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March 27-29, 2000 GROW BIOINTENSIVE conference on the U.C. Davis campus
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Children's Nutrition
Padre Julio de la Garza | Mercedes Torres Barreiro

Dr. Romolo Rizzo of UNICEF-Mexico/Cuba, who was originally scheduled to made this presentation, was given a last-minute assignment in another country. Two of the conference participants spoke instead.

They were introduced by Juan Manuel Martinez, who explained that every six years the Mexican government changes and the people experience the crises of inflation, devaluation, and greater malnutrition.

He said that right now people are not able to afford milk, cheese or meat or even the traditional foods: tortillas, beans or chiles. Many are forced to exist on noodle soup, which does not provide needed protein or calories.

He went on to describe the effects of the first, second and third stages of malnutrition and still there is another stage called "adaptive," where a person adjusts to less food by being smaller and weighing less. But those people in rural areas who have learned GROW BIOINTENSIVE methods break this cycle of malnutrition "to the degree of their efforts".

Padre Julio Caesar de la Garza, is one of the biointensivistas, works in Nuevo Leon state, in a very poor area of Mexico. He told of just starting his priesthood in 1989 and having a child die in his arms of malnutrition.

Padre Julio said that he is not an agricultural technician, but started in his own way to try to plant food in the desert when "providentially" his bishop received a copy of How To Grow More Vegetables from John Jeavons. The bishop had been moved by the saying in the book: "Take care of the soil and it will feed you."

With two other people he started an organization called "La Milpa." The first tools they had were made out of the structure of a former rabbit project. Padre Julio was ordained and promised himself that he would be a "GROW BIOINTENSIVE priest."

He and his group started a demonstration garden in his area and then in another one. He said that in the 10 years since they started this project, 1,000 farmers have been trained. Although malnutrition still exists, he continues working to convince people that GROW BIOINTENSIVE is an alternative for the world, but especially for the poor.

Someone from the audience asked how you can teach poor people, when they do not have time to wait for their food. Padre Julio answered that after only 30 days, a person will have radishes to eat, and their life changes.


Mercedes Torres Barreiro, from Quito, Ecuador, spoke with such passion that the audience was deeply moved.

Torres spoke of the current financial crisis in Ecuador, "the greatest crisis in all of its history," which has left the country in extreme poverty.

Torres said she felt a great responsibility, because she wanted to be the voice of 9 million Ecuadorians. She described herself as a wife, mother, and independent Latin American consultant whose life savings disappeared when the bank failed. She said the same thing has happened to millions of the men and women of her country.

Torres talked about going to a restaurant with her family and ten skinny children peering in the window at them. Her family took their meal outside and shared it with them. She also told about people fighting over the food there because "there is no food in the countryside."

She said people have been left not only without food but without hope or self-esteem. But they feel that solidarity among themselves will bring back the hope to their villages. Torres said that some nuns in a convent close to town have offered 1 hectare of land where people might grow their food.

She feels that receiving training in the GROW BIOINTENSIVE method will nourish the bodies and spirits of her people. She said that even though she does not have a project right now, 5,000 families are expecting an answer from her trip to the conference.

She stated that when there are no economic problems, we do not believe we need anyone else.

[Note: Over $2,300 was donated by Conference participants for Padre Julio's and Mercedes' projects.]


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