What started out as a way to use the property that we were living on in Costa Rica to the fullest, has grown and expanded to help in efforts to provide food, jobs, and hope to the poor, needy, orphans and mission locations in Panama with an agricultural outreach.
The highlands of Panama in the province of Chiriqui have the highest concentration of vegetable production in Panama, and has become the location for the growth of a large portion of all vegetables in all of Panama, while beginning to extend to be one of the nation’s main exports.
A good amount of the local farming methods are primitive, however, as the subsistence farmers are growing to produce enough for their family to consume. They will sell any excess to the local area to provide an income for their family, but do not have the capability of large production methods, nor the land to support it. Because of this, the individual farmer’s productivity is fairly low. Although about half of Panama’s land is used for agriculture, the best lands are held by large owners who ship most of their harvest to Panama City for the largest gain. That has left many families without enough food to live on, and those who have no land suffer as a consequence as well.
We are now helping a farm in the Chiriqui province of Panama that has seen the many families in need of food. The owners of the farm have chosen to begin growing crops of potatoes, onions, carrots, and other staples to maintain food supply to the schools, orphanages and mission organizations in the area.
Crops, however, are not the only focus on the farm. Raising chickens to provide agricultural training for the children included delivery of a chicken house to a school as well as food through the weekly distribution of the egg production to the schools.
Young men are given the opportunity to participate in the poultry project with the responsibilities of caring for the chickens, collecting the eggs, and learning business principles to bring the eggs to market in order to begin to provide for their families and understand business and marketing practices.
Because the Pacific side, which accounts for most of the cultivated land, has a dry season (December to April) and the mountainous terrain can restrict cropping (although when it is done, it is a beautiful site and not for the weak or those fearful of heights!), water catchment systems and greenhouses to expand the crop provision and crop growth year round have been the focus.
Volunteers from Panama, The United States, Canada and neighboring Costa Rica have been a huge part of the soil preparation, planting, harvesting and distribution of crops throughout the year. They get to enjoy not only the benefits of the hard work that farming is, but also the benefits of developing relationships with the other volunteers as well as with the people that the farm serves.
We look forward to using all that we are learning in Panama to further efforts in Costa Rica as well, as we continue to work on providing food and jobs for those in need!
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