After driving out of Teustepe, (a town in Northern Nicaragua), for 45 minutes on a rocky path and crossing a couple dry rivers, we finally arrived in the small, dusty village of Agua Caliente. The landscape looks bleak due to the past two years of drought. A few underdeveloped crop fields are visible through the breaks in the trees.
Two small boys were among the first to run up to the pick up truck to greet us. Jose and Joan were soon met by more children who walked with us to the small unpainted quarry block house.
We met with some of the women in the community who are part of CEPAD’s Home Garden program. So far, the work that CEPAD has accomplished thanks to your donations in Agua Caliente has enabled many families to start small gardens to improve their family nutrition.
Olga, the mother of Jose and Joan, is one of the beneficiaries of this project. Previous to her involvement in the project, all she and her family could rely on for food was rice, beans, and the occasional cheese or meat. In the last year she has been able to harvest cabbage, carrots, beets, papaya, onions and melons.
Olga explains that having access to vegetables that she has grown has improved the health of her two children. Her mouth forms a shy smile as she tells us, “vegetables are expensive, and now we can just go outside and pick what we need for our meal.”
Jose and Joan walk down to the river and sit on a rock while Olga tells us about what she has learned from the CEPAD training sessions over the past year. Though she lives in a rural community, this is the first time Olga has a chance to learn how to plant and harvest her own fruits and vegetables. The training sessions have taught her and the other women in the project basic seed planting techniques as well as more advanced ideas such as soil conservation and how to make natural, chemical-free pesticide and fertilizer.
Olga then tells us about one of the biggest issues in their community that that needs immediate attention.
Agua Caliente has many serious problems affecting the population. One of the main issues at hand is the lack of clean drinking water. Because of the lack of rain, most of the wells in the area are dried up.
If you have been working on your basic spanish, you might have understood that the name of the village is “hot water”. A natural spring is born in the higher elevations north of Agua Caliente and travels down a range of active volcanic ground which heats the water and infuses it with sulfur and trace amounts or arsenic. The stream continues through a cattle farm, picking up cattle waste and chemicals before reaching Agua Caliente.
Although it is highly contaminated Jose and his younger brother Joan drink that water because there are no other water sources nearby. Other families also use this river as their only water source, but they have seen many negative effects such as kidney and stomach problems and in some cases skin discoloration.
CEPAD’s hopes to find a way to provide the community with water filters to alleviate this serious problem that is affecting everyone, especially children. Each filter costs about $80 and will serve a family for 5 years.
As we got ready to return down that bumpy path back to Teustepe, the children gathered by the river with Olga as she thanked CEPAD and all the donors for everything they do for the community and her children. “I hope to continue working with CEPAD and learn more to share more with my community.”