Church-sponsored humanitarian projects allow hope to fall like rain on parched Mexico town

It’s easy sticking a price tag on most natural resources.

Online postings list up-to-the-minute values of, say, a barrel of oil, an ounce of gold or a carat-sized diamond. Established markets determine the cost.

But the price of water, the world’s most precious resource, is harder to define. But one thing’s certain: in times of drought, H20 is more precious than the rarest gems or the deepest oil well.

For folks living in the tiny farming community of San Bartolo in eastern Mexico, water is a fickle friend. The success of their annual harvest of corn and beans has depended entirely upon the whims of the weather. Sometimes the rain falls. Other times, the clouds are few. Farming has been an uneasy game of chance here.

But several Church-sponsored humanitarian projects are bringing new hope to the farmers of San Bartolo and their families.

Volunteers recently built a water diversion dam and a water distribution system using building supplies donated by the Church. The dam construction projects were followed by a fruit tree planting effort made possible by the time, sweat and muscle of about 140 “Mormon Helping Hands” volunteers from Church congregations from the nearby city of Pachuca, according to Mormon Newsroom in Mexico.

“This project consisted of three stages — the construction of the diversion dam; the acquisition of a 3.5 kilometer conduit line; and … the reforestation of 2,400 fruit trees,” the project coordinator Beatriz Cruz Lechuga told Mormon Newsroom.

A key element of the dam building project was teaching the San Bartolo farmers how to maintain the dam equipment so it can reliably serve the community long after the volunteer workers leave, added Cruz Lechuga.

The newly built water diversion dam can hold 4,200 cubic meters of water and supply water to almost 40 acres of crops. Some 10 to 12 tons of food are expected to be harvested from each acre of watered farmland.

Rainwater and a local natural spring, known by residents here as “the water pot,” will supply water to the dam, according to Mormon Newsroom.

The dam will likely operate at near capacity levels year round.

Yesenia Gutierrez Penaloza, one of the San Bartolo project leaders, said the Church-funded efforts would stretch beyond merely improving the agricultural and livestock productivity of the San Bartolo community.

“Families will have water in their homes as well as in their farm plots, which will generate better economic stability and well-being,” said Guitierrez Penaloza.

Hope-yielding fruit trees

Meanwhile, scores of Latter-day Saints recently traveled to San Bartolo to plant 2,400 fruit trees across the farming community.

“It is always rewarding to help others,” Pachuca Mexico Stake President David Ortega told Mormon Newsroom. “As members of the Church, we are always ready to help all people.”

Many of the newly planted fruit saplings, including young lemon and avocado trees, will now be able to grow and yield fruit thanks to the water from the new dam.

“We are thinking about planting walnuts that we can sell and alfalfa to feed our animals,” said San Bartolo resident Petronilo Sierra Bracho. “The farms have changed. Things are better now.”

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