The small Puerto Rican town of Las Marias lies deep in the island’s interior mountains. At least 43% of its population lives below the poverty levels and another 21.8% are aged over 65 years. The COVID-19 pandemic further exacerbated the situation. On the island, 40% of families reported food insecurities, up from roughly 33% prior to the pandemic. Luckily, one organization is busy addressing this. Here is how Plenitud teaches sustainable farming to impoverished Puerto Rican families.
What is Plenitud?
A group of graduates from the University of Florida created Plenitud in 2008 in order to research, learn and educate about sustainable farming techniques. With a strong conviction and purpose, these friends quickly began cultivating permaculture and teaching initiatives in Puerto Rico’s central mountains. Within a few years, Plenitud grew and swiftly established relationships with several major universities across the island. These universities host groups of students for academic and service trips in impoverished areas. In 2011, Plenitud settled on a 15-acre Las Marias farm equipped with a greenhouse, food forests, eco-buildings, campsites, rainwater collection and a Teaching Center. Here, Plenitud teaches sustainable farming and operates as a hub of sustainability.
Building Community Resilience
Plenitud has a strong belief that communities deserve access to safe shelter, clean water, food and health. Because of this, the organization supports community resiliency among the most vulnerable populations. To do this, Plenitud installs rainwater harvesting systems and regularly tests and monitors the water quality. Additionally, Plenitud establishes food security among communities by training a new generation of farmers, installing community gardens and growing fresh and healthy food. These efforts improve food security by ensuring local food sovereignty.
Further work has gone into building “SuperAbobe” shelters. These are a form of earthbag construction that can provide quick and secure housing for vulnerable individuals. These SuperAbode homes, like other bio-construction buildings, aim to minimize the impact on the environment by sourcing local, raw materials. Additionally, SuperAdobe shelters offer a form of alternative housing that easily withstand the earthquakes and hurricanes that frequently devastate the area.
Inspiring the Future Generations
Plenitud believes that teaching the value of cultivating food from an early age is crucial to resolve many of the problems faced by Puerto Rican children and their families. Plenitud teaches sustainable farming not only to promote economic stability in impoverished Puerto Rican regions but also to inspire the youth into choosing organic farming as a profession. To do so, Plenitud developed partnerships with four public schools in addition to universities. Its Partner Schools Program offers over 1,000 students experiential education in food preparation and sustainable farming. In this way, Plenitud is preparing the future generation of sustainable farmers.
With these applied techniques, Plenitud is successfully positioning itself at the forefront of the sustainability movement in Puerto Rico. This movement’s core is about giving impoverished and malnourished communities the right tools to become resilient and self-sustainable. Through community resilience projects and sustainable farming practices, these communities will have the tools to lift themselves out of poverty, contributing to the economic development of the entire region.
– Jesus Quinones