Tuesday, February 22, 2011

From the Field: Farmer Enthusiasm Blossoms

With every new adventure and challenge comes a mixture of uncertainty, fear, and excitement. Having recently moved to Guatemela to work with Semilla Nueva, I know these feelings well; the unknown and uncertainty of what my time in Xela will bring and the thrill of trying new cultures and experiences.

The beginning of my journey in Guatemala also parallels the initiation of the Semilla Nueva programs for this year's growing season. I got the chance to visit the campo this past week and talk to some of the farmers that will be leading small group projects that Semilla Nueva is planning in the upcoming months. One can feel the excitement in these farmers, I see their enthusiasm shining even through the language barrier.

Our first stop was with Juan Carlos Aguierre, a fast-talking agronomist from the area that is working with Semilla Nueva. He is leading a small group of farmers in small-scale trials for no-till, agroforestry, and green manure technologies. Juan Carlos took us to his fields to show us his crop. The colors are vivid and so is his passion for the plants that he grows. He talks about the need to implement sustainable farming practices, introduce environmental education in schools, and what he is doing on his own land to test new ways of growing crops. He seems very thrilled to be on board, to spread the message of sustainability that he holds dear.

Yet the farmer that is easily the most excited about upcoming projects is Isaias, the next farmer we visited. Quick with a smile, Isaias has been more than willing to start experimenting with sustainable agriculture practices. Over the last year, he has been working with Semilla Nueva to learn about, adapt and practice new technologies. Now, his fields are full of modern sustainable agriculture technologies – no-till, green manures, interplanting, and composting, to name a few. His excitement to work with us and his fellow farmers in La Maquina overflowed when he talked with us this last week.

The excitement of these individuals translates into enthusiasm, which is the glue that holds together a sustainable and lasting program. However, there must be care taken that this enthusiasm is focused in a way that will yield visible and satisfying results, both in the short and long-term. Isaias’ passion for change, and drive to prove the value of sustainability by his own example is important in inspiring fellow farmers to become involved. The role of Semilla Nueva, then, is to cultivate the enthusiasm and drive of individuals like Isaias, focus the energies of these enthusiastic farmers, and provide the steps to guide and inform the process of innovation; ultimately growing a local resource for discussion, experimentation, and knowledge sharing.

The ultimate goal of these collaborative projects is for farmers to have the tools to continue the process of innovation independently. Farmers are driven by their passion for change and the enthusiasm that comes with success --bolstered by information, technical assistance, and organization provided by Semilla Nueva. However, only time will tell exactly how the upcoming months will turn out. As this past week taught me, all you can do is plan as best you can, surround yourself with enthusiastic people, and be excited for the challenges that may come.

~Doug Franz

Douglas Franz graduated from the University of Portland, having studied finance and economics. Though he calls Seattle, WA home, he plans to continue traveling, learning, and taking pictures. Doug is interning with Semilla Nueva to prepare for a Masters in International Economics and Development in the fall of 2012.

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