SWIFT CURRENT COLONY, Bolivia—Orchards of grapefruit, mango, papaya, avocado and other fruits will soon produce fruit on Heinrich and Sara Neufeld’s large farmyard in this Mennonite colony 40 kilometres south of Santa Cruz.
“I want our children to be able to go into the orchard and eat as much as they want,” said Neufeld, a father of seven children ages one to 11. “When all the trees produce fruit and the fruit is ripe, it will be better than medicine.”
The past two years he has planted 560 fruit trees on their 53-hectare farm and he plans another 140 trees next year.
This fruit tree project is part of MCC Bolivia’s agricultural program that encourages people to plant fruit trees for a healthy diet and a healthy environment. During the past five years, more than 7,000 fruit trees have been planted through this project, a partnership between MCC Bolivia and the local provider of citrus trees, Vivero Citrico.
Families generally order the trees through the store managers in their local villages who then order the trees and pick them up at MCC’s drop-in resource centres in Santa Cruz and Charagua.
Neufeld does not have to be convinced on the benefits of trees and fruit orchards. His parents had a small orchard producing avocado, guava, cherries, oranges and lemons. “I could hardly wait until the fruit was ripe,” he recalled.
In 1998, he bought 18 hectares of land and the first thing he did was plant papaya trees. “Even before I built the house, I planted papaya trees,” he said. Shortly after the house was built he planted banana and mandarin trees.
When he heard about MCC’s program through reading the Menno-Bate--a 20-page magazine published by MCC-- he drove around the colony and told his neighbours about the project.
Neufeld helped promote the project in his neighbourhood through ordering trees for his neighbours, picking up the trees at Centro Menno in Santa Cruz and delivering them.
“When I heard that we could order the trees and pick them up at Centro Menno, it was convenient for me to provide this service for my neighbours,” he said. “Sixty yards around here now have fruit orchards.”
In a few years, when the trees begin to produce fruit, he plans to expand his small beekeeping hobby.
Currently he has two beehives in the pasture and each beehive produces about 80 kilograms of honey per year. “It doesn’t matter where I put the boxes, it doesn’t take long for the bees to move in,” he said. “We use as much as we need and sell the rest.”
Pointing towards the newly-planted trees in his orchards, he said, “there won’t be any honey that will be more delicious than what these trees will produce.”
Visit mcccanada.ca/lowgerman for more information about Low German Mennonites.
Gladys Terichow is a writer for MCC Canada