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Horizons of Friendship: Transforming Central American Communities – Chiapas, MEX.

May 27, 2024

Young people reading a manual on coffee plantation management.

In an ongoing effort to build self-sustaining communities in Central America and Mexico, Horizons of Friendship (H.O.F), in partnership with The Congregation of St. Basil, achieved significant milestones in agricultural and community development.

Originating founded in 1973 by a small group of volunteers in rural Ontario, H.O.F has completed over 1,330 agricultural and educational improvement projects across Central America and Mexico.

The Basilians have aided numerous H.O.F projects since 1996 through The Basilian Human Development Grant, and most recently offered support for a partner agricultural project in Chiapas, Mexico. H.O.F has partnered with local organizations DESMI in its efforts to enhance local agricultural practices, soil nutrition, and crop yield sustainably.

 

DESMI staff educates the community members of Chonomyaquilho (Chiapas, MX.), on the importance of terrace agriculture, garden design, and overall garden structure.

 

Community garden plot in the community of San Andrés, (Chiapas, MX.)

 

“Chiapas is Mexico’s most impoverished state. Lack of access to key resources such as government support, clean water, housing, electricity, and land, hinder farmers from improve productivity and income.” Explained Megan Botha, Manager of Community Engagement and Partnerships.

The goal was to make Chiapas more self-sufficient by teaching farmers to grow their own food, building agricultural infrastructure, and local businesses to keep money circulating within the community.

 

Community members of Santuario (Chiapas, MX.) working on their seedbeds for family gardens.

 

Representatives from 3 communities of Tumbala (Chiapas, MX.) participate in a workshop on milpa improvement.

 

The project in Chiapas supports 347 families, up from an initial 269, and spans 24 rural communities across five municipalities.

Community members creating poultry feed as well as contributing to a biointensive compost, which brings beneficial organisms and nutrients into the soil, improving its fertility and water- holding capacity.

 

“Through your generosity, these families continue to increase their access to nutritious foods, promote economic independence, and are provided with education needed to grow various medicinal crops that support health and wellbeing. It made a profound, positive impact in cultivating diverse agricultural systems for 347 participating communities.”

 

A group of 67 women in Rosario (Chiapas, MX.) participated in a workshop led by DESMI on the process of double digging; removing the initial topsoil layer, breaking up the exposed subsoil underneath, adding organic matter and then replacing the topsoil initially removed.

In the most recent report sent to Fr. Bob Holmes, CSB who has been the continuous Basilian Sponsor of H.O.F detailed the accomplishments of the initiative.

Key achievements include the creation of a bakery, a greenhouse, extensive workshops on agroecology, composting, fruit tree nutrition, and integrated pest management, benefiting over 200 participants across multiple communities. Additionally, efforts in medicinal plant education led to the creation of a comprehensive guide on traditional uses. H.O.F also provided political training for DESMI staff and local farmers, to further their understanding of their rights.

Before and after: Images below show the construction of a greenhouse in October-November, 2023 that will be used to grow a variety of medicinal plants in the community of Chonomyaquilho, Chiapas, MX.

 

Community members show H.O.F staff the bakery created as part of their collective, supported by DESMI, which helps promote community economy.

 

 Young people in the communities help with fertilizer production for family and community gardens.

 

“This project aims to support the communities by providing programming that addresses the improvement of climate change and disaster resilience; helping them to reduce the impact of frequent storms and in turn, begin to see cumulative improvements in recovery of local economic conditions and livelihoods.” Fr. Holmes said.

H.O.F continues to be a significant contributor in service and a passion for change can lead to sustainable development and self-sufficiency where they are needed the most.

Photos generously provided by H.O.F staff.

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