Donations of Equipment and Supplies to Other Nonprofits from Earth Links

By Stephen Leinau, Executive Director

In my thirty years working in the nonprofit world, I have maintained an interest in meeting the needs of nonprofits and their clients with tangible items: work clothes, tools and the various necessities of life. From my tenure as the Director of the Long Island Food Bank in the 1980s, and coordinator of the USDA food distribution program on Long Island, to my work with Earth Links, I have learned from first-hand experience the value of materials that nonprofits need and can put to good use immediately serving people in need.

Volunteer Chris McPherson and donated clothing, 1995

Since its founding in 1991, supporting other nonprofit organizations has been at the core of Earth Links’ mission of “bringing people and resources together.” Through corporate, business, and individual contributions during those twenty five years, Earth Links has donated over one million dollars worth of materials to other nonprofits, including new clothing, software, computers, communication gear (such as satellite phones and ham radios), office supplies, and other items without costs to the nonprofits we serve. These materials have been and continue to be critical to the work of women’s shelters, community development projects, and advocates for indigenous peoples. Given the cuts to local, state, and federal budgets  (as well as economic uncertainties on the horizon), groups are in even more need, and Earth Links would like to continue this work in future.

We are always looking for the financial resources to support our giving of material donations from corporate and small business sources. Each $1,000 donation to Earth Links allows us to solicit, pay shipping and handling, and deliver $10,000 worth of needed items to other nonprofits.

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Insulated coveralls for local farm workers.

 

Donate now to help our continuing efforts to provide people with the resources they need!

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Farming Matters: Special Issue on SRI

The international quarterly magazine Farming Matters has come out with a special issue on SRI (SRI – Much More Than Rice, 29.1, March 2013), featuring wonderful people and projects promoting SRI worldwide and making a serious difference in the food security and food sovereignty of the communities where they are working.

The issue does an excellent job of exploring the theme “much more than rice.” As SRI-Rice’s Erika Styger writes in her article “SRI 2.0: How is SRI evolving and what are we learning?”,

Ecological approaches for sustainable agriculture intensification still offer much potential for development. With the accumulating evidence that the application of SRI core principles improves productivity not only for rice but also for other crops, the potentials for using the SRI methodology become broader and more relevant.

As longtime “champion” of SRI Norman Uphoff (former director of Cornell University’s CIIFAD) argues in an interview in this issue,

SRI is not a technology that can be put into a box. It is a set of ideas and experiences, a set of relationships and a set of values. This is often really hard to get across, especially to agronomists or to economists who want consider SRI as “only this” or “no more than that.” It should be kept in mind that the original objective of Tefy Saina in Madagascar was not just to grow more rice, but to help the rural people understand their situation and take the opportunity to improve it. While SRI was intended to help people produce more food, it was also expected to help them “liberate” themselves from unfounded beliefs or social pressures.

Check out this article on SRI in Peru, one Latin American country where SRI is making inroads. “We are convinced that this is not a crazy idea at all – and are sure that more farmers will join us,” writes farmer Divar Moya Zavaleta, whose success since he started using SRI in his rice fields in 2008-9 is beginning to convince other local farmers of the benefits of SRI. This snapshot of one project in Latin America highlights the need for information, resource sharing, technical assistance, and funding to allow Latin American countries to reach their potential for sustainable rice production and to expand to other crops.

We were also happy to see a piece on Hamidou Guindo and his self-help association 3A-Sahel in Douentza, Mali. Earth Links provided financial support to SRI Global, who in turn funded Hamidou’s project (read Hamidou’s progress report here). Hamidou and 3A-Sahel will be receiving funding again for 2013, and are going to expand the project this growing season.

The whole issue is available online, so check it out!

Searching for SRI on the website of Ileia will produce lots of very interesting results. https://www.ileia.org/

Farming Matters is a publication of the wonderful international organization the AgriCultures Network, which “shares knowledge and provides information on small-scale family farming and agro-ecology.” Visit their website at http://www.agriculturesnetwork.org/

El Mirador Farm

Aldao Choatalúm, San Martín Jilotepeque, Guatemala

El Mirador Farm, winner of the Guatemalan Ministry of Agriculture’s Model Organic Farm Award, promotes an ecological, organic, and sustainable agriculture that fosters native plants and biodiversity.

Manuel Huz leads a training session at El Mirador

The dream of Manuel Huz—co-founder of the renowned Campesino-to-Campesino Movement and the Maní School of Ecological Agriculture—El Mirador is in a region particularly affected by Guatemala’s civil war. It is a testament to Manuel’s healing vision that El Mirador has become such a vibrant community center and has changed so many lives in the process. The Campesino-to-Campesino Movement that Manuel helped to establish emphasizes soil conservation and sustainability in the context of traditional campesino agriculture, promoting hands-on experimental learning, innovation, and exchange of ideas on the campesinos’ small holdings. It has spread from San Martín throughout the Americas and around the world.

Visitors at El Mirador

El Mirador is a self-sustaining, working farm and a training facility. Thousands of visitors come to the three-acre farm each year to learn about innovative, small-scale, low-cost practices in cattle, pig and fowl husbandry; production of corn, coffee, fruit, vegetables, firewood, cheese, animal feed, fish, compost and worm bins; soil and water conservation, reforestation, water recycling and the use of a biodigestor to produce methane as a fuel source.

Casita for overnight visitors

Three Americas and Earth Links have been the sole international supporters of El Mirador. Three Americas is currently working to help El Mirador produce a brochure, and a DVD of their farm tours, as well as working to identify funding for a much-needed second bungalow so that additional visitors and groups can spend the night at El Mirador during training sessions.

Watch Café Maya, a documentary video about Manuel Huz and El Mirador, directed by Emery Hudson, and produced by Roger Bunch for Three Americas.

Flor Sanmartineca Coffee Cooperative

San Martín Jilotepeque, Guatemala

Nazario Huz, Coordinator of the co-op, at the co-op’s new coffee processing plant

The Flor Sanmartineca Coffee Cooperative, in San Martín Jilotepeque, is a remarkable group of coffee farmers who produce some of the most delicious coffee in Guatemala. Their cooperative, which promotes the cultivation, processing, and marketing of certified organic fair trade coffee from San Martín, has made a significant difference in the lives of its members, who live and work in an area particularly affected by Guatemala’s civil war. Three Americas and Earth Links were proud to help finance the cooperative: the financial donation helped bridge a critical gap in the economy of the cooperative, giving the co-op the ability to start paying cultivators when they deliver their coffee to the co-op, rather than having to wait for payment from coffee brokers, which can take up to six months for them to receive. With the co-op, not only are farmers able to get much better prices for their coffee, they have been able to convert individually-owned plots to organic, ecologically sustainable, shade-grown crops, and do much of their own processing of the raw coffee berries.

A meeting of the co-op board

San Martín’s coffee is exceptional – processors in Antigua pay more for the coffee from San Martín than for coffee from any other region in Guatemala. The co-op’s work so impressed Anacafé (the Guatemalan National Coffee Association), that the association donated $600,000 worth of materials and machinery to help build the co-op’s coffee processing plant.

Now in its third year, the co-op provides orientation, education, financing, and buys and processes coffee from over 2,000 local producers, an estimated 2 percent of the coffee production of San Martín.

Three Americas, Inc.: Latin America and the Passing of Co-Founder Bert Muhly

Bert & Lois Muhly, 1982

Three Americas, Inc. is a nonprofit 501(c)3 educational and action organization that serves as a catalyst to link the people of the Americas through cooperative projects supporting social, environmental, and economic justice. It has operated in its current form since 2003, when it received its 501(c)3 status – the core group of volunteers and activists comprising Three Americas has been working on these issues since the 1980s.

Earth Links has partnered with Three Americas on numerous projects in Latin America and our collaborations have produced work we are all very proud of. With the recent passing of one of the founders of Three Americas, Bert Muhly, we wanted to share some of the important work this dedicated group of people has done over the years. This work started with Bert and Lois Muhly’s fact-finding trips to Nicaragua, and continues to be informed by their research and travel.

Bert, Lois, and their daughter Patricia staff the Three Americas booth at the Aptos Farmers Market

Three Americas is perhaps best known to locals in Santa Cruz for its Café de la Esperanza coffee sales at the Aptos Farmers Market, where two kinds of shade-grown, fair traded, organic Nicaraguan coffee are available both bagged and fresh-brewed, roasted by the Santa Cruz Coffee Roasting Company, a local roaster and retailer. Their coffee sales fund a great part of Three Americas’ educational and humanitarian projects, and the connections made with the coffee growers—on Ometepe Island in Lake Nicaragua and in the vicinity of Mt. Pancasan—have been rewarding for all concerned.  Each coffee sale by the cup or bag provides farmers a fair wage, protects their health through paying a premium for organic growing methods, and helps to fund projects throughout the Americas.

Bert Muhly and Bill Burtch load a truck bound for Nicaragua

Three Americas has a long and rich story, beginning with the formation of the Santa Cruz Coalition for Nicaragua in the 1980s.  Following the overthrow of dictator Anastasio Somoza, a group of committed citizens in Santa Cruz saw the opportunity for a people-to-people exchange of ideas, and for material and monetary resources to flow from Santa Cruz to humanitarian and environmental advances being made by the citizens of Nicaragua. Over 30 trips have been made by Coalition volunteers and residents of Santa Cruz, sometimes by truck with material aid, and some times as groups for training and cultural exchanges.  Exchanges have gone both ways as mayors and firefighters have visited Santa Cruz and discussed their needs and common issues in city planning and management.

Three Americas has demonstrated its commitment to sustainable living and indigenous peoples rights through numerous projects spanning many years. Here are just a few of their innovative initiatives:

Coffee Cooperatives in Guatemala

In 2008 and 2009, Three Americas partnered with Earth Links in order to  help establish a coffee growing cooperative in San Martín, Guatemala. It started with discussions of a proposal from a group of Mayan coffee farmers, which led to a $5,000 donation to a group of twenty or so families who planned to form a new co-op. These families converted 100 acres of land to organic growing, and then created three small scale coffee processing facilities.  The co-op was able to purchase just-picked coffee from farmers for processing by the co-op, which allowed the farmers to earn substantially more money when the coffee was finally sold to brokers for export.  The plan changed as the farmers determined it would be more efficient to invest the capital in joining and expanding an existing coop, which proved to be very successful decision.  This work also produced joint support for the building of a “casita” for the award-winning sustainable agriculture center El Mirador, which has allowed students and visitors more options to stay on site for training and internships.

Land Rights for the Rama Nation

Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, Three Americas and a large group NGOs, including Earth Links, Asdi, KEPA Finlandia, Lighthawk, and Raindancer Media, lent their assistance to key individuals from the Rama Nation on the Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua in their long struggle to gain title to their common ancestral lands. A major breakthrough in this effort came in January 2003 when the Nicaraguan government approved a new indigenous land demarcation law (Law No. 445). One of the main obstacles to defending native peoples’ land rights in Nicaragua had been the absence of a legal framework to demarcate and title community lands.

Much of the support provided by Three Americas involved working together with Earth Links to fund the efforts by environmentalist geographer Gerald Mueller Riverstone, PhD, to assist the Rama in documenting their historical land use of more than 1,00,000 acres along the Caribbean Coast. Using early hand held GPS units, drawing extensive maps and taking photos from a small Lighthawk-provided plane, Jerry and the Rama produced an aerial map of the Rama Lands. You can read Jerry’s extensive reports, Rama Indian Lands and the Protection of Nicaragua’s Cultural and Biological Diversity, here.

Media efforts were also supported by Three Americas, Earth Links, and Raindancer Media, who produced crucial short documentaries making the case to the Nicaraguan people to grant the Rama their homeland. In 2009 the Rama received their lands rights, although the struggle to maintain control and to manage settlement/deforestation by poor mestizo farmers is one of many ongoing challenges.

Three Americas provided critical support to Maria Luisa Acosta, a human rights lawyer in Nicaragua, aiding her in her quest to establish land rights as human rights for indigenous peoples in Central American courts. Three Americas helped fund the documentary The Living Documents, about the brutal, murderous opposition Maria Luisa encountered in her support of the indigenous people of the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua.

Three Americas and Earth Links have provided ongoing support to some of these isolated rural communities along the Caribbean coast, who have been under attack, including gunmen attempting to force them off their lands (which would thereby allow large-scale development to take place). In 2000, Three Americas, Earth Links, and Paul Baker of the Nicaragua Network provided the Monkey Point community a ham radio and VHF radios to reach the regional police and army units, which helped reduce the violence and frequency of those kinds of attacks.  In 2010, satellite phones, a computer, cameras, and solar powered batteries were sent.  Working with the leadership of the Rama people (especially community leader and activist Miss Pearl Watson), Three Americas has also supported the Monkey Point Health Clinic with small financial donations and medical supplies. Three Americas also held conflict resolution courses in Bluefields to help the various ethnic groups (Rama, Creole, mestizo, Guarafuna) find ways to solve disputes over land and resources before they became violent.

In addition to the direct support for the Rama, Three Americas and Earth Links refurbished donated computers and shipped them by truck to the three indigenous universities on the Caribbean Coast (URACCAN). Trainings on computer care and software operation were held at all three universities and led by Three Americas volunteer Takashi Yogi.

Sister Cities and Jinotepe, Nicaragua

The Unveiling of the Truck in Jinotepe, June 2009

Three Americas’ multi-year aid to Jinotepe (in participation with Santa Cruz Sister Cities Committee) is almost too extensive to list: items have ranged from an ambulance to x-ray equipment. Another donation involved a shipping container of hospital beds. Sports equipment has been very popular – Nicaraguans love baseball. Bill Burtch, who drove many of the shipments direct from Santa Cruz to Jinotepe, made one trip to coincide with an Earth Links visit, to distribute donated wheelchairs and adaptive equipment to aid the special education efforts of Los Pipitos.

In June 2009, Santa Cruz Sister Cities Project and Three Americas coordinated delivery of a rear-loading garbage truck, valued at C$50,000 (the Nicaraguan currency), that was donated by the City of Santa Cruz to Jinotepe, Nicaragua, its Sister City.  It was so welcomed another truck donation is being planned.

Most recently, Three Americas and the Sister Cities Committee are providing assistance to the home for seniors in Jinotepe, to fund and provide additional services to the very low income residents who find shelter there.

Bert Muhly’s Legacy

As an original member of the Santa Cruz Coalition for Nicaragua, and then founding board member of Three Americas, Inc., Bert Muhly personified the spirit of people-to-people exchanges, which reach across great distances to bind together those who would protect our environment and our most vulnerable citizens. This work is a wonderful example of what a few committed individuals can accomplish, even against long odds, when they work together.

La Castellana Cubana

In July 2011, Earth Links in partnership with Three Americas Inc sent much needed supplies to Centro Medico Psicopedagogico Castellana, a residential home and activity center for the disabled in Havana Cuba. They were able to send donated computer equipment and supplies, small kitchen appliances including blenders and meat grinders as well as hand tools for their garden by working with a US based nonprofit. The items (200 lbs) were donated and delivered to Cuba by Pastors for Peace, a US-based nonprofit, by way of their Cuba Caravan.

The Cuban medical facility is comprised of a cluster of buildings, greenhouses, and garden in a peaceful urban setting. It serves individuals with disabilities and provides life and vocational skill training to its 245 clients, some of whom are residents. There are 260 staff members, including teachers, administrators, and medical personnel.

There is no lack of trained personal. The problem is they are operating with limited resources and equipment. The center's needs are mind boggling. The staff and clients are dealing with a wide range of infrastructural challenges. For instance, the refrigeration in their commercial kitchen needs repair. The washing machines are over 100 years old. All the computer printers need updating and the dial-up modem no longer functions. Although there is a newly opened dental clinic, many of the clients are missing a number of teeth, making the lack of a meat grinder and food processors a serious problem.

Three Americas through Pastors for Peace responded to some of the center's immediate needs and plans to do more, with help from other non-profits and individuals. La Castellana does so much good with so few resources it is an easy place to make a difference.

To see more on Centro Medico Psicopedagogico Castellana click here.

Photos by Doolie Brown

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