So technically we call this project the "BALSAMO" project, but in reality our real partners are the community members in a small county called San Lucas. We are working with four small family group communities (caserios) in this county, which is located in the municipality Cuisnahuat, which is in the Sonsonate department (our equivalent of a state). BALSAMO itself is a micro-credit and agricultural organization working in rural communities here, who we´ve worked with for several years now, mostly utilizing their know-how, their transportation, and their contacts in the community.
We began the summer with some basic needs assessment strategies. Initally we met with BALSAMO to discuss the potential projects they saw a need for in the communities they work with. Our history with BALSAMO mainly consists of square-foot garening projects, so we went into the meeting with this in mind.
The current status of the project is looking very promising. We´ve surveyed a large percentage of the population and now have a running list of the types of fruits and vegetables they commonly grow and eat there, as well as their understanding of a balanced diet, a healthy lifestyle, and clean water. With this information we plan to organize all the foods that they have and customizing a food pyramid to fit their resources, that way they can learn to vary the foods that they eat, and incorporate the fruits and vegetables that have been lacking, by growing them in their own yard. With river rocks, local soil, sand, and dried plant products, community members are being taught to create a small family garden in a way that can produce great quantities of healthy food year-round.
The past two weeks we spent working in the four caserios doing garden demonstrations. They were great successes, and many community members are interested in having their own family gardens.
We also are now starting the work on the health access portion of the needs we assessed. Interventions for this problem include disease prevention workshops, a health fair at the local school, and a small pharmacy provided for the community. Stay posted for updates on this amazing project!