Chicken Soup for the Nicaraguan Soul
On a recent program visit to Nicaragua, the stories, people and experiences came together and made me think of some books I hadn’t thought about since high school – the Chicken Soup for the Soul series.
I went to Nicaragua to visit CEPAD (Consejo de Iglesias Evangelicas Pro-Alianza Denominacional), the Council of Protestant Churches of Nicaragua – an amazing organization. (It was also featured in Mike Smith’s blogs in November 2011.) As the new Program Officer overseeing our partnership with CEPAD, I was excited to get down to Nicaragua and see what they are up to.
The answer is – a whole lot. Through the agriculture program that Episcopal Relief & Development is funding, CEPAD staff have worked with farming families in the region to develop and test a set of techniques to both increase and diversify production. These techniques include producing organic fertilizers and pesticides, constructing water breaks on their land to halt runoff from large rainstorms (which carries away needed topsoil), and planting new varieties of trees, grains and vegetables to create wonderfully diverse household mega-gardens.
During our trip we visited a woman named Mayra, who has taken her small plot of empty land and transformed it into an area with plantain trees, mango trees, citrus trees, maize, cassava, beans, peppers and chickens (and probably some other things that I can’t remember!). She is using the new harvest to improve her family’s diet, as well as sell the surplus to neighbors, and she is working to keep expanding the garden. The money saved from not buying food has been used to expand her house, and to open up a small business making lunches for children attending a Saturday program at the local school.
Mayra told me that she had recently had a moment in which she felt incredibly proud. In her words: “One day I was amazed because I had made chicken soup, and I did not have to buy anything. It all came from my own land and my own work. I will not forget that day.”
That story, along with many similar stories from the visit – and CEPAD’s descriptions of how the farmers are being transformed with a new sense of pride and dignity – warmed my heart. Like a good bowl of chicken soup.
Sara Delaney is a Program Officer with Episcopal Relief & Development.
Photos: Top, cc by ellenmac11. Bottom, Mayra in front of her home.