Posted on | September 10, 2014 | 15 Comments
Passports with Purpose is so excited to work with Sustainable Harvest International (SHI) this year. As we got to learn more about them, we knew you would too. Here is a bit more about this amazing organization, from Sarah Clemens, development director of Sustainable Harvest International.
The 2.1 billion people living in poverty in rural areas worldwide suffer from ongoing malnutrition and inability to meet their basic needs. Though most have access to land and other natural resources and a desire to learn new farming techniques, they lack the intensive technical assistance necessary to recuperate degraded lands and make them productive in the long term.
Typically, people in Central America and other parts of the tropics farm using the slash-and-burn method, which requires new areas to be cleared each year by burning the natural forest. Crops are planted and harvested for one year, which depletes the land and requires farmers to burn a new area the next year. Eventually, land becomes so depleted that crops can no longer be grown. Farmers are forced to start over again in areas of virgin forest (often in protected areas) or relocate to urban slums in hopes of finding employment that is scarce and often abysmal for those with very limited education. With little margin for error and few learning opportunities, farmers are hesitant to try new farming practices unless the transition is done slowly, in conjunction with a trusted and reliable expert.
In the face of these challenges, Sustainable Harvest International (SHI) has directly or indirectly helped 100,000 rural poor people to become stewards of our environment. Five elements make our approach successful: SHI provides long-term assistance to ensure that changes take root; SHI selects communities based on socioeconomic and environmental conditions; SHI operates as a lean organization with low administrative overhead; SHI empowers individuals and promotes cooperative sharing of knowledge and resources; and SHI builds resilient communities that require minimal input from external sources.
Started in 1997, Sustainable Harvest International’s Honduras program is the organization’s largest and oldest program and is noted for its commitment to community participation and empowerment. SHI currently works with 186 farming families in the Santa Barbara and Yoro departments to provide them practical, hands-on training to improve degraded lands and rebuild ecosystems that were once rich in biodiversity. In 2013 alone, the Honduras program planted 178,000 trees and converted nearly 150 acres to sustainable, organic agriculture.
One of SHI’s leading objectives is the development of community leaders who have significant knowledge of sustainable farming and environmental conservation. These leaders are expected to train their neighbors, so that the actions being undertaken with SHI’s support have a multiplier effect. Development of these community leaders is critical in order to reach a tipping point in the community, in which more families choose to adopt sustainable practices rather than continuing with conventional methods. SHI’s “theory of change” holds that once this tipping point is reached, noticeable changes will occur in the lives of rural families, and improvements to the local environment will be made.
One such community leader is Don Cheyo. As a successful graduate of SHI’s Honduras program, Don Cheyo reflects on how far he has come, “Before I grew just corn and coffee and now look at what I done for myself, for my children, for my grandchildren. We eat better and we live with the land. I plant good food and I have learned how to build up the soil and plant trees. I sell what I grow and I have purchased this land for my children. It is for them that we are working for a better future.”
We invite you to take a glimpse into Don Cheyo’s life in the follow short video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wX5WXGtnq7Y&list=PLJfxY4J2DV3kALWCG45Qa5IqA2RCkwmGq