QUITA SUENO, HONDURAS — THE people of Buen Ejemplo are struggling to reach a level of development that reflects, in their words, ``a life of dignity.'' They find inspiration and encouragement in the experience of a village about an hour's drive away that is much closer to that goal. The name Quita Sueno, given to this place by its peasant founders five years ago, means ``Stop Dreaming.'' It is apt for this beautiful village of neat, whitewashed houses and bright flower gardens spreading over the base of a green mountain, surrounded by wide, well-tended fields of corn and tomatoes. This is a place where dreams of a better life are coming true for some 150 families.
The people of Quita Sueno occupied land here in 1983 - living under plastic tarpaulins before building huts of mud and bamboo. Twice soldiers burned everything the peasants had built. Finally, the group was legally guaranteed the use of 984 acres of land.
Organizations like the National Congress of Rural Workers, a kind of peasants' union, provide a framework within which outside development assistance can be more effective. Development experts agree that when people become organized, they can better articulate their needs and plan appropriate projects that can be completed with outside help. The official recognition of the peasants' right to farm in Quita Sueno has opened the way for various kinds of outside support. For example, a Honduran government agency provided loans for the building of sturdy cement-block houses.
Years ago, the people of Quita Sueno formed 10 groups of about 15 families each. Some of the house loans will be paid off collectively by the groups, at a rate of two houses a year. When the peasants received the guarantee of land to farm, each family was allotted two acres for its personal use. The rest is farmed communally, according to the original intention of the land reform law of 1975.
Seeing how well-organized Quita Sueno is, several development agencies have pitched in to help. For example, a US Mennonite group has set up a ``goat fund.'' It gives a family a female goat; the family pays it back with the first-born kid. Another US church group built the schoolhouse last April.
Other agencies are helping families build latrines and septic tanks. The drinking water here has been approved as pure by the Honduran Ministry of Health. And a Dutch agency is providing technical assistance to help farmers raise cash crops (sugar, coffee, and cocoa).
The peasants' union receives financial support and technical assistance from organizations such as the Canadian international agency CUSO, Oxfam America, the Interamerican Foundation, Pueblo to People, and Oxfam Canada, as well as several European groups.