Farmer Heroes: Making a Difference

By Jenny Beth Dyess 

Groundswell International, founded in 2009, is a non-profit organization working in seven countries to support farmers and agroecological farming practices from the bottom up. Determined to strengthen rural communities, the organization works mainly with smallholder farmers giving them the opportunity to learn from one another and spread successful farming practices. They also have various other projects aimed at promoting women’s leadership, managing natural resources, and promoting community health.

Jacques Jille, leader of the Peasant Organization of La Victoire (OPLD). (Photo Credit: Groundswell International)

By giving farmers a safe space to learn, try new techniques on a small scale, share results, and organize themselves, Groundswell is helping achieve their mission of overcoming poverty, inequality and ecological destruction around the world.

The Farmer Hero series highlights farmers who have come alongside Groundswell’s mission and are working hard to make an impact on their community by working directly with other farmers for the benefit of all. Here are a couple modern day farmer heroes:

Jacques Jille, head of community-based Peasant Organization of La Victoire (OPLD) in northern Haiti, is passionate about his country and his people. He is  helping Haitian farm families obtain equitable living standards. OPLD teaches farmers about soil erosion and how to increase their yields  by using practices such as Farmer-Managed Natural Regeneration (FMNR) . Jacques is also working with OPLD to reforest the community and has already helped save 1,160 hectares from soil erosion. To read more about agriculture on the island of Hispaniola see: Looking to Agriculture to Help Rebuild in Haiti, Alleviating Hunger in Haiti with the Help of Ancient Amazonians, and Earth Sangha announces “Rising Forests Coffee.” 

Alfonso and Olga Juma are local farmers who have become the experts on innovative water techniques in the semi-arid Chota Valley in Ecuador. Alfonso learned water harvesting and micro-irrigation techniques after crop failure forced him from his home to search for work in the city. Excited by what he learned, he returned home on the weekends to teach his neighbors how to harvest rainwater and use micro-irrigation to water their crops. Alfonso used his savings to help the community build 2,500-gallon storage ponds, which are lined with clay. They also installed micro-irrigation systems to water their crops. Alfonso started growing alfalfa and began raising guinea pigs using the manure to fertilize his crops. He and his wife Olga now have about 300 guinea pigs (a value of USD 1,500) and 75 mango and avocado trees. People from all over Ecuador, Bolivia, and Peru come to visit their farm and partner organization Ekorural is helping Groundswell arrange exchange visits for farmers to learn more about these water-saving irrigation techniques. To read more about micro-irrigation see: Kickstarting Livelihoods with Improved Water Management, Getting “More Crop Per Drop” to Strengthen Global Food Security, and Innovation of the Week: Slow and Steady Irrigation Wins the Race.

Follow Groundswell as they continue to highlight Farmer Heroes and the great work they are doing to support and teach one another!

Jenny Beth Dyess is a Research Intern with the Nourishing the Planet Project.

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