Familia Escoto and the workshop in Las Limas

Familia Escoto and the workshop in Las Limas

Almost two weeks in the countryside with SosteNica/CEPRODEL clients has passed quickly and smoothly.

The trainings concentrated on four topics: Soil conservation, organic fertilizers, organic pest control, and proper establishment and care of the trees. Most importantly, we emphasized the importance of sustainability, in respect specifically to chemical applications as well as to the larger picture of simply thinking long term. I made a personal discovery that trees are an excellent module for addressing the lack of long-term planning in Nicaraguan culture that I’ve written about here before. It’s difficult to stretch what very little resources you have and think about ten years from now when you don’t know where your meal tomorrow is coming from. But everyone understands that a tree grows slowly, and so the leap from understanding that the investment in trees ensures firewood and income in the future to also thinking about the relationship between chemical runoff and the quality of water in the future is more approachable.

Constructing an "Aparato A", a level to construct terrases and barriers to prevent soil erosion.

Constructing an "Aparato A", a level to construct terrases and barriers to prevent soil erosion.

I was particularly impressed with the participation in organic fertilizers. Everyone participated in making a compost pile, and one farmer commented to me afterward, “I’ve heard about this before, but I never would have done it without seeing first how to do it in real life.”

That’s the value in what the organizations who spend countless dollars and hours trekking out into the countryside do. The roads are often in terrible condition, and notorious mud-traps in the rainy season. On our way out to the community the first day of the trainings we slid sideways and found ourselves nicely jammed into a soft bank of mud, perpendicular to the road, with our back wheels elevated and completely blocking the road. After trying futilely to free the truck for nearly an hour using tree branches, 4 wheel drive, and pushing, a neighbor accomplished the task in minutes with his two oxen.  But seeing how studious, involved, and appreciative the farmers were made the tedious journey entirely worthwhile.

That wasn’t the only expected, or unexpected, challenge I encountered. I was prepared for no electricity, no running water, simple meals, and lots of mosquitos, and long conversations about my life in the states and the differences between our cultures. Given that life in the woods and outhouses aren’t entirely unfamiliar to me, and that I seek out that type of vacation in the states, I felt confident about adapting to life in the Nicaraguan countryside. All of the above proved true, and for me, completely enjoyable. What I wasn’t prepared for was a family so generous that they hunted iguanas and killed a sheep so that we would eat meat instead of just beans, in discovering that my mosquito net was more usefull in keeping the bat shit off my bed than protecting me from mosquitos, and that ants are a much more formidable insect than mosquitos (at least at a farm that has such an abundant bat population).

Presenting the participants in the community of Puerto Sandino with certificates of participation.

Presenting the participants in the community of Puerto Sandino with certificates of participation.

To sum up what I could talk about for hours – I have good reason to believe that the success of this project will be able to be measured not just in the survival of the trees we are bringing to these families, but also in the fact that they now have not just the knowledge but the desire as well to re-invest the nutrients available to them back into their pastures and gardens, to plan for years ahead, and will be talking about these concepts with their friends and families. And yes, I did eat iguana and help skin the sheep.

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