Don Enrique at the coffee farm in Chachagua
The Nicaraguan Center for Forests, Energy and Climate (NiCFEC) has been designed and developed for people who want to improve their lives while protecting the environment. This education and research facility will provide visitors with hands-on learning opportunities that can be applied in their day-to-day lives. From subsistence farmers to young college students, this will be a place where community is created and learning is fostered.
On a recent visit to the rural community of Chachagua, in the north central region of Nicaragua, we had the opportunity to live and learn with local campesino families, the very people who will benefit most from NiCFEC and the resources it will offer.
Coffee dominates the economy and way of life in this region of the country and one of our first activities was a visit to one of the local cafetales (coffee plantations). The campesino (farmer) who led our tour, Don Enrique, estimates that up to 80% of the families in Chachagua depend on coffee for their livelihoods. The campesino knowledge and awareness is acute - we are talking about people who live and work the land from a very young age, braving the climate, rain or shine, heat or cold. Through this traditional monitoring and evaluation of the natural environment many farmers, like Don Enrique, have indicated time and again that they have seen a marked uptick in hotter days over the last 7-10 years. They are extremely concerned about the potential impacts on their community and their livelihood: the coffee lifeline. This has been corroborated by this past summer’s (February-May) intense heat wave that brought record temperatures to Matagalpa, Jinotega, Esteli and Ocotal, the main coffee processing hubs.
According to some estimates, coffee represents anywhere from 20-25% of agricultural export revenue in both Honduras and Nicaragua. The economic importance of the crop cannot be overstated, and in the rural areas that are far from the main and even secondary roads in Honduras and Nicaragua, there are extremely limited opportunities for scratching out a living. If the coffee crops continue to struggle and should they ultimately fail, the coffee-dependent communities in these regions will likely see increases in internal migration and immigration, higher rates of malnutrition, poorer educational conditions, and general socioeconomic malaise.
“We need to plant more trees to have healthier soils and better air. As the cities grow we need to protect our forests.” Said Don Enrique, who sees pollution in large urban centers like Managua as a major cause of climate change.
Visiting and working with rural communities like Chachagua for the past 18 years has given TWP staff and partners insight into how climate change is having a direct, negative impact on families. We have seen and heard that there is a strong need for crop diversification, reforestation, conservation and overall forest management as well as clean cookstoves and small-scale renewable energy systems. The NiCFEC will give people like Don Enrique the opportunity to learn from the experts in these areas and take this knowledge home to their families and communities.
We hear climate deniers in the U.S. continue to debate whether climate change is even real. I invite them to visit with the farmers we work with, whose crops and livelihoods have been devastated by a changing climate, and tell them not to worry about it. This is a very real issue and we hope to be a part of the solution. Thank you for joining us by supporting the Nicaraguan Center for Forests, Energy & Climate!
Agriculture and forests compete for space