In northern Nicaragua, I met an inspiring couple who have changed their lives by growing organic crops, keeping stingless bees, and maintaining balance with the eco-system.
While walking along the way to visit this special farm, the Finca el Cedro (the Cedar), I wasn’t expecting the natural beauty I was about to come across. The landscape of this remote area in Northern Nicaragua is wild, dry and hot. Around me I could see poor withered trees, destined to be used as feed for livestock, and mountains of sparse crops.
Yet a few steps later I reached the blue house of the agro-ecological farmer Everth and his wife Selena, in the middle of a blooming and cosy garden, surrounded by flowers of different colours, fruit trees, wild animals and the smell of clean air.
This is not the norm in a country which faces many hardships. Nicaragua is the second poorest country in Latin America and the Caribbean, despite economic growth in recent years. Growth doesn’t benefit everyone equally, and economic inequality remains high. Close to 50% of the rural population lives in poverty and 16% in extreme poverty.
The country is very vulnerable to climate change and many poor indigenous farmers are struggling to grow enough crops to make a decent standard of living. Yet when I visited Everth’s farm, I could see hope in an alternative method of farming.
“I always had the desire to commit to something different, to generate change and to be an example for my family and in my community” says Everth about his remarkable farm.
Ten years ago, the land where the family lives today was a cattle ranch, much like many others that I passed by along the road to their farm. The area, for years, had been mostly dedicated to livestock farming and basic grain cultivation. As a result, the family cut down all the trees and left the land barren and poor.
When Everth inherited the 10 acres of land from his mother, he decided to devote himself to its reforestation and to start sowing coffee.
Yet when Everth met Trócaire´s local partner organisation ADDAC, 8 years ago, he didn't know what taking care of the environment really meant. Thanks to ADDAC, Everth received planting stock to transform his dry land into a diversified farm. He was also educated about soil and water conservation.
Later, he joined experience exchange meetings in Nicaragua, as well as in Honduras, where he had the chance to experiment with alternative ways of working and taking care of the land.
Everth and Selena dedicated themselves to their land with love and devotion. They decided to respect nature in their farming approaches and began to implement an organic and sustainable approach called ‘agro-ecology’. This is an alternative way of farming that centres on making the best use of nature’s goods while not damaging these resources. The produce they grow is profitable, the work is fully organic and their own resources allow them a healthy, varied and balanced diet.
Everth attended ADDAC´s agro-ecology school, which focuses on utilising ecological farming techniques for the design and management of resilient, sustainable, and productive farms.
The couple take care of nature, respect animals and no longer depend on using chemicals. In the farm they use organic fertilisers, the family recycles and the environment is respected.
Everth and Selena’s farm not only has coffee, fruit trees, vegetables, fish tanks, pigs and hens, but they also keep bees.
They have 25 boxes of common bees and 4 boxes of stingless wild bees called meliponas. Meliponas bees, which are sacred to the indigenous Mayan people, are the wild bees of Central America. They are particularly special because of their small size and their even smaller stingers which they don't use in defence.
These friendly bees don´t produce as much honey as common bees do, but the quality of the honey happens to be much higher because of its healing properties. The production of honey enriches the food security of the family and earns a small profit through sales. In addition, the couple produces pollen – which is used as natural medicine for flu and sore throat – and eye drops.
Many of the members of the local community work with chemical fertilisers that have caused many cases of eye problems, in adults as well as in children. The eye drops produced by meliponas have healing effects that reduce burning, relieve pain in the eye and cure irritation and conjunctivitis, all diseases mostly caused by the use of chemicals to fertilise grain and coffee crops.
"Poverty exists in one’s mentality” says Everth. “There is always a way to grow, without giving up”.
Everth and Selena’s farm is an example of using new approaches that are not only eco-friendly, organic and sustainable, but can result in a significant increase in productivity that helps lift families out of poverty.
This Christmas, consider an ethical and sustainable gift for your loved ones. Our gift range includes honeybees, seeds and tools, trees and more. You can make a big impact by supporting farmers like Everth and Selena who are lifting themselves out of poverty and protecting the earth.