We just got amazing news! Miracles in Action is now matching the entire $20,000 of the PEAS Project! That means that every dollar given will be doubled - but only if we reach $20,000. Want to increase the impact of your gift? Give before the campaign ends on December 12th. Already gave, or just can't give? Help spread the word about our campaign, and be a part of bringing pigeonpea to 4,000 family farmers. Thank you, Miracles in Action, and thank you to our awesome supporters!
A new variety of an old crop can help hundreds of thousands of Guatemalan farmers increase their incomes, save their soils, and provide nutritious food in the 4th most malnourished country in the world.
Pigeonpea is a bean that Guatemalan farmers have grown in their gardens for centuries. New varieties and farming techniques from India and Africa can help farmers bring pigeonpea from their garden to their whole field, helping them increase their yields from several pounds to several thousand. We have spent the last three years experimenting with local farmers to find the best strategies for pigeonpea to take off. Now we are ready to scale up this project, and with your help we can make a powerful and sustainable change in Guatemala.
What can pigeonpea do for family farmers?
Free Crop: Pigeonpea grows between the rows of farmers' cash crops, giving farmers a new harvest without decreasing their existing yields.
Generate Income: Pigeonpea is the 4th most consumed bean in the world. Tapping into new and existing markets will bring millions of dollars to family farmers. For a typical Guatemalan family, a harvest could bring $375, enough for school tuition for their children.
Reduce Growing Costs: Pigeonpea is drought and pest resistent, which means farmers plant it and forget about it until harvest - no irrigation or chemicals required. Seed from the harvest is saved and used to replant next year, saving farmers from buying new seed every year.
Improving Soils: Pigeonpea fixes nitrogen into soils, and its deep roots break up compaction. Planted in the windy dry season it is used as a cover crop, keeping precious top soil in place.
- Fight Malnutrition: Pigeonpea's nutrient-dense beans are easily incorporated into local dishes, helping to fight malnutrition in Guatemala where half of children have stunted growth due to lack of protein. Little Dulce eats pigeonpea that her mom made in one of Semilla Nueva's Food Security Groups. Protein-packed pigeonpea will ensure that Dulce won't be one of 50% of Guatemala's children who are stunted from malnutrition.
How Can Pigeonpea Change a Life?
Gladys and her husband Argelio wanted a better life. Young and newly married, they decided to make the dangerous and expensive trip to the States, entering illegally. Gladys struggled with language and work there, and they were eventually deported back to Guatemala. Starting over in Conrado de la Cruz, they began farming small plots of land with corn and sesame. Gladys joined the Semilla Nueva women’s group eager to learn about the pigeonpea that so many of her friends were talking about. In these classes she learned the nutritional benefits of eating the small bean, and the environmental benefits of growing it. Gladys had seen the effects of malnutrition in the community where she grew up; stunted growth and susceptibility to common illnesses like colds and diarrhea due to low immune response. Gladys wanted to make sure her young daughter developed properly and strongly, so she learned pigeonpea recipes and began cooking them in her home. Argelio inter-planted their corn with pigeonpea to grow the bean he thought was tasty, and that his wife loved to cook. Gladys liked pigeonpea so well that she became a community promotora, a promoter, in Conrado, inviting new women to the class, and helping them plant pigeonpea in their fields. With their daughter growing strongly, a sustainable source of protein growing on their land, and extra beans to sell, Argelio and Gladys don’t need to search for a better life somewhere else, they know they can grow their way to a better life through pigeonpea.
Gladys and her daughter, growing healthy thanks to pigeonpea.
Bernabe doesn’t say much, and often appears deep in thought. He doesn’t smile much either, but when he does, others can’t help but smile with him. Bernabe doesn’t have a wife or children. He spends his time in his fields, land that was inherited and split evenly between he and his 3 siblings when his father passed. Bernabe first planted pigeonpea a few years ago, interested in what it could do to improve his soils. He worked closely with Semilla Nueva Extensionist Trini to record and examine the results of the test plots. After only 2 years of growing pigeonpea, Bernabe saw huge increases in his corn yield. Not only that, but Bernabe received a free crop from pigeonpea, his natural fertilizer. This season, Bernabe has a new reason to smile: He harvested over 800 pounds of pigeonpea, the most from any Semilla Nueva farmer. When Bernabe’s siblings saw the bounty of his harvest, they declared that he got the better parcel of land, and demanded that next season everyone must rotates plots. Bernabe quietly agreed, not disappointed that his effort will be lost, but confident, commenting to Trini that his new parcel will be covered in pigeonpea as well, and his bounty will come again.
Bernabe with his corn, growing stronger and providing more because of pigeonpea.
Dina Sarpec moved to a new community when she married her husband, Josue. Though she was happy with her growing family, she felt lonely in this new town far from her own family. Dina was invited by a neighbor to attend one of Semilla Nueva’s cooking classes where she met other mothers from the community, and was introduced to pigeonpea. She learned local recipes that included pigeonpea, and learned the nutritional benefits of eating it. At the end of the class, Dina was given a bag of seed that she and her husband planted with their corn. Since that first day, Dina has become a regular in the group, always arriving to class with a smile on her face. Dina knows several pigeonpea recipes by heart and cooks them for her family regularly with the harvest from that first bag of seed. In a country where half of children are stunted due to malnutrition, Dina knows feeding her children pigeonpea means they’re getting the protein and nutrients they need to grow up strong. This time with other mothers and women, learning about nutrition and experimenting with recipes has allowed Dina to become rooted in her community. With a trusted network of friends and new skills and knowledge, she has confidently grow into a young leader. Now Dina is the one inviting her neighbors to cooking class.
Dina with her daughter Celeste taking a break during a cooking class.
In 1986, Saul Gonzalez marched to Guatemala City alongside 16,000 other workers who were displaced due to civil war. They wanted land, a way to make a living. As a result of their action, a new community was formed, Conrado de la Cruz, in which Saul held a small parcel. Saul cultivated his land until tragedy struck and his father was diagnosed with cancer. Not earning much from his farming, Saul had no other option than to sell his land to pay for his father’s treatment. After his father’s passing, Saul found himself in a situation that is not uncommon in Guatemala—landless and trying to provide for a large family. He began renting plots of land, but with the increasing costs of seed, fertilizers, and pesticides, he could barely feed his family and was not making any profit. In 2011, Semilla Nueva introduced pigeonpea to Saul’s community. He was the first to plant a small plot of pigeonpea, eager to explore new opportunity. In 2012, Saul inter-planted his entire plot of corn with pigeonpea. While this new crop was giving him hope, a familiar situation began to materialize once again. Saul’s granddaughter Maria was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Surgeons in Guatemala City were not able to successfully remove the tumor. Fortunately, a Canadian NGO was able to arrange surgery in Canada, on the condition that her family pay for her visa--$220 USD. Saul was able to utilize his new crop of pigeonpea, selling it in advance to give Maria the life-saving surgery she needed.
Saul, quick to smile, finds shade in his flourishing pigeonpea field.
*Note from Katie: I was able to spend time with Saul and his family during a communal planting day for pigeonpea this August. I saw Saul, looking proudly over his field as friends, neighbors, Semilla Nueva staff, and his granddaughter Maria walked the rows of his field, dropping pigeonpea seed every few steps. In a few months they would return again to Saul’s field, this time gathering the harvest that will provide another opportunity for Saul and his family to find a better way forward.
Carlos Hernandez was running out of options. His one acre of land was barely producing enough to feed his 4 kids, and left him nothing extra to sell. He had no money to pay for their education, so he borrowed all the money he could and entered the US illegally. After 12 years working, Carlos earned enough money to buy 4 more acres of land and returned to Guatemala. He soon found his soils degrading, his yields declining, and the choice: return to the US, or watch his family slide deeper into poverty. Two years ago, Carlos tried growing pigeonpea. Instead of two crops, he was able to harvest three. The benefits were amazing; his soils began to improve, there was more food for his family, and more to sell. When his neighbors asked him about his large harvest of beans in the middle of the dry season, he offered them seed. A year later, Carlos organized a conference where he shared the benefits of growing pigeonpea to hundreds of family farmers from 10 surrounding communities. Today, Carlos is a leader and agricultural innovator in his community.
Carlos kneels in his pigeonpea field post-harvest.
What We Will Do
We want every Guatemalan farmer like Carlos to have access to the right pigeonpea seed, the right growing methods, and international buyers who turn their efforts into income. Our goal is to lay the groundwork for Guatemala to begin exporting its first pigeonpea within two years. To make this possible we will use the $20,000 from this campaign to scale up the activities we have worked on for the last three years. We will:
- Introduce pigeonpea to 2,000 family farmers in 2014
Build a seed bank, so farmers can borrow seed to plant pigeonpea, and then pay us back with seed from
Try new varieties of pigeonpea from
Africa and India. One promising variety could triple farmers’ yields.
Host conferences where farmers share
their results with their neighbors, other non-profits, and the government,
building a national movement for pigeonpea.
Continue prioritizing the role of women in communities, and to learn new pigeonpea recipes and use pigeonpea to fight
- Collaborate with already interested private companies to connect our farmers to the growing international markets for pigeonpea.
Raul Reyes has already discovered the bounty that pigeonpea provides.
Just as farmers get stuck in a cycle of poverty, small and simple changes can establish a new cycle: one where sustainable farming techniques maintain healthy soils, where improved varieties of local crops give farmers more options, where locally-grown foods give children the nutrients they need, and where farmers make a living as they define it. This is a cycle of growth, and that’s why we call ourselves Semilla Nueva, New Seed. We’re planting a new seed, a new idea, in farming communities of Guatemala, and we want you to join us.
Gabino, a Semilla Nueva's farmer, explains the benefits of growing pigeonpea to a group of new attendees at one of Semilla Nueva's Food Security Group meetings.
What You Get
Check out our goodies! We have Guatemalan artisan products made by artist cooperatives that we'll send you, or your friends and family, with a note explaining how your gift is impacting family farmers like Carlos. These items are all hand-made, which means the one you get might look a little different than what is pictured.
$25 - You're an Amiga/Amigo! As an amigo/amiga, you're a friend! For being a friend of the campaign, and of the work you're helping to support, we'll send you an adorable chicken pot holder and a Semilla Nueva sticker, so that you can tell show your friends that you're a friend of Semilla Nueva! Hurry, this perk expires on December 6th!
$50 - You're a Vecina/Vecino - a neighbor! In the tight-knit communities of rural Guatemala, being a vecino, a neighbor, doesn't just mean you live near each other. Vecinos share life together! As a vecino/vecina, you can share with your neighbors how you invested in social change as you serve them delicious pigeonpea recipe-in-a-bag with your chicken pot holder set!
$75 - You're a Compañera/Compañero - a best buddy! A compañero/a is a companion, a best buddy who's always there. When you get compliments on your hand-woven scarf, you can share with your campañeros how your contribution to Semilla Nueva is helping family farmers find sustainable solutions.$100 - You're a Promotora/Promotor - a promoter! Promotores/promotoras, or promoters, play the vital role of sharing knowledge in the communities where they live. Since you are helping us spread the good word of pigeonpea, we'll send you a colorful shoulder bag made from hand-woven materials.
$250 - You're the Mayor - an Alcalde! An alcalde is a mayor, and the top leader of the community. Because your gift is helping us train agriculutral leaders, we'll send you a beautiful hand-woven table runner.
$500 - You're a Paisano/Paisana - a Citizen! You'll relax like a Guatemalan paisana/paisano, or citizen, after a day of planting pigeonpea in your comfy hammock.
$1,000 - You're the Minister - a Ministerio/Ministeria! Be served like a Minister with a pound of Guatemalan coffee, 2 bars of Guatemalan chocolate, a set of pure jade earrings and a colorful apron.
$5,000 - You're El Presiente/La Presidenta - the President! You'll get the same treatment as a president does when we cover basic airfare, lodging and food on your week long trip to Guatemala, hosted by Semilla Nueva staff, visiting the communities your gift is supporting.
Other Ways You Can Help
If you can’t give, you can still play a part in helping us reach our goal. We need Semilla Nueva Ambassadors spreading the word. Sign up to be an Ambassador, and we’ll send you information about this campaign so all you have to do is copy, paste and invite your friends to join the movement. As a thank you, you’ll get a special gift from Semilla Nueva - your own personal perk!
Please sign up as an Ambassador by filling out this form
Why We Do What We Do
Semilla Nueva's model of development is grounded in the belief that poverty is not destiny, and opportunity is empowerment. We believe that farmers and families can determine their own way forward, using their innovation and resources to grow their way out of poverty. For these, and many other reasons, Semilla Nueva develops locally-led farmer education programs that increase the income, rebuild the soils, and improve the family nutrition of Guatemala's rural poor.