Last week everything really came together. Our sustainable farming expert, Dominick, conducted 2-hour training sessions every day. The enthusiasm, eagerness to learn, and commitment of the group – which is up to 24 members – is inspiring.
As you can imagine, the participants have so many responsibilities. I say participants, not women, because we have two men; but the women – their responsibilities are daunting: They take care of the children, prepare all the meals, often sell things in the market, do most of the farming, take care of anyone who is sick – essentially, responsible for meeting the needs of all of the people in the household
And yet…they took two hours every day to attend the training sessions on sustainable farming: general land preparation, soil nutrients, how – and why – to fertilize with manure instead of commercial fertilizers, specific pests and diseases to look for with each of the crops they will be planting.
Watching their rapt attention to Dominick was impressive. Middle of the afternoon, outside, some not so young – all paid attention, some took notes (not everyone can write), many asked questions.
Additionally, they did their “homework” – helping each other finish the questionnaires making a list of how much land each participant has, and selecting the lead farmers. We are using a Trainer of Trainers approach. Everyone comes to the training, but the group is divided into three, each with a Lead Farmer who gets extra training and is responsible for monitoring the progress of each farmer in her group. When we met with them and talked about how to organize, they took the lead: telling us the best way for them to work with the women in their group and the best way for them to work with us.
All of the participants want to improve their lives, the lives of their children, their communities. They know they have a lot of work ahead. They know it will be difficult. But they want to take charge of their lives.
We gather feedback after each session. They said things like “this will help get food”, “livelihood will improve”, “like learning how to use organic nutrients.” There is so much to be done, but every time we get together with them, talk to them, hear what they say, we are all so gratified.
I must confess, despite being tired after a long week, I was a little sad when the last session ended on Friday. Though I have limited ability to communicate verbally with them, we manage without words. Singing, hugs, high fives, and smiles. Their smiles light up the world.