic improvement in the economic development. I was especially impressed to meet a young couple, Alier and Isabel, who have become respected leaders in the community of Loma Chimedia.

Alier is the leader of the local farmer’s cooperative. The greenhouse that they share with five other families produces a total income of about $2,500 per year, essentially doubling their household income. By working together the farmers are overcoming a variety of obstacles to their success, and have recently purchased a truck in order to transport their produce to town to sell. Not only are they succeeding economically, they are giving their community more reasons to be proud of their heritage and their community and creating reasons to hope for a better future.

As I listened to the stories of their success, I wondered what our tour guide would have thought. Maybe next time we can bring him to the Mixteca with us.

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