We went to the local area to help set up the annual community plantain (platano) fiesta. We helped set up the stage and then planted nearly 100 platano trees in the field as decoration for the day. We returned the next morning to see our hard work in action! Local people showcased their home-made products, all made from plantain or bananas. There was also a talent competition for the best decorated pickup trucks, cart, donkey and costume- all made from dried plantain leaves. There were dance performances and tasty local produce to sample. Things that people were selling included medicines, alcohol and different types of food made using primarily plantain. Many people here rely on farming and selling plantain to make a living. Some families don’t grow commercially, but even a small amount of healthy plantain trees can be the difference between having food or not. Plantain is a staple food, and we have been eating it a lot! It is usually prepared by being fried or boiled.
Coffee Production: from the field to our mugs!
We took a day trip up to our Spanish teacher Lisa’s coffee farm (finca) to see how coffee is produced, from the field and then into our mugs! Lisa co owns a beautiful, remote finca with her neighbours and her adult son. The families work together to cultivate a large plot of land and grow coffee to be sold. They employ local workers, paying fair wages and providing up to fifty much-needed jobs in the area during harvesting.
We went for a hike around the finca, taking in great views and looking around the farm. We all commented on how steep the hills were and thought how hard it must be to work on the fields in the sun.
Nicaraguan coffee is said to be some of the best in the world, and coffee production is another common way in which people can earn a living. Some people only grow enough to use themselves, something that we’re trying in the volunteers’ house - we are cultivating a large coffee plant, and two of the volunteers have used the beans to make coffee. We have also planted a small vegetable garden and future cycles should be able to eat the radishes, lettuces and chillis that have been planted.
Some people own or work on coffee farms. It is vitally important that any industry relied on by so many people to make money employs and pays fairly, so seeing this lovely and cooperative farm was a great experience.
We spent five fantastic days at the remote coastal estuary reserve of Padre Ramos in the Chinandega region. (Factoid: Padre Ramos was named after a priest who drowned there.) The Golfo de Fonseca is a peninsula that borders three countries (Nicaragua, Honduras and El Salvador) even though it retains the same ecosystem throughout. This peninsula is famous for being a nesting place for four types of sea turtle. We worked with an NGO that protects the Carey turtle. The project aims to educate local people and tourists whilst protecting the endangered Carey sea turtle, conserving the local area and protecting crocodiles in its small sanctuary.
Each night during nesting season a team of project workers and volunteers takes a boat to one of the beaches and patrols to protect turtle nests from poachers. The groups patrol along the seafront in the dark, keeping an eye out for turtles leaving the sea to nest or returning to the water after nesting. One female turtle can lay over one hundred eggs up to five or six times during nesting season (that’s a lot of eggs!) The aim is to get to the new nests before poachers, as sea turtle eggs are a black market delicacy in Nicaragua. The eggs are a desirable source of food and income, and with this in mind the turtle project offers poachers a fair financial incentive to hand over any eggs they find. The charity keeps good relationships with the poachers, and the guides know many of the poachers by name. There is rarely any confrontation from the night patrollers, and poachers usually give up the eggs freely because the charity pays them nearly as much as they would receive for selling on the black market.
During our stay we saved and relocated two nests of eggs from poachers, one of them belonging to the very threatened black turtle. One of the biologists in charge had only seen this type of turtle four times before, so we were very lucky to see it. There are approximately 500 of these turtles left in the Pacific.
Beach Clean Up
Rubbish washing up and being thrown onto the beach is huge global problem, killing and harming animals as well as seriously harming our ecosystem. An aluminum can for example takes 500 years to degrade, and we use over 80 billion aluminum soda cans every year! RECYCLE! Plastic bottles take 450 years to degrade, and plastic waste is a huge problem all over the world. During the beach cleanup we collected over 1200 items of rubbish from the coast on one portion of beach, 85% of which was plastic.
Waste is a big problem in Nicaragua. Many places do not have waste collection, or have only sporadic waste collection. Most people burn their rubbish or put it into landfill. Recycling is almost unheard of. However, during our stay at Padre Ramos we encountered two creative methods of recycling.
All of the plastic bags found during beach clean ups are recycled by local women who have been taught how to make colourful handbags. Each year, two villages in Nicaragua are chosen by an NGO to receive special craft training. Local women learn how to make different types and sizes of bag, and then sell them. This encourages women to be financially independent as well as improving their earn capabilities and possibly boosting the local economy.
As well as plastic bags, plastic bottles are also recycled here. We were introduced to project that is making a school out of plastic bottles. Plastic bottles are filled with sand and used as bricks with concrete in order to create a fantastic, innovatively structured building. The school has not been completed, but it was very interesting to see and has given us much food for thought regarding plastic waste and what we can do in Mozonte to recycle.
By Jess and Kristina
Photo: ICS Team Nicaragua (from the ICS Nicaragua Facebook page)