In 2001 our immediate area, specifically the towns of Jocotan and Camotan were placed in a red alert for “shortage of food”. This has always been known as a poor area and is known through Guatemala as being one of the most neediest areas. We are known to be in drought 3 out of every 5 years! The area has been completly deforested and experts say that without major reforestation programs that this area will revert back to be a desert. During this crisis in 2001 many institutions brought in short term help, as children were dying. God put in our hearts that although needed, the short term assistance was not the long term solution. The people need firewood to cook their food and so it is not possible to tell them that they cannot cut down trees. But we need to re-educate them as to the replanting, to think toward the future. In the past the cycle has been to: (1) cut down the trees for the needs of today; (2) without the forestation it affects the rainfall and puts the area into drought; (3) with drought there is little or no harvest; (4) without an adequate harvest the families cannot feed their children; and (5) without sufficient food, the children are the first affected.
We need to change that cycle! Experts say that this area needs to have 10 million trees planted to bring its natural environment back to a proper balance. To date, Servant Ministries has planted almost 1 million trees. We post an update on our web page to show you the progress that we are making to turn this situation around. We try to plant a lot of trees that not only affect the overall environment and rainfall, but also provide something for the people to use to provide for their families. I would like to give you a short overview of two of the trees that we have planted.
The Ramon or Ujuxte tree is one that we have given a lot of emphasis to. The Ramon tree is native to other parts of Guatemala but there are signs that it used to be in our area and at one point was the principal food of the Mayan people. It is a fruit tree that grows to be the size of a maple or mango tree. When fully grown, it can produce from 500-800 lbs. of a fruit that is about the size of a macadamia nut. This fruit can be cooked, ground, and turned into the dough that the people use to make their tortillas; the same process that they would use with their corn. Since it is a fruit, it provides more vitamins than the corn tortilla does. It is also much easier to harvest, as the mature fruit just drops to the ground and can be gathered. If every family had 2-3 of these trees, it wouldn’t matter if their corn crop was not sufficient one year, as they would have the Ramon fruit to use in its place. To encourage the people to respect this tree and to allow it to grow to maturity, we have renamed it the “tortilla tree”.
The Moringa Tree is native to parts of Africa. It is also called the “Miracle Tree” or “Tree of a 1000 Uses” and we have also called it the “firewood tree” with the people. The Moringa limbs can be cut off the tree and replanted into the ground. Starting from a 3’ stake instead of a seed, allows the tree to grow very fast. Every 6 months you can cut off the new limbs and cut them into 3’ pieces. We can start a family with 3-4 limbs. If they continue to plant the new limbs that the trees produce; to encircle their property, they will have sufficient supply for their firewood needs within less than 2 years. They can cut the limbs from one tree for today, the next tree for tomorrow etc. By the time they make the full circle of these trees, they can repeat the same process. Many people now spend from 1-3 hours a day just looking for adequate firewood.
This “firewood tree” has the potential of not only helping to rebalance the environment but also meets the longer term need for the people’s needs to have adequate firewood. The Moringa tree’s leaves can be used for restoring malnourished children to health. The seeds can be used for water purification and the leaves have many medicinal purposes as well. We are mostly concentrating on the need for firewood now as that is a huge piece of bringing this area back to a proper environment that will sustain its people.
The above two testimonies are just 2 examples of how Servant Ministries has tried to look at the bigger picture of helping this area of Guatemala. We have also done water cisterns, vegetable projects using the drip systems, chicken raising projects etc which we will continue to feature in our general information that is posted each month on our web page.
We ask that you consider how you may be able to help us to work toward our goals of having this area be restored to a healthy and self sustainable area where the people can break the chain of poverty that has held them captive for so long. You may communicate with me at firstname.lastname@example.org or with the US secretary at (810)385-4338 or email@example.com.