Following a recent Heifer Study Tour to Honduras, Virginia Tech students were given two assignments. First, sum up the experience in just one word:
Second, choose one photograph from the trip and explain why you chose it and which of Heifer’s 12 Cornerstones for Just and Sustainable Development it embodies. Over the course of this week, we’ll share these images and words to give you a look at how much of an impact seeing Heifer’s work in the field can have. Here is the first installment:
S. Abbott, Human Nutrition, Foods & Exercise; VA Tech: Cultivators of the earth are the most valuable citizens. They are the most vigorous, the most independent, the most virtuous, and they are tied to the country and wedded to its liberty and interests by the most lasting bonds. –Thomas Jefferson
This photograph was taken on the last day we worked in the Copantle community in Honduras. I like the way it captures Angelina and Michelle working alongside each other in Angelina’s garden. This image speaks to the Heifer Cornerstone, Sustainability & Self-Reliance. In the classes I have taken for the Civic Agriculture and Food Systems minor at Virginia Tech, we have had a lot of discussions about how “sustainable” agriculture should be defined, about the threefold social, ecological and economic components. Sustainable agriculture enables citizens to meet present-day needs without degrading the resources left for future generations. The agroecological principles we saw being put to use in Angelina’s garden and fields are sustainability and ecological stewardship in action. After our first day of work in Copantle, Angelina gave us a tour of her land and it was incredible to see the principles of ecological agriculture I have learned about being used in this Honduran community. The steep slopes that overlook Angelina’s community are planted with pineapple, banana, plantain, coffee bushes. The biodiversity here is intentional and incredible to see. Every plant chosen is there for a reason, which Angelina shared with us: the pineapple, for instance, provides natural terracing on the slope. This photo also embodies Food Security/Food Sovereignty, a core value of the Civic Agriculture and Food Systems minor. Food security essentially means knowing where your next meal is coming from. Food sovereignty refers to having access to food that is healthy and culturally appropriate, and that is produced in environmentally and socially responsible ways. A community with food sovereignty also has the ability to define their own food system. From what I saw in Copantle and heard from Angelina about her vision for continuing to build upon the resources that they have, I would say that this community is definitely on the right track for achieving food sovereignty. Heifer International’s mission is “to work with communities to end hunger and poverty and care for the Earth.” Seeing the civic agriculture in the Copantle community, thanks in no small part to Angelina’s tireless efforts, has allowed me to understand why “caring for the Earth” is a vital part of Heifer’s mission statement. Hunger and poverty cannot be eliminated if we do not take care of the Earth. Healthy communities are built upon healthy soils.