Fighting for forgotten communities in the Dominican Republic


January 14, 2020

The village of Cruz de Cabrera Abajo, near the Dominican Republic’s border with Haiti, is…forgotten. 

There’s no electricity here. Or phone signal. It’s 12 miles to the nearest town, and the access road is in bad shape. Most young people who grow up in Cruz de Cabrera Abajo leave in search of opportunities in the Dominican capital of Santo Domingo or other cities. That means that most families here rely on remittances and are managed by elderly family members who feel abandoned. 

While some community members make the journey to work as security guards, cleaners or domestic workers, most rely on agriculture to provide for their families. 

A local women’s association, named Asociacion de Madres Lorenza Rodriguez after a highly respected leader in the community, was founded in 1984. More than three decades later, they have never been able to complete all of the paperwork needed to legally register with the government for support.

Francia Morales Jimenez is the Association’s president. Years ago, her family donated land so that the association could build a modest meeting room. More recently, they donated more land to build a Casa Malla, which is a simple, mesh covered greenhouse that helps intensive vegetable production. This construction was funded by another international development agency. A couple of years ago, a tropical storm damaged the greenhouse’s roof and water system. It was never repaired. 

Francia grew up in Cruz de Cabrera Abajo, just like her parents and grandparents before her. She raised seven children here, four of whom have already left for larger cities. But Francia is determined to keep fighting for her home and her community. “Despite the difficulties, we move on,” she says. “Women must always find something to put on our children’s plates. A group of members of the Association just cleared land in the greenhouse and planted lettuce. The eggplant are almost ready to harvest.” At home, Francia is also doing her best to succeed through agriculture. “We are planting peanuts because they do better than beans,” she notes.

Alongside her neighbors, Francia isn’t giving up. And we’re going to help them out.

A new CWS program, launching in partnership with Servicio Social de Iglesias Dominicanas and Growing Hope Globally, is going to help this forgotten village on the path out of poverty. Over the next three years, we’ll be teaming up with Francia and her Association to help families improve their harvests and become more food secure. We’ll help them repair the greenhouse and bring it back to being fully operational. The experts on our program team, including two agricultural experts from the Ministry of Agriculture, will provide technical help and will lead classes and information sessions. We will also provide micro loans to families to help them get started. 

Cruz de Cabrera Abajo is one of 12 community organizations in seven villages in the Dominican Republic that will be participating in this new program. Roughly 250 members of community organizations, most of whom are women, will focus on financial literacy, business skills and learning about specific agricultural techniques that they can use to better provide for their families. Our goal is to help them become more food secure and to build their confidence to embark on self-sustaining income generating activities.