Eduardo farms a small, hilly plot of land in the rain forest along the border between Honduras and Nicaragua. From his porch you can see corn and beans growing together, pineapple plants being used to prevent soil erosion, a small vegetable patch, and banana trees. It has taken thirteen years of hard work, but he is now able to grow enough food to feed his family throughout the year, with enough extra to share with needy neighbors and hungry children in his community.
Growing up, Eduardo would help on his father’s farm when he wasn’t in school. He looked forward to farming his own parcel, but fighting between the Sandinistas and the country’s dictator turned into war. At the age of 25, Eduardo had to flee to Honduras. While there, he lived in a refugee camp and participated in workshops on farming. Ten years passed before he was able to go back to Río Coco. When he did, he found his community destroyed. He spent the next eight years serving as a community leader, helping to organize the rebuilding of the community. In 2000, Eduardo was finally able to work on his farm.
In the first years of farming he had little success. During his long years as a refugee he had forgotten how to farm. Eduardo would purchase seeds and plant them in handfuls. He assumed that what grew must have been put in the right spot. He didn’t know how to control pest problems or care for the crops. As a result Eduardo’s family, at times, would only have enough food to eat one meal each day.
In 2008, an organization called Acción Médica Cristiana (AMC) began working with farmers in the Río Coco area, with funding from Foods Resource Bank. Eduardo was excited to have the opportunity to learn better farming techniques. AMC constructed a model farm, where farmers could see and practice new ways of farming. Eduardo participated in a number of workshops and was eager to try the new ideas on his own farm.
Eduardo committed himself to farming full time, and began working hard. He planted his crops in rows, so he could manage the weeds and pests. He learned that he could plant certain types of beans twice a year instead of just once. He saw he could harvest much more food if he lived on the farm and worked the land year round. He has also started planting vegetables and new varieties of corn that are better suited to the land.
Eduardo still faces many challenges. People are moving into the area to pan for gold, and they sometimes steal his crops or seeds. Climate change has affected his crops in the last two years. This year there is much more rain than normal and the humidity is threatening his bean crop. One of his crops was destroyed by wild pigs. However, with so many different types of plants growing there is always something ready to harvest despite the losses. Eduardo says that the most important thing AMC helped him to see is that, “If you work the land you can have money, food, and a future.” He is planning on passing the farm on to his children and is proud that he can give them a better future with plenty of food and opportunity.
The Nicaragua-Río Coco Program encompasses 38 communities, 2,955 households and 15,585 individuals