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Today in the Mission Yearbook

Farming cooperative finds success despite challenges

Presbyterian Committee on the Self-Development of People visits Belize

July 9, 2018

The Presbyterian Committee on the Self-Development of People huddle in a shelter in the rain to visit with Oscar and Maria Zuniga, who have helped build Trio Farms, an SDOP-supported project in Belize. PNS photo by Rick Jones

The clouds opened up, dropping heavy rain and forcing members of the Presbyterian Committee on the Self-Development of People (SDOP) to huddle under a thatch roof to meet with members of the Trio Farmers’ Cooperative in Belize. SDOP recently spent a week visiting villages in remote sections of the country to see how work has progressed in enterprises that have received SDOP financial support.

The Trio Farmers in Development pre-Cooperative is one recipient of SDOP grant funding.  In the years since the cooperative received support from the ministry, it has seen significant growth in crops of tomatoes, cucumbers, cabbage and peppers, as well as spices.

As the rain poured during the farm visit, SDOP National Committee members and staff heard about the success, goals and hurdles the farmers in Trio Village are facing.

“We use the profits from our fields to sustain the families and our projects. Our hope in the coming year is to experiment with new crops like green beans and red onions,” said Oscar Zuñiga, who lives and works on the farm with his wife, Maria Lara. “We also produce medicinal plants for problems like high cholesterol, hypertension and stomach ailments. This has had a positive impact on the health of the community.”

Zuñiga said families in the village used to travel for hours to get food and medical products. Now they come to the farm, or the farmers take items to them.

Despite the progress, Zuñiga said, weather-related challenges have made crop production difficult at times.

SDOP’s Margaret Mwale and committee member Karen Brown visit a greenhouse at Trio Farms. PNS photo by Rick Jones

“We don’t have enough tools as a group to do some of the work that needs to be done,” he said. “The land does not have a good draining system so when the rain is heavy, the water pools on the ground, creating fungus and bacteria. We need machinery to develop drainage ditches.”

The cooperative receives guidance from Belize’s Ministry of Agriculture, which also recognized Maria Lara as Farmer of the Year. In addition to farming, she helps manage the cooperative.

“For the government to recognize Maria with such a high honor is truly significant,” said Lisa Leverette, chair of SDOP’s International Committee. “I think it is also important to note that Belize understands the power of economic cooperation, and that helps bring new products and services to regions like this.”

The Rev. Alonzo Johnson, coordinator for SDOP, praised the farmers for their work.

“I’m thankful to be able to see the work that has been done and the resourcefulness of the community. To see the ingenuity that has gone beyond the tools, the end products and see this community come to life is truly inspiring,” he said. “We’re excited to be engaged in this work and to witness the bounty of this partnership.”

SDOP has provided approximately $260,000 to help community groups in Belize over the past six years. The goal has been to help organizations become self-sufficient, providing families and communities with new sources of income and an economic base.

Rick Jones, Mission Communications Strategist, Mission Agency

Today’s Focus:  Presbyterian Committee on the Self-Development of People

Let us join in prayer for:

PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff

Monique Rhodes, PMA
Tina Rhudy, PMA

Let us pray:

Loving God, open our eyes to those in need. Help us to address their needs and to show your love. Amen.

Daily Readings

Morning Psalms 62; 145
First Reading Numbers 32:1-6, 16-27
Second Reading Romans 8:26-30
Gospel Reading Matthew 23:1-12
Evening Psalms 73; 9