Elena Tusen (aged 42, above left, with Progressio's Karina Cuba) is a Haitian woman who came to Loma del Guano (near Cruz de Cabrera, Dajabón, Dominican Republic) over 20 years ago. She is married to a local farmer, Osiri Vicente Jimenéz,  and they have four children – with another on the way.

Elena is four months pregnant. To get medical checkups she must go to Los Cerezos, a community an hour away, where there is a primary care unit. They are isolated in the community and lack access to basic services, making life difficult.

“Life here is quiet, but there is not much to work with,” says Elena. “It costs a lot to take what little we have to sell at the market in Restauración or Loma de Cabrera.”

For the past year, Elena has been trained as a ‘champion farmer’ through Progressio’s food security project.

She’s been supported by Progressio development worker Karina Cuba and her colleagues at partner organisation Solidaridad Fronteriza to create a home garden growing a variety of crops, to raise chickens, and to understand food nutrition and the importance of a balanced diet.

“Elena’s role as a ‘promoter’ is a really important part of our project,” says Karina. “It enables her to support other people in the community, and strengthen solidarity networks in a community so isolated.”

Elena has seen the benefits too. She says: “The garden and the chickens have made life easier. We don’t have to go to the market to buy vegetables and eggs for the family, saving time and money.

"My family is really thankful"

“We are growing lots of new crops and so we have a better diet. My family is really thankful for the variety of food!

“And we can make a little money by selling what we produce, mostly among our neighbours here in Loma del Guano.”

"I want to improve the welfare of the whole community"

Elena has also managed to reproduce seeds for the next planting season, but says because her garden is so small she cannot provide enough seeds for others as well as herself.

“For the future I want to maintain and expand the garden and the chicken coop to ensure the health of my children, and provide some income for schooling,” she says.

“And as a farming promoter, I want to continue to support other families in the community, and promote food security and nutrition to improve the welfare of the whole community.”

Photos © Fran Afonso/Progressio.

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