We're specifically looking at the role of growing horticultural crops in improving the quality of life for financially disadvantaged women, children, and families. Growing horticultural crops addresses these issues in many ways including making vegetables more accessible which can improve food security, diets and nutrition. Additionally, surplus fruits and vegetables can also be sold to generate income. During the trip we visited with several women at AMIR (Asociación de Mujeres Intibucanas Renovadas - Association of Renewed Initbucan Women). AMIR is a producer group that serves Lenca women through promotion, organization, and training. Lenca are the largest group of indigenous people in Honduras.
Mosaic on the AMIR Building. Photo: E. Sánchez, Penn State
One of the training programs offered by AMIR is focused on food security with the idea of promoting farming fruits and vegetables. In 2000, they also built a processing plant where peach, blackberry, and potato wines and strawberry, guava, and blackberry jellies and candies are currently made. High quality fruit from AMIR-member farms can be sold to AMIR to be used in the processing plant.
We visited a model farm that was started by a wife and her husband after participating in AMIR's Food Security training program. Mountains dominate this area in Honduras--it's absolutely beautiful. The drive to the farm required the use of a 4-wheel-drive vehicle and roads can become impassable during the rainy season. From the road, we stopped by a narrow dirt path and walked to the house and farm. The family had a horse which is used to carry produce to the road where it can be transported to market.
Walking on the path to the farm. Photo: Paige Castellanos.
A neighbor's maize and potato farm as viewed from the model farm to show the mountainous terrain. Photo: E. Sánchez, Penn State
Once at the farm, we met with the husband. He explained that before the training program at AMIR, he and his wife didn't think that their land was suitable for growing fruits and vegetables. AMIR provided them with funds to buy some peach trees. In return, the family agreed to buy peach trees for another family in a "pay it forward" or "pasa cadena" model. Some of the harvested fruit are eaten by the family and they are also able to sell fruit at a direct market and to AMIR which is then used in the processing plant. We asked if "organic" or "pesticide-free" were used as marketing tools. We were told that while customers were not willing to pay a premium for these labels, products with theses labels are the first to sell at market, which is a benefit.
One of about 20 peach trees on the farm. Training through AMIR demonstrated how to prune the trees. Photo: E. Sánchez, Penn State
New guava plants had been recently transplanted to expand the farm. We also saw passionfruit, citrus, and chayote. Other vegetables had been started, but the chickens the family has ate them before they could be harvested.
Newly planted guava. Photo: E. Sánchez, Penn State
A citrus bush near sugar cane plants. Sugar cane is grown as a live barrier to help minimize erosion. Photo: E. Sánchez, Penn State
Chayote supported on a bush. Taro on the bottom left. Photo: E. Sánchez, Penn State
Training sessions are held on this model farm to show others what is possible on their own land. Prior to starting the farm, the family depended on income from work that the husband did as a day-laborer. This farm has been so successful that it is now provides the family's sole source of income.