In early 2015, after many months of evaluation and negotiation, Agros purchased two parcels of land in the Matagalpa region of Nicaragua, the sites on which we are locating two new communities. The first communitiy, La Bendicion (The Blessing), has nearly completed the 50 homes in which families will soon live. From May to July, our Nicaragua office identified the best partners to design and build the community water system. Our long-time partner, Global Studio, stewarded future residents of La Bendicion through a process of choosing where their houses will be situated, where their land parcels will be, and how the community will look.
We have made significant progress this year to ramp-up and implement activities for the Nicaragua regional project. Currently, the regional project is serving 189 families—139 regional families, and 50 families who will live in La Bendicion. All of these families are receiving food security assistance with supplies and technical assistance for growing corn and beans. These crops are intended to stabilize families whose limited resources are inadequate to meet their dietary needs. For the families moving into La Bendicion over the next year, this intervention helps to reduce the unintended consequences of lack of food that could occur as a result of relocation to the new property as they establish their crops and household operations.
In general, the timeline for the Nicaragua Regional Project is proceeding as planned, with some adjustments and postponements becoming necessary as design and planning for some critical components (water system, housing, roads) have taken longer than initially planned. In some cases, we are planning to move forward with noncritical and unbudgeted aspects of the project as additional funds become available.
With the help of Global Giving partners like you, Agros is helping families like that of Yamilla and Walter to change their lives for the better.
Walter and his wife, Yamile know as well as anyone how hard it is to escape poverty’s grip. Like many others, they were both born into poor families and have spent much of their lives working as day laborers for others. Yamile has worked in the fields, planting and harvesting corn and coffee since she was 6 years old.
“The situation is quite complicated,” Walter explains. If you want to improve your situation, the first step is to rent a small piece of land so that you can produce the food you and your family eat and save some of your salary. Renting land, however, isn’t easy. In order for someone to rent you a manzana (roughly 2.5 acres) of land you have to be able to pay them the rent, in cash up front,” he explains. And, even when they have had been able to rent land the outcomes have not always been positive. “Sometimes we had bad luck,” says Yamile. “Sometimes instead of harvesting for our consumption, we were only able to make enough to cover what we invested and sometimes we even ended up with debts,” she added.
For people like Walter, often even more difficult than the physical poverty is the emotional effect that poverty has on people over time. “[Not being able to have a job to provide for my family] makes me feel inferior and useless,” explains Walter. “Even if someone wants to get ahead they don’t have the opportunities to do so,” he adds, noting how over time this can lead to depression. “Why would someone be happy without shoes, [without food]…eating just two times a day?” he asks.
It was Yamile who first heard about Agros. The very next day after learning about Agros and the new project, she convinced Walter they should use the little money they had earned harvesting coffee to visit Agros’ offices. “I asked him, ‘What are we waiting for?’”
Although Walter and his family are only just beginning their journey with Agros, their joy is contagious. “I’m so happy to be here,” says Water. “This is a fertile land… We know that if we plant corn we will harvest corn and if we plant beans we will harvest beans,” he says. “It is a blessing. I feel happy and at peace here.”
Instead of giving families living in poverty a handout, Agros gives them a hand up. By providing rural families living in poverty access to land, Agros builds a bridge over the breech of inequality and makes it possible for people in poverty to access opportunities. Join us, and witness the power of lives changed.
This year in Nicaragua we have launched our Regional Project, an expansion of our 30-year mission to reach more Central American families with the resources they need to work their way out of chronic poverty. In preparation for this launch, we have performed extensive land assessments to identify properties in Nicaragua that are capable of supporting agriculture, housing, water, and other critical human needs. When we found La Bendicon, we knew that we had found the right place for the next families to live. We have broken ground, and have begun to build houses and design a water system to provide potable water for the community. In the months ahead, families will move into their homes, plant crops, and begin a journey to land ownership and economic growth.
Also part of our expansion is the work we have started with families in the areas surrounding the communities where we work. These families live in small, separate communities, often squatting on land, some with just a little access to land that they may own. But they do not have access to agricultural training that can help them improve their income. We work with these families and area agencies to ensure they have resources to improve agricultural production, health, access to clean water and sanitation, among other things.
The family of Jose and Isaida is one of the families who started working with Agros as part of the extended regional project. After working with Agros, they decided to apply for a place in the new La Bendicion community, and will soon move onto that property. We're excited to welcome them to their new home!
Meet Jose and Isaida:
It’s just after noon when we meet Jose and his wife, Isaida. They sit outside their wooden small shelter no more than 100 square feet that serves as a home for them and their four children between the ages of 2 and 13. They rest on a makeshift bench and recline against a piece of scavenged and slightly rusty metal roofing.
Their eldest daughter, Cindy, 13, is at school. The other children: Marcus, 10; Maria, 8 and Abriana, nearly 2, play in and around the home.
Although it is nearly lunchtime, no smoke filters out from the walls as it does in nearby homes. The coals in this kitchen are cold, evidence that they probably haven’t been lit today. The only food on their shelf is a few bananas, a small bottle with a couple tablespoons of oil and a bit of salt.
Isaida explains that it costs about 300 cordobas (roughly $11) to feed her family of six with basic food (rice, beans, tortillas) a day. Right now, they don’t have that money. When Jose Alejandro is able to find work as a day laborer he earns about 100 Cordobas (about $3.75) a day. But, he doesn’t find work every day. Isaida also works, selling snacks outside the school nearby. Last year she got paid 50 Cordobas (less than $2) a day. But, as the school year is just getting started, she is coming off a long season of not working and has yet to receive her first payment for this year’s efforts.
Despite their difficult circumstances and their hunger, they don’t complain. “As poor people, we are used to ‘making it work’,” explains Jose Alejandro, noting they are used to skipping meals or small portions when there is nothing else. “Right now, we are eating soup because we don’t have enough money for anything else,” he adds.
Neither Jose and Isaida have ever experienced abundance. They have rarely even had enough. Poverty runs in the family. “Everyone (my father, grandfather) have been day laborers, working on farms,” explains Jose.
Although Josewas able to get a basic education, Isaida never had the chance to set foot in a classroom. “I was very young when I started to work in the coffee fields,” she says, noting that she was just 13. “This has been what I have done my whole life.”
Neither their past nor their present circumstances keep them from dreaming that one day things will be better: better for them and better, especially, for their children. “We always think [about the future],” says Jose Alejandro. “But, as someone in poverty you can’t do anything [to change your situation],” he explains.
Their situation and circumstances are very real. Today, their eldest daughter, Cindy, 13, is the same age they were when they started working. But, they want something different for her. “I don’t want my daughter to work like I worked,” says Isaida. “I want her to be able to study. I don’t want her to suffer like I suffered when I was young. I want her to be able to study, to get ahead in life,” she adds, noting that Cindy dreams of becoming and engineer.
Although they have lived in poverty their entire lives, Jose Alejandro and Isaida are optimistic about the future. They hope to leave their small home, where the wind and rain come in through the holes in the walls and the roof behind and be able to move to the new village that Agros is creating. There, in addition to access to land, they aspire to have better living conditions. “I imagine the house [we will have in the future] in my head,” says Isaida. “In my house, I’m going to have water and electricity,” she says with a smile.
They know that the dream of buying their own land one day is like chasing the stars without the support of an organization like Agros. But, they also know that land ownership is the key to breaking the cycle of poverty that has trapped both of their families for so many generations. “Maybe, with help from Agros and from God, we will be able to get ahead and at least provide food for our family,” says Jose Alejandro, hopeful.
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Nicaragua continues to be a priority country for Agros, and we are excited about the regional project work that is under way in the Matagalpa region. Communities where we are already active have paved the way for this new regional work, including the community of San Jose. Here are some highlights of the activities for this remarkable community. Community Organization: Training continues with the leadership team to advance their skills and knowledge around community development. Land Tenure: New crops have been established. The irrigation district has been reactivated for vegetables, passion fruit, and achiote. New planting techniques are being used, including: contour plowing, construction of dikes, and hedge rows. Economic Development:
Community Health and Well-Being:
Meet Francisca and Petronillo: Dona Francisca and Petronillo live in San José with their six children. Before coming to San José, Francisca worked as a domestic employee and Petronillo worked on neighboring farms. With a meager diet of rice and beans, they struggled to find the strength to work and care for their children. “Before we moved to San José, I had to leave my children and go outside the house for work,” shared Francisca. “Sometimes I would be gone for a month or two and others had to care for my children. But now, my energy is focused on my own children.” Petronillo continues to work their land. He has planted passion fruit and coffee. He shares, “I feel good in San José because God has given us the strength to work the land. I feel so much better than before. We have food to eat. I don’t work for anyone. I know that what I produce is my own and the land gives us what we need.” Petronillo continues to dream of the day that they pay off their land loan and own their land. “My dreams are to pay the land and keep working for the well-being of my family. I look forward to passing on to my children a place where they can work.”