Parable of the Seed (Valerie Foulkes)
I was particularly inspired by a community I visited in Oaxaca recently where the youth are taking the lead with the community tree nursery and also the local savings group. I wrote the attached report on my visit. Knowing the next generation is caring about the environment this way, even in a remote community in southern Mexico, is very uplifting to me. In another community I visited, one of the members talked about their efforts to save the planet through reforestation. I was really surprised to hear their global perspective when their community has only 100 people! — Valerie Foulkes (Plant With Purpose)
Community Spotlight: Chepeginio in Oaxaca, Mexico
Empowerment and local leadership are core values of Plant With Purpose. When community leaders are equipped to make positive changes, blessings are paid forward. Plant With Purpose’s program has spread in the Coatecas region of Oaxaca, Mexico through this beautiful cycle.
The community of Chepeginio has partnered with Plant With Purpose Mexico for several years, thanks to ambassadors for the organization in the neighboring community of Coatecas Altas. Pastor Luciano and Eleuterio are the liaisons for Plant With Purpose in Coatecas Altas. Not content to have only their own community start to transform land and lives, they arranged a meeting with Pastor Abundio in Chepeginio to discuss expanding the program there.
When Pastor Luciano introduced himself to our group of Vision Trip participants, he said, “I thank God for your lives and how He has led you to support people on this side of the world, the farmers here. Plant With Purpose has helped transform their fields and their lives.”
Pastor Abundio’s church is the key mobilizer in Chepeginio and encourages the community to work together and participate in Plant With Purpose’s projects, ranging from savings and loan groups to reforestation projects and fruit tree orchards. The chain effect continued as Pastor Abundio introduced Plant With Purpose to another community in the region, Poblete, which he feels called to minister to and considers his second home.
Tree Nursery & Reforestation
Chepeginio’s church is just shy of 100 members with half comprised of children and youth. Twelve of the youth manage the community’s tree nursery. Laura, one of the youth leaders, explains, “We care for the tree seedlings so we can reforest our community and have something to work on together. We learned from Plant With Purpose how to prepare the soil and tend to the trees. It’s been great to learn new things!”
The tree nursery is impressive, with over 700 seedlings of 10 different species. Plant With Purpose emphasizes the importance of native trees, and the youth took the initiative to collect seeds of particular native trees in the nearby forest. The youth also prioritize making their own compost and avoiding the use of chemicals, to save money and avoid unhealthy side effects. Sometimes a government organization comes to communities to give out free pesticides, but without providing training on their proper usage, it can be dangerous. The youth plant about 400 trees each year in the community (dependent on the rain) and about 80 percent survive thanks to their care and attention. If neighboring communities are interested in reforesting, the youth will give them tree seedlings from their nursery so a new community can begin reforestation efforts together.
Working alongside the youth, we planted trees on a steep hillside by the school. This is the hardest part of the process, digging deep holes while trying to keep your footing and then lugging water from far away to keep the trees alive when it doesn’t rain. But many hands make light work, and last year 100 youth with 10 pastors from neighboring communities joined together to reforest this area. What beautiful fellowship, tending to God’s Creation together! Pastor Abundio said those pastors still ask him how their trees are faring. He shares, “It is a blessing to plant a tree and see it grow. It makes me happy. Thank you Plant With Purpose for teaching us how to plant trees as we did not know the importance of it before.”
Gabion Wall & Fruit Tree Orchard
Justino is a partnering farmer in Chepeginio with Plant With Purpose. He has built a gabion wall to protect his farm from soil erosion and to help protect the water source. Noe, an agronomist on Plant With Purpose’s staff, explains,
“If we don’t care for water in the area up here, then people down there won’t have water. We need to care for the whole sub-watershed. We remind people of the importance of taking care of the environment – it’s not just about the trees, or the corn or the beans, but the whole thing.” So far, 19 people have gabion walls in Chepeginio, representing a strong commitment from families to care for their watershed as each wall consists of multiple cages filled with rocks which take days to build.
Another important project that Justino partners with Plant With Purpose on is fruit tree orchards, an income-generating project. On his own, he previously planted three lime trees but without technical advice they were damaged from disease. He shares, “Trees are like children. They need taking care of.” With Plant With Purpose’s guidance, he has an orchard full of orange trees, and makes his own fertilizer from compost to keep them healthy. The fruit supports his family and he also shares with his community.
Village Savings & Loan Association
Plant With Purpose has trained 107 savings and loan groups in Mexico. The only all- children’s group is in Chepeginio and the President is a 12-year-old girl named Alheli. To see her hold an important leadership role in her community at such a young age assured us of her and her community’s hopeful future. She already is a young businesswoman and makes embroidery to sell.
The twenty or so members range in age from 4 to 25 with the majority between ages 9 and 12. Collectively, they have saved 7,700 pesos (over $400 USD) this year! Sandra, on staff with Plant With Purpose, shares, “When I first started visiting this group, I was surprised to see the children come alone to the meeting. The children wanted to get involved on their own - it wasn’t the parents pushing.” The children are learning the habit of saving at a young age and through their influence, several of their parents have joined the adults savings and loan group.
The children are learning financial management skills and also benevolence through the Social Fund to which they each contribute two pesos at their monthly meeting. If a member has an urgent need, the group will bless them with money from the social fund. The group’s core values include teamwork, discipline, respect and loving their neighbors.
The children take turns in various leadership positions including President, Treasurer, Secretary, Accountant and Key Holder (the money box has 3 locks). The meeting was conducted with utmost seriousness (you are fined if you talk!) but there were several chuckles when the youngest member joyfully contributed her savings. The children save between 10 and 50 pesos a month and it adds up. Ester, one of the accountants, helped her family buy furniture with last year’s savings.
God is clearly at work in Chepeginio. Its community members, from the youngest to the oldest, are using their God-given gifts and talents to steward God’s Creation and all the resources He has provided. Lives are being transformed and their future is bright.
Over the past 32 years, Plant With Purpose—an international Christian organization—has planted 20 million trees around the world. Planting trees is an integral part of PWP's programming, which transforms the lives of the rural poor in undeveloped nations through environmental restoration, economic empowerment, and spiritual renewal. Thanks to PWP more than 30,000 farming families are currently mobilized to reforest their lands and revitalize their communities. Crop yields increase with reforestation and sustainable agriculture practices, which include planting trees and crops together to maximize beneficial, ecosystemic interactions. With reforestation, biodiversity returns and grows, and family farms become more sustainable. With healthier ecosystems, rural communities are far better equipped to thrive. Learn more about the benefits of trees, reforestation and agroforestry here.
To connect further, contact Valerie Foulkes, Regional Representative – Houston, Plant With Purpose