NicaNotes: “There’s no climate justice without social & economic justice”

By the Nicaragua Solidarity Campaign (NSC) of the United Kingdom

Nicaraguan Fairtrade coffee farmer, Flor Montenegro, has been in Bristol, England, from 29 April – 12 May, visiting schools, colleges and businesses talking about life in the highlands of Nicaragua, the impact of the climate crisis, and the benefits of Fairtrade to her family, community and cooperative.

Organic Fairtrade coffee grown by Flor Montenegro and the other women members of SOPPEXCCA is sold in the US by Peet’s coffee chain under a brand name ‘Las Hermanas’ (The Sisters). Here we see Flor with her nursery of little coffee plants.

Flor lives with her three generational family in northern Nicaragua where she grows organic Fairtrade coffee for export and fruit and vegetables for family consumption and to sell locally. She also keeps bees (mostly for the pollination of the coffee flowers) and chickens and part of her land is forested.

Flor has multiple roles as a family member, as a farmer and entrepreneur, as a member of a co-operative, and a community activist. Flor and her husband, who has his own piece of land, are members of a 30 person strong co-operative called Isabelia half of whom are women. Along with an Executive Committee the co-operative has commissions responsible for education/training, credit, and gender.

How has Flor’s life changed over the course of her life time?

The area where Flor and her family live in the hills of northern Nicaragua was on the front line of the 1980s contra war. This decade-long US attempt to violently overthrow the democratically elected Sandinista government resulted in the deaths of 20,000 people.

The illegal war intensified in the second half of the 1980s despite an International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling that the US cease all such interference in Nicaragua’s internal affairs.

For Flor this meant spending her teenage years ‘fleeing from one place to another, often going hungry, and in constant fear of being killed by marauding gangs of contra.’ Her father was often away fighting with the Sandinista militia. Her mother was severely injured in a contra attack, injuries that affected the rest of her life; other members of her family disappeared presumed killed by the contra.

The 2018 attempted coup re-ignited these fears and trauma through the violence of the opposition road blocks, destruction of government buildings and threats from armed gangs roaming the countryside threatening farmers in the area where Flor lives.

Flor’s life and that of her family has dramatically changed through social progress as a result of Sandinista government programmes and the work of the co-operative SOPPEXCCA. Hope is always present but fears and anxiety remain through being a small-scale farmer on the front line of the climate crisis.

What being a member of SOPPEXCCA has meant to Flor–

The co-operative Isabelia in one of 16 co-operative that make up the Union of Co-operatives SOPPEXCCA. When Flor got married, her husband was a member of SOPPEXCCA: he owned some land and was the breadwinner; Flor did not even have any money of her own. However, this gradually changed when Flor too became involved with SOPPEXCCA, an organisation renowned for its commitment to gender equality.

Flor began by attending SOPPEXCCA gender trainings and little by little acquired one field and then built up to her current 14 hectares. Of particular note was the year that she won the SOPPEXCCA tasa de excelencia, (cup of excellence) award that brought recognition of her work, and motivated her to become more involved, to increase her commitment to her co-operative. She attributes all of this to the leadership of Fatima Ismael, the founder and general manager of SOPPEXCCA.

Why Fairtrade matters, moving from subsistence to sustainability–

Organic Fairtrade coffee grown by women members of SOPPEXCCA is sold in the US by Peet’s coffee chain under a brand name ‘Las Hermanas’ (The Sisters). Under this trading arrangement the women receive three premiums: one because the coffee is organic, the second because they are registered under the Fairtrade mark, and the third because the coffee grown by women. Flor explained that ‘without Fairtrade and organic premiums it would be impossible to cover production costs.’

How Flor invests these premiums–

The priorities for Flor are to use the funds to more effectively to combat climate related disease, invest in her own plant nursery so she is able to replace non-productive bushes thereby improving the quality of the coffee, and ensure that the labourers she contracts to work to maintain the coffee bushes and pick the coffee are fairly paid.

How the climate crisis has impacted Flor and other SOPPEXCCA producers–

Flor explained that main problem over the past two years has been lack of rain. This means that coffee flowers wither and fall off, coffee cherries don’t mature properly, and there is a greater prevalence of difficult to control diseases not seen in the area before. Yields have dropped significantly which in turn impacts income. All these factors also have a psychological impact in terms of extra work and levels of uncertainty and anxiety.

Measures that Flor and other SOPPEXCCA producers take to combat the impact of climate crisis and to increase biodiversity–

Diversification of crops: In addition to organic coffee Flor and her family grow a wide variety of fruits and vegetables such as maize, dried and green beans, beetroot, squash, cabbages, and oranges. They grow these crops for their own consumption and to sell locally and in Managua. All these crops are organic and contribute to biodiversity.

Using composted fertilisers supplied by SOPPEXCCA: As far as possible everything is circular based on principle of returning to the earth what you take from it.

Planting native trees between rows of coffee: This conserves moisture in the soil during dry periods and prevents run off in heavy rains. Flor also has 1 ½ hectares of native hardwood forest.

Other challenges that producers face–

An additional challenge, also highlighted by UK farmers, is rising costs of production.  This includes the cost of all inputs, labour costs, transport, biosecurity measures, as well as all the extra measures related to mitigating and adapting to the climate crisis and improving biodiversity.

Exhaustion was another challenge that Flor mentioned: working long hours, 9am – 9pm on most days and even most of Sundays when there are still animals that have to be fed and other tasks that can’t wait.

Flor has multiple roles as a family member, as a farmer and entrepreneur, as a member of a co-operative, and as a community activist supporting brigadistas

from the local health clinic on health surveys and vaccination days.

Flor’s hopes and plans for the future–

As with UK farmers, Flor and other SOPPEXCCA members are constantly looking into ways of diversifying to overcome dependence on a particular crop or other sources of income.  SOPPEXCCA has an ecotourism programme enabling visitors to stay in homes of SOPPEXCCA members. Flor would like to convert a room in the family’s house to create a space so that her famiily could be part of this programme.

Encouraging the involvement of the next generation is important and is a key SOPPEXCCA objective. Flor very optimistic about her eight-year-old granddaughter who is interested in everything related to the farm and constantly follows Flor around.

According to Fatima Ismael, general manager SOPPEXCCA, ‘Fairtrade is both the bridge and the vehicle that helps to transform the wellbeing of the families of small-scale producers. There cannot be climate justice without justice in the market for our products.’

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by Nan McCurdy 

44,000 Young People to Participate in INNOVATEC 2024
The National Technological Institute launched its sixth National Day of Innovation and Technologies INNOVATEC 2024, with the slogan “Boosting the talent and creativity of youth.” Forty-four thousand students from the different technical programs are expected to participate. During these events, held since 2019, more than 2,000 ideas and 450 project prototypes have been presented. “There are cases of students who became entrepreneurs,” said Alexander Serrano, head of Innovatec at INATEC. The objective is to promote the culture of entrepreneurship, creativity and innovation in youth through the development of projects that respond to the real needs of the country. Serrano said that among the themes and categories are food and beverages, electricity, agricultural inputs, industrial innovation, agro-processing, food agro-industry, web and mobile applications, textiles and clothing. (La Primerisima, 9 May 2024)

170 Nurses Trained in Perinatal Specialties in Nicaragua
The first 170 nurses from Central America are being trained with a perinatal specialty this year in Nicaragua, which represents a significant advance for this specialty in the Ministry of Health. The National Director of Nursing, Janeth Vega, emphasized that this is the first specialty with advanced practices and will culminate next year. “The nurses are being trained to provide better care to mothers and babies in hospitals nationwide,” she said. Among the advances is the certification and training in empirical memories, improvements in working conditions in each hospital, and collective bargaining agreements, among others. See photos: (La Primerisima, 8 May 2024)

Strengthening Neonatology Areas in Public Hospitals
With an investment of US$63,000 the Ministry of Health acquired 90 thermal cribs and 45 incubators to be used in the neonatal wards of hospitals nationwide. Dr. Oscar Vásquez, Director of Health Services of MINSA, explained that the equipment is of great importance for the care of newborns with complications, and are tools for the containment of neonatal mortality. “We are improving the conditions and this is part of the government’s Medical Equipment Strengthening Plan. We consider that it will improve the care of newborns,” said the physician. The cribs and incubators will be sent to departmental and referral hospitals for maternal and child care. See photos:
(La Primerisima, 14 May 2024)

The Interoceanic Canal: Still an Opportunity for International Trade
The Nicaraguan government has announced that the constant evolution of Nicaragua and its positioning in the international scenario have made it a necessity to update the legal framework of the mega project for the Grand Interoceanic Canal. On May 8 the National Assembly approved reforms to the Law of the Legal Regime of the Grand Interoceanic Canal and the Creation of the Authority of the Grand Interoceanic Canal. National Assembly Deputies agreed that this measure reaffirms the country’s sovereign right to build an interoceanic canal which has long been an aspiration of Nicaragua. Authorities added that it is under the government of President Daniel Ortega that it will become a reality. Assembly Deputy and political analyst Adolfo Pastrán said, “By reforming or annulling the [old] concession for the construction of an interoceanic canal what we are doing is reaffirming our political will to build this canal. Later on, the Nicaraguan government may approve another concession since there is much interest in world trade.” He added that Panama has problems currently with drought and has spent a year facing problems and this could represent a great opportunity for Nicaragua to build a deep draft canal. “The Interoceanic Canal will provide an international service; it will serve for the transit of ships from any part of the world without any discrimination. Undoubtedly, this will impact and boost trade in Latin America, the Caribbean and the entire world. We are developing [the proposal] with the help of the People’s Republic of China, a series of projects that will give even greater impetus to the economy. We are in a great moment of development thanks to the peace we enjoy.” concluded Pastrán. (TN8TV, 8 May 2024)

Charging Stations for Electric Cars 
The Ministry of Energy and Mines (MEM) and Enatrel celebrated the start of work on an Airport Substation Charging Post. With this gathering, Nicaragua marked the beginning of the creation of a national charging infrastructure for electric vehicles. Workshop representatives were present and explained that they are training personnel to be able to meet the demand for electric vehicle repairs. Charging stations are already available at various points around the country. (La Primerisima, 9 May 2024)

New Solar Power Plant to Be Added to the Grid
The Jaguar Solar Power Plant came into operation in March with a capacity of 16 megawatts and a modern structure in the municipality of Malpaisillo, Department of León. The government invested US$15.7 million in the project to optimize the advance in the technologies of solar panels. According to Mansel, executive president of ENATREL the plant is composed of 29,232 bifacial solar panels to make the best use of solar radiation, installed in an area of 96 acres. It covers 70% of the demand of the population of Malpaisillo and the surplus is distributed to industry on the road to San Isidro, in the Department of Matagalpa. Mansell recalled that for the change of the energy matrix, which began in 2007, the first step was to study the natural resources, the capacity of water, wind, thermal, solar, and others. “That made us identify several sites where there is a good solar radiation. Here near Malpaisillo there is a great capacity for solar radiation in the area of Dario towards Terrabona, San Isidro-Sébaco, Nagarote and Puerto Sandino.” Mansell said that there are four more projects to be developed in 2024-2025 that will generate approximately 67 megawatts. The solar complexes will be built in San Isidro, Nagarote, Darío and Puerto Sandino. See Photos: (La Primerisima, 13 May 2024)

Join the NicaNet Google Group
The NicaNet Google Group consists of activists who support the sovereignty of Nicaragua and the revolutionary government of Nicaragua. Membership is free, and open to all who believe in the Sandinista revolution and the Sandinista government. The Google Group is supported by the Nicaragua Network of the Alliance for Global Justice. The Google Group is moderated by Dr. Arnie Matlin, Convener of the Rochester Committee on Latin America. Members are welcome to post to the group.  The topic must be totally (or at least primarily) about Nicaragua.  The only other restrictions are that we discourage more than one post in a day, except under emergency situations.  We encourage people to submit their own postings, but people can send in posts from other people, if it’s obvious that the piece was meant for public viewing. Finally, all entries must be in the form of civil discourse.  Ad hominem or ad feminam postings will be rejected. Thank you!

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