We are so excited about our latest project at the Chuk Muk elementary school. In September of 2022 our garden expert, Francisco, began teaching the grade 6 students about permaculture and organic gardening.
They learned the basics of making Bokashi ( hot compost), why worms are so important and to cover your garden beds with leaves to protect the soil from drying out. They also learned how to make healthy soil by the Lasagne Method. They learned how to make mini planters using pop bottles. The students then came to the school garden to plant the vegetables they would eat at their graduation dinner.
Then each student had a home garden project. They were given papaya plant, seeds, worms and compost. The 60 grade 6 students used their new knowledge and initiative to construct a home garden. The 3 best garden received a prize.
Home gardens can greatly increase the intake of healthy, organic foods and are essential for food safety and sustainability.
It is exciting to be giving the sponsor student moms more nutrition and cooking classes. Every month groups of moms meet at our learning centre to actively participate in nutrition classes and then take the knowledge aquired and create yummy meal items. The mom then goes home with all the food needed to recreate these items for their family.
Malnutrition is a massive problem in the highlands of Guatemala and we are fighting this problem head on by teaching about complete protein and the vitamins and minerals often lacking in their diet. We are not only teaching nutrition but showing the moms how to easily combate this problem with inexpensive solutions.
We are showing the moms how to make wonderful nutritious infant meals with local foods. In July we focused on bananas and explained how they are great baby food but are also really important for your heart, to combat diahrea and your general health. We also gave families banana plants to plant at home.
This program is developing a real sence of community with the moms and making them feel like they can really make a huge change in their families nutritional health.
It has been an amazing pleasure to work with Andrea Guzman from Proyecto CAN. Andrea is a nutritionist who has helped develop wonderful nutrition workshops, recipe books and videos. Andrea came to Chuk Muk and did excellent workshops on basic nutrition with 6 different groups.
The main focus of these workshops was creating easy, nutritious and economical foods for babies and young children. Malnutrition is a huge problem in this area and part of the time was spent on items not to buy with their limited resources like cabonated sodas, highly processed snacks and giving coffee to young children. Andrea also taught 2 of our students how to run future workshops. Two of our students, Rosa and Miriam, translated the information into Tzu’tujil for the moms that do not understand Spanish. Everyone had a lot of fun cooking low cost, healthy food at our learning centre. All attendees returned home with a bright informative cook book and chaya plants. Many of the women cannot read so the book used pictures which the moms easily followed during the cooking portion of the workshop.
Our organic garden and nutrition projects have greatly benefited from being linked to our education program.
Our garden manager, Francisco, has just completed his 4th year of university studying Agroforestry Engineering. He has one year left and is fully sponsored by our education program. This is a very expensive course that normally would not be possible for someone with background. He has taken his new knowledge and implemented programs in the Chuk Muk organic garden like soil testing and identification of different microorganisms. His soil management technics and crop rotation has greatly increased yeild in the garden while reducing diseases in the plants. His contacts through his field trips and projects has led to wonderful partnerships with government and non government organizations.
Our students volunteer in the garden and are often involved in educational workshops where Francisco shares his extensive knowledge. This has enabled Aldea Maya to have a thriving teaching garden that is supplying healthy, organic food to families that are struggling during COVID.
It has been challenging running an organic garden during a pandemic. We are very fortunate that our garden manager, Francisco, lives in the village and is not restricted by lockdown restrictions. We have been able to keep the garden functioning due to all our student volunteers who enjoy receiving produce for their labour.
Before the latest lockdown the Ministry Of Agriculture (MAGA) came to view our garden and to give advice on increasing yield and fighting diseases organically. We were able to show them how we make organic bochashi using items collected in the village.
The garden is located in the elementary school yard and the principal has been taking the excess produce to sell to purchase supplies for the elementary school. When everything returns to normal we will start our instructional courses again.
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