Dear Fr. Jim and St. Dominic Community
From small beginning, great things!
When St. Dominic took up its first collection to sponsor a pelibuey for families in the parish of Our Lady of Lourdes in Calle Real and Cabanas, we needed your support and also your trust. Every successful development project has a learning curve. A community like ours needs that curve in order to learn by success and by mistakes.
What have we learned?
1. Contrary to popular wisdom, not all goats are of the same temperament. While certainly more frisky than the docile pelybuey, some breeds, such as the Nubian, are manageable. Their “behavior” is in large measure a result of the way they are treated. Like any animal, they have understandable reactions to the way they are raised.
2. The goat is preferable to the pelybuey because it gives milk. But in order to have that special flavor in the cheese and cream, the goat must be removed completely from the company of the machos, except for the breeding. The males spray the females and the spray of semen sours the milk.
3. We have always understood that the project was principally aimed at producing female offspring. It was only necessary to maintain a few machos for breeding. But we always maintained the machos, only slaughtering them on occasion when we had an immediate need. But after three months the machos get tough and the meat becomes like leather. We need to slaughter the machos soon after they are born and sell the meat in order to re-capitalize the purchse of more females.
4. We let the pelybuey and goats have free range in CHINAMPA. They ate the soccer field and started to pasture outside of the retreat house, much to the chagrin of the guests with windows on the east side. When we closed these areas off we noticed that the goats and pelybuey were getting fatter because we were bringing the forage to them. The workers, on the other hand, were getting more exercise! The lesson was to keep the goats in defined forage areas and not give them toomuch exercise. Leaner meat is also tougher meat. With the goats, we learned that production increased when they were kept cooler, for example near the water spigot. Milk production increased form three to five bottles when we changed the forage practices.
5. Finally, with Ruby’s new direction in CHINAMPA we learned where to get our breeders in Guatemala and how to make the purchases without an intermediary. This means that we pay taxes, but the cost per goat is much less expensive. We will demonstrate how much so when we finalize the purchse this year.
The picture in the upper right corner is Ruby Benitez Iglesias. She is the new director of CHINAMPA. Ruby was educated in Los Angeles and Long Island and then returned to El Salavdor to complete her studies in agricultural engineering from the National University. Her thesis was on cows but she is conversant in general agriculture and has already demonstrated how knowledgeable she is of goats.
Part of our parish outreach and solidarity inside of El Salavdor is to the prison population. This year we will be producing milk for the children who live in the women’s prison with their mothers. We wil also be traiing these mothers in goat production. To undertake this task we have built a goat breeding station in the San Jose calle Real Center, near CHINAMPA. The picture above shows this facility from the outside and below is a view of the main corral. In addition to this corral we have an area dedicated to birthing and an area restrictd to the four breedeer males. We are also fenicng in a large forage area in front of the breding facility.
San Laureano’s sister parish and the Carmelite Mission society are helping with a salary for three years for the beneficiary families of Cabanas and San Laureano. Now, we will have a technician avaialble at our beck and call to assist in birthing, vacinations, general care and training. We hope to be able to purchase a milking mahine for about 4000 dollars and begin producing chevre for sale. As I mentioned above, we will donate a large portion of the milk produced at the center to the women prisoners and their children.
We expect to have one hundred beneficary families this year and a return of fifty breeders. These families enjoy the sole benefit of their production. Their ocntribution to theproject, in addition to the donation of one breeder is to help train the women prisoners in the care and production of goats to give them a start when they are released from prison.
This is an exciting time for us and we owe it to your support and trust. We are also grateful to Food for the Poor for help in building the breeding facility. The facility is on the gounds of the orignal refugee camp of San Jose Calle Real. The floor of the corral is the floor for one of the refugee dormitories. This is appropriate that we are building on top of the other, which had a distinuised history in the struggle for peace in El Salvador. We are eager for your visit in July and expect to sit down with you and enjoy a plat of chevre with jellied pimenta and crusty lettuce.
When the goats are actually purchsed we will send you their fotos and also the register of beneficiary families.