Sep 3, 2020

Feeding our families during COVID-19

Picking tomatoes from the greenhouse
Picking tomatoes from the greenhouse

In the time of COVID-19 we have been blessed to have a bountiful organic garden and greenhouse to collect food from for the villagers of Chuk Muk, Guatemala. The village was in complete lockdown for days at a time, and it was fortunate to have a ready supply of healthy food. 

We would bring the family members to the garden to collect their food bounty. And we would also use this time to teach about organic gardening and healthy eating. Children that help grow food are much more interested in trying the food even if it is unfamiliar. It is much easier to change children's eating habits than their parents. That being said, we still try to introduce new foods into the families diet. 

Many families have been struggling more than normal as tourism is non existant and wholesalers were not purchasing their weaving and beadwork. So in addition to giving families food from the garden, we supplimented their diet with rice, beans, oil and eggs as well as money for their main staple corn.

A food bounty to take home to the family
A food bounty to take home to the family
This will help feed a family of 5
This will help feed a family of 5
Hunting for radishes
Hunting for radishes
Returning the egg shells for composting
Returning the egg shells for composting
Student volunteers in the nursery
Student volunteers in the nursery
May 12, 2020

Expanding our education focus

Samuel and Ana selling oranges to get food money
Samuel and Ana selling oranges to get food money

Over the last 9 years we have focused on the middle school in the village as elementary school is free and middle school has fees. However it has come to light the huge drop off in elementary school students as they proceed through the grades. Usually around 90 students start grade one and by grade six there is no more than 38 students. This is a drop off of around 60% of the students.

Why do so many students stop going to elementary school?

There is several main reasons why students quit. Often the families are single parent or grandparent and they just cannot afford supplies. There can be an illness in the family and the child has to go out and earn money for the family. Sometimes there are many students in a family and they have to choose which students get to continue. Or the family just does not see the importance of education.

Therefore. this year we are focusing on elementary and middle school and finding sponsorship for the at most risk elementary students. We are pleased to be able to help 9 of the most at risk elementary students in 2020.

One such student is Samuel. He is the second oldest in a family of 6 children. When we met with his mom we found that we had met her earlier  in November with our emergency food program. Samuel's little sister had been hospitalized for malnutrition and the local health centre asked if we could help, which we did. ( this is another Christmas card project!!!) In talking to Samuel's family we found that his older sister should have gone to middle school last year but did not attend. Well we were happy to inform the family that we had a sponsorship opportunity for her and Samuel.

There are many more students requiring sponsorship. Please contact us if you are interested in helping to change a life for the better.

Ingrid getting first ever new backpack
Ingrid getting first ever new backpack
Joselyn getting supplies for grade one
Joselyn getting supplies for grade one
Sandra getting her first pair of new school shoes
Sandra getting her first pair of new school shoes
May 12, 2020

Building a better greenhouse

creating healthy soil by layering organic material
creating healthy soil by layering organic material

The highlands of Guatemala have many industrial greenhouse to enable companies and individuals to grow items like tomatoes during the rainy season. Tomatoes do not enjoy their leaves being watered and can  become disease ridden if grown outdoors during the rainy season.

Unfortunately these tomato plants are regularily sprayed with toxic pesticides that are neither good for humans or the lake the village borders.

We wanted to build a better greenhouse system that did not rely on non organic chemical pesticides or fertilizers. We also challenged ourselves to install a water system that was effective yet inexpensive and therefore a  possible watering solution for poor farmers.

We started by making sure there was airflow in our greenhouse to limit the spread of disease. Air circulation also created healthy, strong plants as the young seadling develop hearty stems with a light breeze. 

We wanted to have nutritious soil with worms. We did this by layering manure, carboard, weed from the lake, leaves, wood ash, wood chips, coffee pulp, food scraps and our organic bokashi. We ensured we had 4 times more carbon to nitrogen layers and created a nutritious loamy soil that our plants thrive in. We also added microorganisms and compost tea. We will never have to add a non organic fertilizer.

To ensure that we will not need to spray with non organic pesticides we work hard to have healthy plants that can fight diseases easier. We also preemptively remove lower leaves and spray with several organic fertilizers that we make from horsetail, garlic, hot peppers and other items we grow in our garden.

Ollas are the ancient technology that we are using to effectively water our greenhouse plant using non glazed terracotta jugs. These semi buried containers slowly disperse water to the roots of the plants. We did numerous experiments to see which size and number of pots created the perfect soil moisture level. One purchased these pots will last for generations and are very cost effective.

Not only do we want to produce a plethora of yummy organic tomatoes, peppers and melons for the families in Chuk Muk, we also want to give tours and courses to the local farmers to show them how to build a better greenhouse.

putting in the terracotta ollas for watering
putting in the terracotta ollas for watering
making screened wiindows for airflow
making screened wiindows for airflow
watching our tomatoes, melon and peppers flourish
watching our tomatoes, melon and peppers flourish
 
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