In Doña Maria's Garden

The following reflection was submitted by Marie Keefe. Thank you, Marie!

Doña Maria is waiting for us at the gate along with other campesinas and a gaggle of kids. It’s day 4 of our trip to Nicaragua to see the work that the Quixote Center supports. We’re in rural Palacaguina, where FEDICAMP has been working with community associations in eco-agriculture to improve the wellbeing of families against a background of harsh terrain, deep drought and a limited diet for families.

Listening to introductions, it becomes clear that these women are members of the board of their association and very savvy about cultivating their huertos, (small yards) and improving nutrition for their families. They tell us of the techniques for composting, for using indigenous seed, rejecting genetically modified seed, for cultivating with minimal use of water, recycling, changing family meals, even using outdoor earthen ovens that direct smoke away from their casitas and cook with a minimal amount of scavenged wood. The newest improvement is the chicken wire they’ve pooled resources to buy, grateful that it’s keeping the chickens and pigs out of their gardens.

She leads the way into her small backyard which climbs the mountainside. We step into a canopy of green: lemons, avocados, star fruit, papaya and trees we have no English names for: mamones, chaya, calala. Tires are embedded in the hard-packed earth, terracing the vertical, filled with good soil, retaining water, spilling over with onions, garlic, cilantro. Every space is used. Rocks form an upward spiral filled with good earth called a caracol (a snail) with medicinal herbs at the top, lettuce parades down the spiral along with tomatoes and other vegetables. Water trickles down the spiral so not a drop is wasted. The chicken wire fence is home to a wall of beans.

The success of FEDICAMP is visible again and again as we visit the homes of other campesinas who are sharing their knowledge, making do with next to nothing, working to thwart the climate change which has come to their doorstep, learning, always learning and passing it on.