Centro Madre de Barlovento
Carretera Mamporal - San José de Barlovento
Caserío Madre Vieja
On only 3.5 hectares (8 acres) of fertile land near San José de Barlovento in the state of Miranda, a two-hour drive from Caracas, this holistic farm integrates fruit trees, vegetables, medicinal plants, bee-keeping, fish ponds, egg-laying chickens, worm production and a commercial guava nursery. The Center gets many visitors each day, including local farmers, university agriculture students and school classes. Banco de Venezuela acknowledged this progressive project by awarding $23,000 to build a community store. Both the national and local governments have recognized Centro Madre as an excellent model for small scale sustainable agriculture and food security.
The project began in 2000 when the director, Didi Ananda Sadhana, a yogic nun from the Netherlands, started doing relief work in the area following the devastating floods in December 1999. After leading the AMURT team that distributed drinking water, mattresses and organized medical missions, she then decided to start a permanent service project that eventually became known as Centro Madre.
A large amount of food is being produced each year on this small property. Five hundred guava trees produce 20-30 tons of guavas each year. The variety, which is from Cuba, is especially resistant to flooding, which has happened three times in the last 14 years. In their covered nursery, they grow 6,000 seedlings at a time, with automatic watering system–80,000 seedlings have been sold to other farmers in Miranda and other states. A total of more than 60 varieties of crops are grown there.
Community outreach programs: Most of the people of Barlovento District are Afro-Venezuelans. Descendants of enslaved people, they have suffered poverty, discrimination and exclusion. Empowering women, adolescents and children is the goal of Centro Madre's dynamic educational projects. Volunteers from the community have visited families in the pueblos to lend children's books and share parenting techniques. Neohumanist storytelling and gardening programs were held to enhance local school classes. Centro Madre supports teenage mothers and women that are raising children with special needs. Venezuelan professionals and graduate students have assisted in linking the cooperative social service projects of Centro Madre with various government ministries. Twice each year children's programs of creative expression are organized in the five local communities. Children’s programs of creative expression are organized twice each year in the local community.
The project employs local people from Barlovento, and receives volunteers from Venezuela and international “wwoofers” (“World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms” is a loose network of organizations that facilitate the placement of volunteers). Free yoga and meditation instruction is offered, and the vegetarian food that is served is delicious, most of which is grown on the land. This tiny global community works to help create a more ecologically sustainable and loving future. Didi Ananda Sadhana explains the purpose of Centro Madre: “Barlovento has tremendous potential in both its natural resources and its people. Our main goal is to rescue the self-esteem of the people, to empower them personally, socially and economically.”