Monday, August 16, 2010

Did Someone Say Avocado?

by Aly Lewis
I love avocados. I mean, what self-respecting Southern Californian doesn’t? From chips and guac to turkey-bacon-avocado sandwiches to even avocado shakes, my taste buds delight in the creamy green goodness of a fresh avocado.
Understandably, when I saw the term Avocado Consultation looming on the office Google Calendar a couple of months ago, my interest was piqued and my avocado alert in full effect. I soon learned that the cryptic Avocado Consultation entry referred to a scheduled meeting of the avocado minds in our Trans Border Project along the border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
Avocado is a major commodity in the mountainous border region, and many of the farmers Plant With Purpose partners with earn much of their income from selling avocados. Early in the year, many farmers complained of low yields and difficulty with their avocado crops. Our staff was worried that technical issues were preventing farmers from maximizing this valuable market. So what did we do? We called in the big guns, of course. We brought in an experienced avocado consultant, an avocado aficionado if you will, to meet with farmers, conduct soil studies, and identify and solve many of the technical issues. The consultation included our technical staff from Haiti and the Dominican Republic, the avocado specialist, and Plant With Purpose beneficiaries.

Avocado Specialist (how’s that for a job title!), Bill Hahlbohm, and three of our technical staff members examine an avocado leaf for signs of pests.

I learned from Armando, our Dominican Republic program officer who participated in the consultation, that it was incredibly inspiring to see Haitian and Dominican farmers join together to solve a common problem, offer their indigenous knowledge, and learn from and collaborate with technical experts. Farmers and staff were able to solve many of the problems and our staff was able to make a lot of technical advancements in this area.
Although the consultation did not solve all of the technical planting concerns, I was assured that it was an invaluable learning experience for all parties involved. I continue to be impressed by our staff’s commitment to growth, learning, and providing farmers with the most advanced and appropriate technical training as possible. I was also encouraged by this illustration of true empowerment and community development as staff, experts, and Haitian and Dominican beneficiaries alike joined together to share their knowledge and solve common problems. And what excites me most--in addition to the joy that an increase in the world’s supply of avocados gives me--is the effect that this will have on the quality of life of the farmers with whom we partner. An increased and improved avocado crop means that farmers can earn higher prices for their produce, which means they can better feed and support their families, can send their children to school, and can improve their health and living conditions!
A truck full of avocados makes its way to the local market.
This is just one of many examples of how Plant With Purpose empowers communities to use their talents and resources to meet their basic needs, generate stable income, and foster a community spirit that leads to restored relationships and lasting transformation.
Now my taste buds and my heart can delight in the production of this fair-weather fruit!

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