Silo/Granary Project Update

A big push for a better website came when we proposed the Silo/Granary project last spring. Since this effort hopes to help little by little over the long haul, there needed to be an accessible space in which to document its progress. We realized that all of our work is like this, really, but this week’s post is about silos! For an introduction to the silo project, read up on it here.

Folded corn drying in the sun last fall, awaiting harvest in Tierra Nueva, La Libertad.

In El Salvador, the first crop of corn is planted roughly in mid-May, and the harvest comes in September or October. This time of year is known as invierno, winter, not because of any hint of snowfall, but rather because these months are generally when it rains. Farmers need rain, not too much and not too little, in order to cultivate a good crop of corn. This year has been pretty dry, and it is estimated that 30% of the potential national crop has fallen victim to drought.

In the Silo Project proposal letter that we sent out in April, we suggested piloting the project in four communities. However, because of your enthusiastic and supportive responses, we have been able to spend the last few months laying the groundwork to begin the project this fall in 16 communities! In addition to the four communtiies of Agua Blanca (Guacamaya, Flor Muerto, Cerro Fuego, and El Tablón), Yancolo, San Pedro, and Tierra Nueva, we have begun working with this idea in El Triunfo, Las Mesas, La Hacienda, Junquillo, Colón, Guachipilín, El Rucio, San Miguelito, and Jilimile!

Our preparation work has consisted in meetings, first between José and our agriculture promoters, Ricardo, Heriberta, Nohemy, and Agustín,  brainstorming how best to introduce the idea to the communities. Then, we began meeting with communities, explaining the project and talking about who would administer the fund, where the silo would be kept, and which families in the community would be given priority to participate, since one silo is certainly not enough space to store a whole community’s worth of corn! Each community drew up their own agreement about how the project is to be administered and criteria for participation.

Delivering a silo in El Rucio

As of now, all of the silos have been taken out to the communities, two at a time in the back of the pickup over the course of a few months. Corn buying is set for September, although because of the drought, corn is at $20 or $23 per 100 lbs. (quintal). We will be proceeding with the same budget, just unable to fill the silos to capacity. Also, Ricardo, Nohemy, Agustín, and Heriberta will continue visiting each community once per month. They will be accompanying discussions about liberation theology as well as the social and ecological realities that dictate so much about the communities’ economic status.

In August, seeds for the vegetable garden aspect of this project will be distributed. This bit has been a little slow to get started because there have been a couple other organizations, in Morazán especially, developing gardens with a few families in the communities this summer, as many of you saw during your delegations. We didn’t want to be redundant with this effort. However, those projects have ended, and we are looking forward to learning from the gardens already established and continuing to cultivate traditional crops like green bell peppers, tomatoes, onions, and radishes. We are also dreaming of some fruit trees, like limes, papayas, and bananas.

The community of San Miguelito with their silo

In closing, it seems important to say that demonstrations of gratitude and hope for this season’s harvest are abundant. Last weekend, Las Mesas celebrated their annual Fiesta del Maíz to give thanks for the harvest and to honor the birthday of their founder, Jesuit martyr Joaquín López y López. This Saturday, the communities in Morazán are hosting an atolada to share with each other and with guests the fruits of their first harvest: tamales, porridge, and corn-on-the-cob. In the midst of the struggle through the precarious reality in which many subsistence farmers find themselves, there is abundant life to celebrate.

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