Nicaragua: The Faces of Women in Nicaragua
36 partners and technical staff of Nueva Segovia cooperatives participating in the project, “Purchase for Progress- P4P”received the diploma on “Techniques and Basic Tools for Accounting and Financial Management of Cooperatives.” The women obtained the highest academic achievement announced during the graduation. The graduation was attended by the Academic Vice-Rector of Central American University (UCA) Renata Rodríguez, WFP Representative Helmut W. Rauch, and the Minister of Agriculture and Forestry Ariel Bucardo. Dodania Aracelly Cárdenas received her diploma with academic excellence from the La Unión cooperative with the outstanding score of 99%.
In the Dry Corridor, water is obtained from rivers and gorges; both for drinking and domestic labour. This heavy task falls mainly on women and children. Farming declines at certain times in the year, and during these times, families often face food shortages. The Food-for-Asset Creation programme works with women to implement drip irrigation systems so that roots of the plants from their gardens get the most of the limited availability of water. Fruits and vegetables grown in this way have helped improve the family diet.
Matagalpa is a region of Nicaragua predominated by coffee cultivation. Typically, poor, rural families do agricultural work on large estates. A group of 535 women broke this tradition by participating in the Cash for Work project, funded by the European Union and implemented by WFP and local partners. The courtyards, desolate and sad before, now flourish with fruits and vegetables that are not just to feed the families; they are also to generate resources for the home.
María Luisa Blandón (right) is a small holder farmer in La Unión cooperative of the Wiwilí municipality. She was one of the first Nicaraguan agricultural workers to use the grain storage system called Cocoons. These were acquired through Purchase for Progress- P4P. “I stored my product in the cocoon, and in 22 days, all the weevils were dead. I used to have a metal silo, but for some reason it killed all the grain,” says Blandón. Meanwhile, she received guidance from other members of the cooperative on the cocoons which are flexible, do not require chemical insecticides, can be installed outside, and are the cheapest amongst other systems.
Building a project of collecting, processing, and marketing henequen in San Lucas and Somoto of Northern Nicaragua, these women took the opportunity to utilize residue from these plants for various handcrafts to sell to the tourists that visit these municipalities of the dry zone of the country. “We worked on a project producing rope and other products, but we are also working to make extra money with the handcrafts,” they said.
Excelling in tasks usually dominated by men is worthy of recognition. In this case, Carolina Guillén serves as marketing manager of the Santiago cooperative in the El Jícaro municipality, some 320 miles north of Managua. Guillén is in charge of a warehouse with the capacity to store up to 20 million quintals and all the machinery for processing grains. She played an important role during the installation and operation of a vertical dryer with the capacity of 200 quintals, necessary for the quality improvement of harvests from the agricultural members of the cooperative. The dryer was acquired through the Purchase for Progress - P4P project.
Nicaraguan schools open their doors in February to receive a million preschool and elementary children, eager to reconnect with their friends and teachers after the year-end holidays. Along with classes, the Ministry of Education School Meals Programme also began. This program receives financial and technical support from WFP. Women, mothers and educators, make a large commitment to this programme; safely serving food, making snacks, and serving them to the children in the schools. This programme also promotes school attendance and favours the connecting of ideas.
WFP Executive Director Ertharin Cousin visited Nicaragua to meet with a group of women in the rural community of Apantillo. Proudly, the women of the community showed off the result of their work with the motto: Empowered and Well-fed Women. A grand variety of fruits and vegetables, produced in their small gardens, were accompanied by various flowers and folk music. In the warm welcome given to the Executive Director by the women of Apantillo, there was also time to discuss common issues such as children and grandchildren, daily tasks, and the involvement of spouses in work at home and in the fields.
“I like to learn new ideas, because what I learn I can put into practice and change the things with which I disagree,” says Flor de María Marínez, a 46 year-old agricultural worker and single mother of four. Flor de María Marínez is also a member of the Association of Farmers for Integral and Sustainable Development (ACADIS) in Jalapa. She is a few days away from receiving her diploma in “Leadership and Entrepreneurship” to promote gender equality within agricultural cooperatives. Martínez, along with her sister Luz Adilia, cultivate corn and beans in two acres of land owned by their family. Together, they recently won the award for the most corn produced in their municipality. The diploma is awarded by the Purchase for Progress-P4P project.
On 8 March, the world celebrates International Women’s Day. In Nicaragua, women are making significant progress in the fulfilment of their civil rights. Here are some stories on tenacious and innovative women participating in social programmes designed to reduce hunger and poverty.