Overcoming Obstacles in AMA’s Organic Greenhouse

Two consecutive doors and a pile of lime oxide lead into the Llanos del Pinal organic greenhouse.To enter, pass through the first door, close it behind you, wipe your feet in the lime oxide, and then pass through the second door. It may seem like a lot, but the indigenous women who manage this greenhouse wouldn’t gamble on anything less. Several months ago, the women planted three tomato plants outside of the protective walls of the greenhouse. All three have since perished, their stems hollow and their brown leaves hanging weakly. Growing vegetables without pesticides or chemical fertilizers isn’t easy, and vegetables within the greenhouse must be protected from the insects and microbes that attack from outside. Four weeks ago I visited the greenhouse in the indigenous highland community of Llanos del Pinal and found the women facing their fear. A plague had entered from outside and begun to attack the tomato plants. At the time the women appeared afraid, and I wondered how they would respond to nature’s test.

As it turned out, the women of Llanos del Pinal would not be caught unprepared. Upon discovering the plague they acted decisively to buy an organic pesticides aptly named the “Flower of Death”. Weekly application of the pesticide has since all but vanquished the plague from the greenhouse.“At first I was really afraid because the plague was spreading. It’s still early in the season and we could have lost our entire tomato harvest,” explained Maximiliana Gomez. “But we met with each other and decided what needed to be done. The most welcome surprise came when our men supported and encouraged us.” As long as the women continue to meticulously care for their crops, they will have organic tomatoes and lettuce to sell at the Quetzaltenango market in September. Llanos del Pinal’s greenhouse is an AMA pilot project that was initiated four years ago to provide the women of Llanos del Pinal with greater economic freedom and a healthier food source. AMA is currently working to fund the construction of a second organic vegetable greenhouse, and nearly all of AMA’s partner communities have demonstrated great interest in hosting the project. As always when considering the initiation of a community project, AMA seeks capable and progressive women within our partner communities to become project managers. Participation in AMA-sponsored community projects fosters self-esteem and personal freedom amongst indigenous women. Furthermore, empowering young female leaders in project management contributes to project sustainability.

Karen Mayorga