Monday, June 17, 2019

Water. In America, water is something that is taken for granted, but not here in El Salvador. Today, after squeezing 25 people into back of the Pastoral House’s Kia truck, we journeyed to Caserio Cerna’s water source.

“Duck.” “Clear” “Duck.” “Clear.” This was the sound 23 people heard as Alex and Phil, our coxswains in the front of the truck, announced the presence of low-hanging branches and other whip-like foliage. After a jostling 45-minute drive, we finally stopped, dismounted, and began a 10-minute hike to the source. Once there, we discovered a pipe with a small trickle of water and learned that in the dry season, a family member will walk 1½ hours to the source, fill two jars with water, and walk 2 hours back. Barbara’s comment, “when I want a drink of water, I just walk into my kitchen,” encapsulated all our thoughts.

The only drinking water source for the Cerna Community that basically serves about 300 people. It was about an hour and half walk from Cerna to get here.

Our return journey was a bit calmer as some of the community members had used their ever-present machetes to hack away some of the overgrowth. After a delicious lunch prepared by our Pastoral Team in the elementary classroom (complete with grape Fanta), we ventured across the rutted, dirt road to view a farmer’s field.

Farming is different in El Salvador, and for the past two days as we’ve been taking our food and medicine packets door-to-door, we’ve been updating the Directiva’s census with correct family names, ages, and farm information. We’ve learned that a section of land here is called a manzana, which is 1.6 acres. We’ve also learned that it costs approximately $300 per manzana to plant a crop. This includes the seed (some of which is provided by the government), insecticide, herbicide, rent, and fertilizer. The primary crops are corn and red beans.

Raising a crop is done by hand on the steep slopes of former volcanoes. To plant, the farmer uses a spear-like tool that is thrust into the ground and twisted. He then drops two, chemically-treated, kernels of corn into the hole and waits for rain.

The effects of climate change on the crops of this subsistence farmer.

To reach the farmer’s field, we inched our way, single file, down an almost-vertical slope to the cornfield where we discovered fairly healthy, 5 foot, corn that was tasseling. However, as we traversed up the hillside to another field, we discovered what Ceferino, a young farmer, referred to as “triste maize” or “sad corn.” This corn was only about a foot high, yellow, and sickly. Next to this field (about the size of a small Des Moines backyard) was an even sadder bean field. The tiny bean plants were riddled with holes and the tiny leaves were curling from lack of moisture. Ceferino said that even with a decent rain, half the yield in this field was gone; without rain in the next few days, the entire field will be lost.

In Iowa, yields are obviously important to farmers, but not for the same reason as in El Salvador. Here, yields feed families. Without rain, there is no crop, and without a crop, there is no food.

Water. A life-giving force. Please pray for rain for our brothers and sisters in El Salvador.

By Eden Pearson