Today was a real farmer’s field day! We got up early in the morning and met with the President of YMCA Nicaragua, Marvin Granera S. and the other Marvin with family name Prado, member of the National Board.
Marvin Granera, the President
Together with Carlos we took off to the countryside to visit two faraway programmes, located in one of the poorest districts of Nicaragua. People are living in extreme poverty.
The first programme is called Feed the Next Generation, and is about food security and development of an agricultural community. After a long drive over very poor roads we arrived at the local school centre where we met 20 young people and their project leaders from the YMCA.
We sat down to listen to their stories, and that became a fascinating session. The majority of them were farmers nearby, and they had learnt a number of new and modern methodologies to avoid chemical fertilizers, to increase effectiveness in their work and to increase production and quality of their products.
This was not all. They have had education in sexual health issues, training in business administration and childcare and environmental friendly practices like three planting and soil improvement.
I was deeply impressed with their testimonies, they radiated faith in the project, ownership to the project and a deep commitment to change and to the fellowship amongst themselves. After a couple of years as beneficiaries they became co- teachers themselves, bringing the education and new knowledge further on to neighbors and friends. Several of them were participants in Bible study groups included in the project.
It was a really holistic approach to the local challenges, the project was fully developed inside Nicaragua by Carlos and his staff team and volunteers, and it was obvious to us that the project was meeting local needs in a way everybody could understand and identify with. The funding for this 4-years project came from Y-Care International and the big lottery in UK.
Also included in the project was drilling for clean water for consumption, to help the women who normally would have to walk long distances every day to find water. Now they were given access to clean water in wells close to where they lived. The wells were regulated by local committees and had strong rules for maintenance and hygiene.
Sergei, the Project leader and Marvin 2
We left the project to visit the next agricultural programme, called Banco de Tierra, the Land Bank programme. To illustrate the programme, we visited a nice family on their farm. Six years ago this family was included as participants in the programme. That meant that they were given a piece of land to develop.
Within ten years they would have to pay for the land. For this money new land would be bought and new members would be included. At the same time the project included a pilot farm for experimental farming, a place for the participants in the project to study and learn new methodologies and then to practice such new knowledge on their own farms.
The family we visited, had managed to pay back after only six years and they had built their own home on the land and three children were growing up amongst corn fields, bananas, water melons, tomatoes, green pepper, coffee and fruits of all kinds. We walked around the whole farm with a very proud farmer.
At the end of the day we had walked through and around three farms in very high temperatures and humidity, and felt well educated, enlightened and extremely sweaty and exhausted! But the feelings of being deeply impressed were the strongest. This was so relevant and so successful development approaches to extreme poverty, and it was all inside the YMCA.
Marvin and Marvin and Carlos and Ingunn and Romulo and Nathanael, the agricultural technician of 22 years of age, were all sitting together on Nathanael’s terrace on the YMCA farm and debriefed and evaluated the day’s impressions and experiences.
This is a story that needs to be told and shared widely. The water wells drilled and constructed by the YMCA engineers reminded me of East Jerusalem YMCA and Palestinian well drilling in the desert to help beduins to stay where they belong, and the farm reminded me of the YMCA farm outside Medellin in Colombia.
We just need to collect these brilliant examples of Youth Empowerment in rural settings and share them widely and make them part of our world wide image.
It is with the last left overs of energy that I write this blogpost to get the message out while it is fresh from today, sleep is overtaking all of us, and tomorrow we have an early flight to Costa Rica. Good night!