On World Environment Day, Small Hands Sowing Seeds for Big Change

From small farmers in India who are drowning in debt after their crops were besieged by bad weather to coastal villagers in Haiti who lost the roofs over their heads when Hurricane Matthew struck, communities across the developing world are bearing the brunt of climate change. Today, as we mark World Environment Day to raise attention to such challenges, AJWS is supporting local partners to empower communities under threat. Together, these advocates and communities are forging solutions and building powerful movements to pursue climate justice. On a recent AJWS trip to Mexico, I got a glimpse into some of these inspiring efforts.

In the tiny town of Santa María Jaltianguis nestled in the mountains of Oaxaca state, dozens of little schoolchildren at the Escuela Tadeusz Kosciuszko are receiving a big lesson—both inside and outside the classroom. With knowledge and tools from Union de Organizaciones de la Sierra Juarez, Oaxaca (UNOSJO), students are learning to collectively care for small gardens at their school by tilling and watering the soil; growing and harvesting an assortment of vegetables; and deciding what and how to sow next. They are also learning how to compost food waste that is then used to nourish their gardens without using toxic fertilizers that poison their soil.

In tending to their gardens and growing their own food, these children are gaining an appreciation for nature, learning to treat their land with reverence, and recovering the traditions of their indigenous ancestors. Adelfa Lopez Balanzar, who has been teaching at the school for eight years, believes the lesson has implications far beyond their small town. “In teaching them to value this small piece of land,” she says these young minds, “are learning respect for their community in the Sierra Norte de Oaxaca, their country—and their planet.”

All photos by Jonathan Torgovnik


Sumit GalhotraSumit Galhotra is the Communications Officer for Human Rights and Story Development at AJWS.