Agros Blog

One Village…Coming Soon!

The countdown is officially on!

On Monday July 26th, Agros International will be launching one of the most unique website experiences—dare we say—ever!  Journey with us via an online, multimedia experience, and you will have a one-of-a-kind opportunity to explore an Agros village up close and personal, come to know the people and projects that make that village so special, and directly help them end rural poverty for good… One Village at a time!

We’re excited to share this with you—so please stay tuned…

First Grade Philanthropists

You might remember that a year ago we shared how a group of innovative, entrepreneurial 1st graders from Seattle’s St. Joseph School came together to make a difference. These students, with the support of all their parents and led by teachers Ms. Peterson, Ms. Meier and Mrs. Doquilo, managed to raise $1,140 for Agros villages in Chiapas, Mexico in last year’s bake sales.

Their success inspired this year’s first graders to follow in their footsteps. Here is an update on just what the 1st graders of St. Joseph’s school have cooked up for this year.

Like the class before them, this year’s first graders decided to help the young families in Chiapas, Mexico by organizing a bake sale. These 63 youngsters conducted two very successful bake sales and this time generated $1080 for Agros. So, in two short years and four bake sales later, well over $2000 has been raised for Agros!

Pictured below is the 1st grade class of 2010 with Dave Spicer from Agros, as well as a group of students proudly presenting Dave with a check of the money they raised. Brian, Abby and Riley represent their respective first grade class in giving this check for $1,080 to Mr. Spicer.

Also pictured is a young villager about the same age of the St. Joseph 1st graders whose picture and story helped inspire them to take action. Some of these funds raised by the St. Joseph 1st graders will be used to purchase birds and animals like chickens, turkeys, goats, rabbits, cows and sheep from the Agros One Seed Alternative Gift Catalog for families living in Agros villages.

Agros feels blessed and grateful to have young people like these two groups of first graders care so much about other people in a very different part of the world.  These young and inspiring philanthropists are truly becoming global citizens!

St Joes 1st graders

St Joes 1st graders and Dave

Girl w Turkey

Sachs’ Six Tenets to Reduce Poverty

Jeffrey Sachs: SSIR In a recent interview with the Stanford Social Innovation Review, Jeffrey Sachs, distinguished economist and professor, renowned author, and Director of the Earth Institute, outlines why he believes ’sustainable development is humanity’s most pressing challenge’ and ‘lifting billions of people out of poverty is the first order of business.’

To that end, Sachs identifies six areas he deems crucial to ending extreme poverty:

  1. Agriculture
  2. Health
  3. Education
  4. Infrastructure
  5. Business development
  6. Environmental conservation

Sachs argues that we can ‘make tremendous headway against poverty, killer diseases, the lack of productivity of the rural poor, and so forth, through integrated systems-based and technology-based approaches in those six areas’—in other words, sustainable and holistic development.

We agree!  Agros’ holistic development model was devised specifically to address these areas identified by Sachs (and more) with sustainable solutions.

It all begins with helping the rural poor secure rights to quality land. After land has been secured, Agros works with the villagers on community development and implementation of sustainable, environmentally sound agricultural systems. Agros also equips the villagers to hone their skills to democratically govern their villages. And consistently threaded throughout the process are a combination of health and human development programs, as well as ongoing education and training as appropriate for the given stage of development.  Through this holistic approach to development, Agros has helped thousands of people pull themselves out of poverty by simultaneously supporting the very ecosystems they depend on for life-giving services.

When you support Agros’ work you can trust we are implementing solutions each and everyday that address these same six areas of need as outlined by Mr. Sachs.

For example, here are just a few items from Agros’ One Seed Alternative Gift Catalog that support development in those six areas of critical need:

  1. Agriculture: One Acre of Seed
  2. Health: Village Health Promoter Training
  3. Education: Women’s Economic Initiatives Training
  4. Infrastructure: A House (Startup Housing)
  5. Business development: Business Training
  6. Environmental conservation: Planting a Dozen Trees

Learn more about Agros’ holistic development model and how it supports these critical areas of need, our commitment to sustainability, and how you can get involved and make a difference!

A Father’s Enduring Example

Carlos Sarmiento has a special fondness and respect for his father, who raised him on his own after his mother left the family when he was very young.

As a child, Carlos remembers his father doing all that he could to provide for them.  That meant his father was away for long stretches day after day, having to walk two hours each way to a small plot of rented land he farmed for basic grains. Often that yielded very little, and there were nights they both went without food.  As he matured, Carlos joined his father and helped work the land. For Carlos, this was a special time when his father shared his life stories and wisdom—but there were still days that their combined efforts didn’t yield enough food to eat or cover the cost of renting the land.

At the age of 15 years old, with his father’s reluctant blessing, Carlos decided to leave his small town for the city of San Pedro de Sula in search of more stable work. But he and his wife Marina, and later their two children, continued to face many difficulties there. To provide for his new family, Carlos often worked 30 hours straight without rest—beginning at dawn, with a shovel and bucket in hand, Carlos collected trash across the city.  Like his father before him, he had little choice but to be apart from his family with very little reward or stability in return.

But after finding Agros and moving to the Honduran village of Bella Vista, Carlos has finally found the stability and security he’d always dreamed of for his growing and extended family: land, hope and life.

CarlosToday, Carlos has found a renewed confidence in himself and his ability to provide for his family. The family enjoys a home, latrine, potable water, farm animals and crops flush with coffee, bananas, beans and corn! Together, they also run a small grocery store—this provides more income and savings for the family, while also serving the needs of their community with basic items.

Carlos is proud of the work ethic his father imparted onto him, and knows the example he is now sharing with his own children will forever strengthen their resolve and break their generational poverty. This Father’s Day, help other fathers like Carlos achieve their potential by giving a gift with real meaning in honor of a man who made a difference in your life:

Visit the Agros One Seed Alternative Gift Catalog to see other ways you can recognize that special man in your life!

P.S.—Don’t forget, every dollar you donate to Agros by June 30—up to $100,000 in general giving—will be matched dollar for dollar in the matching gift opportunity!

2010 is the Year of International Biodiversity

The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) has named 2010 the year of International Biodiversity, with this year’s theme specifically recognizing the importance of the triad: Biodiversity, Development, and Poverty Alleviation on May 22nd.

According to the IFAD, biodiversity is the sum of all existing species, their interactions and the ecosystems they form. It is also the basis for agriculture, and together, they are both crucial in maintaining and improving food security.  IFAD President Kanayo F. Nwanze notes that this year’s biodiversity focus “is a timely opportunity to remind the world of how agricultural biodiversity can improve productivity and nutrition, enhance livelihoods, respond to environmental challenges and deliver food security. Indeed, biodiversity is a vital tool for rural development and poverty reduction.”

Agros shares the belief that biodiversity is crucial for maintaining sustainable agricultural systems and healthy communities. Working closely with farmers, Agros agronomists work to provide the resources and skills-based training necessary to create dynamic agricultural systems that can support families economically and provide them with access to healthy food.

The surrounding environment also benefits from the use of these techniques as they minimize the use of pesticides and herbicides and promote soil restoration. Farmers in Agros villages also receive technical assistance and resources for the implementation of reforestation projects.

Agros is committed to helping farmers balance the importance of maintaining a high level of biodiversity within the economic needs of farmers. This year you can help support Central American and Mexican farmers’ efforts to increase biodiversity by supporting the work of Agros.

Learn more about the pillars behind IFAD’s 2010 Year of International Biodiversity and the International Day of Biological Diversity.

Every Day Is Earth Day in an Agros Village

Earth with Hands On this 40th anniversary of Earth Day, we recognize that every day is Earth Day in the developing world. For millions of people around the world, their very survival today depends on access to land as a source of food, shelter, and income. But for the majority, their access to land remains tenuous and means there will always be vulnerability to hunger and poverty, and by extension, little capacity to worry about conserving resources when survival is at stake.

Recognizing that, land access is a key tenet of Agros’ development model.  Further, to safeguard the longevity of this valuable asset, we ensure that both environmental and economic sustainability measures are employed to work in concert, and the benefit of doing so is seen and well-understood by all Agros villagers. It takes time and practice to realize and appreciate those gains, but is most assuredly worth it. Agros staff provide ongoing workshops on everything from sustainable agricultural practices that promote crop diversification and soil conservation, organic composting, the benefits of using improved wood burning stoves, and more.

Mario with chilies Take the example of Mario in the village of Brisas del Volcán.  He used to work as a day laborer, leaving home at 3am only to return at 8pm each night, making very little money for time spent. Work could only be found during the peak-growing season from November to January, so he remembers months on end when he and his family were only able to eat just once a day. When working for the interests of a large landowner, he recounts he had little capacity or incentive to be concerned with sound agricultural practices. Today, by contrast, he is an active advocate for sustainability in his village. A natural leader, Mario served as Brisas del Volcán’s first President of Production and was responsible for managing all agricultural initiatives and marketing of those goods.  The village has enjoyed amazing benefits, both in dividends from the land and economic returns, from his leadership and direction in marrying crop diversification with environmental stewardship to protect their precious resources.

“Now we have chilies and banana plants… we have the luxury of working every day if need be, providing a better life for our families, and increasing our savings to do other things,” Mario shares. Today, his family works on all the shared communal crops as well as a project raising 60 chickens at home.

People are inclined to take better care of a resource that is their own. To that end, the Agros development model builds long-term assets ensuring access to land, affordable credit, and technical training proven to support sustainable land stewardship.

Do your part — celebrate Earth Day by investing in rural families who employ sustainable agricultural practices today and reap the rewards for many tomorrows to come!

Learn how else you can help at the Agros One Seed Gift Catalog!

Changemaker – Agros International

Global Washington, a broad-based membership association that promotes and supports the international development sector in the state of Washington, recently featured Sean Dimond, Agros Communication Director, and the work of Agros in their monthly ‘Changemaker’ feature.

You can read the article at the Global Washington site, or read below:

Sean Dimond is a talented and compassionate man who has lived through past life-threatening circumstances to tell a story of beauty and compassion about a world where human dignity is more powerful than war and extreme poverty.

As the Director of Communications for Agros International, Sean has applied his diverse background in communications, philosophy, and media-arts to connect the people of the developed world with those suffering in the developing world.

“Agros not only teaches the poor how to fish, but also enables them to own the pond.”

Throughout Central America, rural people have suffered from decades of armed conflict and extreme poverty. Many of these families have been forgotten and left for dead. In most of the developing world, and in Central America specifically, the rural poor depend on land for basic survival. If rural families are able to access their own farmable land, this can create a foundation for food, a secure home, and a path of progress. This is where Seattle-based Agros International comes into the picture.

Agros’ development approach takes into account that while single interventions (such as microcredit or vaccines) are important, in order to sustainably alleviate poverty it is critical to take a holistic approach, or as Agros calls it, “360 Development.”

Agros is focused on the long-term alleviation of poverty for entire rural communities by extending long-term loans to purchase farmland, and then partnering with families in applying sustainable agricultural and community development practices. The goal is to empower families to create, develop, and own a thriving, sustainable village.

In summary, Agros does not reduce the causes or solutions of poverty to just the individual, but instead works to alleviate poverty horizontally across an entire community, and vertically so this impact affects future generations.

Rather than build programs based on merely “fixing problems”, Agros seeks to invest in the dreams and values of poor, believing that they have the essential dignity and capacity to work their own way out of poverty.

“Rural poverty is not a statistic. It is a face, a family, a community. And if you first listen and then seek to enable the dreams of the poor themselves, you will be amazed by what they can accomplish,” Sean says.

Sean seems to be destined for international communications. His grandfather was Cherokee Indian and through his legacy Sean developed a passion for rural indigenous people. Having lived in 8 states and 22 cities, and with many opportunities to travel internationally, Sean has a keen sense of inter-connectedness in the world. What’s more, he was influenced by the arts and good communicators and developed a skill for communicating through media. The specific platform for his media skills would end up being decided by fate.

“These families don’t need charity handouts, they need opportunity”

Previous to his work at Agros, Sean owned a creative media firm called “” that provided media and marketing communication services to Fortune 500 companies and international NGOs. His success took a turn for the worse when he was later diagnosed with cancer and was forced to close his business. As he struggled through cancer treatment, he continued to pursue one of his passions—music composition. Agros heard about him and hired him to write a score of music for their first promotional video. Sean said that even though this request came during a hard time, he could not say no, “Agros was simply one of a kind.”

After his cancer treatment Sean decided not to go back to his firm, but instead decided to look for work with an international NGO. It was truly serendipitous that at the same time Agros began to look for a Communications Director.

Since the start of his full-time employment with Agros four years ago, Sean has worked to create new fundraising platforms, increase partner engagement, and expand Agros’ visibility through multiple channels. Serving on Agros’ Executive Leadership Team, Sean believes good communications must be driven by an organizations’ strategic plan. With this in mind, he has been able to build a strong communication system for Agros that would tell stories words alone could not accomplish.

“Agros has helped us see our face”

Sean recalls one of his first experiences abroad with Agros: in the mountains of Matagalpa, Nicaragua, in the village of El Eden. It was there during a video interview that he asked a villager to describe Agros in just one word. This villager said, “I would describe Agros as a mirror. Agros has helped us to see our face; they have helped us see that we have dignity. They have helped us to see that we matter.” Sean says it is encounters like this that get him out of bed every morning, focused to help these people help themselves.

“You do a disservice when you oversimplify the complexity of global poverty”

Sean believes that “we live in a unique time in human history—the struggles we face globally have a great deal to do with questions of sustainability, whether it is about food or the environment or basic security–and in an increasingly inter-connected world I feel the work of Agros is especially important.”

Sean asserts that the unique, sustainable solutions such as those practiced by Agros are critical for this global challenge. In addition, he does not think of other organizations in the global development sector as competitors. Agros is one important contributor within the global development field, but so are other organizations in their own way. Sean sees his primary competitor as “ ‘the apathy and resignation’ that exists in the general culture; the sense that nothing will ever change”. Sean believes that lasting change to complex problems is possible, “because here at Agros I get the privilege of seeing it happen every day.”

Furthermore, Sean also believes that connecting with other organizations is critical in this work, and that only by doing so can we learn from each other. It is for this reason that Sean really values Global Washington’s ability to convene the development sector in Washington State, and is excited for Global WA to reach their full potential.

For more information about Agros and how its dedicated people are working to make a difference in the world visit:

Submitted by Luke Mohr for Global Washington

Celebrating Women Today, and Every Day

Without regard for cultural, linguistic or ethnic divisions, March 8th is a day we honor the vast social, political and economic achievements of women worldwide.  International Women’s Day first emerged in 1909 largely through the push of labor movements, but officially took the global stage when recognized by the UN in 1975 “to reflect on progress made, to call for change and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in the history of their countries and communities.”

The women of Agros villages have played extraordinary roles in the development of their communities. Not only do they tend to the family’s crops, but they are also successfully raising their children, managing the home, leading community efforts, furthering their own education, and starting and growing other small businesses. The stories of women’s achievements in Agros villages are countless, but here are just a few of note:

  • One woman, Petronilla, is determined to grow multiple income-generating projects and send her four daughters to school to learn to read and write (pursuits she could not achieve as an indigenous girl).
  • Ten women in the village of Brisas del Volcán can be credited for having the vision and sheer determination to start, build and grow that village.
  • Hundreds of women are advancing opportunity for their extended families by building ‘Women’s Community Banks’ across Agros villages.

Women Cooking

Agros International has always recognized and supported the critical role of women in building and nurturing thriving communities, families, and individuals.

One example of this can be seen in the Agros model which ensures that women are equally recognized on the title of land ownership—both the husband and the wife’s name is on the land title, which is not always the case otherwise in the region. Owning land for the first time in their lives is a powerful thing, giving women a tremendous sense of personal pride; getting equal recognition and reward in the eyes of the law for their contributions is an important component to building equity in other areas of community development.

Today we also give pause to look ahead and recognize that there is so much untapped potential and opportunity still awaiting future generations of women.

Together, let’s help support these women’s efforts by providing them with access to resources and the opportunity to grow.  Please consider giving the women of Agros villages the gift of hope through a gift of:

Helping Our Haitian Neighbors

While we do not have operations there, all of us here at Agros are saddened by the tremendous loss and suffering endured by the people of Haiti and the tragedy that continues to unfold. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the countless people struggling to survive, the many families who’ve been affected worldwide, and to those organizations and individuals working tirelessly to help ease the suffering of so many.

The gravity of the situation and the sheer amount of work that lies ahead is daunting. But even the smallest of efforts can multiply into measurable impact for so many on the ground. And with so many organizations to choose from, we wanted to provide a list of a few agencies already at work that you might consider supporting in this effort:

You might also consider making a quick donation by text message. The Mobile Giving Foundation reports they’ve facilitated more than $10M to Haitian earthquake relief through text messages to date. For example, you can donate $5 to Haiti-born musician Wyclef Jean’s Yele Haiti Earthquake Fund by texting the word “Yele” to 501501, or $10 to the American Red Cross, by texting the word “Haiti” to 90999, and more.

We know you are a group who cares deeply about alleviating the suffering of those in the throes of poverty and despair — thank you in advance for your care, concern and support for those who truly need it.

Give the Gift of Hope This Holiday Season

Generosity in any form is a powerful force for good in the world… this holiday season, how will your generosity impact others?

This year, consider giving the most unexpected and meaningful gifts from the Agros One Seed Alternative Gift Catalog. Purchase gifts in honor of those you love and transform lives at the same time… One Seed, One Life, One Village at a Time!

The gifts in the One Seed catalog represent the essential elements of holistic development Agros employs to empower families to work their way out of poverty. Choose from a host of meaningful gifts that support our work:

Your gift is a tax-deductible donation to Agros and will go far to empower families across Central America and Mexico by supporting actual projects underway in Agros villages. It’s so easy – here’s how it works:

  1. Go to the Agros One Seed Alternative Gift Catalog website.
  2. Select a gift of meaning for your loved one.
  3. Choose how to send your gift card – via email or post mail.

Remember, you can purchase your gifts anytime, and choose to email or print a custom gift card yourself.

However, if you would like Agros to send a card to your gift recipient to arrive by Christmas, we’ll need to receive your order by Friday, December 18th in order to ensure it arrives on time.

Make your gift today and transform lives tomorrow!

‘The End of Poverty?’ Documentary Premieres

Agros International is committed to breaking the cycle of poverty for the rural poor in Central America and Mexico. Poverty, in our view, is the result of broken relationships and in order to break the cycle of poverty in all its forms these broken relationships need to be mended. Agros addresses these issues by applying a development model that is holistic, sustainable, and focused on long-term results. And while we currently focus our work helping families in Mexico and Central America, we know that poverty is a condition persistent in all regions of the world, in both rural and urban settings, and we want to see it come to an end globally.

We know that you care about ending poverty, too. So we encourage you to see the film ‘The End of Poverty?’, directed by Philippe Diaz and narrated by Martin Sheen. It is not often that a documentary allows such a vivid window into the lives of the poor and the root causes of poverty. This movie promises to expose poverty for what it is and inspire us all to take some form of action. Please join us in the fight against poverty.

For those of you in the Seattle metro area, ‘The End of Poverty?’ premieres today in downtown Seattle at the Regal Meridian 16 at 11:40am, 2:10pm, 4:40pm, 7:50pm, and 10:30pm. Also, Philippe Diaz the director will be holding a Q&A session at tonight’s 4:40pm and 7:50pm showings. If you can’t make the premiere tonight, it will be playing through the week.

Thanks for helping to spread the word about this film and its important message to end the plight of poverty.

World Food Day

Vegetables2Today, October 16th, the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) recognizes the global observance of World Food Day. In a year deemed the ‘worst financial crisis since the Great Depression’, the ripple effects of which exponentially hurt most those already suffering, it is fitting that this year’s theme focuses on Achieving Food Security in Times of Crisis.

The FAO highlights the critical importance of food security for the entire world’s citizens, especially as the ‘economic crisis is stalking the small-scale farms and rural areas of the world, where 70 percent of the world’s hungry live and work. With an estimated increase of 105 million hungry people in 2009, there are now 1.02 billion malnourished people in the world, meaning that almost one sixth of all humanity is suffering from hunger.”  Please visit the FAO’s World Food Day website to learn more about food security issues and how you can get involved in making a difference.

CultivatingLandFor Agros International, land tenure and food security are tantamount to everything we do working to improve the lives of the rural poor of Central America and Mexico. From selection of fecund, productive agricultural land to providing sound agricultural training, Agros staff is committed to providing Agros communities with all the tools necessary to ensure their ongoing food security and growth.  In turn, Agros communities have worked hard to implement sustainable agricultural techniques to diversify their crops and increase yields. In many cases, these improvements have meant the difference between one meal of tortillas a day to three consistent meals a day from a diversity of nutritious food groups for the whole family.

EggsWe invite you to reflect on this date the value of food security in your life, and how critical it remains for the millions of people who continue to go hungry. Please consider giving a hand-up to those working to create sustainable food sources for themselves and their families. Give the gift of One Acre of Seed or a Flock of Chicks today!

International Day of Rural Women

WomensChayoteProjectToday, October 15th, we celebrate the International Day of Rural Women. Established in 2007 by the UN General Assembly’s resolution 62/136, the annual observance recognizes “the critical role and contribution of rural women, including indigenous women, in enhancing agricultural and rural development, improving food security and eradicating rural poverty.” The observance serves to not only applaud the many contributions made, but also raise awareness around the many challenges and inequities still facing most rural women globally.

As noted in the UN Secretary-General’s annual message, the disparities that continue to exist are particularly noteworthy in a year that also marks the 30th anniversary of the only international human rights treaty to address the rights of rural women, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. This doctrine calls upon us all “to ensure that women fully participate in rural development; have access to health care…training, education, credit and loans; and benefit equally from infrastructure investments…”

WomensGroupAgros International has always recognized and supported the critical role of women in building and nurturing thriving communities, families, and individuals. Women in Agros villages are not only working the family’s crops, they are also successfully raising their children and managing the home. A great number of them are at the same time advancing their studies to better their future opportunities, taking on loans and successfully managing income-generating microenterprises, and holding elected offices making important decisions in village community leadership. Inspiring isn’t it?

It is probably no surprise, then, that a cornerstone of Agros’ model has always been to ensure that women get equal billing on the title of land ownership—both the husband and the wife’s name is on the land title. Owning land for the first time in their lives is a major step forward for women and a tremendous sense of personal pride; getting equal recognition and reward in the eyes of the law for their contributions is an important component to building equity in other areas of community development.

JuanaRodasMore amazing still are the women who do it alone – work the land, raise the children, go to school, manage small businesses and contribute to village leadership – working towards attaining their land title.

One such example is Juana from the village of San Diego in El Salvador. While her husband left her with five children to raise alone, she built a life for her family through hard work and a hopeful spirit. During the war in El Salvador she and her family sought refuge in Honduras, surviving difficult conditions. When they returned after the peace agreements and learned of Agros, Juana and her family were one of the first to join the community of San Diego. Partnering with Agros has been one of the most important decisions she ever made because with land of her own, she can take care of her children. In San Diego, her oldest son Nelson helps her cultivate corn and beans and diverse vegetables. Juana is also one of the first in her community to start a tilapia project where she and business partners earn $2/lb. for the 150 – 200 pounds of fish they farm on average each quarter. She’s also an active member of the Women’s Committee, working on a multitude of projects to improve the lives of women and youth in her community. Through these activities, Juana can send her children to school and provide them a more stable home than she ever had.

Through much hard work and determination, Juana is expecting to pay off her land loan very soon. She still has a bit to go, but is determined to see the day when she can take her title to her land as a single working woman, and share the rewards with her children and their children for generations to come.

We invite you to recognize and pay tribute to the many achievements made by so many in the face of great adversity on this International Rural Women’s Day. In honor of this special date, please consider making a difference in the life of a rural, poor woman in an Agros village who, like Juana, is working hard to make a meaningful change in their lives. Make a Women’s Small Business Loan today!

OPERA-toberfest Concert Benefiting Agros

jackoDo you live in the greater Seattle area and enjoy evenings filled with fabulous music all for a good cause?

Join us this Saturday, October 10th for the OPERA-toberfest concert benefiting Agros and a few other worthy causes! The show will include six professional singers performing a collection of well-known arias, musical theater ditties, and popular songs. Selections will include excerpts from La Boheme, Carmen, Pirates of Penzance, Java Jive and Deep Purple.

Show details:
Date: Saturday, October 10th, 2009
Time: 7:30pm
Location: Holy Trinity Lutheran Church
8501 SE 40th St
Mercer Island, WA 98040

Tickets are free, while any donation is most welcome! Two years ago this event raised nearly $8,000, and this year the organizers are hoping to surpass $10,000. Help us reach this goal!

Complimentary autumn brews, assorted wines, soft drinks, and Bavarian goodies will be provided both at intermission and after the show.

To learn more about the event, or RSVP directly, please view the OPERA-toberfest Evite.

We hope to see you there!

For All Women

On this Thursday, October 1, Oprah Winfrey will deliver a call to action for all women. Inspired by the New York Times best-selling book “Half the Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity for Women Worldwide” by Pulitzer Prize winners Nicholas Kristof and his wife, Sheryl WuDunn, The Oprah Winfrey Show will spend a full hour revealing stories of women overcoming adversity to realize a better life for themselves. Be sure to tune-in to the “Oprah” show this Thursday, Oct 1, to hear this appeal in support of women around the world. Check local listings for time and channel.

In conjunction with the show, Oprah will launch a new giving registry online at, where Agros International will be featured.

You can find Agros’ featured project in Oprah’s giving registry by clicking on the project entitled “Economic Independence for Women in Central America.” Or, you can navigate directly to Agros’ featured project page at GlobalGiving.

ou can find Agros’ featured project at the registry by clicking on the project titled “Economic
Independence for Women in Central America.” Or, you can navigate directly to this project
page at Global Giving by clicking here.

agros-guate-womanAgros exists to end rural poverty for entire village communities, and supporting women is an important message for Agros because we believe investing in women is a critical component in the development of solid communities.

Not only do women prove themselves to be successful entrepreneurs, but their commitment to reinvesting profits into their families reaps rewards for the extended community. Women’s projects are becoming a significant source of income in many Agros villages and better position families to pay off their land loans ahead of schedule.

Here are just a few examples of projects that offer women economic independence, confidence, and the ability to contribute to their families’ income:

Twenty-five women in Batzchocola, Guatemala have joined together to form a Community Bank. They have successfully completed six six-month lending cycles with a 100% on-time repayment record and have saved $1,847 to lend to other community members outside of the Community Bank. This is a huge accomplishment for a group that started working together just three years ago and will significantly increase access to funds for all village members interested in starting projects.

Griselda, 48 years old, is the President of the Community Bank Group A in Cajixay. “My dream for our group,” she shares, “is that the projects benefit all of the women in our community.” Griselda currently invests in a small store where she sells sugar, water, nachos and medicine. She also raises pigs and rabbits, in addition to having her own bread oven! Griselda is so ambitious she has established a partnership with a nearby restaurant that places a weekly order for her breads. With the income that she earns, she hopes that her grandson Denison will be able to go to college, just like her son Jacobo who graduated in 2007 in agro-forestry.

78GuatePortraitWomen in other Agros villages are concentrating on a variety of projects including baking and food catering, animal husbandry, weaving and embroidery, decorative arts, and small retail stores.

Your support helps Agros make a significant impact in the lives of rural, female entrepreneurs and their families.

Trace Bundy Concert Benefitting Agros!

Do you live in the greater Seattle area and enjoy good music that benefits not only your ears, but also a good cause? Trace Bundy: Photo Kimberly Kay Photography

Please join us this Saturday, August 29th for a benefit concert that is sure to amaze with the phenomenal fingerstyle guitar talent of Trace Bundy!  An Agros fan himself, Trace’s 2008 CD/DVD project release titled “Missile Bell” was inspired by a story he heard while traveling in Central America visiting Agros villages. The families’ stories of struggle and redemption after surviving their country’s civil war has influenced and made its way into Trace’s music. As such, Trace has kindly included us in this benefit concert and we hope to share the good times and good music with you!

Show details:

Saturday, August 29, 2009
7:00pm – 10:00pm (doors open at 6:00pm)
Maple Valley Presbyterian Church
22659 Sweeney Rd. SE
Maple Valley, WA 98038
Phone:  425-432-4399

Tickets are $10 advance, and $12 at the door.

Take a few minutes to watch him play and you’ll surely agree that Trace Bundy must be seen, not just heard.

For more detailed event information, visit:
Trace’s Facebook Fan Page and Maple Valley Presbyterian’s website.

We hope to see you there!

Celebrating Indigenous Heritage

Angelina1Angelina’s eyes well with tears when remembering how, before living in the Agros Mexico village of San Pedrito, she and her family were denied access to clean and safe water when neighbors upstream purposely tainted their water supply with chemicals simply because of their indigenous heritage.  In another Agros community made up of 25 Guatemalan refugee families naturalized in Mexico, families recount painful stories of racism and neglect by both the Mexican government which withheld access to a water system, and their former Guatemalan government that no longer recognizes them.

This kind of mistreatment, the result of biases against indigenous identity, has been a common malpractice in many parts of the world. In an effort to value and respect all peoples equally, the UN General Assembly proclaimed in 1994 that there be an ‘International Day of the World’s Indigenous People’ to be observed on August 9th annually. Ten years later in 2004, the assembly proclaimed the Second International Decade of the World’s Indigenous People (2005-2014). In this decade, the UN hopes to strengthen international cooperation for solving problems faced by indigenous peoples in areas such as culture, education, health, human rights, the environment, and social and economic development.

So, what does it mean to be indigenous? Although the international community has not adopted one single definition, one prevailing interpretation refers to people who are ‘regarded as indigenous on account of their descent from the populations which inhabited the country, or a geographical region to which the country belongs, at the time of conquest or colonization’. (UN)

The communities Agros works with are largely indigenous and ‘mestizo’ (of mixed ethnicity), and it’s important to us that this day is acknowledged. We support people in their quest to ensure that their indigenous cultural heritage endures for generations to come.  For example, through support of women’s community banks and youth and women’s business initiatives, many people continue to grow their traditional textile and woodworking projects. And in Guatemala and Nicaragua specifically, youth activities have centered around sharing the knowledge of traditional dances, stories, recipes, medicinal plant use, and more.

With the support of Agros and the international community’s recognition behind the spirit of ‘International Day of the World’s Indigenous People’, Angelina and her community experience less discrimination, but there is still much work to be done.  For many rural families living in extreme poverty, basic dignity and freedom is stripped away.  Cultural identity breaks down when families are reduced to conditions that are barely survivable.  By providing access to long-term credit, agricultural business training, and community development support, familes are able to work their way our of poverty with dignity, with the freedom to renew essential cultural connections.

Angelina2Today, Angelina and her community no longer have to worry about access to clean water due to Agros’ support in providing a water system that allows for year-round access to water for drinking, cooking, bathing, etc. And with agricultural and business training, provided by an Agros staff member who speaks their native Tzotzil, Angelina is confident that as a rural, indigenous woman she is now better positioned to play a powerful role in the development of her community. And by extension, she has great pride in knowing that her children will follow her lead and have an even greater impact.

We invite you to celebrate and share this message of support on this ‘International Day of the World’s Indigenous People’. Perhaps you’ll forward this email to a friend, or suggest a related educational activity for your child’s classroom.  Or maybe you’ll make a donation to our work supporting communities of indigenous people.

However you recognize the day, know that your support will bring a louder voice to the many unique people who make our world’s tapestry so colorful.

The Sweet Smell of Success and a Taste of Giving

It never ceases to amaze me just how much we stand to learn from children. Their perspective about the world around them is so bright, their demand for equality so unwavering, and their desire to “do good”  so pure.

I saw a great example of this in practice the other day at the St. Joseph School’s bake sale. When you think of the traditional bake sale, it’s typically employed to raise money for things the kids need, like more instruments for the school’s band or new uniforms for a sports team.

BakeSaleAdBut this bake sale was different. After first being introduced to Agros and its mission by teacher Beth Peterson, the three 1st grade classrooms at St. Joseph’s joined forces and decided to put on a bake sale to raise money for the children and animals in Agros communities. Their zeal was infectious, and soon a date was set and moms and dads alike were in line last Fall ready to help bake for a cause!

On a carefully orchestrated rotating schedule of parents, students and teachers manning tables across a several hour span, the first bake sale held in the school’s cafeteria was an absolute success. Offering a variety of delicious treats, ranging from cookies to cakes anywhere from 50¢ to $2 for a bundle, the first bake sale brought in an astounding $640!


The kids clearly had a blast baking with their parents. But what may have trumped that was the fun in having the adult responsibility of selling the goodies and handling all the finances. The 1st graders were so pleased with the fruits of their labor, they decided they wanted to do it again in the Spring! In the meantime, the $640 raised was set aside for safe keeping until the next bake sale scheduled a few months later, after which they planned to present one check to Agros.

AgrosPresentation_to_ClassBefore the next bake sale, Ms. Peterson invited her longtime friend and Agros staffer, Dave Spicer, to come share a bit more about Agros with the students. As one of Agros’ fundraising officers, this was the youngest group of “future philanthropists” he’d ever presented to. So he went prepared with rich stories and visuals to engage the children in a way that would help relate the Agros children’s daily experience as compared to their own; showing both the similarities and differences. There were many pictures of Agros children with animals like goats, rabbits, chickens and cows and the children loved it. After the presentation was over, student after student shared that they really liked that “Agros works with people and animals, and they help each other.”

Dave and I both were humbled, and wanted to make sure the kids knew how many lives their efforts would touch in such positive ways, and how inspiring they were to us personally.


When the time came for the second bake sale, the parents, teachers and students functioned like a well-oiled machine. The resources were in place, the goods were plentiful and varied (and I might add quite delicious!), and there were prospective buyers a plenty with thanks to well-placed and artfully decorated poster advertisements! Buyers came and went in steady waves, and the baked goods seamlessly replenished to meet the needs with thanks to the many organized parents behind the scenes.

It was such fun to see the 1st graders work their magic and sell people not only a delicious treat, but also talk about Agros’ mission and what inspired them to run the bake sale in the first place. It was equally heartwarming to see kids from the other grades carefully look at the photos of Agros villages we’d brought and ask such smart questions about the work.

At the end of the day, the second and final bake sale of the year brought in a little over $500! That is a lot of cookies, muffins, and cakes exchanging hands!

CheckPresentation_to_AgrosA few days later, in a poignant and heartfelt ceremonial gesture, the 1st graders from St. Joseph’s presented Dave with a check to Agros in the amount of $1140!

Our sincere thanks to the first grade teachers at St. Joseph’s Elementary, Beth Peterson, Mary Doquilo and Aimee Meier for their vision and leadership to see this project through, and to all the parents who offered so freely of their time and resources to bake and host the bake sale tables.

And most especially, our warmest thanks to the 63 students of St. Joseph’s 1st grade classrooms for including Agros on your journey to “do good in the world” and reminding us all of the importance of giving. We would be honored to work in tandem with you again next year, and hope you’ll share some of your coveted baking recipes with us, too!

Agros Honduras Villages Faring Well After Earthquake

Our heartfelt thanks to our friends around the globe for your concern about the welfare of the Agros villages in Honduras after last week’s tremor. The powerful 7.1 magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Honduras at 3:24am local time last Thursday. The jolt toppled approximately 80 homes in both Honduras and Belize, killing at least six and sending untold numbers of people running into the streets in the middle of the night. Honduran President Manuel Zelaya estimates the damages total upwards of US$37 million.

Thankfully, the families in the Agros Honduras villages are all safe and sound, and report no damage to community buildings or infrastructure. Equally, Agros in-country staff and their families are all well. We are grateful that the Agros family is unharmed and the only resulting disruption was to the main office’s Internet connection which is expected online again in a few days.

For more information on the quake itself, read CNN’s latest update.


Honoring Her Impact

With Mother’s Day fast approaching, we at Agros would like to acknowledge the tremendous amount of hard work and compassion that our mothers, and the many other women in our lives, have put forth to strengthen their families and communities.

Agros International believes investing in women is a critical component in the development of solid communities. Not only do women prove themselves to be successful entrepreneurs, but their commitment to reinvesting profits into their families reaps rewards for the extended community.  Women’s projects are becoming a significant source of income in many Agros villages and better position families to pay off their land loans ahead of schedule.

qv7d2373-6×4-ps1.jpgIn La Esperanza, El Salvador, a group of women have started a beading and jewelry-making business and travel to various events and markets to sell their products. Last quarter the group made a profit of $75 which was used to purchase more supplies to then divide amongst the group.

Twenty-five women in Batzchocola, Guatemala have joined together to form a Community Bank.  They have successfully completed six six-month lending cycles with a 100% on-time repayment record and have saved $1,847 to lend to other community members outside of the Community Bank.  This is a huge accomplishment for a group that started working together just three years ago and will significantly increase access to funds for all village members interested in starting projects.

eleden_mg_03539-copy.jpgWomen in other villages are concentrating on a variety of projects including baking and food catering, animal husbandry, weaving and embroidery, decorative arts, and small stores.  These projects give women economic independence, confidence, and the ability to contribute to their families’ income.  Your support helps Agros make a significant impact in the lives of rural, female entrepreneurs.

What better way to recognize your mother’s love and devotion than by investing in rural mothers working hard to provide a brighter future for their children? Show her how much you appreciate the positive impact she’s made in your life by giving a gift in her honor that helps other women extend their impact!

Consider making one of these impactful gifts today:

Learn more at the Agros One Seed Gift Catalog!

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