A Simple Solution to an Overwhelming Problem
By Janice Zimolzak
Throughout the countryside surrounding San Miguel, the lack of sufficient water is a daily prob-lem and can be a life threatening issue during the dry season. For most rural villages, water is delivered twice a week to a common well that serves many communities. For those of us who are accustomed to merely turning on the tap or hitting the flush handle, it is not easy to fully comprehend the enormity of the daily issues our campesinos face. Water is one of those entitlements and necessities of life that we fail to think about until we are threatened with inadequate resources.
Feed the Hungry San Miguel (FTHSM) partnered with Apoyo a Gente Emprendedora and the women who live in rural villages to develop family vegetable gardens, so that these women might be empowered to take a more active role in providing their families with healthy meals. In 2010, a total of 24 women in six villages volunteered for the pilot program. Early success was crucial for the level of cooperation needed to drive the garden program forward, and lack of water was a huge impediment. During the initial months, some of the women abandoned their gar-dens but later rejoined the program upon seeing the success of their neighbors. Today, all 24 of these women are counted among the 279 organic vegetable gardeners throughout 20 of the rural villages where Feed the Hungry operates school-kitchens.
Through trial, error, and consultations with outside sources, a simple and cost-effective solution to alleviating further strain on an already severely limited water source was implemented. The gardeners were taught how to build planted water filtration systems that provide water for their gardens, animals, and sanitation. FTHSM provides the materials and professional oversight while family members provide the labor. Individual household systems are located near the kitchen and are designed to run gray water through plant life, thereby conserving it to be reused again and again for bathing, laundry, and house cleaning. Because grease, phosphates, and resid-uals in the household water are removed, leaving it pollutant free, it can also be used for animals and to water the gardens where food is being grown. Use of the filters is an integral part of the sustainable ecosystem plan and teaches conservation of a very limited resource.
Isabel Rico Martinez, Director of the Family Garden Program at FTHSM, provides ongoing sup-port to the gardeners. Once a month, she conducts a Día de Huertos in each village, where gardeners and their families gather to solve problems, share successes, and learn how to prepare balanced meals and cook vegetables that are new to them.
Beyond the practical—water conservation and adding vegetables to the family diet—the garden program is transforming small patches of garbage-strewn clay and bedrock into a small paradise of nature, a thing of beauty that can sustain the women in particular, with pleasure and a sense of peace, independence, and empowerment.
For more information on how a single gift of US$500 can improve the life of an entire family for the rest of their lives, please visit www.feedthehungrysma.org or contact Carol Weicker, FTHSM Trustee, at email@example.com.