Dajabon Greenhouse Project
Everett Rotary Harvests $107,000 for Gardens in Dominican Republic
Five years of work and eight visits by Rotary Club of Everett members will soon yield crops for needy farmers in the Dajabón region of the Dominican Republic.
The harvest: grants totaling nearly $107,000 from the Rotary Foundation, Everett-area Rotary clubs, Rotary District 5050 and more to help low-income Dominicans build greenhouse gardens where they will raise vegetables to eat and sell.
The seeds were planted in June 2015, when Everett Rotarians Ed Petersen, Julie Herber and Greg Lineberry traveled to the Caribbean nation seeking a new global outreach project. They were treated to a tour by John and Jean Epler, members of Friends of the Dominican Republic, a group of former Peace Corps volunteers. They visited local Rotary Clubs, including one in remote northern Dajabón .
Rotarians there had five possible projects written up and ready for trial. “We just hit it off with them,” said Petersen, a past Everett Rotary president who serves as strategic director for Housing Hope in Everett. Among the projects was a plan to help local people create small, irrigated “greenhouse gardens” where they could grow vegetables to eat and sell. The first garden would be built in Los Miches, a low-income community.
Back in Everett, the Rotary World Community Service Committee approved the project, and club representatives returned to Dajabón in October to kick things off. Petersen fondly recalls the first time local people heard the idea.
“Our meeting in October 2015 in Los Miches was a thrilling moment,” he said. “There’s a great network of people that really think this is a good idea and want to be a part of it.”
In a meeting with local residents, Dajabón Rotarians and members of Centro de Madres, a local service organization, a plan was settled to create ten gardens, each covering 300 square meters (about 3200 square feet). The trial was funded with a $5,000 grant from the Everett Rotary, matched by Rotary District 5050, which includes parts of Washington and British Columbia.
Money wasn’t all that brought the teams together. Dominicans love baseball, and Rotarian George Bowden brought a gift of caps from the Seattle Mariners team that helped cement the connection between the Everett and Dajabon clubs.
Training in vegetable production was provided through INFOTEP, a local government funded institution specializing in agriculture education. The Dominican Ministry of Agriculture provided technical assistance and seeds. Participants helped each other build their garden structures.
There were challenges, both practical and financial. A hurricane tore down the wooden poles supporting the garden cover nets. Concrete supports fixed that. Two families were unable to continue the work due to health challenges. What were planned as loans for the gardeners turned into grants. But in the end, six families built successful gardens which continue to operate in 2021.
Everett Rotarians continued to visit in the years that followed. As they looked to expand the project, however, issues arose that couldn’t be fixed with a shovel. The Rotary Foundation requires that finances for such projects be channeled through a local certified financial institution (CFI). Several were proposed but didn’t qualify.
That’s when Rotary contacts back home in Washington came through. Larry Jubie, a former Rotary District 5050 Governor and member of the Marysville Rotary, suggested a group called Rotary Foundation Cadre could help. Then Wally Gardner, a speaker before the Everett club, located a CFI-certified financial organization called Banfondesa.
More help came from Everett Rotarian Paul Pitre, chancellor at Washington State University (WSU) in Everett. Pitre connected the team with Anthony Gromko, a WSU expert in micro-credit, and WSU agriculture expert Dr. José García Pabón, to help with the project. Paul, Anthony, Jose, Julie, Ed and Ed’s wife Carol visited Dajabón in 2019. It was Petersen’s seventh trip.
The Covid pandemic cancelled a planned 2020 visit. But on December 14, 2020, big news: The Rotary Foundation granted $45,000 in matching funds to greatly expand the garden loan program. The full list of donors includes:
“We’re going to do 60 gardens, in three phases,” Petersen said. “When the first phase of 20 gardens is completed, we’ll release the funds for 20 more.”
Residents building the gardens will receive a three-year loan from Banfondesa. The money repaid will then go into a revolving loan fund. Peace Corps members will help oversee progress. Rotarians from Everett will continue to visit, document and support the project and help the Dajabón Rotary with management and reports to the Rotary Foundation. Supporting the gardeners by creating a plant nursery and a composting facility is also possible, Petersen said.
“Our purpose is to train the garden owners in entrepreneurship,” Petersen added. “They will learn agriculture production, accounting and marketing and sales skills, to set them up for long-term success.”
Another benefit is the partnerships Rotary has created – with other Rotary clubs, with the Peace Corps, and with other social service and financial organizations determined to help people.
“The foundation has been laid in Dajabón for other kinds of benefits,” Petersen said. “We have access to future grant opportunities in education, in health and the environment, in reforestation. We have built a foundation that opens opportunities to do more.”
“There is a commonality among Rotarians and Rotary Clubs worldwide,” said Bowden. “Whether it’s vaccine against polio, or clean water, or in this case, gardens. At that first meeting in Los Miches somebody said, ‘why are you doing this?’ And I thought, ‘because you’re our neighbors.’”
About the Rotary Club of Everett: Rotary is an organization of business and professional leaders united worldwide to provide humanitarian service and build goodwill and peace. Chartered in 1917, the Rotary Club of Everett is one of three Rotary clubs in Everett and a total of more than 35,000 Rotary clubs in 182 countries.
In 2020 the Rotary Club of Everett provided $214,000 in scholarships to students from the Everett area. The club also supports college-bound students in the Everett School District’s AVID program. Club members represent a broad spectrum of business, governmental, charitable and public service occupations and support service projects in the Everett community and around the world. The club meets in an online Zoom session at 12:00 noon every Tuesday. For more information, visit the club website: www.everettrotary.com.
Contact: Walt Greenwood
Rotary Club of Everett
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