For five years now a cooperative corn bank, run by the health team in Ajoya, has been lending maize to poor campesinos at low interest rates. In the past, poor farmers had to borrow maize from rich landholders at planting time and then pay back 2 1/2 to 3 times what they had borrowed. This meant that every year, the poor would go deeper into debt. When they could no longer pay off their debts, the land holders would sometimes strip their homesteads of everything they had: chickens, pigs, the donkey, even furnishings. The high interest rates on corn loans has been one of the main factors contributing to the mass exodus of poor farm families to city slums.

The corn bank, which was started by villagers cooperatively farming a loaned parcel of land, has permitted many families to get out from under the oppressive yoke of high interest rates. Two years ago, so many small farmers had become self-sufficient in corn supply that, at the beginning of the planting season, the corn bank actually had a surplus.

This last September, Hurricane Norma struck the Piaxtla area with great violence. Roofs were torn off, adobe homes collapsed, trees snapped like match sticks, and ripening cornfields were flattened. Families who had borrowed maize from the corn bank will not be able to pay their debts. Worse yet, the bank may have no maize to lend the stricken farmers for the next planting season.

Because of the hurricane disaster, Project Piaxtla is now asking for emergency relief assistance to help re-stock the cooperative corn bank.

Your assistance, large or small, will be appreciated. A proposal is available on request for individuals or groups who might consider substantial contributions.