We have been privileged to live in Popayan, Colombia for the past 4 months as we have conducted a humanitarian food production training project for the LDS Church.
The project’s immediate goal is to assist 100 families learn to grow more and healthier food, and teach them how to cook, use, and preserve it. The extended goal is to bless the lives of families throughout the community in the same way.
To do this we have been training 30 leaders to become the best vegetable gardeners in the Cauca State, and then teach and assist others to grow healthy gardens.
It is an intensive and time-consuming course requiring 6 hours per week in the classroom and 12-15 hours in the garden – all for three months.
We are doing the training at the University of Cauca’s Agriculture Campus. We have a large greenhouse and model garden, which when fully planted will be 190 10 meter-long soil-beds.
The University staff are interested and supportive, especially after I conducted an 8 hour mini-seminar one week, and then one of the professors conducted a one-month experiment which compared our methods with their traditional methods. The difference in plants was so dramatic that is is amazing even to me. And the professor is eager to learn more and apply it in his teaching.
We are now beginning to see the fruits of our labors, as we visit our students’ gardens and those of their neighbors and friends. Just today we were thrilled with the garden of Gabriel and Francisco which is truly a thing of beauty where less than 2 months ago there was nothing but junk, trees, and weeds, with chickens and geese roaming freely.
These industrious men invited dozens of their neighbors to come and experience something unique. They even had the Mayor’s wife and Executive Secretary come.
About 50 people were rewarded with a 5 course dinner cooked by my wife Araksya, which was almost entirely made from garden vegetables. She topped it off with Zucchini bread, and everyone LOVED it.
A tour of the garden also really gave these good people something to think about, as I said to each of them “you, too can do this!” And many of them took recipes home with them, while others wrote down the website address.
It’s leaders like these that can and will really make a difference for good in their communities, and we were very gratified to be able to participate with them in the occasion.