Growing green thumbs in Bolivia

Growing green thumbs in Bolivia
“Getting veggies in the market is expensive but if you produce your own veggies you also help dad and mom.” Efrain, 11, Bolivia

There is no shortage of love in Efrain and Silvia’s homes. Both children live with their caring parents in Bolivia, who work hard to provide for their families. Efrain, aged 11, likes to help his mom and lives in a semi-rural community. Silvia is a sweet eight-year-old who loves learning and lives with her family in a busy urban area.

Despite growing up with a lot of love and hardworking parents, Efrain and Silvia’s families still sometimes struggle to provide enough healthy food.

Bolivia is considered one of the most food-insecure countries in Latin America, and nearly 4.3 million people live below the national poverty line. While the causes of urban and rural food insecurity can differ, the high prices of food, low productivity in agricultural production, and high rates of poverty all play a role.

Too often, children like Efrain and Silvia go without enough healthy food. That’s why Canadian Feed The Children has partnered with local organizations that focus on growing gardens and developing children’s ‘green thumbs’ in Bolivia.

Efrain helps garden at home

Efrain lives at home with his mom, dad and four other siblings. His father earns a small income for the family working for a local mattress manufacturer. His mother stays home to take care of Efrain and his siblings.

While his mom always kept a small garden at home, the partnership with Canadian Feed The Children and local partner IPTK has helped improve their production.

“I like to help my mother in the garden,” Efrain told us. “I plant the seeds and also water them.”

Efrain and his family

Efrain and his family proudly stand in front of their home garden.

Efrain and his mother received training on better gardening practices, including how to treat plant diseases and pests in ways that are safe for the environment and for human health, using ashes and extracts made from spices and tobacco.

They also learned how to construct a “solar tent”, which is a greenhouse made from a simple wooden frame covered with recycled plastic bags. This helps to conserve moisture, which is especially important during the dry season when water is scarce and expensive.

“We grow veggies like lettuce, chard, cabbage peppers, celery and parsley,” Efrain explained. “I like to grow lettuce because it is delicious in salads. Now we can eat fresh and healthy.”

Not only does Efrain now know how to grow his own organic produce, his mother sells the excess at a local market to earn an additional income for the family.

“Getting veggies in the market is expensive but if you produce your own veggies you also help dad and mom,” he said.

Silvia gardens for her community

Unlike Efrain, Silvia does not have a garden at her home in her urban community. Instead, she’s been developing her ‘green thumb’ at the local children’s centre supported by Canadian Feed The Children and local partner SCSJ.

“I like working in the garden at the centre,” Silvia told us. “We do not have a garden at home, but one day we will, and I will work there too because I like it!”

Silvia watering her plants

Silvia tends to her mini garden in the local children's centre.

Silvia’s teacher has taught her how to plant seeds, water, and to harvest vegetables. She’s also been taught how to use a local pepper aji as an organic pesticide, helping to keep bugs away from the plants.

Together with her peers, she’s been growing lettuce, chard, and strawberries. The food Silvia has grown has helped supplement the healthy meal program for the children who attend the centre - an initiative funded by generous Canadians.

Silvia is learning all about gardening and helping to feed her peers: “I like gardening because we can plant our own food and eat healthy veggies!”

When children like Efrain and Silvia learn how to grow their own food with their own ‘green thumbs’, they help create healthier families and communities.

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