|In spite of hardships, this family's joy is evident.|
"The time to fight for a better life is now and we will achieve it if we walk hand in hand [with each other] and hand in hand with God." - María Toma Cruz
Two years ago, Maria’s husband Antonio went blind. It was an unexpected blow to the family. Suddenly, Maria found herself solely responsible for their five children, the youngest of whom was just a newborn. In her small, rural community of Vichibala, Guatemala, there aren’t many job opportunities. And even if there were, Maria had no one to provide childcare.
Before his blindness, Maria and Antonio farmed four acres of corn, beans, squash, and pumpkin to support themselves. The fertilizers, insecticides, and fungicides they used were bought from an agro-service, which meant a lot of expense for them. In addition, it’s a common belief in their community that these are the only crops their land is capable of growing. This belief cost the family money as they had to purchase any additional vegetables in the market, and hurt their health as the expense was rarely worth it.
But after Antonio went blind, Maria was in trouble. She could no longer afford the inputs she needed for their crops or to purchase food in the market.
One year ago, FH Guatemala started an agriculture project in Vichibala and Maria joined the gardening workshops. She quickly rose to the challenge and became the leader of a group of 10 fellow farmers from her community!
“Thanks to FH, I have been able to gain a lot of valuable knowledge about crops that I previously did not have on my own. I have never missed an FH training, since it helps me a lot so that I can improve my crops, these being my main source of income. Although I am a woman I am also a good farmer,” Maria comments.
Her FH training included family garden management, the production of organic vermicompost fertilizers and organic insecticides, staggered planting and crop diversification, as well as the nutritional value of vegetables and how to prepare them for the maximum health benefit to her children. As a result, Maria now grows more varieties of vegetables and produces her own inputs for her crops. She’s boosting her family’s health and saving money!
|Making their own fertilizers and organic insecticides is saving the family money and improving the quality of their crops.|
“Now I can produce vegetables that I never thought could be produced in my locality and that makes me feel very excited because now I can give my children a varied and nutritious diet. At the same time I can sell my surplus to obtain more income, and not only that, but now I am more independent because now I can produce my own organic compost that FH has donated to me, I can also produce my own insecticides, which saves me a lot of expenses,” explains Maria.
Today, Maria grows and sells Chinese peas for export through a local agricultural co-op called the Agros Ixil Foundation. She also grows broccoli, carrots, and cabbage to eat at home and sell in the local market. Together with what she earns from weaving and selling huipiles (traditional Guatemala cloth), this income from agriculture enables Maria to provide clothing, food, education, and health care for her five children.
|These Chinese peas grown for export generate valuable income for Maria's family.|
With tears in her eyes, Maria testifies, "I am very sorry that my husband is in the state he is in now, but on the other hand, God knows what is happening and I have faith that one day he will be healed. In the meantime, I will fight for my little ones to get ahead until they are old enough to be able to fend for themselves. I am very happy to see them grow and to see that they win their grades at school despite the difficulties we are experiencing.”
While life is still challenging and Maria sometimes experiences “pain in her heart” at their difficulties, she is tenaciously moving her family forward.
But Maria’s not just looking out for her own, she’s also looking out for the other mothers in her community.
“When FH came to this community and made the family garden program, it was in my heart to begin with my leadership being a promoter of the project, because I am very interested in agriculture issues. In addition to that, I could go and share my knowledge about farming with other mothers. This is my first experience as a promoter and I like it because I know that I am contributing for the good of the children and mothers of my community.”
Maria explains how the work of FH in her community has “changed our way of thinking, it has transformed it for our good and the good of our children.” For example, the community can now see that their land is more than able to generously support a wide variety of crops, empowering them to give their children all the nutrients they need to grow up big and strong, succeed in school, and dream of a different future.
What does Maria want for the future? "I want to see my community with strong children, nurtured, with capable people who fight hand in hand to get ahead. I want to see my community watching each one for his neighbour."