NicaNotes: Community Building: Involving the Next Generation

An Interview by Winnie Narvaez

[This interview was first published April 25, 2022, by the Nicaragua Solidarity Campaign of the UK and can be read here:]

Dolores Esquivel is a founding member of the Gloria Quintanilla women’s co-operative. Winnie Narvaez interviewed her about the integration of young people into the co-op, community building as a bottom-up concept, and preventing the drift of people from the countryside.

Dolores Esquivel: ‘Everyone has their own talents. All these young people are doing different things and I think that we women are making an important contribution too.’

Founded in the 1990s, the Gloria Quintanilla women’s co-operative is in the community of Santa Julia, south of Managua.  Its origins lie in the long struggle by the Rural Workers’ Association (ATC) for recognition of their land rights. Co-op members grow coffee, basic grains, vegetables and fruit using agroecological methods.  They are part of the Rural Workers Association (ATC) and the ATC Rural Women’s Movement (MMC).

Winnie Narvaez: At a time when there is so much misinformation around and much of what is happening in the real Nicaragua never gets publicised, how can the country move forward through the work of grassroots organisations like yours?

Dolores Esquivel: Community work is fundamental because that’s where people’s daily experiences are played out, especially through the work of women and young people. There are seventeen of us with leading roles in our community. Since the 2018 attempted coup and the pandemic, we have been focusing on involving young people. Before, they didn’t produce crops; they didn’t get involved in planting, nothing, because they felt that these were jobs for adults. Now, encouraged by the community leaders, young people understand that they have to produce, to work the land in order to take care of it.

Something that suddenly became ‘the thing to do’ about a year and a half ago was the urge to go and work in the US, Spain, Costa Rica; but we don’t want young people to leave. If they leave then what will happen to the land we have here, to the crops?

In other countries they say that we are in danger, that there is no work, that there is persecution. But this is a strategy by those Nicaraguans who have left, who want asylum in other countries, portraying Nicaragua in a bad light.

So, as community leaders, we have been working with young people. We want a sustainable, productive community, but the most important thing is to make them aware that they don’t have to leave the country, that here there is wealth in land, in our knowledge, in the methods we use, and in our seeds.

Right now we have 38 young people organised, with a young woman in charge and they are creating their own ways of working. Last year in the first planting cycle, twenty-eight young people took part, now in the second cycle there are thirty-one. Two years ago, they didn’t take part at all, so this is a very healthy sign.

But it’s not only about production. How can we guide them ideologically? How do we teach them: Look, this is your land, this is your community?

Since the end of last year we have organised workshops on entrepreneurship. For example, we are looking at how you can make dragon fruit marmalade and sell it; how you can make and sell a local drink called atol; how you can make carrot boxes and grow your own vegetables next to your house. These are all new things for young people.

Everyone has their own talents. All these young people are doing different things and I think that we women are making an important contribution too as adult leaders, promoting these experiences, because these youngsters are the future of our community.

WN: And they are going to sell their products locally or in (the capital) Managua?

DE: They take part in a producer-to-consumer initiative run by Friends of the ATC from the ATC national office in Managua. They publicise what we are doing through WhatsApp, manage the solidarity shop’s Facebook page and deliver products to customers. Right now we are making some shopping bags to sell in the shop. So we have already expanded the range of what we do.  [To order ATC coffee from the United States, click here.]

The young people always have three things in mind:

1) This is the place we come from and where we were born.
2) We need skills and products so we can earn a living.
3) We have ideas and we want to be able to try them out.

They say ‘we are not just going to go around with a machete planting beans and maize, we want to do more’. And they are succeeding. For example, if dragon fruit [pitaya] were plentiful in the past, I would give them away, but now we don’t because we have ways to transform the product and generate more income.

WN: But working the land is also vital?

DE: Yes, everything is integrated: the land, advocacy, marketing and sustainability.

WN: Co-operativism is also a model that offers an alternative to the banking system, to consumerism, but changing that mindset is very difficult because there’s such a lot of pressure to conform. People want a quick job, easy money, to buy the products they see in the media. And as you say many people have left the country too, so it seems like a vicious circle of ideas and pressures.

DE: But at the same time, wherever you go you will find local groups or organisations in the communities supporting a different approach, developing new ideas: ‘Look, don’t go, here you have this’. I don’t hear young people here [in Santa Julia] saying they are going to leave.

WN: This provides a different concept of community development to the one that you find in books that are more related to economics; here it also refers to the preservation of the community and building communities from below through practice.

DN: We have to think ahead. In the 1980s young kids at say the age of 15 would get involved in community work.  Today I can see Lea, Xiomara, Gemma, girls and young women who will stand up in an assembly and ask about the history of the community, how it was before and how we are doing now.  When we are no longer here, these youngsters will tell the story and we won’t lose that thread.

When you don’t tell people all this, they want a smartphone; they want trendy shoes. If you tell them the story of the community and they see us working, they become more aware. They say yes, you serve as an example.

For example, I can tell Lea: ‘Lea, there is going to be a workshop on agroecology; are you going to go? So, five young people are going and I don’t have to go, because I know that Lea and those four young people are going to represent the co-operative.

By Nan McCurdy

There will be 27,000 Candidates in the Municipal Elections
On Sept. 22 the Supreme Electoral Council (CSE) published the candidates for mayors, vice-mayors and members of the municipal councils of the 153 municipalities of Nicaragua. In the municipal elections to be held on November 6, 2022, Nicaraguans will elect 6,088 public positions. The number of candidacies presented among all the political parties and alliances of political parties, is more than 27,000. The CSE has guaranteed gender equality throughout the electoral process, and has strictly enforced the principle of equity in the candidacies presented – a historic milestone in the world for the strengthening of democracy and the empowerment of women in decision making. (Canal 4, 26 Sept. 2022)

Voter Verification Process Great Success
Some 3.8 million Nicaraguans participated in the verification process to confirm voter registration, and of these 87,181 made a change of address. Magistrate Cairo Amador, vice president of the Supreme Electoral Council (CSE), said that this process helps assure that the November 6 municipal elections will be carried out without any problem. He stated that the online verification and the verification at the 132 offices that the Supreme Electoral Council has throughout the country worked extremely well. The CSE has set up 7,931 voting boards and 3,106 voting centers. Magistrate Amador announced that the electoral campaign begins on October 12 and will conclude on November 1. (Radio La Primerisima, 26 Sept. 2022)

Improvement in Health Indicators for Women and Children
On Sept. 23 the Ministry of Health presented the National Health Indicators for Women and Children. The report states that maternal mortality decreased 66% between 2006 and 2021, going from 92.8 of every 100,000 live births to 33.7 in 2021, and infant mortality fell from 18 per 1,000 live births in 2006 to 8 in 2021. The Director of the Maternal Homes Program, Dr. Maribel Hernández, said that “over the last 14 years MINSA has achieved a significant reduction in maternal and infant mortality rates by providing full access to free and quality medical care for mother and baby, implementing programs such as the Maternal Wait Homes and the Childbirth Plan that work with women in urban and rural areas guaranteeing physical and emotional health during pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum.” (Nicaragua News, 26 Sept. 2022)

Record Investment in Water and Sanitation in 2022
In 2022 the government will have invested a record amount of more than US$100 million in water and sanitation projects, Ervin Barreda, told INFORME PASTRAN. “We maintain that in this last quarter we are going to be able to comply with what was programmed for execution. We are even projecting that at the end of the year we will possibly need to increase the budget, because we are making progress. We have 20 drinking water projects under way in 20 cities and another 20 sewer system projects in 20 cities,” explained ENACAL’s executive president. Barreda confirmed that they had signed the contract to start the sanitary sewer system project in the municipality of El Viejo, Department of Chinandega. “A project that is highly demanded by the families of El Viejo. This project will restore the right to sanitation for some 50,000 people. And it will generate employment in El Viejo; we estimate between 1,500 and 2,000 direct and indirect jobs will be created during the 18 to 24 months that this project will be constructed,” he added.

Barreda also noted that Bilwi, in the northern Caribbean, after more than 100 years of not having potable water in their homes, now has a mega project of quality drinking water that was inaugurated on Sept. 23. Barreda said that in mid-October the sanitary sewer system project will be inaugurated. The head of ENACAL emphasized that this project is an engineering feat because 40 kilometers of drinking water network were built with pipes that had to be transported from Managua, which was an enormous challenge. “Practically the number of pipes that were installed in this project is like the distance from Bilwi to Siuna. They are 500-millimeter steel pipes,” he said. The US$40.2 million-dollar project was financed by the General Budget of the Republic with support from the Interamerican Development Bank and the European Union. It benefits 64,800 inhabitants. (Radio La Primerisima, Informe Pastran, 27 Sept. 2022; Nicaragua News, 26 Sept. 2022)

Sanitation System for Juigalpa
The Water and Sewage Company has inaugurated a project to improve and expand the sewage and wastewater sanitation system in Juigalpa municipality, Chontales Department benefiting 31,000 inhabitants. The US$5 million-dollar project was financed by the General Budget of the Republic with support from the Export and Import Bank of South Korea. (Nicaragua News, 22 Sept. 2022)

Wiwilí Preschool Equipped and Expanded
The Ministry of Education reported that US$164,383 was invested to expand and equip the preschool area of the Martha Quezada School in Wiwilí municipality, Nueva Segovia Department, benefiting 50 students. The financing is part of the Project for Improvement and Rehabilitation of Educational Facilities ensuring access to free and quality education for all. (Nicaragua News, 23 Sept. 2022)

10,000 People Receive Road Safety Education Seminars
The National Road Emergency Plan is progressing in all municipalities; last week alone 10,000 people received seminars on the prevention of automobile accidents. According to statistics from the Institute of Legal Medicine, car accidents are the first cause of violent deaths, far above homicides. Last week 21 people died from this cause. (Canal 2 TV, 26 Sept. 2022)

Nearly 800,000 People Incorporated into INSS
The Central Bank published the State of the Economy and Outlook Report for the period between January and June 2022. The report states that the Social Security Institute (INSS) incorporated 790,296 new affiliates as of June 31st this year, 2.6% higher than the same period in 2021. The economic activities with the highest increase in affiliations were manufacturing (18,993), commerce (8,497), and transportation (3,998). (Nicaragua News, 27 Sept. 2022)

Granada Incorporated into the Global Network of Learning Cities
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) announced that the City of Granada has been designated a member of the UNESCO Global Network of Learning Cities. The UNESCO Secretary Arturo Collado, stated that “Granada is the second city of Nicaragua to be incorporated into the Global Network of Learning Cities, after León in 2020. This recognition is being given to the city for its contribution to history, as well as achievements by public policies to create an educational system based on inclusiveness, equity, and quality for all so that its inhabitants can create their own paths of development.” The Global Network of Learning Cities encompasses cities that demonstrate through public policies and effective learning practices that they are inclusive, safe, and resilient, contributing to the objectives of the UN 2030 Agenda. Founded in 1524, Granada is the oldest European city on the American continental platform. (Nicaragua News, 27 Sept. 2022)

It’s Time to Transcend the Selfishness that Kills
On Sept. 26 during the United Nations General Assembly, Nicaragua’s Foreign Minister Denis Moncada said that it is time to bring the rights of the world’s peoples before a UN that represents all, one that does not submit to the designs of any imperialist power. The Nicaraguan Foreign Minister urged the formation of a world of dialogue and peace, justice and solidarity, despite the differences between countries, to enrich consensus. He said, “It is time to transcend the selfishness that kills, that kills millions of human beings in the world where people are subjected to the cruelty of poverty and extreme poverty …  by the powers that seek to continue and even perpetuate their domination at the expense of hunger … climate destruction, ignorance, war, and all the obscurities derived from hatred.” (Radio La Primerisima, 26 Sept. 2022)