Tuesday, December 15, 2015


   I like to dream. I think it is imperative for the human spirit to have dreams, visions and passion. Without these yes we can live but we cannot truly be alive. Dreams can be a guiding beacon which shape our thoughts, actions, and future. A dream can be the seed that when cultivated, nourished and given time to grow becomes a reality better and bigger than the original conception. Yes, I like to dream and we, TRE, my Ixil friends and other partners and organizations have been dreaming, planning and preparing to make a very important dream a reality. It is with great gratitude and excitement I want to introduce you to “Eden Ixil,” a project that will change the face of poverty in the region where we are working and with the help and faithfulness of future dreamers can springboard into adjoining lands and make a ripple of change that we have not even begun to imagine.
   What is Eden Ixil? It is a project to put an agricultural and village technology training center where it is needed most, right in the middle of extreme poverty. To make a dream a reality takes a lot of work and we have been working and laying the groundwork for this project for two years. The project is comprehensive in its goals and I will not try to explain everything in one blog but like an onion we can peel back and look at the different layers in the upcoming months. Today, I hope to share the dream sufficiently that you can see the potential that lies before us. The potential to teach much needed skills to the Ixil people and how we can make the work of T.R.E. sustainable far into the future.

  T.R.E. is buying the farm! We need space to grow our gardens and seed banks, space to conduct training sessions. A place that will centralize our work and let us put down deeper roots . . . and we have found it. We are starting the purchase of a 10-acre farm outside of Chel. The land is beautiful and centrally located to serve 20 villages. The new site is loaded with potential. It has river frontage, two steams, a two-story ranch house, some barns and two main pastures. The ranch house has a large kitchen that can serve 40 people with ease and guest quarters for sixteen.

   Two years ago we stared testing this idea of a training center with work on a small nursery in Xesally. We needed somewhere to grow seedlings and prove the value of soil improvements. The land we borrowed had such poor soils the nitrogen level would not even register on a soil test. Our first vegetable crops all failed due to infertile soil. For two years we have been improving soil quality and learning about the climate.

   Two years of study has proven results! (These photos were taken in the same location as those above.) This year we have been distributing thousands of seedlings from this tiny site. Villagers who first asked us for chemical fertilizers so they could garden now are following our example by composting and building their soils. If we had handed out bags of fertilizers and seeds to start they could have grown their vegetables but would need our help each and every year. By teaching how to build soil and grow seed stock we are giving them the ability to provide for themselves. The good news is . . . it is working!
Training session in front of Michael's house with women testing out the flavor of hibiscus tea.
   But it is still a small site. It does not have enough space to grow seed stock or have small groups in for training. Our weekly training sessions are almost comical. With over 400 family garden sites and hundreds more wanting to enter the program we need to dream bigger. We need to dream holistically and sustainably. Project Eden Ixil is that dream and the crowning event of The Ripple Effect's work.

   It is easy to take pictures of needs. I am surrounded by people with basic needs unmet. Lack of food, no potable water, unsanitary living conditions, poor shelters, and at times equally severe the lack of hope. That is what I see and what the camera can capture but in my mind’s eye I see something different.
  Where there are swollen bellies and poor housing I see a fertile garden and a new home. When smoke and darkness fill the house I see a new stove and solar light. I hear the sound of education both for the children and adults. I feel the sense of personal and community pride.

I see the potential of seeding a paradise in the midst of extreme poverty.

   The new site is beautiful and loaded with potential. It has a river, two streams, a two-story ranch house and some barns. The ranch house has guest lodging for international visitors or garden groups from neighboring villages. Some of the training classes that will be included here are: the cultivation, use and preparation of medicinal plants; cover crops and green manures; animal husbandry of ducks, sheep, goats, and pigs; fish farming and bee keeping; care of fruit trees; production of methane gas; the use of small hydro-electric generators and solar power; and classes on nutrition and hygiene. The list goes on and on. It is realistic to say that this training center will have a profound effect on the surrounding twenty villages.
Small garden spot in front of ranch house. Over 3 acres are dedicated to demonstrative gardens.
   Villagers can come and visit our demonstrative gardens and take home new ideas and plants to use in their gardens. Four model homes will be built to demonstrate how to integrate various parts of a small farm to complement each other and make work easier and more sustainable. 

                                       This site will allow us to centralize our work. having examples of efficient stoves, solar hot water, living fences and more for villagers to see, learn and copy.

A field training session for twenty families
Over six hundred gardeners will pass through the site for training in the first year. A greenhouse will produce thousands of seedlings monthly and a tree nursery will grow five thousand fruit trees in the first year.
All this training shared on the farm will assist families like Juana to have a productive garden site. It will give a living example of "how to" to thousands of people.
   We have just finished our six-month evaluation of 400 gardeners. We use these visits to explain not only what is going on in the garden, the good and bad, but what improvement they can implement around the home. We are choosing 100 of these gardeners with excellent work to be an example in their communities of what a home would look like with a productive garden, animals in corrals, a place where the home and children are clean. We will be helping the families by providing stoves, water filters, the building of latrines, nutritional training and more. Combined with the work on the farm these homes will establish a reachable benchmark for the community, an example of how life can improve not just in a textbook, not only for the wealthy or people in other communities but right where they live.
   I hate to say it but the level of poverty here has forced some families to live like animals in a state of constant struggle. That is what I see with my eyes but my heart sees a different possibility. This project gives us the resource to make the change from present needs to future possibility. The excitement for Eden Ixil is tangible in the communities where we work. Many are able to see that this is a project that they can manage and build to help the whole region have a better life.
 But we can’t do it alone. 
We need helping hands and I want to call on everyone. 
  President of Miracles in Action Penny Rambacher with Julia Lopez, one of our garden leaders.
   We are looking for partners to enter a relationship with the Ixil people. Partners to dream big with us. To dream what would life be like if there is food on the table, clean water to drink. What life would be like with new hope in the heart and the training to make dreams happen. To dream of making an Eden in the midst of extreme poverty. Eden Ixil is not just a ten-acre farm project but it is giving the chance for a region to change itself. A productive farm is not the goal. What we do on the farm will be implemented in the communities at the family level. The goal is healthy, hopeful lives.
   T.R.E. has never launched a fund drive before but now is the time. We have a $25,000 matching grant to help with the farm purchase. My grandmother used to say, "Many hands make for light work," and that is what we are seeking. Partners that will help us take our work to a new level. Why not join in support and see the ripple grow.