Yerba Mate Project- Paraguay Update

We received a lovely thank you note from the volunteer who headed this project. The text is below:

You may remember donating to a small Yerba Mate project in Paraguay about a year ago, I would like to extend a heartfelt thank you for your generosity.

Here in the states Yerba Mate has become one of the new fads of the health food craze and has been marketed and packaging in many attractive ways. At its most basic level, Yerba Mate is a tea harvested from a tree native to parts of Paraguay, Brazil , and Argentina. The Guarani, a native tribe of Paraguay have practiced the Yerba Mate tradition for many generations. It is generally served in a guampa which is the vessel and the liquid is sucked through a metal straw called the bombilla. It can be served hot, as mate, or cold, as terere. Yuyos are medicinal plants which are added to the drink. The intimate knowledge of these medicinal plants has been passed down for generations among the Guarani people, and today medicinal plants can be seen growing around every household. They are meant to be used for everything from curing specific ailments like stomach pain to making your terere even more refreshing.

In Paraguay the tradition is steeped in its culture, it is much more than a drink, it is a catalyst for building friendships, meeting people and maintaining contact with the community. For myself as a new volunteer the terere tradition was invaluable. It was an easy excuse for me to visit anyone and everyone. Of course that also meant drinking much more water than I needed and rushed trips to my bathroom between visits. Sometimes it seemed that the sense of community felt in my little site and the rest of Paraguay can be attributed in part to this amazing plant. It is a compulsory aspect of the culture especially when working that allows people rest, communion, and most importantly to joke around with one another.

My Peace Corps service began on December 4, 2012, I was thrown into a community where I knew none of the people, understood few of their customs and found myself quickly wondering why I got myself into this. Being the aca hata (hard headed) that I am, I knew I was in it for the long haul. Meeting and getting to know a such a large community was a daunting task. The thing that helped me get through all of it was a little tree called Yerba Mate.

Your help with social media and phone calls helped us achieve our monetary goal, we were able to raise $2,900.00. Your contribution helped us in many ways and all of the money donated went straight to capital investments for the project. With the money raised we were able to purchase 300 seedlings for each of the 16 participating families, fencing, a 10,000 liter tank, and irrigation materials. The members themselves also donated 35% of the total cost of the project.

After finding an effective way of germinating the tricky seeds of the Yerba Mate plant, we were able to move on the the more labor intensive aspects of the project. Together with the committee we dedicated one day per week toward the construction of the nursery and preparing pots for transplanting. Meanwhile, the farmers already had the 300 trees planted in their fields. This small (experimental) amount of trees was meant to be used as a learning tool for the farmers in order to prepare them for management of a larger quantity of trees. Each farmer planted in varying ways, throughout this process we had meetings dedicated to the the future planning of the project as well as updates on best practices for growing Yerba Mate.

By the time my service was over we had transplanted over 50,000 trees! Since having left Paraguay, I have kept in contact with many people in my community. They plan on having over 100,000 trees planted in the coming year. This is great news because not only has the project you donated to helped these families financially, it has also contributed to the reforestation of a very depleted country. The plants grown in the nursery are meant to be planted throughout the community free of charge for the members of the committee and extremely discounted to others in the community. The rest are marketed and sold to people throughout the region. Revenue from sales is reinvested in the future of the project primarily in the way of repairs and expansion of the nursery.

Again, I would like to extend a huge thank you for contributing to this project. Your donation was a ripple that has begun to swell into a wave. If you have any questions regarding the project or would like to receive updates about the success of this project, please feel free to contact me.

Yours gratefully,