Friday, June 24, 2011

Corn is a staple in Mayan diet!

Friends and Family,
Hunger and malnutrition are now very prevalent in all the mountain communities. As the Mission has been here 47 years we have different memories of the sixties; corn fields were all through the mountain communities. Each Mayan family had corn and bean reserve for one year from their harvest. There was little money but product was exchanged between families. Over twenty five nutritive herbs grew wild in the fields. There was little malnutrition but of course many other communicable diseases, as no vaccine. Poverty was prevalent in other ways. There were no cars, so everyone walked. Women supplemented the family economy with chickens and some pigs roaming freely about the homes. Houses were constructed from local materials, such as bamboo and straw roofing. When someone had to have a new home, the men got together and built the dwelling together; the women cooked food together to give them energy to work. There was solidarity and feasts. There were no telephones, or roads for cars or trucks. There was more premature deaths; some maternal deaths. Few or no medical clinics existed, other than small, poorly equipped government clinics with nurses aides, no doctors. People as now feared the government hospitals as a place one went to die.

What changes brought about the present crisis of hunger. Globalization! People stopped growing corn and put in coffee bushes. Coffee has only one harvest a year and it is mostly exported but people now felt the need to have more money. Corn was being imported more cheaply than could be produced here and coffee trees were displacing the growth of grains and beans. Life changed drastically. Solidarity decreased among the peoples. Trees were decreasing in the forests. Firewood had to be bought now and it was expensive.

Our message from the clinic in our preventative health program! LOVE MOTHER EARTH! CONSERVE THE FOREST, LAND AND WATER! LOVE ONE ANOTHER!

Now we are beginning a project of sustainable agriculture. Next week four of our workers will go to the second three day agriculture course by a respected health organization that we have been part of for over thirty years. These are all mayan men from the mountain communities who know how to work in the field. They too remember the history of their parents and grandparents when food was not a scarcity. We have begun slowly to plant some demostrative gardens. We have some corn planted and have a small piece of land for herbs. Some of our workers are already planting near their home. My cage for bunnies is being constructed and also the clinic has 8 organic chickens, in a pen near the kitchen. I have to be careful not to give the bunnies names and become my friends.

We are grateful that we have received some funding from the Foundation of the diocese of Helena for this project to eliminate malnutrition in children and to work towards sustainable agriculture in the communities. THANK YOU!

I attatch a photo of Giovani, one of our workers, standing next to his corn.