Investing in rural families
Around the world, millions of rural families rely on farming for their livelihoods. While these families contribute around 70% of global food needs, the majority are mired in extreme poverty, and their livelihoods are threatened by climate change, economic hardship, and lack of investment. In order to combat this, ViviendasLeón has pioneered a multifaceted approach to end rural poverty, reduce inequality, fight against climate change, promote rural economic growth, support family cohesion, and foster environmental stewardship, while preserving the customs and traditions of each community. In the Aristides Sanchez sector of the rural community of Goyena in Nicaragua, Don Roosevelt Donaire has benefitted from VL’s agricultural programs on his family farm.
Roosevelt, who is 68, comes from an agricultural family with a proud tradition of cultivating produce in Goyena. He learned about VL’s agricultural improvement programs that were coming to his community through a flyer. At the same time, VL was also bringing their Human Capacity Training (HCT) programs to Goyena, which work to foster development and empower communities through classes focused life skills. Roosevelt’s family supported the construction of the new community center and attended HCT classes. “We attended meetings and learned many useful things. Topics that we covered ranged from community development, gender equality, self-esteem, personal values, and organic agriculture. In all, they helped us see life in a different, more human-centered way,” he said of his family’s experience. After completing the trainings, participants have the opportunity to put their skills to work in workshops focusing on building micro-enterprises and family farms.
In addition to HCT, Roosevelt was also able to develop the farm his family has worked for generations through VL’s range of agricultural improvement programs. “We were also trained on the importance of self-sustainability through Family Farms,” he recounted. “We were taught how to manage small scale farms to improve our families diet. VL gave us basic materials to get us set up: mesh, irrigation tubing, storage barrels, drip pipes, and other construction materials for our farms.” With the understanding that cultivating sustainable and productive farms requires a multidimensional approach, VL has developed programs that address crop diversification, pest management, and well improvements. “Additionally this year, my family benefited from the improvement and deepening of our well,” Roosevelt said. “This allows us to access water with ease for both consumption and irrigation.”
Farmers in rural communities are often stuck farming traditional crops, like corn, sesame, and wheat. VL sought the assistance of an agricultural technician, Camilo Melendez. Alongside workshops, VL farming program beneficiaries receive weekly visits from Melendez to provide technical assistance. “During our technical visits, we review the conditions of different plants and recommend organic pest management strategies, while dispensing a variety of seed to diversify their food production,” Melendez says of his work with VL. New produce like tomatoes, sweet peppers, onions, green beans, sweet potatoes, and carrots are distributed to diversify crop output and the diets of beneficiary families.
Recently, VL has spearheaded a program that plants fruit trees on family farms in order to provide families with a consistent source of fresh and healthy produce. Roosevelt’s family has benefitted from the program, and they have begun to grow avocados, lemons, tangerines, and guavas on their farm. “In the near future, we will be able to enjoy rich fruits in our own home,” he says of the new trees, “while also being to able to take them to the market to earn income from our surplus and pay for our other family needs.” Instead of having to travel to the nearby city of León to buy fresh produce, the Donaire’s are able to grow their own healthy food, while also having a consistent income source to increase their purchasing power.
“Today I feel happy because VL has brought us into the light,” Roosevelt says. “They have supported us at all times and without their help, we would not have been able to overcome the barriers of poverty. VL continues to help families like our own, and I hope their impact benefits other people in rural communities who need it.” Roosevelt and his family are among many who have been able to benefit from VL’s programs, with the mission to eliminate rural poverty by developing self-sufficient rural populations. Further, VL works to build awareness and community through international service learning education travel.