Notes from the Field: Meet Don Jorge Ochoa

Notes from the Field by Claudia Menendez, International Program Coordinator

May 2011: El Porvenir, El Salvador

I have seen a number of nurseries in my travels to El Salvador, but on this
hot and muggy April afternoon, the seedlings at our partner Árboles y Agua para elPueblo’s (AAP) nursery seem especially content. When I asked the Executive Director, Armando Hernandez, what his secret might be, he looked up and answered simply, “Don Jorge Ochoa.”

Mr. Jorge Alberto Dorado Ochoa began working in 2007, when Trees, Water & People (TWP) and AAP set up their operations in El Porvenir, El Salvador. He immediately set to work establishing the planting rows, preparing the soil, planting the seeds, and caring for those 30,000 newly established plants. Although Jorge was never formally trained as a forester, he learned empirically what each species preferred by spending countless hours among them, watering, weeding, and preventing the scourge of all nurseries – pests and fungi.

On this day, the corn on the west side of the nursery softly filters the afternoon sun and protects the tiny trees from wilting. On the other side is an abundant vegetable garden complete with cabbage, tomatoes, spinach, peppers, cilantro,
basil, pineapples, papayas, and greens, effectively deterring pests from snacking on the seedlings. It was through his years of work on coffee plantations that Jorge grew to understand plant interactions and started practicing these creative and invaluable management tools.

Late last year, Jorge was diagnosed with prostate cancer and we were uncertain if he would continue working with Trees, Water & People.  As he stepped away from his position to care for his health, his absence in the nursery was felt by all. Throughout his illness, he would walk from his house to the nursery just to spend time with the plants he had worked so hard to nurture. With an amazing recovery, Jorge soon returned with renewed vigor and ambition.

“I feel strongly that my dedication to the nursery and the work of TWP gave me purpose and helped me recover my strength and health,” said Jorge about the TWP community.

After spending many an afternoon in this little nursery, I know that Jorge gives thanks each day for his job, his health, and every dollar that Trees, Water & People has contributed. Our supporters truly understand the value of his work and the jobs that our partners are bringing to these rural communities.

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Trees, Water & People is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization committed to developing sustainable community-based conservation solutions.

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