At Dirt to Power Initiative, our motivation is derived from our passion for change especially within the rural communities where often the weak and vulnerable are neglected and left into the hand of poverty, hunger, and lack. Our mission is to contribute to the improvement of the living standard of the poor household in the rural community through the establishment of a functional and sustainable family garden. We envision promoting rural empowerment, advocating for social justice and encouraging cultural and ethical values. Our values include love, compassion, service, creativity, faith, teamwork, and transparency. Our goals are to make a significant contribution to food security among the vulnerable rural dwellers especially women and children and to develop a comprehensive educational program that promotes value, experience, and self-esteem in the different participants (Workshops). Dirt to Power Initiative is established to address problems such as the incessant increase in the prices of staple food, the decrease in income of the poor household, the increase in poverty level, malnutrition, hunger and starvation within the selected rural community. Our team is comprised of five young and vibrant students from EARTH University, Costa Rica and the University of Florida, USA with our professors as mentors who have shown their interest in every activity and development of the initiative.
According to the Millennium Development Goals report in 2010, the proportion of undernourished people in the developing countries has been on the increase rate since 1995 to 2007. Between these years, undernourished population grew from 797 million to 830 million people on a global scale and more as the year goes by. More recently, this number has exceeded 1 billion people as stated by the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations in 2009. Every year the prices of staple food scales high while the income of poor household diminishes due to the high unemployment rate, this makes it even more impossible for these individuals to access good quality food. Thus, the increase in poverty, malnutrition, hunger and starvation among the developing countries. The MDGs report shows that one in every four children in the developing world is still underweight as a result of malnutrition. Recently in Nigeria, in the city of Ibadan to be specific, a report was released about a woman who lost her only son and younger sister to hunger. Could this have happened had she knew she could produce something for her family with little or no cost? This is practically an avoidable situation. These are the problems that triggered the establishment of Dirt to Power Initiative and our demonstrative garden AfroFarm. Dirt to Power Initiative is a sustainable garden project that was established with the main purpose of making little but significant contributions to food security as well as providing a means of educating local community dwellers (especially women and children) on sustainable approach to food production using local and wastes materials. Designed to be established on a University campus, Dirt to Power Initiative propose to bring students, professors, and workers at EARTH University in contact with the local community children and women for the main purpose of producing healthy food and making contribution to the improvement of standard of living in the rural communities. This unique arrangement is considered a huge opportunity to create a platform for the flow of knowledge between the involved distinct groups of people. Involvement of EARTH students will serve as an important bridge gap between theories in class and practical experience as the professors provide technical guide and monitoring while the community children and women pay a periodic visit to the garden for practical training and easy replication of the demonstrative garden in their respective homes. Apart from passing the practical knowledge to the community, part of the produce from the garden are harvested and sold to faculty and staff of EARTH University. A significant portion of the sale as well as the produce that are not sold are donated to the less privilege in a neighbouring community of EARTH University campus. The remaining fund from the sale is used as alternative source of capital to purchase seeds and other materials needed for the continuity of the garden and its expansion in other countries. This project will be focused on a group of children and women of very poor financial status of the community of Pocora, Costa Rica. This is a group of 30 children with no education and about 25 women with no skill nor employment. The specific aim of this initiative is to assist these vulnerable street kids and their parents (mothers) by involving them in a series of workshops that will deal with urban gardening and waste classification. Through these workshops, these community dwellers will learn how to establish a small-scale urban garden and earn good skill in waste classification so as to get them enrolled in production and generating some income for their respective homes. This will be done by partnering with their coordinator Mrs Mayela and the Dalai Lama Fellows. Mrs Mayela is a staff of EARTH University and a concerned member of the community who voluntarily coordinates this group of people and often prepares meal for the children during special days of the year. The Dalai Lama Fellows is an organisation dedicated to cultivate and support a global movement of next generation leaders applying universal values to solve global challenges. The workshop will be both on- and off-campus based. AfroFarm located within EARTH campus will be the reference for the on-campus workshop where the group will be brought to visit, work and learn how to garden while the off-campus workshop will be based on monitoring individual established garden in the community. The design and management of Dirt to Power Initiative is considered innovative as the children and women will be involved in the training program for the purpose of being able to establish their own garden and be self-sufficient in fruit and vegetable production, earn some income from the sale of produce and possibly through this program keep their kids off the street. The project demonstrates sensibility to the environment, prudence, and creativity in the use of resources and in strategic selection of the target community. This is because the use of material and wastes from the local community reduce production cost while materials such as plastic bottles, worn-out tires, and other waste products are creatively used to design simple hydroponic and other food production systems. The project is already started but more is needed to be done to incorporate more production systems so as to ensure better productivity and to extend this initiative to other needy countries starting with Nigeria. Evaluation of success will be based on meeting the goals or aims established. The yardstick will be how many funds and food are raised from the garden to establish these vulnerable group of people and how many other small scaled garden are established by the participants from the community as well as satisfaction derived by the consumers from the consumption of the healthy food from the garden. Last December, 2015, Dirt to Power Initiative gave her first donation to “Alberge Isla Verde” an orphanage located in the neighbouring town of Guapiles, Cost Rica. This is a landmark, as the donation came from the first production season of our garden AfroFarm. However, more input is needed to enlarge the garden production systems so as to make a bigger contribution in the community of Pocora and other communities within and outside Costa Rica.