Saturday, May 5, 2012

I don't want to offend you but ...

Blanca said to me … ‘I don’t want to offend you … but your people (the people in the states) have no idea what it is to live in this reality.  You know more or less – but – you don’t REALLY know.  We live this.’ 

She is right.  I do know ‘more or less.’  But I will never truly know the struggles people have here – because I am typing this as I nibble on a mini-snickers bar in my clean and dry office knowing that my lunch will be healthy, plentiful and will undoubtedly be ready sometime between noon and one p.m.   And I can have a glass of pure water as well.  She is right.  And I was not offended. 

We were specifically talking about farming families.  And the fertilizer they need to produce a more or less decent harvest due to the seriously nutritionally depleted ‘soil’ here.  We had just finished delivering a gift of fertilizer to one our communities that has an Iowa church partner; each farming family received a 220# sack of fertilizer.  I was working on their report and also thinking about our last delegation a week ago where they were hearing their partner community members talk about (among other things) loans available for farmers.

And after almost 4 years here, I do know that families cannot afford to buy fertilizer.  Sure, some farmers can afford it.  Those with larger farms, those with family in the states … but many, many families rent their tiny piece of land. So they have to pay a landlord anywhere from $25-50 per manzana (which is about 1.6 acres).  They have to buy the seed if they used a hybrid rather than their ‘ancestral’ seed.  They have to buy the weed deterrent and insecticides.  They have to buy the fertilizer.  Most people do not have ready cash like that!  They have to sell any excess corn they harvested the prior year … or sell a chicken or 10.  Or sell whatever they might have that is marketable.

I was asking about the loans some organizations offer.  I was asking about their interest rates.  Some are in excess of 42%.

Good Lord.

Bank loans are at about 20%.

When people grow their corn and beans literally to be able to put a little food on their plates (and that food may just be a tortilla and a tablespoonful of beans once or twice a day) – at about $40 per sack of Sulfato or $60 per sack of Formula – how the heck can they afford fertilizer?

How would they ever get out of debt with interest rates such as that??  Especially if the weather does not cooperate and there is crop loss?

If a family member has work in someone’s fields they might earn $5 per day.  IF they are lucky enough to even have that kind of steady job, it would take them either 2 or 3 weeks of work for just that one sack of fertilizer.
This year, San Francisco, Virginia, Casa de Zinc, Casa de Zacate, San Isidro, Muñoces, Corozal and La Llanes received fertilizer assistance from their Iowa partner churches.    

We wish we had a ‘fund’ here to help those communities who do not get fertilizer assistance from their partner churches.

Some communities are small – 30 to 50 families.  For those, a purchase of the less expensive Sulfato would be an investment of about $1,200 to $2,000 – prices of fertilizer change weekly.  Some communities are a little larger – 60 to 80 families.  You can do the math.

Small to moderate sized Berlín communities we would love to buy fertilizer for:  San Felipe Abajo, Media Agua, Cerna, San Lorenzo, and Santa Cruz.  And we would love to help some of the other Berlín cantons but they are just too huge – some have in excess of 300 families:  Colón, Loma Alta, Las Delicias …

We have such dreams here to help those in the greatest need.  We are so blessed to have Iowa partner churches who are truly working hard on behalf of their partner communities.  But we feel sad for those without partners.  We do what we can – we help them with little projects with proceeds from the Don Justo Coffee with Dignity project – but those proceeds are minimal.  Definitely not enough to cover the cost of fertilizer.  Unless everyone starts drinking more!!  (hint).

5 San Francisco men came to help load their truck ... 110 sacks of Sulfato - each sack weighs 220#

The first of 3 trucks needed for San Francisco's fertlizer

Mirna - the President of San Francisco's Directiva getting ready to call names

Sign here ... Cecilia making sure no one gets left off the list

We forgot the inkpad for those who can't sign

Thankfully I had a marker in my bag!  I asked him to be in charge of painting pinkies

He helped download 220#  sacks for those who couldn't

Several folks from one of the more distant caserios within San Francisco awaiting a pick up truck

Fertilizer is such a necessary evil ...
without it - very little grows in the nutritionally depleted land. 
People put their hope in the harvest to feed their families all year round.
Blessings to all our Iowa Church partners

1 comment:

rubireyes said...

I completely relate to this post as we are beginning to search for a plot of land to plant our milpa. The price of fertilizer is ridiculously high and it is criminal that they take advantage and raise the prices as the growing season takes off. Great post Kathy.