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U.S., U.N. Groups Seeding New Life in Honduras

By Spc. Larry Lang
Special to American Forces Press Service

SOTO CANO AIR BASE, Honduras, Jan. 14, 1999 – Hurricane Mitch body-slammed them two months ago, but the Honduran people have dusted off and now seek help in standing on their own feet again. They ask for seeds.

The Hondurans want to grow their own food, said Army Capt. Albert Zakaib, a civil affairs team leader from Joint Task Force-Bravo here. "People from the World Food Program went out and did an assessment of what was needed," he said. "Three palettes of corn seed weighing 25,000 pounds made it to Honduras through the help of the U.N. Development Program." The U.N. agency works on long-term development projects with member governments.

The seeds were destined for the people of Puerto Lempira, whose crops were destroyed by Mitch. Once the cargo arrived in the town of La Mesa, however, the Tennessee Air National Guard stepped in -- there are no roads between the two towns, Zakaib said. The only ways to serve remote areas are by air and boat.

A Tennessee Guard C-130 Hercules crew of the 105th Airlift Squadron picked up the seeds in La Mesa, Honduras, and ferried them to Puerto Lempira. Local residents met the C- 130 and worked alongside U.S. military members to unload all 500 bags by hand. U.N. officials then distributed the seeds to families.

"We were doing a tour in Panama and were tasked for this assignment," said loadmaster Staff Sgt. Mark Strebe. "This is not only good training, but it serves a purpose of helping people in need."

U.N. spokesman James Hardman said the 25,000 pounds of seed should be enough to provide for 12,000 people. "After Hurricane Mitch, they lost all their crops," Hardman said. "It will be bad for the next six months if they don't get seeds in the ground now."

"This is very good for our community. The community is now seeing that they are getting help to grow what they lost," said Puerto Lempira resident Ramon Prabia.

The crew of the 105th headed home with a feeling of accomplishment. "This is what we are trained to do. I'm glad we could be a part of it," Strebe said.

[Spc. Larry Lang is assigned to the Joint Task Force-Bravo Public Affairs Office, Soto Cano Air Base, Honduras.]

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageAmericans and Hondurans unload sacks of corn seeds from a Tennessee Air Guard C-130 transport that flew the 25,000-pound load between La Mesa and Puerto Lempira, Honduras, for the World Food Program and U.N. Development Program.  
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