Buckner Mexico goes green

By September 5, 2011

Mexico(MNN) — The rising costs of everything from fuel to food causes many ministries to figure out another way to meet physical needs.

For the Buckner International Pan de Vida foster group home in Mexico City, they did the most logical
thing: they began growing their own food. Their approach became an innovative hunger
solution for the community. Not only did
their recent harvest bring in more than
1,000 pounds of tomatoes, but it also brought Gospel opportunities.

The idea was the brainchild of the wife of Buckner Mexico program
director, Juan Carlos Millán. However,
Millan was faced with two problems: "The land is not good, and sometimes the
people have water. But they don't know how to manage this water."

The team found ways around that with its first project in Mexico
City. Millan explains there was a learning
curve, too. "Many poor people don't
know how to get food because they don't know how to produce it and have no
opportunities to have this knowledge.
One of the best things that our team is working on is giving people those
opportunities." Last March, Buckner
planted its first greenhouse garden on the flat roof of the Pan de Vida group
home.

"We
began to use that greenhouse as an educational piece to teach families in the
community to grow vegetables for their families as a food source, and later, for
ones who got better at it, to sell surplus produce to the market and generate
income for their families," said Dexton Shores, regional director of Buckner in
Mexico, the Dominican Republic, and Peru. "The big greenhouse on the roof is
also used to provide food for children at the foster group home and the
community feeding program."

In
the first growing cycle of the project, Buckner Mexico staff planted 150
cucumber plants and 150 tomato plants. They produced 661 pounds of cucumbers
and 1,404 pounds of tomatoes.

In the second cycle, the greenhouse was only planted with tomatoes
and finished the cycle with a production total of 1,774 pounds. Of that, 358
pounds were consumed at the foster group home and in the feeding program, and
more than 1,300 pounds were sold at the market, helping the home become more
sustainable. 

With such successes behind them, the idea of feasibility for other
Buckner projects was a step closer to reality. Millan explains that "the hydroponic is not expensive and is easy
to understand and to learn. We now have 43 greenhouses around Mexico's
Republic, and it's working."

In addition, with a grant from the Mexican government, Buckner Mexico built
20 small greenhouses last July, purchased seeds, and installed extra water tanks
where hydroponic solution could be stored separately from water for daily
household use. 

These greenhouses were built in July 2010, and a year later, the
families are growing spinach, carrots, tomatoes, chilies, radishes, lettuce and
cucumbers for their own consumption. "It's
a pleasure for us to see that the people have some fruits and they are eating.
The most important thing for us is that
they understand that they can do more with their resources that they
have."

Even better are the numbers
of people who are being helped. "Directly,
it's like 43 families, but they give to their neighbors, so indirectly, it's
more like 90 families," says Millan.

This year, another greenhouse was added to the project, and the
team included worm composting to help enrich the soil. There are also plans to begin a program to help families start raising hens for
eggs and meat.

Along the way, community members get involved. Many times, they volunteer their time to help
just so they can learn how to grow their own food. Buckner is relatively new in the
country, so the name isn't closely associated with Gospel work. However, Millan says that's never far from
their minds as they work. "Those
activities that we have as Buckner teams are giving another idea for people to
understand that we're not talking to them about religion, we just want them to
discover our relationship with Jesus Christ."

To learn more about Buckner ministries in Mexico, click here.

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