It’s the people

Namlo’s Nicaragua team, interns and the students from the University of Mississippi.

July 17, 2017, By Issamar Pichardo

Namlo International believes in data driven approaches that can show impactful change. Without data, how can you prove the programming worked or didn’t work? With data, you can learn lessons and make necessary adjustments when needed. As the research and evaluation intern, I was asked to lead the effort to collect baseline data in the four communities that Namlo has partnered with in Nicaragua. I was so excited for this opportunity to not only travel to Nicaragua but to also create a tool that Namlo could use to measure impact in these communities. I focused was on collecting enough quality surveys with the help of the students at the University of Mississippi that will help Namlo understand the current conditions of the communities, as well as provide guidance on what are the next steps to continue helping the communities in the immediate future. I am excited to share a little bit about my trip with you, and hopefully, this will give you glimpse into the need and the great work that lies ahead.

 

El Ojoche – San Juan de Rio Coco

The University of Mississippi in partnership with Misión para Cristo hand out vitamins and deworming pills to the community

We collected data from four communities of which I will share a little bit about two of them. The first community we visited was El Ojoche located in the mountains near San Juan del Rio Coco. From Esteli, it takes about 3 and a half hours to get there. Namlo has had a presence in this community through building a school, constructing greenhouses, and providing systems for clean water. In order to get to the community of El Ojoche, we have to drive up a  dirt road that was experiencing major erosion from the daily showers of heavy rain. It is the winter in Nicaragua and in the winter, They experience monsoon level rains.  When we arrived there were 150 – 200 people standing in one house waiting for Namlo’s team and the University of Mississippi to conduct the surveys. The sheer volume of people that came out to provide personal information shows the commitment of the community to the partnership with Namlo. One of the benefits the team from the University of Mississippi brought to the community, were vitamins and de-worming pills for the families.

On the second day, we returned to El Ojoche to interact more with the community and the teachers from Namlo’s school. The professors teach at least two separate grades at the same time. I got to watch an active classroom and see how the teacher separated the different grades by having each class face opposite sides of the room, allowing her to smoothly walk back and forth to actively teach while allowing the students to work at their desks. It was inspiring to see the dedication and ingenuity of the teachers as well as the attentiveness and happiness of the students. It was both heartwarming to see the communities invest in education with such zeal and heartbreaking to see the lack of resources that so many of us in the states take for granted. One of the community improvement goals that this community has with namlo is to build a preschool classroom. This school has a growing class of preschool students that place their desks outside. Despite not having an actual classroom, the young students were happy singing and learning.

Los Pinares

We visited a community called Los Pinares, also located in the mountains where they do not have running water or usable latrines. The amenity they do have is electricity. Namlo also helped this community build a school, construct greenhouses, and installed a clean water system. We had a big turn out once again and conducted interviews in the main reunion house and others were conducted by going door to door.

In this community, I met an amazing woman named Maria Melgora that was so wise and inspirational she has been very active in cultivating food for herself and her family.

Like other greenhouse farmers, she transplants her crops that include corn, beetroot, onions, coffee, cucumbers, and lettuce all over her expansive property once they have grown beyond seedlings. What I learned was that the first weeks of a seedling can be the most important weeks of a vegetable growth cycle. Using the greenhouse ensures that the seedlings are free from the plant pests that can make the vegetables inedible. She also farms tilapias in an aquatic environment she built herself by digging a hole in her backyard, collecting rainwater, and feeding the tilapia plants she cultivates. This woman is one of Namlo’s master farmers and will play a big role in cross training fellow community members to create more sustainable farming systems.

Another inspirational person I met is Abi. Abi is a beneficiary of Namlo’s Greenhouse program. Abi is a young creative man who works the land of his family. He is driven and hardworking. He has had a greenhouse for three months and has already cultivated 600 papaya trees as well as transplanted 400, unfortunately, his harvest is suffering from pests that are abundant in Nicaragua. This is one of the benefits of using the greenhouse. The antiviral malla prevents the pests from infesting the crop. Unfortunately, every once in awhile, a whitefly makes its way into the greenhouse. He is learning the hard way how to control pests because all his crops in his greenhouse were ruined by whitefly and caterpillars. But his spirits are up and he does not let this discourage him. These are the types of people that are inspirational and motivate me to continue this work.

One of the beautiful aspects about Nicaragua is the people. We had the opportunity to taste homemade traditional food which is composed of white rice, black beans, corn tortilla, cuajada (a type of cheese) and sometimes chicken or vegetables in every community. The people are generous, welcoming and eager to share what they have and to accept what we have to share with them.  

In every community, we observed the same issues and the same desire for people to work hard to better their communities through increased access to essential resources. People were really thankful for Namlo’s support, especially with building the schools. For those that have taken advantage of the greenhouse program, were thankful because they could produce their own vegetables  The long-term commitment Namlo made with these communities will prove fruitful because the need is great, but the desire to improve their own situations is greater.

We are thankful for the collaboration between Namlo International, the students from the University of Mississippi, the translators, and Mision Para Cristo that provided the vitamins and de-worming pills. All of this made it possible for Namlo to exceed our original survey goal of 72 by collecting 116.