Monday, January 30, 2012

A Palmeros’ story: Joel Cabrera Rodas

Joel Cabrera Rodas harvests palm in Chiapas, Mexico. Photo: Pronatura Sur A.C. 

My name is Joel Cabrera Rodas, I’m 25 years old. I live in Tierra y Libertad community in the Sepultura Biosphere Reserve, in the Sierra Madre de Chiapas in Mexico. I started cutting palms illegally when I was 16 years old. We didn’t know anything about sustainable management then; we just cut the fronds and sold them very cheap. But then we were caught by the authorities and I couldn’t live from this activity anymore.

I tried to migrate to United States like my brothers but we were caught again and I had to come back home with empty hands. It was a very difficult experience; we suffered while walking hours in the heat of the desert without knowing if we would make it through.

When I came back my father gave me five hectares of land and I began to cultivate the palm with other community members. We were able to organize our group with the help of Pronatura Sur and the Biosphere Reserve. We built a nursery and started planting below the trees in the mountain. Then in 2008 we obtained a legal permit to harvest the palm and we began selling it, but still the price was cheap.

With the Eco-Palm Program we feel that there are people who recognize the efforts we are doing to preserve the mountain and make a better living for our families. Last year it also gave us the opportunity to buy school supplies for child care and primary school in the community, with the rebate we received.

Now I’m working as one of the managers of the regional organization PROPACH. With it we will try to organize all the communities that cultivate palm in a sustainable manner in the Sierra Madre de Chiapas.

I would like to thank the churches and people that participate in Eco-Palm Program because you help us construct a better future in our community, for my one-year old daughter and all the other children.

By Joel Cabrera Rodas

This story is courtesy of Pronatura Sur A.C.  The projects are part of the Sacred Orchid of Chiapas project supported by Global Environment Facility (GEF).  UMCOR is a supporter of the Eco-Palm Project in partnership with the University of Minnesota.  To order Eco-Palms visit

Monday, January 9, 2012

Food on the Table

Bethuel Lesuk Andaria stands in his cassava farm which is proving fruitful after receiving farmer training. Photo: UMCOR Sudan

My name is Bethuel Lesuk Andaria, I attended the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) farmer training on April 28, 2011, that was conducted by UMCOR in South Sudan. We learned how to cultivate an improved variety of cassava. After the training, UMCOR distributed cuttings of the new variety of cassava to the farmers who were in attendance.

All of the farmers in Kenyi boma, Lainya county, including myself usually plant the local variety of cassava, which is not resistant to cassava diseases and takes 18 months to harvest. This season we planted this new variety, which is more disease resistant and can be harvested in just eight months.

I planted the cuttings provided by UMCOR on May 16, 2011 and monitored how well they grew in comparison to the local variety. Within two weeks the difference was clear. It was then that I realized that UMCOR has really helped us and given us a way to produce more food and sustain our families.

The crop is now five months old and is growing very fast and has been resistant to diseases. I plan to harvest it by February 2012 and it may go straight to my family because this variety is sweet and not bitter. I may store some of it for the next season. Many farmers from other villages have been asking to buy some cuttings from my garden, but I do not plan to sell it.

I am not the only one who had such a good result with this new variety of cassava. The 67 of us who attended the food security training in April are also having the same satisfying experience as me. I am very thankful to UMCOR who brought this new variety to us.

Bethuel Lesuk Andaria is an UMCOR Sudan beneficiary

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Improving the Lives of Children

UMCOR constructed two permanent blocks of classrooms with furniture as well as an office for the teachers in Lasu Camp, Sudan. The UMCOR Sudan project was funded by Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration and the US Department of State. Photo: UMCOR Sudan
  By Lemeringa Leon

Congolese refugees arrived in Lasu Camp in Yei River County in February 2009. The South Sudan government and landlords gave some residential land for the refugee camp. Life was miserable for the refugees. They had limited facilities and there was no school for the children, remembers Lemeringa Leon, headmaster of the Nyori 2 Primary School at the camp.

He recalls that in June 2009 they decided to start a school under the trees and later ACROSS (implementing organization) of UNCHR constructed temporary classrooms using local materials. But those structures were not conducive for learning, especially during the rainy season.

“During this hard situation, the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) came in with a useful education program for refugee pupils in the camp,” said Leon. UMCOR constructed two permanent blocks of classrooms with furniture as well as an office for the teachers. UMCOR also constructed three blocks of pit latrines and hand washing facilities. Students received school uniforms, health kits, and school kits to help them improve both their health and learning. Donated sports equipment also helped the students.

UMCOR distributes hygiene and school kits for pupils at Nyori 2 primary school. Photo: UMCOR Sudan

 “UMCOR also conducted PTA training for teachers, parents, and the school management committee,” recalls Leon. “It made a positive impact on the teachers and parents committee, which resulted in an increase in pupil’s enrollment in the school.” He reports all the facilities are now being used by the school.

“We are very happy with UMCOR’s support.” Leon says. “I love UMCOR and thank UMCOR for the best services that UMCOR has given us.”

This UMCOR-Sudan project was funded by Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration, US Department of State. The program is continuing in 2012 in the same refugee camp.

Lemeringa Leon is the headmaster of the Nyori 2 Primary School

New temporary office at Nyori 2 Primary School

Monday, January 2, 2012

A Story of Survival from Typhoon Washi

Eusevia Cortez, an 82 year-old survivor of Typhoon Washi, receives emergency supplies from an UMCOR volunteer.  Photo: UMCOR Philippines

On the night of December 16, while many in the Philippines were celebrating Simbang Gabi (nine days of evening mass to celebrate the beginning of Christmas), flash floods raged through towns in the Southern Philippine island of Mindanao, catching many by surprise. 

Eusevia Cortez, an 82 year-old woman, is one survivor of the flash floods that swept away almost her entire neighborhood in the city of Iligan.  Thousands of people experienced the same nighttime floods that were caused by Typhoon Sendong (Washi). 

Ms. Eusevia had lived in a small bamboo home for years until the water washed it all away. Though she lived near the vicinity of river, it never occurred to her that she was in danger.

On that fatal night, strong rain came followed by a powerful wind. Then, the rampaging flood rolled through town. Ms. Eusevia tried to call out for help, but the roaring water drowned out her voice.  Even if her voice had been heard, no one could come to help her— her neighbors were struggling to save themselves. Ms. Eusevia cried out to God for help.  

Nothing was left after the waters receded.  Ms. Eusevia lost her home and all of her belongings.  She has no idea how she survived and attributes it to God.

Today, Ms. Eusevia is thankful for the help that The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) extended to the survivors of Typhoon Washi.  “Your assistance is a big help, it gives me hope and determination to continue living in the midst of hopelessness and despair,” she said.

Eusevia’s story does not end here. Her story of survival is just starting. While she is well and alive in spite of the flood taking everything from her, she needs to start all over again and this is not easy for an 82 year-old woman who struggles to make ends meet. She will need a lot of help to recover.

You can help UMCOR provide assistance to Ms. Esuvia and other survivors of Typhoon Washi by giving to Philippines Emergency, UMCOR Advance #240235.