Several travelers – FRB board members and staff, university students, and growing project participants – recently traveled to Nicaragua to live and work with participants in FRB’s Nicaragua-Farmer program. The visitors, side by side with community members, built fuel-efficient bread ovens. They carried bricks and water significant distances to the worksites, plunged their hands into a mixture of local materials (different types of soil, horse manure, glue from inside the bark of the guásimo [WA see mo] tree), and helped to complete four brick ovens with the local families.
The Nicaragua-Farmer program has organized land banks which make it possible for farm families to purchase 3-manzana (5.16 acre) plots on which to live, work, and get ahead. Men and women who once toiled on land for others, and received no pay exect for a place to live in return, now own land. They are diversifying their crops, feeding their children, producing incomes, improving their homes, and paying back their loans within 10 years.
Women from all the land banks had access to a community oven, but the long walks to use it kept them away too long from their small children, homes and gardens. They organized in groups of 8 to request and build ovens closer to their homes where they can bake for their families as well as for barter or sale locally. Everyone worked to lay foundations, shape the ovens, and add racks, doors and chimneys. The women took over the final smoothing of the cement.
One of the special outcomes of FRB’s work/learning visits is the close connection that grows between visitors and the local people. Community residents appreciated the visitors’ work in spite of their limitations, and welcomed their spirit of solidarity. And, even though they were not accustomed to this degree of physical work, trip participants did, with joy, whatever they were asked to do. They left feeling deep gratitude to all who so graciously hosted and taught them during the visit.