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Humble and Hardworking

Herman Fonseca, 37, is a hardworking father of four. Although he had never been to school and he did everything he could to provide for his family, it was never enough.

He worked as a day laborer. The work was difficult and demanded that he be separated from his family (who stayed in a plastic shelter near his mother’s house) and the pay small. “I earned about $2 dollars a day,” he remembers.

“[Where we lived before], the wind would lift plastic and we would get wet when it rained,” remembers Elsa Blandon, 36.

Although he didn’t know how it could ever happen, Herman never lost hope. “We worked hard,” he remembers. “[We dreamed] that one day we would buy a small piece of land where we could build a house and live in better conditions,” he said.

They also knew they could never buy land on their own. “When you work for others, there is nothing left for you,” explains Herman, who not only worked for others to earn money, he also had to rent land from someone else in order to be able to plant and harvest the food for his family to eat. Like other families, their diet consisted of corn and beans; rarely did they eat anything else.

Agros

Everything began to change when Herman heard about Agros from someone else. “They told me it was a organization that helped poor people, day laborers,” he says.

As soon as he had the information, Herman put his family’s name on the list of those hoping to benefit and started praying. “I asked God to let us be part of the project,” he says, with a shy smile.

Dream Come True

Today, Herman and Elsa have more than they ever dreamed. They thought that at most they would have a small plot of land to build a house on. Never did they imagine they would be able to have land to cultivate and everything that comes with that.

Although Herman is grateful to have what he does, he is also quick to correct any one who thinks it was a handout.  “I tell them it’s not a gift, you have to pay for it [the land]. But, by working hard you can pay and you will live a little better.”

Learning from the Agronomists

Herman is a humble farmer who has been receptive to the recommendations made by Agros’ agronomists. “Even though we are agricultural people there are things we don’t know,” he says.

The agronomists taught Herman and the other beneficiaries how to plant following the contour of their land to avoid soil erosion and to be able to maximize water and fertilizer resources.

Even after his training, Herman was skeptical. “I thought we would harvest the same amount,” he said. Nevertheless, Herman decided to give this new planting method a try. He planted some of his land following traditional practices and some of his land using this, technical, method. The proof was in the harvest.

His harvest increased 150%. He was able to harvest the same amount of beans on one-third less land. Herman learned his lesson.  “I know now, if I plant how they tell me, I harvest more,” he says with a smile, noting that this year he will use the technical planting method on all his land.

Bumper Crop

And, thanks to his bumper crop of beans, Herman was able to make his first payment towards the land. He needed to pay $319 but he decided to give “a little more.” Herman was able to put $800 towards his land and still have enough left over to buy a horse, a baby cow, two pigs and some chickens.

“They told me that the faster I pay the land, the better,” says Herman, nothing that he also wanted to take advantage of having a good year because when you work in agriculture you never know how things are going to go.

Herman and Elsa are also motivated to pay off the land as soon as they can because it will be their first real possession. “Having the land is a joy,” explains Elsa.  “Everything you have you leave to your kids. This land will be for them,” she says.

Herman and Elsa are working hard to break the cycle of poverty that has plagued their families. “Our hope is for our family’s conditions to improve one day at a time,” says Herman.

Next Generation

Their children agree. “I have seen a lot of changes,” says Febin, 13. “Before, we didn’t have anything. Now we have things. Now we can eat vegetables and chicken,” she says.

And, although she is studying in the third year of high school and hopes to become a teacher one day, Febin also pays attention to the indirect lessons in agriculture she is getting. “Everything they [the technicians] teach my dad, he teaches us so that we can know what he knows,” she says.