The first rain of the year was Thursday night.  It has been threatening for a while now, the sky clouding over in the evenings, and last weekend there were some lone cracks of thunder and flashes of lightening, but they were empty promises.  Thursday I was waiting for the bus at the university around six in the evening, and found myself mesmerized by a huge thunderhead in the east, glowing golden in the evening light.  An hour later it down-poured.  While all the Nicas ran happily under cover, I ran out into the rain.  They say hunger makes a good sauce.  Well, for me, four months of drought makes me run into the rain instead of out of it.  

So now I get the chance to know another Nicaragua, one where instead of dust and wind erosion being a major problem in the country, it’s mud, topsoil erosion, and crop damage due to torrential rainfall.  

I spent this last week in an intensive training for “plant doctors” and got to meet people from all over the country, who work with different cooperatives and organizations.  The plan is to mimic the health network systems that have been developed to access remote communities, and create systems for getting information about crop diseases and MIC, or Integrated Crop Management, out to farmers in remote communities.  MIC is the Nicaraguan version of IMP, Integrated Pest Management, in the states, but it’s more complete.  Proponents of MIC encourage crop rotation, organic fertilizers and pesticides, and soil conservation, but also recommend chemical treatments when they feel they are needed.  

I left the workshop feeling heartened that so many people embraced alternatives, whether for ideological reasons or because they know many people can’t afford chemicals.  It was good to see so many people working toward getting accurate information out to farmers.  Clearly there are hundreds of projects, organizations, plant clinics, and agricultural peace corps workers working in this country toward similar ends.  That is heartening.