JUNE! It’s JUNE??? That can simply not be true. (I realize that it is now in fact July, but this was started in June).
Well as seeing that I have completely slacked off with my writing this blog I owe at least two posts, so this one will be a professional focus and the other will be a more personal focus.
Since the last time I wrote the first business plan was written and completed with great success. After I wrote up all the information from the community visit/assessment I put all the information together using the template that I had created and then translated it (with the help of Google). The problem of course after was that it still didn’t make a lot of sense to the native Spanish speaker (kind of comforting on on the one hand that the internet hasn’t mastered the art of human conversation but at the time very frustrating!). So I sat down with the technical staff and they assisted with the translation. Meaning that I was taking up time of theirs that could have been used in MANY other capacities.
BUT it was complete and the funding to repair the cooking vat for the cane sugar was approved, so that felt great.
Soon after that business plan we went on another community assessment, this one was not as far in the mountains but getting there was still very bumpy, VERY bumpy. I was again very excited to be there and felt like I was getting into the groove quite nicely.
I was with the same member of the technical team that I went with for the first community visit and we see each other in the office quite often so I knew him quite well. Between his half English and my half (okay 1/4 but whose calculating!) Spanish, we manage quite well.
We had gone to collect information on alternative medicine and a women’s group in the area but when we got there the plans changed and we were suddenly walking up a mountain to look at the water source for a new farm cooperative initiative.
Once we got to the top and took a look at the water source for the farm we sat down and my colleague looked at me and said “okay Erin! what information do you need for the lagoon?”, I gave him a look that must have said ‘the what now??’ It had been decided through earlier discussion that what was now needed for the growth of the enterprise was to clean out an old lagoon pit and fill it with fresh water and then buy baby (fingerlings) tilapia to fill the lagoon. This would assist the community in a couple of different ways. For one, food for the families themselves, secondly for the community nearby who doesn’t have a lot of access to fish, and being a source of income for the newly formed enterprise of 11 people.
So there I was staring blankly at the group and I was like uhmmmm okay, well, what exactly is needed here for the lagoon to be successful and what is CDH ready to contribute. This was all information that I would have normally liked to have prepared to go INTO a community meeting or assessment but you learn to go with the flow. The lagoon needed to be cleaned but they have a water source which is fresh water from the surrounding mountains that they have connected with an irrigation for the rest of the farm, so the fish is what was needed. I then asked questions about the group and how long they had been working together and what their main sources of income were. I also asked about the care of the fish and and the necessary upkeep of the lagoon.
In all honesty, I didn’t know anything about tilapia except for the recent information on the web about how they can be unhealthy because of high chemical levels and low regulation standards. So after the meeting we went back to the office and I started researching. Thankfully CDH has worked with tilapia before so there was a lot of information on hand. I learned A LOT about tilapia! Like the space they need to breed the most safely and sustainably, why they are a good choice for ease of care and how good they are at breeding. They have a high success rate in the kind of environment where they would be living so it at looked very positive. I wrote up the plan and again waited to meet with the technical team to edit it, this proved a lot more difficult then the first time. So I waited.
But in the mean time one day a while later (quite a while later) I was invited to the community to…..take the fish! SO exciting. I woke up at 5am to get out before it got too hot for the fingerlings, and they showed up at my house at 7:30..lol there were three giant bags in the back of the truck and I felt like I had just gone to the pet store and got my own pets! There were two members of the technical team sitting in the back of the truck to stop the bags from being too violently shaken on the the rocky road, and we headed to the community.
When we got there, the bags were taken to the lagoon and put in the water to equalize the temperature in the bags (think eeeeeeee – baby fishies screaming the same way we would if a hot shower suddenly turned cold).
The bags were slowly emptied and they swam around in their new large area. Three babies had unfortunately perished during the trip but we had originally counted for 500 out of the 3000 to die over the life cycle so three at the beginning was already better than what was thought.
After all the fish were released everyone sat down and the technical team talked about the care of the fish, and the best times to feed them etc. CDH also provided them with food, which consisted of a five part mixture that was prepared while we were there.
It was incredible to be able to see the project come together after starting with a community visit and then writing the plan and then being able to be with the team as the tilapia were delivered. It had a great sense of ‘full circle’.
We left with a feeling of excitement and dropped off members of the cooperative on the way, which in some cases was a large distance from the farm. We got invited into all the homes we passed and we stopped into one to see a new grinder they had gotten to ensure that the fish food wasn’t to coarse for the fingerlings to consume.
It was a great day.
P.S just in case anyone is wondering, the original plan for the alternative medicine business plan was not wiped out, but done with another group. They received their ingredients and are doing quite well with their own iniatitive.