Loma Linda Garden Initiative
The Organic Garden project in Loma Linda is ongoing, partly through some donations raised through ICO and via other sources, but largely through the efforts of the coordinator, Pascual. Some of the project goals have been reached, but not all, and some of the obstacles have to do with internal issues. The good news is that there is a continuing commitment to this garden, and that ASODILL members are cultivating it.-October, 8th 2014
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Loma Linda is a small community about two hours from Quetzaltenango, the second-largest city in Guatemala. Families from the western highlands working for poor wages on plantations of the south coast bought the lands of Loma Linda in September 1976 and created a cooperative Catholic community high in the mountainous area of El Palmar. They worked communally to build their houses, a water project, a storage building, a church and a school. They were aided by Father Celestino, the Quetzaltenango organization Caritas, a Spanish aid organization and many others.
A few years ago, Executive Director Pascual Rafael Escobar organized a non-profit community group called ASODILL, whose purpose was to promote sustainable development, such as organic agriculture and ecotourism and to provide employment opportunities for its members. Three years ago, ASODILL began a communal garden, which has turned out to be extraordinarily successful.
Since its inception, a garden manager and his assistant trained in organic methods by a Belgian NGO have created an amazingly healthy and productive garden. The garden grows 25 types of organic fruits and vegetables to improve the health of the impoverished village residents. Ever larger numbers of crops are being tried and grown, from bananas to last year’s big success -- bok choy. Cheap, homemade organic pest controls and foliar feeds have proven very effective, and low-tech methods have kept costs to a minimum. It is possible to plant crops all year around for expanded harvests, and these are fertilized with vermicompost (worm castings) from a large village facility that recycles coffee wastes. Crop rotation protects soil fertility. Garden staff, in 2011, built a new greenhouse to protect young seedlings from extremes of wind, sun and seasonal rains.
New methods are also being tried. Seed saving has just been initiated, reducing the need to seek scarce organic seeds, helping to reduce costs and gradually creating varieties better suited to their local conditions.
THE CHALLENGE TO SUSTAINABILITY
The garden was forced to relocate recently to make way for new school buildings. Fortunately, Pascual and ASODILL were able to raise enough money to purchase a permanent new site. Now the new site, which is in a very raw condition, needs to be developed for high production. ASODILL needs funds to hire workers to clear and dig the land and build trails. There is a lack of the vermicompost needed for organic soil building, good seeds, and sufficient garden tools. But most of all, the new site needs the continuing care of its knowledgeable managers, Eduardo and Claudio. Without their care, the garden cannot reach its full potential. Their salaries are an important part of this initiative.
HOW YOU CAN HELP:
You can help the people of Loma Linda keep their garden growing. Donations will go directly to the Asociacion ASODILL to promote a healthier and more economically sound future for Loma Linda.
The organic produce will benefit 23 families initially, and more in the future, once the permanent site has been upgraded to produce at its highest level. Your donations will improve community nutrition as well as creating new opportunities for the villagers.
By Luisa Ditmars