Guatemala Travelogue, December 2018

Travelogue of Fern’s visit to Guatemala for the purpose of advancing the Water for Life project for Chajmaic, Guatemala (page 4)

December 18, 2018: Many successes to report:  plans, team, and Guatemalan NGO

Tuesday was an incredibly fruitful day:

We met with one of the agricultural engineers (agrónomo), Antonio Longo.  The other agrónomo, Federico Arriola, was planning to meet with us by taking an airplane from an island in Honduras, but couldn’t depart due to high winds.  What we learned was incredible:
Federico is a consultant to a private Catholic high school that teaches indigenous children from villages around Guatemala (who have room and board at the school) how to do a trade.  One of these trades is vegetable production.  This work is so renowned that an organization, Operation Blessing (https://www.ob.org/) has made a video of him and his results: https://youtu.be/qPfWz27HINw .
In the video, the narrator describes how Federico had traveled to Israel to learn drip irrigation and is employing that to grow vegetables in greenhouses that produce 6-7x what they would across land.  The school, which we will visit on Wednesday morning, teaches its students to use local and low-cost materials, to reduce insects by not having walls on the greenhouse and allowing the wind in, and many other cost-effective and innovative techniques, described in the video.  This work allows the students to return to their villages and offers the opportunity for them to become self-sufficient.
 
What is tremendously exciting is that Federico is part of the Sowing Opportunities team!  This demonstrates that he has already had success with his techniques and working with groups that can develop self-sufficiency.  Sowing Opportunities’ plan is to use the water, once accessible and filtered, to grow the vegetables in a greenhouse in Chajmaic.
 
Antonio also showed us a slide presentation that Federico had created to demonstrate his work.  Here are some of the photos:
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Ricardo and Antonio also clarified that when the villagers were fearful of them earlier this year, it was because the government had begun to build on their land and they thought that meant that Ricardo and his team wanted to take their land.  One of our key contact persons in the village, Lety Gomez, explained to the COCODE (village leaders) the team’s intentions and the COCODE held a meeting with the entire village one week later, clarifying their misconception and that Ricardo and his team want to benefit the entire village.
We watched the video about ALDEA’s work (https://aldeaguatemala.org/)and discussed the importance of the villagers having posts of leadership, and that they need to feel that the project is their own.  We will continue to discuss this among ourselves and with the villagers when we go.
When we got to the part in the ALDEA video about stoves and the hazards of smoke inhalation, Antonio presented to me a full proposal for developing a new stove system.  Antonio also mentioned that when villagers use logs to heat their stoves, they contribute to deforestation.  He also has a plan to develop a nursery for growing new plants to replace those used for firewood.
We took a photo of the group, which includes L to R: Eva María, Fern, Ricardo, Antonio, and Pedro:
Antonio Longo is one of the two agricultural engineers (agrónomo) – the one who actually came up with the ideas of testing the soil when Ricardo and he first went to Chajmaic in May 2015.  His innovative ideas and energy and dedication to the project are indispensable.
Pedro Lopez is the team’s body guard.  He came a long distance to introduce himself to me and Fern learned about his role on the team.  Both Antonio and Pedro said it was an honor to do this work for the people of Guatemala.  Fern was deeply impressed by their commitment and sincerity.
Team hard at work, 12/18/2018
The day ended with Ricardo and me traveling to meet with a lawyer, Lic. Armando Salazar, who interrupted his vacation to assist us.  He carefully went over all of the documents that are needed to set up a branch (surcosal) of Sowing Opportunities in Guatemala and offered that Fern send him an email of her understanding of what is needed.
In brief, Fern will need to contact the Department of State for Massachusetts and the U.S. and get notarization and apostille of several documents.  We will also need to have two meetings of the Board.  He echoed Lic. Jokasta’s estimate that it would take 2-3 years to get the nonprofit active in Guatemala – due to the upcoming election in June and the installation of the new government in January 2020.