Volunteer Story: Salsa Expert Teaches Tomato Canning to Panama Villages

| Mary Henkin

“I have been making salsa since I was 6 years old, when my task for dinnertime was to peel roasted chilies.” - Carmen Pacheco-Borden of Boulder, Colorado

Partners of the Americas’ Farmer-to-Farmer program was in search of a tomato processing and canning specialist to teach heads of households and women in the Ngabe-Bugle villages of Panama how to process and store tomatoes and salsa when they discovered Pacheco-Borden and reached out to her. Filled with excitement, she headed down to start her two-week assignment on Jan. 17. The Ngabe-Bugle villages produce around 500 pounds of tomatoes a year. From that crop, around 50 percent of the tomatoes are sold, and another 10 percent are consumed by the grower’s family. The other 40 percent are wasted. And in an area where over 95 percent of the community lives in poverty, Farmer-to-Farmer wanted to create a way to empower the heads of households and women in these communities to repurpose that wasted crop, increasing the household income.

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