The North Atlantic Coast, where MADRE’s sister organization Wangki Tangni works, continues to face food crisis in the aftermath of Hurricane Felix, which exposed the neglect to indigenous communities in the North Atlantic Coast in Nicaragua. The state does not provide resources to meet people’s basic needs. The hurricane also exposed the vulnerability of these communities, and changed the relationship that Indigenous Peoples have with the environment.
In 2007, through Harvesting Hope, MADRE and Wangki Tangni provided 50 machetes, 50 files, and food aid including flour, sugar, and coffee for families in the community of Kisalaya. Overall, 250 women received these supplies and began to clear plant debris from their gardens and recover salvageable grains from flooded fields of rice and maize before planting began again. While many homes still needed to be rebuilt, this aid ensured that immediate needs of food were met and women in rural communities were able to begin providing food security for their families.
Since then, MADRE donated 100 packets of organic certified seeds of vegetable and flowers that benefited 80 individual family gardens in Kisalaya, Miquel Bikan, Bawisa, and Waspam, and to 33 communal gardens along the Coco River. In total, about 1,100 people benefited from the distribution of organic seeds. Chickens were also provided, along with training in organic soil preparation, fertilization, and pest control, as well as in women's rights, sexual and reproductive health and rights, violence, collective rights, and their relationship to the economic, social, and environmental struggles participants face. MADRE has supported the organization of local farmers’ markets to allow 25 women to sell surplus produce as a way to enhance community cohesion and facilitate the distribution of educational material on women’s rights, indigenous rights, and women’s health.
In the past year, Harvesting Hope has held trainings on sustainable agriculture and women’s rights; provided seeds that project participants used to plant community gardens; provided chickens so that families have a reliable source of protein in their diet; helped participants sell their surplus produce, eggs, and meat in local markets; and introduced participants to other Wangki Tangni programs that improve the quality of life for Indigenous families in the region.
This year, the project faced a devastating setback when Hurricane Felix, a Category Five storm, struck the North Atlantic Coast on September 3. Just weeks before collecting the harvest of a bumper year and reaping the rewards of their hard work and newfound knowledge, Indigenous Miskita women saw their crops destroyed by winds, rains, and floods. The Nicaragua Network Hotline reported that 99 percent of the crops in the region were destroyed.
However, Harvesting Hope participants are encouraged by the supply of seeds in their newly created seed bank, and by their knowledge of MADRE’s commitment to support their communities, and have already begun to replant their gardens.
Beneficiaries of Harvesting Hope include over 2,000 Indigenous women and families in the village of Waspam and 104 surrounding communities, as techniques learned in Harvesting Hope trainings are shared with remote communities by project participants. Rose Cunningham, Wangki Tangni’s Director, reports that women from neighboring communities continue to attend Harvesting Hope trainings in record numbers, sometimes walking two or three days to get there, and participants say that the income-generating aspects of the project are helping them come closer to meeting their families’ immediate needs.
Every investment in Harvesting Hope has a ripple effect. Women not only lift themselves and their families out of poverty, but empower themselves in the process, creating hope and opportunity for their community.
In Waspam, on Nicaragua’s North Atlantic Coast, the Harvesting Hope program is transforming the community as women invest in agricultural projects and later on, bakeries, and shops to support their families and the community. Here are a couple of recent success stories from the North Atlantic Coast…
Patricia: I Want My Children to be Able to Finish School
For as long as she can remember, Patricia’s community in Waspam, Nicaragua has been plagued by war, hurricanes, and grinding poverty. She’s always dreamed of improving her life, but she was never even able to finish high school. She had to quit school and go to work to help support her family. She dreamed that her own children would not face a similar fate.
So when Wangky Tangni offered the opportunity for women to participate in business management training, Patricia was one of the first to sign up. After the training, she received four chickens and ongoing instruction about how to care for them and develop a small business selling eggs. She worked hard, and with her savings she was able to open a modest store. She sells bananas and basic necessities like rice and cooking oil. She lends space to other women in the community to store and sell their small harvests of bananas and other crops.
Thanks to this innovative program, Patricia’s children will not have to quit school to work. But Patricia has also used her new economic security to improve the entire community. She volunteers with Wangky Tangni to organize reproductive health trainings for women and helps promote children’s literacy through a MADRE-supported Children’s Book Corner at the community center.
Bibidilia: Proud to be Contributing to the Community
As a 72-year-old woman and an Indigenous healer and midwife, Bibidilia is an important person in the Waspam community. She is godmother to nearly half of the children and she provides traditional healing services at no charge to many poor people. Although she is a community leader, revered for her skills and dedication, Bibidilia is herself very poor. She works alone, growing beans, rice, and vegetables. Every afternoon, she walks the two hours back to the river, carrying whatever she has harvested – it is only enough to feed herself; there is rarely anything left over to sell.
As Bibidilia began to age and her capacity for farm work diminished, she worried about how she would feed herself. Fortunately, Wangky Tangni’s Helping Hands program provided Bibidilia with the resources and training to start a modest bread-baking venture. The money she earns pays for business supplies with enough left over for food, ensuring that she can continue to live independently and with dignity.
Like Patricia, Bibidilia gives back to the community. Every week, she welcomes more than 40 community members to the Children’s Book Corner where she coordinates play and learning activities for young and old alike. Bibidilia is determined to help build a brighter future for her community’s children.
When we offer women the means to invest in themselves, we are investing in the future. Harvesting Hope enables women to develop successful small income-generating projects and reinvest in their community, sowing the seeds of hope in the midst of hardship.
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