by Hilary Horn

By Dave Luebkeman —

Extreme poverty and the environment are not two separate issues and a healthy environment is vital to a community’s ability to fight poverty. Plant With Purpose is reducing developing world poverty using a three-part holistic approach to transform lives of the rural poor including environmental restoration, economic empowerment, and spiritual renewal.

Plant With Purpose families cut their level of poverty in half and lives are being transformed in seven countries!!

“I used to only plant on the fence line, but now every avocado I eat I plant the seed. When the land uphill from mine was recently sold, I told the new owner: ‘That is fine but you have to plant trees on your land!’

“I also have another plot of land near the forest that in the past was very poor. I applied compost and now the harvest is so great that I was able to buy a mule! I am also able to pay for my children’s school fees and buy medicine for my family as well as other things that we need.”

We work specifically in places, like Jean Robert’s, where poverty is caused by deforestation. In poor rural areas, farmers who are desperate to feed their families often turn to cutting trees as a way to clear land to farm or earn income through the sale of charcoal or fuel wood. Yet attempts to grow crops on cleared land are unproductive because the soil’s fertility and ability to hold water are compromised. Deforestation leads to serious erosion, causing soil depletion, water pollution, and increased vulnerability to storms and other disasters. The continued decline in productivity then leads to more tree cutting, creating a vicious cycle of poverty and deforestation. We work alongside farmers to restore their land and anchor the soil through reforestation and conservation techniques. Nitrogen-fixing trees add nutrients to the soil. Fruit trees provide a source of nutrition and income. And forest trees create longevity and improve biodiversity. The end result is an 80% increase in crop production and improved resilience during disasters—both for today and tomorrow.

The majority of poor people who live in rural communities have little to no access to formal banking systems, making it difficult to save money or take out loans at fair interest rates. Through Sustainable Development Groups (SDGs), groups come together both to save and create credit opportunities. Self-selected, self-managed groups work together to increase their savings and then mobilize their own money through small loans to other group members to develop small businesses, invest in their farms, provide for children’s education, pay for health care costs, or cover costs related to unexpected emergencies. The agreed-upon interest payments return to the group, rather than an outside institution, which increases each individual’s savings. Groups also receive intensive training in financial management and small-business development. Through this methodology, groups are growing their savings as well as gaining a sense of dignity and empowerment through their accomplishments. Plant With Purpose families in SDGs are twice as likely to have built up six months of cash reserves.

Plant With Purpose believes that standing for justice and fighting poverty must be done in a way that offers dignity. Every person is created in God’s image, and all people have God-given gifts they can use to create change in their own communities. So as we stand for justice, what we’re really doing is walking alongside. We equip families and individuals to stand on their own and address their own problems. Through these efforts, basic needs are met, people experience reconciliation, and human rights are addressed. Partner farmer’s crop yields grow and savings increase as a result of their hard work., but more than that, people are empowered to live with God-given hope and dignity.

“First it’s about praying and having faith. That’s how you start the process of being changed. God will come. We have to work in order to eat. The pastor told us that God was the first worker. God is the initiator of work. We pray and believe that we can succeed because God did so even before we were here. God is the model for how we live.”

We recognize that poverty is both physical and spiritual, so any holistic approach to community development must address both. Monika knows real transformation starts with a saving faith in Jesus Christ. We also recognize that empowering local leaders ultimately creates more sustainable community development efforts. In response, we work in partnership with local churches to equip pastors and church leaders and to support congregations in their outreach and discipleship efforts. As churches are equipped to live out their calling to love God and love their neighbors, they are leading the way in community change.

Plant With Purpose works in The Dominican Republic, Haiti, Mexico, Tanzania, Burundi, The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Thailand and soon starting a pilot program in Ethiopia. – Follow us on Instagram @PlantWPurpose and we’ll plant a tree!

Dave Luebkeman – Regional Representative, San Francisco Bay Area

With 30+ years experience in business and finance, Dave was eager for a change of pace. 2016 marked that change as he joined the Plant With Purpose team as Regional Representative for the San Francisco Bay Area. In his role, Dave meets with partners to educate them on our programs, build awareness across the Bay Area, and deepen financial support for Plant With Purpose’s programs.

Dave served as CFO and Vice President of Brookfield Residential Properties San Francisco Division for 14 years. Prior, he served 14 years in various finance positions with Bank of America, and two years as a CPA in the Bay Area. Dave holds an MBA from Golden Gate University and a BS in Accounting from Cal State Hayward. Dave also brings his experience as a program coach in public speaking and service on a nonprofit board of directors.

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