Pine needles and tomatoes

Pine needles and tomatoes | World Vision Blog

Santos Vasquez in Honduras with her daughter, 3-year-old Ruth Noemi, at the storefront of her house where she sells the produce they grow. (Photo: 2014 Laura Reinhardt/World Vision)

Today is National Hunger Awareness Day!

In Honduras, Santos Cosme, his wife Santos Vasquez, and their five children face a better future without the threat of malnutrition because of World Vision’s training in improved farming techniques.

Santos V. says that without World Vision, her children “would be poor and poor in mind as well.”

Read their story of transformation!


Santos Cosme Perez, 35, and his wife Santos Vasquez work side by side picking luscious, vermillion tomatoes off the vine. The late afternoon Honduran sun casts a glow over this idyllic, agrarian scene.

Pine needles and tomatoes | World Vision Blog
Santos Cosme's tomatoes. (Photo: 2014 Laura Reinhardt/World Vision)


But life wasn’t always this picture-perfect. In 2009, disaster struck. Insects destroyed almost their entire crop and that of many other farmers in the community. The family was forced to take out a mortgage on their home to make up for the money they lost on the crops.

“It was [a] very difficult time and we really had to work very hard to overcome that situation. I felt a lot of despair,” says Santos C. “We didn’t even sleep thinking of how we were going to be able to pay [back] all that money we had to pay … I had to go out and work as a daily worker elsewhere to support my family.”

Several good things did come out of that disastrous time. World Vision had trained Santos C. on how to make his crops more resistant to disease through soil preparation and also by setting up a barrier between tender transplants and insects. Santos C. decided to put that training into action.

Pine needles and tomatoes | World Vision Blog
Santos Cosme's tomato fields beneath the pines. (Photo: 2014 Laura Reinhardt/World Vision)


“The training has been very, very helpful,” says Santos C. “It did help me recover, because I always say once you learn something, it’s always there in your mind. So we have put into practice what we’ve learned.”

Meanwhile, Santos V. organized a group of women and men in the community to make and sell crafts made of pine needles and colorful thread. They called their group Despertar con la Naturaleza or Awakening to Nature.

The pine tree is the national tree of Honduras so there’s no shortage of needles available to families in the Yamaranguila community. “We pick as much as we can during the summer because then in the winter it’s not possible to pick up the [needles],” says Santos V.

They then take a handful of the needles and twine colorful thread around them. This creates a kind of rope, which they can twist into baskets, vases, trays, and many other types of items.

Pine needles and tomatoes | World Vision Blog
The process of twining colorful thread around pine needles to create rope for baskets, vases, trays, and other items. (Photo: 2014 Laura Reinhardt/World Vision)


The extra money earned selling the pine needle crafts enabled Santos C. to stop his day-laborer work and return to the farming he’d done all his life.

During this time, Santos and his wife would work from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the fields. Then from 3 p.m. to midnight, they worked making the pine-needle crafts in order to pay off their debt.

They successfully paid off their loan through the money the crafts and the new tomato crop brought in. And World Vision’s child sponsorship program provided assistance, too. Several of Santos’s five children were sponsored. Santos C. says that thanks to child sponsorship, during the time of crisis, he didn’t have to worry how to provide clothing for his children.

It was also the same child sponsorship program that provided his agricultural training back in 2006. Santos C. says that his tomato production has increased by nearly 70 percent since he began applying the new agricultural methods. They’ve realized a profit of about US$1,000.

Because of his success, his farm is now used to train other farmers across the country with the techniques he learned in his World Vision training. “I’m very proud to say I’ve received more than 300 visitors who have come to see my plot, my parcel, to see how I grow the tomatoes and what I do,” says Santos C. “It’s been thanks to World Vision that I have achieved all of this.”

World Vision also provided assistance through its Progresa Project to help the members of Despertar con la Naturaleza. World Vision helped the entrepreneurs with a marketing plan, quality control, and finding new markets in which to sell their pine needle crafts.

Pine needles and tomatoes | World Vision Blog
Seven-year-old Henry with some of the pine needle baskets his family and their community created. (Photo: 2014 Laura Reinhardt/World Vision)


Santos V. also expresses her thanks to World Vision’s support. She says that without World Vision’s presence in her community, her children would be malnourished.

Before the family’s agricultural training, Santos C. could barely grow enough food to feed his family. Now he grows such a variety and more than enough to feed the family plus sell the surplus to buy other food and necessary items for the family.

“Before the food was kind of rationed. My children sometimes ate only tortillas and salt. Nowadays, it is different because they eat vegetables and beans we produce in the plots,” she says.

Santos V. says that without World Vision, “We would be poor and poor in mind as well.” Instead, they are living a life they never dreamed of and working toward a better future for their children.

Pine needles and tomatoes | World Vision Blog
Three-year-old Ruth Noemi. (Photo: 2014 Laura Reinhardt/World Vision)


Join World Vision in empowering families to build better futures for their children! Sponsor a child in Honduras today.


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