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Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Dominican Republic : The Women of Los Martinez Fight for Food and the Future

The Dominican Republic is known for its resort towns and beaches, but the standard of living for its poorest people is not exactly postcard-ready.

The hardworking farming families living in the mountainous province of San Jose De Ocoa are fighting a hard battle against chronic poverty and the environmental degradation that threatens to take the little they have. Deforestation and soil loss is a tremendous problem here. If the land is too damaged, food will not be easily grown in the future.

In addition to our ambitious efforts to reforest the land, we’re also helping farmers to grow more food than ever before and in a manner that preserves and protects their environment.

HOPE International Development Agency’s front-line workers in the fight to preserve San Jose de Ocoa’s tradition of sustainable agriculture are the women living in its poorest villages. Taking the village of Los Martinez as an example, we see how helping women to supply their communities with high-quality, abundant, organic produce is making a critical difference in the fight for long-term food security.

There are three greenhouses in Los Martinez. Excellent, large-fruited tomatoes are grown in the greenhouse pictured above.

The field pictured is located next to the greenhouse. A man works in this field while his wife works in the greenhouse. The primary goal of greenhouses such as this one is to support women to grow and sell their own produce so they can support themselves. The women work together in the greenhouses close to their homes so they are not too far from their children. Sometimes, they bring their children with them to the greenhouses while they work. In other communities, women take turns watching the children and working in the greenhouses. When women have jobs and start making their own income, they have more control over their own lives and those of their children. After they sell all the produce, they put some of their profits in the bank and distribute the rest of the money amongst themselves. Some of the money is used to buy seeds and supplies for the next planting season.

Francis, a mother of six from Los Martinez, has been working in the greenhouses with HOPE International Development Agency for the past 11 years. Through her work she has received training on how to be more organized and how to work effectively in a group. When asked how her life has changed since she started working in the greenhouse, she said that her life is dramatically better. Her activities are organized and within her control and she feels that she is a contributing member of society who can help her community. After the women started earning an income and HOPE International Development Agency continued supporting more community projects in Los Martinez, they were able to install benches in the schoolhouse, their houses were in better condition, they had irrigation systems and because of an aqueduct and a hydroelectric system, they now have 24-hour electricity and internet access – which is more reliable than in the province’s capital city!

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