PWS&D is working to address the underlying causes of hunger, improve nutrition and support vulnerable women and girls to build healthier, safe and prosperous communities.
Nicaragua produces some of our favourite “luxury” products –cocoa, sugar cane, beef, gold, rum, coffee and peanuts. One might think because of its capacity to produce in-demand goods, Nicaragua would be a wealthy country – not a hungry country.
However, 30 per cent of the population live on less than $2 a day, making it the second poorest country in the western hemisphere. Many of Nicaragua’s poor are family farmers who struggle to transform small plots of land into sources of nourishment for their families year round. This is no easy task. Especially when their livelihoods are intimately connected to the soil and changing weather patterns.
Rationing between growing cycles and the rising costs of healthy food, seeds and fertilizers makes it extremely difficult to increase crop production or balance diets. As a result, malnutrition is an ongoing problem. Over 19 percent of the population is undernourished and children experience delays in their growth.
PWS&D is working with The Soya Association of Nicaragua (SOYNICA) and The Pro-Denominational Alliance Council of Evangelical Churches (CEPAD) to address the underlying causes of hunger and malnutrition and reduce poverty. Through innovative development programs, smallholder farmers are learning about soil quality and pest management and replacing environmentally destructive practices with more sustainable techniques that also help them adapt to a changing climate.
Farmers are given vegetable seeds and fruit tree saplings to diversify their diets for better nutrition. In order to improve the health of young children, communities are learning about proper nutrition and the importance of breast-feeding for newborns. They are also given the tools to weigh and measure children to ensure their development is on track.
PWS&D also supported INPRHU (the Institute for Human Promotion) in Managua in the creation of the Casa de Niñas—“Girls House”— a shelter for young women and girls who’ve been living in abusive situations. Experienced staff provide basic medical care, personal and group therapy, legal counsel for victims and mentoring for families.
Sandra couldn’t understand why her sons Erling, 4, and Gerson, 2, were chronically ill and underweight.
She fed her children what she thought to be wholesome, filling foods. But in fact, the soup, tortilla chips and soda that made up much of their diet had very little nutritional value.
“We believed that the food we were giving them was the best,” admits Sandra.
In the Nicaraguan community she lives in, farmers grow more coffee than nutrient-rich produce because they depend on it for their livelihood. But drought has reduced yields and brought many rural families into deeper poverty. With little extra money to buy food, children aren’t getting enough nutrients and often experience illness and delays in growth.
Growing Healthy Futures
PWS&D partners in Nicaragua are working with vulnerable communities to improve nutrition and diets for 440 families. By training community promoters, they are dispelling myths about locally grown foods, developing healthy recipes and supporting families to start household gardens.
Sandra’s family is one that has benefited immensely from the project. She has learned that exclusive breastfeeding, and a diet that includes fruits and vegetables are important to decrease stunting and malnutrition among children.
“My family’s diet has improved because we have learned about the nutritional value of natural foods—those produced in the community and rich in nutrients for our bodies—and we are eating them.”
Sandra, like many others in her community, had believed that foods like bananas were meant only for livestock. Now, gesturing to a garden plot bursting with colourful vegetation, she describes the stews and omelettes she’s learned to make with the fresh ingredients.
Mostly, Sandra is relieved to see that the health and well-being of her children have improved. “They are happier and they play and eat more,” she says. “They don’t have anemia anymore.”
For Sandra, this project is only the beginning of a brighter future for her family and community. “Our mission is to share what we have learned so that our community will prosper with healthy and active families.” With their bodies and minds fuelled with healthy food, she hopes her children and future generations of children will continue to thrive.
Nicaragua Information Sheet
Banner Photo: Canadian Foodgrains Bank