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A village elder measures the panicle length of their upland rice

The chief proudly gestures to the small stalks of fresh greens growing in neat rows. “Onions!”  I gushed. On the plots beside them are eggplants, and native greens called alugbati (Malabar spinache) which are high in vitamins and minerals. Over the hill stood their upland rice they recently started to grow with the help of the System of Rice Intensification taught by PASALI farmeer technicians. Behind me stand bare fields, where in a while golden stalks of natural native corn will sprout.

In this village households are committed to till these communal fields to grow food for their families’ consumption. Its a system they devised themselves, after the Chief and his wife got inspired during a training on Financial Literacy which PASALI held last February. It was about saving, but how you can save, thought the Chief if you dont even have anything to eat? So they thought lets plant other crops so while we wait for corn, we have something to harvest every few weeks.

The idea may not be new but it did literally save their lives. When PASALI staff first came here they were starving. Families had a few casualties. Its an utterly bizar phenomenon when you came from the culture of McDonalds and fried chicken and people throwing away food at the end of the week.

So they went from hunting almost extinct animals and starving before 2006, and learning to grow corn and other things, to quite food secure in 2010. They’re even selling their vegetables down below at the women’s market. Surrounding villages have joined and employed the same scheme,  making food in their mountain home astonishingly present.

Now that food is on the table, other things are the focal point. What about a steadier source of income? There’s a talk of rubber plantation – PASALI members are negociating with other players now. What about education? Migrants from PASALI Netherlands helped train one teacher, then PASALI Children’s Desk helped the village lobby for a governnment recognized day care center. The village take such care of it that now that center has grown to several grades and hopefully more will be added. What about literacy for the elders? The villagers went and found someone to teach them on Saturdays. The compensation is the issue now, since its temporarily coming from the local government captain’s pocket.

WATER is something that hasn’t been installed yet. The village elders now go directly to their major, and perhaps that will yield something positive. And in PASALI there are individuals pursuing all means to get this needed commodity installed.

Either way, development is bbrewing and most of it has come because this village really stood up to get it for themselves. rman

German partner EED puts this in words: “Helping people in developing countries lead self-determined lives, a principle known as “empowerment”, is one of the key strategies” in development. I only hope this isn’t the last of it.

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