Chris Rose, Director of AMOS Trust, a UK based organization that supports CEPAD, shares the impact they have seen over 5 years of support of a group of 7 villages and why they have committed to supporting another group of 7 villages for 5 more years.
People in the UK are surprised when they hear that we support the work of CEPAD in Nicaragua. Many people are not quite sure where Nicaragua is, and those that do, are still surprised as there are many, many other locations where they expect UK charities to operate.
We always say that we are in Nicaragua (and have been for over 20 years) because of CEPAD and because we learn so much from them.
So we pledged 5 years to raise funds from Amos supporters to fund ‘listening to the community’, and Dámaris and the team chose 7 small communities around Teustepe in the Boaca region for us to support.
I first visited these 7 communities with Joel Rodriguez, the Teustepe field officer, when the program started in 2014. My abiding memory was a sense of resignation and helplessness. Teustepe is in the ‘dry corridor’ of Nicaragua and it had been the third year of drought. The lake that borders the 7 villages (whose water they are not allowed to use, as it is property of rice farmers), was nearly empty. In one of the villages they were having to travel for miles to get a small spring that they had to share with their cows – and in another, the water was so low in the well that people arrived long before dawn to be able to get enough for their families that day. I met a couple of the local village committees. One was optimistic of the changes that CEPAD would help them realize, the other despondent. Joel is an agronomist and hugely enthusiastic, but I left concerned that his skills would be wasted if there was no rain.
Going back this autumn, I was to see a very different situation and to experience a very different feel within the communities despite recent setbacks.So I was not sure what to expect and how the political difficulties would impact upon the communities.
The first thing that stood out was the difference that water filters had made in each community – we had been securing money for these simple self-assembled filters made out of a bucket, some pipework and then filled with rocks and sand from the stream and a simple gauze. The communities were making and using them, empowered to do so by the training given by CEPAD and in doing so, they were transforming their lives and their health as they now had clean water to drink.
Secondly it was to hear, and taste, how people’s nutrition had improved as we were fed sweet, boiled squash and in each community had different drinks made from the fruits they had started to grow.
The people from the villages had learned how to grow citrus trees, squashes, plantains, bananas, chili tomatoes, onions, etc. They had learned how to look after them (and their bean and corn crops) using organic fertilizers, organic pesticides and drip irrigation. They talked of the absolute importance of drip irrigation and how they had started to harvest rainwater so that they could grow these plants.
In each community, women (and men) were playing important leadership roles. Their families had far greater food security as they grew these new crops and they learned how to harvest and cook/use them to make sure the results were as nutritious as possible. The women talked of how they had also learned new crafts to make items they could sell, and now they were teaching this to others.
It was also a chance to meet community groups. They were clear on their needs and knew the steps needed to continue to transform their lives. There was real frustration that the government had failed to act on promises they had made, and they were planning how to respond as they knew also, that the government no longer had the funds that had been available before the crisis.
The communities all spoke of the value of the psychical programs with young people. The pastors talked of the impact of the training they had received, and how it had allowed them to really understand how they could keep going and live out their mission and calling in the villages they were working in.
However, the greatest impression I left with was that the impact was sustainable and that the communities would continue to build upon their successes and to work together to achieve their needs. It was so different from a previous program that had happened in one of the villages, Nancitel. This very well-intentioned aid program had not really listened to the community and they set up solar panels in different locations around the village. None of them worked now as people could not afford new batteries when they deteriorated and there was a shortage of spare parts.
The 5 year program will end in December and we are really looking forward to seeing the evaluation outcomes and to hearing the impact from the communities. We have already committed to another 5 years of support with a new set of 7 communities, which will start in 2021. This will give us a chance to inspire new supporters with a fresh 5 year program to support.
We have learned so much over the last 5 years and created a whole new set of relationships with CEPAD and in Nicaragua. This autumn we are bringing Dámaris and Gilberto over to the UK to be the main guests at the Climate Justice Conference we are setting up in response to their work. The conference is about the absolute need to link up local community responses with the impact of climate change in the global north and the global south, so that we can learn from each other and recognize the impact of our lifestyles.