With New Skills, El Ingenio Leaders Move Forward

Polvazal, and all the new communities in the Jinotepe region, have the potential to achieve a lot with CEPAD, said Cesar Chavez, a community leader from El Ingenio, one of the communities finishing its time five years with CEPAD.

“If they are serious, responsible and grateful they will see amazing results like we did,” Cesar said. After five years with CEPAD, the community has learned new agricultural techniques, created new opportunities for youth and women and developed an organizational structure that will carry the community into the future, Cesar said.

The community development committee there has already made progress — they successfully petitioned the local government to improve the road that goes through the community to improve access to schools and jobs. The road has improved access to goods and means it will be easier to implement future infrastructure projects.

“We haven’t achieved everything we want, and we have learned a lot that will help us continue into the future,” he said. “The next project we want to work on is getting potable water, because the one well we have only serves a few houses.”

Cesar says his two-year-old daughter Ixa will have many more opportunities.

“The biggest feeling I have is thanks,” Cesar said. “CEPAD believed in us, and that’s been just the beginning of so many changes. Ixa will never know the kind of poverty I did.”

In Polvazal, Community Leaders Tackle Challenges

Polvazal’s 42 families see every day as a new chance. They work the land, travel to the river for water and make sure their children attend school. The next five years CEPAD will accompany this community to help them harness their full potential.

Sonia Maria Esteban Gonzalez, a 33-year-old community leader and mother of three teenagers, uses tires as pots for different vegetables — but they are mostly empty this year. She says the community’s biggest challenges are adjusting their agricultural practices to account for increasingly dry years and developing a community organizational structure that will allow them to pursue big goals, like getting a better well in the community. Despite Polvazal’s many challenges, Sonia and others are optimistic.

“I have seen what has happened in the communities nearby, they have learned so much and life has improved a lot,” Sonia said. “I know that we can see similar progress here because people are ready to work hard and take it seriously.”

For the last five-year cycle ending this year, Polvazal was a control community in the Jinotepe region. CEPAD visited with leaders there regularly but didn’t implement programs directly. This made it possible to see the changes in communities working with CEPAD compared to those that weren’t. After the experience, Sonia and other community leaders are ready to get started and plan to look to leaders in nearby communities for advice.

“We appreciate CEPAD isn’t here just to help one person or bring supplies, it’s about working for the whole community and region,” Sonia said. “The communities in this area are friends and help each other.”

The community had no May harvest this year because of drought, and many people had weak September harvests because of continued water shortage and lack of seeds. The community is also concerned about deforestation, which CEPAD will help address by providing seedlings and training. CEPAD couldn’t be coming at a better time, Sonia said.

At The Heart of Short Term Missions: Reflections From A CEPAD Volunteer

By Olivia Holt, Summer 2014 CEPAD Volunteer Summer 

Throughout college I questioned the value of short-term missions. I mostly wondered if the price involved was worth it. Short-term mission trips can be expensive, and they consume a lot of funds.  Couldn’t the host ministry better use those funds to advance their work? That money could be feeding hungry tummies, training pastors, or employing locals to build homes for those without shelter.  I also wondered how much of a burden it was for the host to take care of a group of foreigners for a week. How are a ministry’s daily activities affected when everything is put on hold because a mission team has arrived?  By no means can I address this issue in full, but those questions were on my mind.

I also wondered about the results.  I had no doubt that short-term trips were beneficial for the visitors; I myself am a product of short-term missions. I have been changed because of my experiences on mission trips, and my passions have been shaped by what God taught me in those weeks. But, were they really good for the hosts?

A trip to Bluefields, Nicaragua, during my junior year of college eventually won me over to the realization that a short-term trip can be beneficial for everyone involved and a worthwhile financial investment.  While my team was in Bluefields, we asked the leader of the ministry, Adrian, about this topic. His simple response meant everything.

“You can send money in an envelope, and it can do lots of things,” he said. “But you can’t send a hug or a smile in an envelope.”

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We’re Taking Our First Steps In New Communities

Farmers, leaders and young people in 42 communities around Nicaragua are brimming with excitement about the possibilities the see for their upcoming five years of work with CEPAD.

“It’s such an amazing opportunity, we are ready to work hard and get organized as a community,” said Rokue Castillo, a leader in Bijague, a community in San Francisco Libre. “Our biggest priority is to develop skills for drought management, because this year has been really hard.”

This week, CEPAD staff are traveling to every one of the new communities where we will begin work in 2015 to talk with members and get an idea of what they know already and what they hope to achieve. Pedro Joaquin, the technician from the Jinotepe region, helped out with collecting baseline data in San Francisco Libre. Rokue was worried that he didn’t have any of the skills Pedro asked him about, like how to lead community meetings or make a petition to the local government.

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Drought Decimates Crops, Leaves Families Hungry

Record breaking droughts are ravaging parts of Nicaragua. Harvests are low, cattle and other livestock are dying, and rivers and wells are at 25 to 50 percent of normal water levels. The cost of a month of basic food supplies has risen by about $10 in the last year.

CEPAD farmers in the regions of Jinotepe, San Francisco Libre and San Jose de Los Remates feel the devastating impacts of the drought every day. In the 18 impacted communities in those regions, CEPAD works with 1,517 farming families who are experiencing food insecurity and economic instability because of very low harvests so far this year. Those families have lost 1,400 acres of corn crops and 1,100 acres of beans. Many farmers lost their entire planting of these two crops — meaning they not only lost their food for this year but the seeds and soil quality that they need to plant in 2015.

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We need your help to carry out a critical training workshop, please give today!

As CEPAD finishes its work in 43 rural communities around Nicaragua, we need your help today to carry out additional training for 6 rural community organizations on Developing a Strategic Plan. 36 community leaders, six from each community association or cooperative, will attend the workshop and then take what they learn back to their communities to help them plan for the needs of their community for years to come.

Knowing how to develop strategic plans will allow the communities to better prioritize their needs and advocate for their citizens. Your donations will provide transport, lodging, materials and staff support for the training. With your gift we can make this critical training happen in the next few months. Once we move into 2015 we will be moving into new communities so your contribution today is vital! We’ve created a crowdfunding campaign on Razoo for this project to make it easy to give and share the effort with your friends, family and fellow CEPAD fans.

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We’re Dreaming For The Next Five Years. Will You Join Us Under the Mango Tree?

A letter from Executive Director Damaris Albuquerque

CEPAD began as a dream under a mango tree. After 42 years and thousands of lives changed, we keep dreaming.

We dream of serving more communities each year. We dream of sharing our proven techniques with other organizations. We dream of upgrading our offices and delegation accommodations. We are in the process of strategic planning for the next five years, and as we reflect on the past and implement our vision for the future, I want to thank you for all you have done over the years to make so many dreams come true. We are able to do this work because of you, the churches, organizations and individuals who walk with us in partnership. Without your donations, visits and prayers in these many years CEPAD would not be here today.

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Harsh Climate, Lack of Resources Propels Yearly Southern Migration

The rain came a month late to Mesa Sur this year, and never arrived with the vigor farmers there rely on because of climate change and El Niño. Still, they’re hard at work as day laborers and on their own land to make enough money for food, clothes, and their children’s school tuition. And they’re happy to be with their families — for now.

They’re already planning for October, when they will prepare for their next journey to Costa Rica. Every year, most adult men and many women immigrate for three to five months to work on coffee farms and in other jobs in Costa Rica, where they can earn an average of $60 to $100 per week — more than three times what they can earn at home. This trip is even more necessary in years like this one.

Of the 150 members of the community who will travel to Costa Rica later this year, 80 percent will go without documents. Some people have gone 15 years or more in a row.

“We don’t have a choice,” said Jose James Tercero Aguilar. “The coffee season here is very short, and we have a lot of plagues. And now, the rain is coming later and later. We can’t make enough here to survive.”

The work is hard, but the pay is good — usually. Good enough that people accept the grief of leaving their families behind and taking the treacherous journey across the border. Two years ago, Jose and his children Mangel and Yaqueline were detained at the border for 15 days and then sent back into Nicaragua. A few weeks later, they made a second, successful attempt.

“I was really scared because we were separated, Mangel was in the facility for minors because he was only 16,” said Yaqueline, who is part of the CEPAD Community Development Committee in Mesa Sur. “But everything turned out ok.

Their family has used the money from Costa Rica to make improvements to their home, pay off loans, and invest in their farm. CEPAD has helped farmers grow better and more diverse crops and created an organizational and leadership structure that will allow for longterm progress. But the people of Mesa Sur worry about the future.

Patrona Mendez Hernandez, Jose’s wife, said it’s hard for her during the months when she is home alone.

“There’s never security, I just have to stay here and pray that God will take care of them,” she said.

The community continues to hope for opportunities to improve their infrastructure so they can extend their growing seasons. Thanks to generous support from Hayward Presbyterian Church and collaboration from the local government, most families have access to clean drinking water. But without a sustainable irrigation program, the annual migration will continue.

THANKS TO YOU, Arnulfo’s Yields Are Higher Despite Climate Change

Nicaragua’s rainy season is getting shorter, summers are hotter, and long-trustworthy climate cycles are less consistent.

So times are especially hard in San Francisco Libre, a region of the country where soil quality and lack of water has always caused challenges for farmers. CEPAD trains farmers to help them learn to overcome the environmental pressures they face.

“CEPAD taught me how to make banks and ditches with the soil to trap water and protect the plant roots,” said Arnulfo Jose Espinoza Gonzalez, who has been a farmer in the region for 13 years. “CEPAD helped me buy barrels to collect water, too. I’ve seen a big change in my plants.”

Since incorporating what he learned from CEPAD, Arnulfo said he is able to grow some crops for the first time, and his corn and plantain yields are rising. Support from CEPAD donors has meant more income for Arnulfo and his wife and five kids. He said he’s less worried about how they will care for their new baby. In a meeting with farmers from around the region, CEPAD and representatives from ACT Alliance led a workshop with farmers to identify the risks they faced and possible solutions.

Farmers were excited to learn about opportunities to seek funds from CEPAD and from local governments to install irrigation systems. Farmers in San Francisco Libre are committed to working with a changing climate to ensure they can continue farm work to provides food and income. CEPAD will be there with training to give farmers in harsh regions a shot at success. In the future, Arnulfo hopes he can quit his other job at a roof tile manufacturing plant and farm full time to earn enough to feed his children and pay for their school.

“I am a farmer in my heart,” he said. “I’m learning how to work with the climate to plant crops that will grow well, and my income from the farm is increasing a little bit. With God’s help, I will keep fighting.”

Arnulfo’s pride in his new plants reminds us why we keep fighting, too. Thank you for your continued support of CEPAD’s work! You make a difference in the lives of rural Nicaraguan families every day.

CEPAD Serves Hundreds of Families in Earthquake Aftermath

April’s earthquakes were the strongest in more than 40 years and devastated the livelihoods of hundreds of families. CEPAD, in partnership with the ACT Alliance, provided 480 food and supplies packets of 90 pounds each and hosted workshops for 400 people experiencing negative emotional impacts from the quakes. The program was based in the small city of Mateare, which experienced some of the strongest impact from the largest of the earthquakes. Read more