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Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Dominican Republic: ‘More Than Simple Housewives’

The mountains of San Jose de Ocoa, Dominican Republic, are home to some of the poorest families in the western hemisphere. Difficult terrain, poor growing conditions, recurring and destructive hurricanes, and a lack of economic opportunities mean that many families cannot access basic necessities. Most families eke out a living from small-scale farming, simply eating what they grow.

Through decades of experience, HOPE International Development Agency has learned that community-based greenhouses run by women’s associations can be a very effective means of increasing food production and incomes. Each greenhouse is constructed of a breathable fabric with no open-air windows, sides that extend into the earth, and a hygienic air-lock entry to prevent the introduction of diseases and pests. Families farming in greenhouses can produce significantly more food than families farming in traditional outdoor plots of land.

Since the beginning of 2012, HOPE International Development Agency has helped 40 women in 5 associations in San Jose de Ocoa maintain efficient greenhouses by reinstalling roofing and insect-proof meshing, improving soil quality, rebuilding soil beds, and improving irrigation systems. Seeds have also been distributed and families have participated in extensive training.

These activities have all helped families to grow food more efficiently and with a smaller chance of losing crops to pests or weather. For women like Josefa Emilia Castillo, who works with six other women in her group, the Asociacion des Mujeres Maria Trinidad Sanchez in the community of El Naranjal, this is making a significant difference:

“Now, we can be more than just simple housewives. With the greenhouse, we are able to obtain some economic benefits and knowledge in various aspects. In training, we have acquired much knowledge about the organization, division of labor, and technical assistance in managing the greenhouses with the identification of pests and diseases. 

We have established a small family business, providing to the family some economic benefits, among others. The family now gets better food, is healthier, and has more time available. Having a greenhouse has improved my family’s life in an agreeable way because now we have been able to acquire the resources of production. 

Food comes to us that was previously not available to us, was not in our reach. In this way, the greenhouse has improved our quality of life.”

What these women are doing with their greenhouses is inspiring to us. We’ve included these greenhouses in our annual gift catalogue if you want to make their success part of your holiday celebrations.