Miguel Rodriguez, together with his wife Manuela, have taken on the commitment to grow 5,000 small trees from seed in a tree nursery on their farm as part of the JoinTrees Project. He sees planting trees as a gift to his family and his community and as a resource for many in the future. In September 2021, he began preparing a seedbed and planting cypress, jacaranda, cinnamon, and pine seeds. Three months later he and his wife transplanted them into individual grow bags. Reflecting on the problems in his community, he has seen the advance of deforestation and the destruction of the native forests that had surrounded his village.
Miguel is an Achí Maya farmer living in the village of Chup, Baja Verapaz, Guatemala. He was born September 30, 1958 and feels that in his 63 years he has been able to achieve progress for himself and his family. His principle occupation is farming, but in addition he is a leader in his community, serving as secretary of the COCODE, the Chup development committee, and as a local health promoter. He is currently secretary of his church council and, given that he can read and write, he has held several positions within his church. He states that these community responsibilities are a way to give thanks to God and fulfill the Creator's teachings.
As a child Miguel was able to study only through 6th grade. He remembers having to walk an hour to school without shoes. The school in the neighboring village of Patzocón was constructed of wooden poles and adobe mud and had 40 children of various grades in the one small classroom. The teachers were very strict, punishing any misconduct. Miguel feels he learned there to be very disciplined. When he wasn't in school he worked at his father's side growing corn, beans, and coffee. At this young age he learned basic agricultural skills, many of which he continues to use today.
When Miguel was 16 years old the family's corn harvest was not sufficient to last the year, and they did not have enough to eat, Manuel and his brothers decided to go to the plantations on Guatemala's Pacific coast to find work to sustain the family. There Miguel worked planting sesame, picking coffee, and cutting sugar cane. Cutting and carrying sugar cane was arduous labor in heat over 100 degrees. He was paid $1 per day for 12 hours of work, earning $30 a month.
After the death of his father, he married Manuela who has been his companion for life. Together they have 5 children. Presently he dedicates himself to cultivating corn and beans, helping Manuela with her large vegetable garden, and taking care of their chickens, pigs, and cows. Their farming gives them a sustainable food supply, plus some money for other purchases. He is working towards having a hillside of coffee trees. He has a small coffee tree nursery and he hopes to plant his coffee seedlings there next year.
Miguel said with conviction, "I believe that while we have life there is hope." He has struggled all of his life to succeed as a farmer and to be a responsible father and community member. HIs dream is that the members of his community will plant the seedlings he is growing on the mountainsides around his village and continue to care for them and that this will improve the environment for his community.