By Farrah Ali-Khan
What I really love about World Accord’s approach is its deference and advocacy for local development, which is why we work through local partners who have been around for decades and are usually close to the communities with whom they work.
Visiting Central America reaffirmed my decision to work with World Accord. Even though it felt like we were trying to see all the projects and partners at breakneck speed, the incredible value and significance of their work deeply resonated with me. Amazing work done by such few resources and iron-steel commitment re-invigorated my faith in humanity.
Stories of all kinds were told: in El Salvador, our partner ADCASMUS provides micro-credit funds and ongoing follow-up to poor women so they can start up various small businesses, feeling empowered in the process. One participant in this program told us about how she had gone from being a destitute mother of four, having suffered a brutal divorce and cancer, earning $5/day working at a maquila factory to becoming a business-lady, selling health and wellness products out of her home and earning enough to put extensions on her home and send all her children to school. She was an incredible person of strength and fortitude and gave me the sense that anything is possible.
In Honduras, our partner PRR works with farmers who sometimes earn only $0.25/day doing back-breaking labour. They encourage these farmers to form groups and then provide micro-loans so the farmers can purchase their own land. They then provide technical advice so these farmers can experiment and develop a local seed variety that is best-suited to their micro-climate. These farmers then go from being historical “underdogs” of an unjust system, suffering months of hunger, to producers of their own food and researchers. It’s an amazing story of true emancipation and food sovereignty. One of the farmers groups that were musically inclined had formed a band and had written songs about their work. One lovely afternoon we had driven up into the mountains and as the sun was setting, we had the opportunity to hear them play their songs about the seed varieties they had developed and environmental values that flow through their work. This brought tears to my eyes.
In Guatemala, one of our oldest partners “Women in Action” primarily works with women in the Guatemalan highlands. Among the many initiatives they advance, they also advocate and teach sustainable agricultural practices to women. One of these practices includes the use of a specific kind of compost, which is enriched through special bacteria that can only be harvested from virgin forests. They have developed the compost production using these bacteria to a fine art and have a 5-year plan in place to ensure that this becomes a feasible business where they can sell it as an organic product to the national market. This compost is pretty amazing, because it has been proven to restore soil that has been depleted after generations of chemical use within months. When I asked one of the ladies if she was afraid that someone would come along and try to patent this process, she simply replied that it would be ok, because all they want is the restoration of the soil, not profit. I was absolutely touched by that response – not a business lady, but a humanist and environmentalist to boot!
I’m very excited to be helping World Accord be a catalyst for change by cultivating communities that thrive!