Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Oaxaca Wednesday: 2009 Highlights and Accomplishments

by Aly Lewis

For Oaxaca Wednesday I’d like to take a minute to share some stories and statistics from our life-changing program in Oaxaca, Mexico over the last year. I've been sending a lot of reports on our Oaxaca program to foundations who've funded us, and, believe me, there is some exciting stuff going on that I just have to share with you.

In 2009 Plant With Purpose expanded its transformational work to four new communities and partnered with 140 new families, working with a total of 540 families in 48 villages in the Mixteca Alta region of Oaxaca.

Plant With Purpose Oaxaca was able to not only continue to provide life-giving assistance to current Plant With Purpose farmers and their families, but also to join with additional families and scale up many of our critical projects, such as family gardens and cistern construction. We have been delighted to watch families experience improved quality of life as they are empowered to become agents of change in their own communities.

Here are some of our program highlights for the year:

  • Greatly expanding our family garden program--we were able to help families establish 111 more gardens than we did last year!
  • Placing a greater focus on cistern construction, a more expensive but incredibly valuable investment in the health and wellbeing of the farmers. 10 new cisterns were built throughout the year to capture and store rainwater for household and agricultural use.
  • Facilitating 14 environmental education classes in primary schools. Through these workshops students learn valuable skills and creation care principles. Students also participated in environmental projects firsthand through demonstration projects that included the use of cisterns to capture rainwater, a vegetable garden plot, and an on-site tree nursery to produce tree seedlings for reforestation efforts.
  • Establishing 3 new revolving loan fund groups. In addition to granting loans and providing a safe place for group members to store their savings, these groups also serve as a platform to teach women to improve their reading, writing, and math skills, building their capacity and self-confidence.

  • Expanding the reach of our discipleship program by more than doubling the number of Festival of Values events we facilitated in local schools and expanding the “Church, Community, and Change” project to the village Rio Yutanume.

We're inspired by the transformation taking place in our Oaxaca program and look forward to sharing with you even more stories of our progress and accomplishments over the next year.
***
Aly Lewis is Plant With Purpose’s Grant Writer. She researches funding opportunities, writes proposals, and submits progress reports on funding received. She also writes the content for Plant With Purpose's Sponsor A Village program.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A Look at Fuel-Efficient Stoves

Stephanie Rudeen- Grant Writing Intern

Every day it is becoming more and more apparent that human health and the health of the environment operate hand in hand, and this can be especially seen through the lives of the people of rural Mexico. Imagine a life where just cooking a meal for your family greatly decreases your health and increases your chances of attaining many illnesses and infections. And while your own health declines, you are also harming the environment and causing increased deforestation. This is just a typical day for many rural Mexicans; yet, Plant With Purpose brings hope through the realization that continual health and safety for the environment can bring about health and safety for individuals as well.

Recently, open cooking fires were very much the norm for rural Mexican families. Yet, the effects of cooking fires are twofold, not only does it hurt the environment through increased deforestation to supply the wood for the fires, but it also harms the health and safety of the people themselves because of the large amount of smoke inhaled. According to the article “Mexico: Ecological Smoke from Fuel Efficient Stoves” by Emilio Godoy, “acute respiratory infections are among the main causes of childhood morbidity and mortality in Mexico.” The majority of these acute respiratory infections are caused directly from the inhalation of smoke from open cooking fires. This places women and children especially at risk since it is often women who operate the fires and cook, and children since they spend much time around their mother and the cooking fires. According to this same article, “1.6 million people, especially women and children, die prematurely each year from exposure to high levels of indoor smoke from home cooking and heating practices.” This large amount of deaths just from the act of trying to cook a meal stresses how every day can be a struggle when people do not have the resources they need.

About a quarter of the population of Mexico is reliant on firewood for cooking and heating, which causes much of the deforestation in Mexico.

Mexico also has the second highest amount of deforestation in Latin America. The impact of deforestation on the environment and for individuals is huge; it contributes to global warming, affects the water cycle and water supply, can increase the risk of landslides, and can even result in a decline in biodiversity. It is evident that a daily necessity like cooking food is threatening individuals and the environment in complicated and not easily solvable ways. Yet, Plant With Purpose and other organizations that Godoy elucidates on in his article, are helping to change the quality of life for rural Mexicans, as well as helping to conserve and improve the environment.

Plant With Purpose works with farmers and families in Oaxaca, Mexico to construct many fuel-efficient stoves that have greatly improved the lives of individuals as well as the environment. These stoves use less than half the wood of traditional stoves and virtually eliminate the harmful smoke that causes death and serious illnesses. Women can safely use these stoves to cook corn tortillas for the family and simmer meat stew all day long without using very much wood or risking respiratory illness from excessive smoke. Cooking a meal for the family no longer has to be potentially life-threatening for rural Mexican women. Imagine how something as simple as a new stove can have so great an impact on a life and a community. It can be pretty easy to forget how easy we have it when we twist a knob and a pilot light flicks on a never-ending source of flames to cook up a feast. We are excited to say that since the fuel efficient stoves have been adopted into more and more homes families will continue to reduce their risk of lung diseases and provide a healthier community as a whole.

Mexico: Ecological Smoke from Fuel Efficient Stoves by Emilio Godoy

Monday, March 29, 2010

Plant With Purpose Haiti Recovery Efforts in Full Swing

Plant With Purpose's soil conservation/tree planting program is in full swing in Haiti. Over 600 people are working everyday and have planted thousands of trees and dug many contour canals. Besides the obvious benefits of improving soil and tree cover, this project is also providing much needed emergency cash to families overwhelmed by relatives fleeing the city.
Reposted from Bob Morikawa's blog "Where is Bob?," who is currently in Haiti.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Planting to Provide

Isabel Faén Melenciano is a Dominican farmer and businessman in the village of Los Mogotes. With Plant With Purposeʼs help, he is improving his farm and transforming his life. He has been involved in a myriad of Plant With Purpose projects: working in tree nurseries, applying agroforestry techniques, and planting acacia, eucalyptus, mahogany and pine trees. All of these projects have helped to restore productivity to his barren land, improving the health, nutrition, and outlook of his entire family. Additionally, joining with the Plant With Purpose community has improved Faénʼs relationship with God. He received his first Bible from Plant With Purpose, and has been growing in his understanding of God ever since. Faén says that with Plant With Purpose he has “learned and overcome a lot. I have made a lot of money, and I have been able to give education to my daughters and support my mother.”

Thursday, March 25, 2010

San Diego's Victory Garden

Posted by Colin Richard- Plant With Purpose's Haiti Relief Intern

Last night I had the opportunity to celebrate the first birthday of an amazing local organization called ‘Victory Gardens San Diego’. Named after the ‘victory garden’ movement (promoted by the US government during the First and Second World Wars to free up needed domestic resources), their company overview on their Facebook page sums up the gist of what they do:

Victory Gardens San Diego (VGSD) is an official project of San Diego Roots Sustainable Food Project, a nonprofit network of citizens, farmers, chefs, gardeners, teachers, and students working to encourage the growth and consumption of regional food. In collaboration with local gardening, food and community groups, VGSD supports people throughout San Diego County in growing food closer to where they eat through education, mentorship, and material resources.

Celebrating at ‘The Linkery’, a very cool local restaurant, it was great to see some familiar faces from last Sunday. A group of us had volunteered to help VGSD do what it does best: install, often in just half a day, a garden in a yard or other such space where there previously was none. It is a great way to get involved locally with an activity similar to one that Plant With Purpose does abroad: promoting local food production in the form of small-scale, often backyard agriculture, and thereby helping to promote food security, community health and economic development.

As the bare patch of earth was transformed into a garden, the dozen or so of us had a great time working together, getting to know each other, and enjoying a sense of accomplishment for what we had done. Cedar fencing lumber became raised-bed gardening containers, soil and compost were blended to fill them, and drip irrigation was installed. Seedling vegetable starts were planted, and everyone left by mid-day a winner: we volunteers with the feeling of satisfaction for having worked hard to serve our neighbor, and the family with their dream of a garden fulfilled. I look forward to working with them again in the future, and invite you to check them out as well at http://www.victorygardenssandiego.com/index.html.

###
Colin Richard has volunteered many hours at Plant With Purpose over the last few years and has served as our Haiti Relief Intern since the earthquake on January 12. Recently Colin said, "Henry David Thoreau once wrote, 'There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one hacking at the root'. I’m proud to be part of organization that is “hacking at the roots” of poverty and not just the “branches”, holistically empowering the rural poor of the developing world to be agents of change in their communities."

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A Plant With Purpose Love Story

Plant With Purpose is transforming the lives of thousands of rural farmers in Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Tanzania, Burundi, Mexico, and Thailand. Our transformational work would not be possible without the volunteers who dedicate their time, resources, and talents to help us reach our goals and tell the story of the rural families who are engaged in our programs and overcoming poverty.

Today we are excited to share a story about two fantastic Plant With Purpose volunteers whose hearts to serve others led to their very own love story.

Matt and Jess met for the very first time at the Plant With Purpose Gala in 2007. They had a mutual friend who worked for Plant With Purpose at the time and had recruited them to volunteer at the banquet. Their heart to serve others brought them together, but their light-hearted sense of humor and contagious laughter really caused a spark between them. Unfortunately, Jess had plans of leaving in a few short months for Africa and wasn’t sure if or when she would return to the U.S.

But Matt was determined in pursuing her. They spent as many days together as possible while in the same country and then once Jess left for Africa they emailed every day. Eventually, it became evident that Jess would no longer be staying in Africa, and in 2008 she returned to San Diego. The rest is really just history. A year later Matt took Jess for a walk on the beach in Encinitas during sunset…and asked her to spend the rest of her life with him. They were married on November 27th, 2009 in Jess’ home state of Colorado. It’s a true Plant With Purpose volunteer love story! Congratulations Matt and Jess!

For those of you looking to get involved with Plant With Purpose (no promises on meeting the love of your life), we are looking for volunteers for some upcoming events:

  • the Earth Fair at Balboa Park on April 18th
  • the SDSU Earth Fair on April 22nd
  • Encinitas Environment Day on June 10th
Contact Corbyn Small at corbyn@plantwithpurpose.org and help us share the Plant With Purpose love!

Thanks again to our faithful volunteers, interns, and advocates. You're truly making a remarkable difference in the lives of the rural poor!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Haiti Anecdotes and Admiration

by Aly Lewis

Jean Marie Jeanlys is a Plant With Purpose member in the community of Haute Terre Froide. His household of 8 expanded to include four more relatives—all too young to contribute to household income—who were displaced during the quake. As a part of Plant With Purpose’s Short-term Employment project, Jean was paid to construct soil erosion barriers. The barriers conserve soil and protect farmers’ crops in Jean’s community, giving Jean a meaningful way to earn income and support his family. “The project helps. Any little income helps,” said Jean.

I know I’m biased, but I would just like to share with you why I think Plant With Purpose’s response to the earthquake in Haiti-from food distribution and road clearing to seed and tool distribution to our short-term employment and soil conservation project—is absolutely awesome:

  • We’re already here. We’ve partnered with Haitian farmers to overcome poverty for the past 12 years.
  • 99% of Haiti relief aid is going to Port-au-Prince, but thousands of people have fled the devastated city and returned to the rural areas—where we work. The revitalization of rural agriculture will play a critical role in establishing food security and contributing to the future health and prosperity of Haiti.
  • Our Short-Term Employment project provides farmers with much needed cash without resorting to handouts. Farmers can earn money to support their families while engaging in productive, restorative work that will have lasting benefits for the land, their families, and their communities.
  • The project allows us to expand our reach. We’re working with new communities, reforesting new microwatersheds, and encouraging new families to implement sustainable, income-generating projects.
  • We’re stimulating the Haitian economy by purchasing local seeds from Haitian distributors for our Seed and Tool Distribution Project. Similarly, all of the rice and cooking oil purchased for our Food Distribution Project was bought from local Haitian venders, supporting not undermining the fragile Haitian economy.
  • In our Seed and Tool Distribution project, seeds are being provided on a partial credit basis with a 20% repayment rate in-kind. We’ve found that requiring farmers to pay back a portion of the seed they were given with the seed they produce encourages a stronger sense of ownership of the project as well as increased community participation. It also equips Plant With Purpose with a bean supply that can be distributed in future emergencies.

And this is all in conjunction with Plant With Purpose’s ongoing work of teaching sustainable agriculture, granting access to credit, and empowering communities to take ownership of their problems and work collectively to implement creative solutions. Sounds pretty awesome to me. (Maybe I should have titled this post Haiti Testimonies and Horn Tooting)

***

Aly Lewis is Plant With Purpose’s Grant Writer. She researches funding opportunities, writes proposals, and submits progress reports on funding received. She also writes the content for Plant With Purpose's Sponsor A Village program.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Today is World Water Day!

Today, March 22nd, is International World Water Day, and the United Nations Environment Program is again asking governments, policy makers, businesses, and individuals around the world to address the global issues and needs related to water.

UN-Water is dedicating World Water Day 2010 to the theme of water quality, reflecting the importance of water quality alongside quantity in water management. The World Water Day 2010 campaign is designed to:

  • Raise awareness about sustaining healthy ecosystems and human well-being through addressing the increasing water quality challenges in water
  • Raise the profile of water quality by encouraging governments, organizations, communities, and individuals around the world to actively engage in proactively addressing water quality e.g. in pollution prevention, clean up and restoration.*

Whether it be water scarcity, quality, or management, Plant With Purpose pledges to continue to address the water issues of the communities where we work. Currently there are many components to Plant With Purpose's programs that address sanitation, management, and restoration of water supplies. Some of these include latrines, micro-watershed restoration, soil erosion barriers, and cisterns.

Today on World Water Day I want to focus on Plant With Purpose's use of cisterns to provide water security to rural families. A lot of the time we only think of the 'global water crisis' in respect to the lack of

H2O. But water scarcity is only part of the problem for subsistence level farmers. During rainy seasons, an abundance of water can cause flooding and soil runoff which quickly dissipates, leaving little for the upcoming dry season. Plant With Purpose uses rainwater cisterns to combat the issues related to dramatic seasonal climate variations. Here are some of the benefits that rainwater cisterns bring:

· Cisterns collect water for family home use, providing a steady, reliable, and convenient water source where there once was none. A 4,700 gallon cistern can provide water for 10 families

· During periods of intense rainfall, water falling on the roofs of homes is a culprit in contributing to hillside erosion. Collecting this rainwater in cisterns helps to mitigate runoff, preserving hillside soil from being swept downward into local streams.

· Cisterns provide both the means and incentive for reforestation, as they are the main source of water for tree nurseries in the community. Seedlings grown in these nurseries and replanted along deforested hillsides provide the ideal solution to moderating runoff, restoring fertility to the soil and preventing flooding. One cistern can provide water for about 2,000 seedlings per year in a family tree nursery.

Helping families construct and utilize rainwater cisterns is just one of the many projects that is enabling rural farmers to conserve and manage their water resources.

*Information gathered from UN World Water Day webpage

~~~~~

Corbyn Small serves as Plant With Purpose’s Outreach Coordinator. He cultivates relationships with donors, churches, artists and musicians to generate interest and enthusiasm for Plant With Purpose’s life-changing programs. corbyn@plantwithpurpose.org

Friday, March 19, 2010

Reject Apathy: Plant With Purpose in Relevant Magazine

"Two of the biggest problems in the world are environmental degradation and widespread poverty. There are 3.14 billion people living on less than $2.50 a day. If the poor are recognized as a resource rather than an obstacle, can a virtuous cycle be discovered in the midst of this? Is it possible that the poor could become leaders in solving the enormous environmental problems the planet faces?"
This week Plant With Purpose is featured in Relevant Magazine's Reject Apathy section. Scott's hopeful article explains how we can fight the vicious cycles of poverty and deforestation with corresponding virtuous cycles. Choose to reject apathy and check it out here: Planting With Purpose.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

We're Hiring!

Plant With Purpose is looking for a REGIONAL MAJOR GIFTS OFFICER

ORGANIZATIONAL PROFILE: Plant With Purpose USA, a Christian international development agency, is working to combat both deforestation and poverty and share Jesus’ love with the rural poor. Plant With Purpose serves approximately 25,000 people in over 200 communities in Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Tanzania, Burundi, Kenya and Thailand.

POSITION SUMMARY: The Regional Major Gifts Officer will work with the Director of Major Gifts and Executive Director to build an effective development strategy in a particular region with a strong emphasis on major gifts.

GENERAL FUNCTION: To initiate and cultivate relationships with potential major donors (individuals, businesses, churches and foundations) who have the capability of making significant financial contributions to the ministry of Plant With Purpose; to establish a growing commitment to Plant With Purpose’s mission in a specific region; to maintain and build strong relationships with existing Plant With Purpose major donors; and to professionally and effectively ask for financial gifts to fund the mission and program of Plant With Purpose. SPECIFIC JOB DUTIES: •Work together with the Director of Development to manage a portfolio of prospects for major gift solicitation. It is expected that the Major Gifts Officer will raise $150,000 during their first year, and an additional $100,000 per year up to the $1 million level. •Work with the Plant With Purpose Management Team and Board of Directors to leverage acquisition and retention strategies. •Compellingly articulate the mission, vision, and ministry to which God has called Plant With Purpose. •Using eTapestry, track communication and moves management strategies with potential and real major donors. •Prepare written proposals, with the help of the Major Donor Team, which effectively and compellingly describe the work God has called Plant With Purpose to do and the “return on investment” that each donor will see. •Leverage the network of Plant With Purpose major donors by giving them the tools and coaching necessary to be ambassadors for Plant With Purpose and the ministry to which God has called us. •Keep abreast of the ministry of Plant With Purpose by interfacing with field staff, technical advisors, and visiting projects. Be able to effectively describe any Plant With Purpose project, the cost to accomplish the project, and the expected ministry outcomes to donors. •Leverage speaking opportunities for the Executive Director, Director of Development and key field and technical staff, in order to build awareness of Plant With Purpose and its ministry and help secure funding for any of its projects. •Ensure gifts from major donors assigned are properly thanked and followed up on with timely information and updates on the ministry each gift has accomplished. •Submit activity reports each week to the Director of Development and attend in-house meetings for the purpose of strategy and evaluation. •Articulate your personal walk with Jesus Christ and relate it to the ministry of Plant With Purpose. •Demonstrate a passion for and familiarity with each of the areas of Plant With Purpose’s mission, including environmental restoration, economic development and spiritual transformation. •Possess a love for the poor, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion or culture, and a burden to connect them with God’s love and the compassion of donors in the United States. EXPERIENCE/SKILLS DESIRED: •Strong commitment to Plant With Purpose’s vision and values •BS or BA degree or equivalent •Commitment to the essential skills of major gift fundraising •Management experience, preferably in fundraising and public relations •Excellent communication skills •Ability to build effective working relationships with donors, board members, and US and foreign colleagues •Proficiency in MS Office computer applications including Excel, Word and PowerPoint PHYSICAL DEMANDS: The physical demands described here are representative of those that must be met by an employee to successfully perform the essential functions of this job. Reasonable accommodations may be made to enable individuals with disabilities to perform the essential functions. •Domestic travel 35%. International travel 5%.

WORK ENVIRONMENT: The work environment characteristics described here are representative of those an employee encounters while performing the essential functions of this job. Reasonable accommodations may be made to enable individuals with disabilities to perform the essential functions. (Work environment will be out of a regional home office, with quarterly visits to Plant With Purpose’s main office in San Diego, CA.) Please send resume and cover letter to:

Rachel Castillero: rachel@plantwithpurpose.org Plant With Purpose USA 4903 Morena Blvd., Suite 1215 San Diego, CA 92117 p: 800-633-5319 f: 858-274-3728

PLANT WITH PURPOSE USA IS AN EEO/AA EMPLOYER BY CHOICE

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Plant With Purpose Burundi Makes National News!

We have two very exciting bits of news for Plant With Plant With Purpose-Burundi! First, last week our program was recognized on Burundi's National TV news as one of the five best non-governmental organizations by the Ministry of Agriculture in the Rutana province. We aren't just talking about a pat on the back here; Plant With Purpose Burundi's work of bringing communities together and creating lasting change was being mentioned next to FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN)! The program host visited one of our cassava fields and interviewed Emmanuel, our staff agronomist, about the great progress seen so far with that project. Exposure like this builds on the already positive reputation of Plant With Purpose's newest program, and helps us to be recognized on a national scale.
The exposure on television opened up to another incredible media opportunity a few days later. Our Burundi program received a 30-minute segment on a leading Burundian radio station called Radio Insanganiro about the impact of our activities working with communities in the region of Rutana. The reason this is also so significant is that Radio Insanganiro is based in Burundi's capital, Bujumbura, and focuses their broadcasts on conflict resolution. Their message reaches across the war torn country of Burundi and also extends into eastern parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, and some Western parts of Tanzania. Some of their objectives are to:
  • Disseminate objective and balanced information
  • Promote dialogue, peace and reconciliation through its news, programs, microprograms, magazines and press releases
  • Reconcile conflicting societies, starting from Burundi, and then between Burundian, Rwandan, Congolese and Tanzanian communities
  • Promote respect of human rights, particularly for vulnerable groups like women, children displaced people and returnees
  • Promote freedom of the press
  • Promote freedom of expression and positive values
A major congratulations to our Burundi country director, Lazare, and his four other staff members who have taken off running with Plant With Purpose's work in Burundi!
For a little more background on our program in Burundi, please visit our blog from last Friday.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Reconnecting with our Environment

by Stephanie Rudeen, Grant Writing Intern
One of Plant With Purpose’s missions that impassions me the most is their desire to strengthen the relationship between people and their environment. This mission might seem especially relevant for the rural farmers Plant With Purpose works with, since much of their work and daily life is centered on the environment. Many rural farmers completely depend on the environment for survival; they may farm for money, as well as to produce sustenance for their family.

For those of us who are not rural farmers, I feel as if our relationship with the environment can become fuzzy. In order to help protect the environment, some may drive a Prius, others may have banned paper towels and other wasteful products in their homes, and those who are a bit more extreme may dumpster dive in order not to waste food. Now, I am definitely not an expert on being green or sustainable, but I try and do my small part for the environment. But I find I often become so caught up in trying to find the newest eco-friendly gadget, or cruising through the Toyota website to look at their newest hybrid, that I begin to lose sight of improving my own relationship with the environment.

It is easy for me to focus in on the importance of the relationship between rural farmers and their environment in one of the countries where Plant With Purpose works. It is easy for me to think how important this relationship is for people that have to work and live with the land everyday, as I use my recycled toilet paper and bug my parents to install solar panels on their roof. But how often do I question the strength of my own relationship with the environment?

So much of our cultural and social traditions rely on the environment. With continuing climate change, traditions such as sharing stories around an open fire or sipping hot chocolate may become just distant memories when winter starts to become a time to wear shorts and sip iced tea. The traditional Swedish food my grandfather eats is reflective of the seasons as well, pickled herring or dairy products that have been curdled or boiled, reflect the need to store foods for cold seasons. I personally remember kayaking one early morning and watching the sun rise and reflect off a perfectly calm and silent ocean. That memory plays back in my mind as a constant reminder of the importance of the environment in my life.

I think it is important to be reminded of our own relationship to the environment, not just through products, but also through memories and our own social and cultural traditions.

While it may be easy to tell a rural farmer of the importance of strengthening his or her relationship with the environment, it is harder for us to criticize ourselves, especially when so many of our interactions with the environment have become filtered through so many layers. I am proud to work with an organization that pursues this mission to strengthen the relationship between people and their environment, not just by handing rural farmers some green and eco-friendly products, but by teaching them, as well as learning from them, the importance of the environment and how to work with it to improve lives. I must constantly remind myself to take a step back, recall those moments when the environment made me feel alive or more connected with my loved ones, and then look ahead, and see what I can do to make the environment better for tomorrow.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Everyone Has Something to Offer

News from Haiti has been steadily decreasing as worldwide attention turns to new disasters, dilemmas, and political agendas. But my attention is held captive by the stories of hope, resilience, and rebuilding that we continue to receive from our Haitian staff.

Thus far, 30 teams and 600 workers have participated in our Short-term Employment and Soil Conservation project. Together, these teams have constructed more than 56,827 meters—35 miles!—of soil conservation barriers. This project is benefiting rural farmers by providing them with much needed cash, as well as protecting and restoring their greatest asset—their land.

In Fonds Verrettes, an area where we work near the Dominican border, seven work teams are helping to reforest and protect a microwatershed that covers 27 acres. Each group is composed of about 21 people, including Plant With Purpose members, community residents, and internally displaced people (IDPs) who have migrated from the cities back to the rural areas since the quake. Since March 2nd, these teams have constructed 8 miles of soil conservation barriers.

The benefits of the project are twofold: the barriers conserve soil and protect farmers’ crops and homes from devastating mudslides that could ensue during the coming rainy season (notice how steep the hillsides are in this photo) and the employment opportunity gives desperate farmers a meaningful way to earn income and support their families.

Milmer Martinez, our Programs Officer, has been in Haiti the past couple of weeks overseeing the project and working alongside farmers as they plant trees and construct soil erosion barriers. Besides being jealous that Milmer gets to meet and speak firsthand with the workers who are a part of the project, I am also incredibly excited to share a few of the testimonies he has shared with us.

One story that inspired me is the story of Nelta Fils-Aime. Nelta (pictured above) returned to Fonds Verrettes with her five siblings after being displaced from Port-au-Prince by the earthquake. Wanting to contribute to household income and help to alleviate the new burden put on her father by her brothers and sisters, Nelta asked to join our Short-term Employment and Soil Conservation project. Grateful for the opportunity to make some money, Nelta worked industriously to construct soil erosion barriers. I was already impressed with Nelta’s resilience, community spirit, and willingness to work hard to support her family; I was blown away when I learned that she was accomplishing just as much as her fellow workers even though one of her hands is missing.

The whole community refers to Nelta as very courageous, and we are excited to see the ways our Short-term Employment and Soil Conservation project has allowed Nelta to not only be welcomed in to a new village, but also be given the opportunity to contribute to the health and future of the community in a meaningful way. For now Nelta plans to settle in Fonds Verrettes and, though unsure of the future, hopes to one day start a small business.

At Plant With Purpose we believe that everyone has something to offer. Nelta is just one illustration of the thousands of people who are being empowered by Plant With Purpose to overcome poverty, persevere through tragedy and adversity, and follow their dreams.

Stay tuned for more stories and testimonies from our relief efforts in Haiti.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Fast Facts: Burundi

Check out the latest Fast Facts on Plant With Purpose's newest program in Burundi, Africa:
Burundi has suffered greatly. A brutal civil war that lasted for over 40 years left the country aching and the land depleted. When peace was finally achieved in 2006, Burundi was faced with the challenge of transitioning from a nation on the brink of extinction to a nation of hope. Large numbers of refugees started returning to their homeland and the need for economic development, food security, and ethnic reconciliation has been immense.

This year Plant With Purpose worked with 113 community group members, helping them to revive the land they depend on as well as restore relationships between members of rival ethnic groups.

  • 4 workshops were conducted on sustainable agriculture and environmental protection techniques.
  • 6,500 trees were planted to revitalize soil and provide income for families.
  • 10 fuel-efficient stoves were constructed to save wood.
  • 51 farmers were trained on formation of loan groups and savings and loan management.
  • 2 workshops were conducted on Peace and Reconciliation and Creation Care, empowering Burundians to live out their faith and be good stewards of creation.
BURUNDI FAST FACTS

FAST FACTS

Location: Central Africa, east of Democratic Republic of the Congo

Population: 8,988,091

Total area: 27,830 sq km (slightly smaller than Maryland)

Population below poverty line: 68%

Forests: Settlement by rural populations has led to deforestation, soil erosion, and habitat loss. Deforestation of the entire country is almost completely due to overpopulation, with a mere 230 square miles remaining.

Religion: Christian population equals 70%, with Roman Catholics representing the largest group at 65%. Protestant and Anglicans comprise the remaining 5%.

To join with Plant With Purpose's to empower Burundian communities to reduce poverty, to heal environmental and social scars, and to develop healthy, sustainable economies, click here.

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