Today, on CAFOD’s Harvest Fast Day, so many of our brothers and sisters around the world are still not able to grow enough food. Sally Kitchener shares one mother’s mission to grow enough food and how you can support her along her journey.
As the midday sun beats down on the Bolivian Altiplano, Nicanora swings the heavy wooden hoe into the soil once more and prises up half a dozen small potatoes. She pauses, straightens, and rests a hand on her aching back. The 32-year-old mother of four has been working since dawn. But however hard she works, Nicanora knows that when she gets to the end of the day, her children will still go to bed hungry.
“The days when we don’t have much food, we eat a soup of ground barley mixed with water,” says Nicanora, her gaze resting on the failing onion crop by her side. “When we eat just this soup all day, we get tired very quickly.”
With last year’s food store about to run out and the next harvest still three months away, the family are facing crisis point. Two months ago, Nicanora’s husband Santiago was forced to leave the family farm in search of income. Every day for the past two months Nicanora has risen at dawn and worked the land on her own. Tomorrow she will do the same, because she doesn’t know when her husband will return.
With her own education cut short, Nicanora refuses to take any of her children out of school. So she battles on against the tough growing conditions, harvesting just enough to keep the family going.
Nicanora’s story is a common one in rural Bolivia, where almost 60 per cent of the population live below the poverty line and survive on less than $1 a day. The plains of the Altiplano are a hostile environment to grow food – within a matter of hours the burning sun can give way to heavy hailstorms, which devastate an entire year’s crop. Families are left with no way to feed themselves and no way to make money. As a result, as many as one in five people in Bolivia are malnourished.
A lifeline for Nicanora and her family
But this Harvest Nicanora and her family have been offered a vital lifeline – they are about to join CAFOD’s new Hands On Altiplano project. Over the next two years, with the support of our partner Fundación Nuna, and regular funds from CAFOD supporters, Nicanora plans to build a vegetable garden, greenhouse, wormery and install irrigation on her land. All of these activities will help her to overcome the tough conditions and grow enough good, nutritious food to feed her children.
Santiago will return to the farm whenever he can to help with the project activities. But his hope is that, before long, it won’t just be days at a time that he is able to spend at home, but months and years. “Whenever I’m far from my family, I miss them,” says Santiago. “I want to build a big greenhouse that will bring me an income. Then I wouldn’t have to move away to work. My dream is to live here, be able to feed my children and for all of us to eat better.”
This journey towards a full and abundant life together isn’t one that can happen overnight. The transformation will require hard physical work every day for months before the family even begin to see the benefits. But with the constant support of training from CAFOD’s partners, and seeds and materials funded by CAFOD supporters, in two years’ time Nicanora and Santiago can look forward to collecting their first bountiful harvest.
A solution: technology and training
“I find it very difficult when I see families struggling,” says Nikki Evans, CAFOD’s Programme Officer in Bolivia, “because I know from seeing the other projects our partners are carrying out, that with the right technology and the right support, families don’t have to be in that situation.
“I’ve seen quite extraordinary changes in families who are participating in similar projects. Their nutrition and health are improved, they’re much more confident, and they’re suddenly farming their land in ways they’ve never dreamt of before.
“The families here understand the importance of every second they spend working on their land and the importance of every penny donated, because it all makes a difference. So any help that people are able to give in getting hands on with this project, they appreciate every tiny bit.”