La Semilla del Progreso: Agricultural Training – HONDURAS
La Semilla del Progreso, an agricultural training center located outside Siguatepeque, Honduras, is directed by Laureano Jacobo. The Center provides intensive training for farmers from surrounding communities and afterwards continues to support them in the sometimes delicate transition from conventional practices to regenerative organic agriculture.
This training center and its satellite programs are designed to give farmers the tools to increase yields and make farming a real option for being able to adequately feed a family and make a living. Participants who receive training at La Semilla are given a lot of encouragement, but they are most convinced when they see increases in their own crop yields, plus experiencing the other tangible benefits of applying these new practices on their own farms. La Semilla del Progreso staff organizes groups of local farmers, men, women and youth, who come to the center for 4 day training sessions on sustainable agriculture. Following the on-site training sessions, the La Semilla staff goes out to the villages to support these local groups. They continue to serve as a mentors for the farmers as they implement the new technologies they have learned.
Chipilín a native green grown in the group’s garden, is being made into tomalitos de chipilín.
Creating Community Gardens
La Semilla del Progreso has for years successfully promoted vegetable gardens in the communities where they are working. Most of the participants in the program have home gardens, about 200 family gardens in 2020. In addition, participants also have 8 communal gardens, each with 15 to 18 members sharing the work and the harvests.
In 2019 La Semilla del Progreso began an agro-salud program (agriculturally based health education) for groups of women in 3 of the communities with communal vegetable gardens. Activities are emphasizing nutrition education and there are about 50 families participating. Cooking classes use the nutritious food that the women are growing, with food preparation safety and family hygiene included.
Working with youth to prevent emigration
Honduras is the poorest county in Central America, and for many youth, opportunities for education or employment are nonexistent. The greatest number of unaccompanied minors arriving in the US now come from Honduras. La Semilla is working in very poor rural areas to give teens from farming backgrounds new hope and the necessary skills to someday support their own families. They are taught multiple strategies to manage water, conserve and enrich soil, and control pests – all without needing to buy agro-chemicals. Given that these teenagers will never have more than a few acres, they learn very intensive and sophisticated farm management. This agricultural training, plus the inspiration provided by La Semilla, has restored the term “farmer” to be a viable vocational option for many teens, proving the success of the La Semilla’s work with youth.
Preparing for weather extremes
La Semilla had been preparing farmers for weather extremes by emphasizing a resilient food production. Each family is advised to plant food crops that like lots of water and crops that do well with little. La Semilla teaches multiple strategies to manage water, conserve and enrich soil, and control pests. Farmers with hillside farms implement these water conservation practices to hold rainwater and allow it to sink in slowly. La Semilla has started work in a new area closer to the border with El Salvador where they were first invited by the local Catholic priest. After seeing La Semilla’s initial work in resilient food production, the 3 municipal governments of this area started providing meeting space for the classes that La Semilla gives and sometimes food and transportation for participants in La Semilla’s 3-day agricultural courses which stress a new resilient, sustainable agriculture.