Saturday, May 21, 2016
2016 Planting season
It’s the 2016 planting season. Wisconsin’s farm conditions are good as the ground is moist and the corn crop is 50% planted statewide.
Two weeks ago our Salvadoran project partners wrote to us advising that it hasn’t rained in their community in 6 months. Wells that supply drinking water to homes are drying up and the government is providing water to some communities from tanker trucks. The drought that is being experienced in parts of El Salvador was forecasted and there is no relief predicted until July. That’s cutting into 60 days of what should be the growing season.
If the rains materialize later in the season, the hilly/mountain terrain and years of deforestation prevent the moisture from soaking into the water table. The overall moisture situation is very fragile.
The government continues to import grains to keep the prices in the market stable. The prices are actually below last year’s prices according to FEWS. Without government action to stabilize the price of commodities in the market place, the threat of civil unrest is a very real concern.
With food scarce anyone having produce to sell would be in a favorable position but not in El Salvador. While our agriculture projects have benefited hundreds of families, the final phase of the agriculture project was to take marketing of the crops to the next level. Initial plans were to secure commitments from the families for the quantity of products they could deliver on a weekly basis. They would bring their products to a distribution center and be paid. Sellers (in the market) would purchase the produce from the distribution center and sell from stands our partner would establish. Everyone in this system would be under contact. The sellers would keep the revenue from sales and this market plan would have created more jobs.
We had to abandon this plan due to the extreme violence that is currently taking place. No one is safe. Women shopping in the market, shop keepers, students, taxi and/or bus drivers and pastors, everyone is at risk of extortion, death threats or cross fire from the gangs.
Our project partners are no exception. The gang visited their offices and demanded extortion money. They had to make a payment or risk death. After the gang left, they gathered the employees and had a frank discussion that the office was closing due to the imminent danger. The employees responded that without work, they would be better off dead, so they continued to work to train and support the rural farmers.
Later in the month the offices were broken into on a weekend and all electronic equipment was stolen. The office is surrounded by residential homes, why didn’t someone call the police? You need to live in El Salvador to understand the culture and their society. It’s not as simple as ours.
After a difficult 6 months, our project partners are re-thinking what they can do in this war like environment. They have to create a safer environment for their employees. This means moving the office to a more secure location. Next they can no longer work in the field; they will need to work in a protected environment like a training center.
For our project partners who have dedicated the last 20 years of their life’s work to benefit others this is a heart break. We grieve with them as they make difficult decisions for their future and the futures of those they have worked alongside.
David y Nancy