This post was written by GE volunteer Kendra Sterneck.
El Jazmin, located in the region of Boaco in central Nicaragua, is a community that faces many complex problems, including high rates of poverty, ineffective community organization and environmental degradation. Malnutrition, air pollution, and a lack of access to potable water and clean energy result in severe health problems for residents. Green Empowerment and local NGO partner AsoFenix previously worked in El Balsamo, a neighboring village, to address similar problems. Upon seeing the results of this work, leaders from El Jazmin expressed the desire to bring such solutions into their own community. Green Empowerment and AsoFenix agreed to partner with the people of El Jazmin to strengthen the resiliency of the community by enhancing the health, economic empowerment, environmental sustainability and organizational capacity of the local population.
To reach this goal, GE, AsoFenix, and the community are working together to to implement a multi-faceted projected that will help move the village as a whole towards effective and positive change. The Vibrant Village Foundation, a Portland-based non-profit that invests in the potential of communities around the world, has generously agreed to fund three components: a solar water pumping system and potable water delivery, community organizing, and the provision of micro-loans and training so that families can earn additional income through beekeeping and the sale of honey. The apiculture (beekeeping) element of the project also provides additional environmental benefits, as bees play a vital role in pollinating plants for agriculture and general environmental health. The project is now in its third quarter and is advancing steadily.
To improve community health (as measured by decreasing rates of diarrhea in children under five by 50% and providing 100% of families with adequate access to clean drinking water), multiple project activities have been put into action since the project began in January 2017. Survey and mapping of the community has been completed, which provides essential information for the design of the new water distribution system. In May, the drilling and construction of a new well was completed.
A Potable Water Committee consisting of members elected by the community was established to manage the new water system, oversee community input and contributions to the project as a whole, and promote community organizing. Meetings with this committee were held to discuss and coordinate the details of this community project. A coordination meeting was also held with the Ministry of Health to discuss a health fair and sanitation training for the community, scheduled to take place in September. This is just one way that the committee is being proactive about promoting health and hygiene habits in the community. Various other funders will support other activities in addition to these to contribute to the overall goal of strengthening the community’s health and resiliency.
To improve economic empowerment, interested community members have taken part in beekeeping training sessions. Twenty-five hives and six protective suits to share have also been purchased. One unexpected challenge was that while many community members had initially expressed interest and enthusiasm for this part of the project, commitment began to waver due to doubts about caring for bees and taking on the microcredit loans. However, after a four-week training, ten women and eleven men have ultimately decided to participate, now using a system of shared management to care for the hives. GE and AsoFenix are providing additional training to focus on this model and help ensure its success.
Although this project has encountered some challenges so far, the results are worth it. By the end of the project, 240 individuals and 60 households will benefit. Work has progressed steadily in the last few months, and GE, AsoFenix, and the community will continue to work together to achieve the objectives. Stay tuned for the next update!