For the Lord will comfort Zion; he will comfort all her waste places, and will make her wilderness like Eden, her desert like the garden of the Lord; joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the voice of song. Isaiah 51:3 NRSV
In February a small contingent from Trinity went with a group from Amos Trust to Nicaragua, led by Katie Hagley a former worshiper at Southover.
We visited a charity called CEPAD – a relief organisation started by protestant ministers after an earthquake that destroyed most of Managua the capital. It now works by committing to a poor community for five years and working to help develop that community. They work with the local churches, which are mainly Mennonite, training the pastors. They help to develop the community with training in leadership skills and forming co-operatives, and teaching craft-making skills.
The most impressive part of the work is the way they develop the health and nutrition of the villagers by teaching them organic methods of growing food, and by providing water harvesting and simple water filtration, using a biofilter made with local materials, aggregates from the river and charcoal from the fire, which people can make and maintain for themselves.
Villagers have to commit to working with CEPAD, only using the organic methods they would be trained in. At first many people are reluctant to join as they feel they have to have chemical fertilisers and insecticides, but as soon as they see the miraculous change in the gardens of people using the new methods, they are very keen to join. The soil in Teusteppe where we were working is volcanic, very arid, and the area mountainous. Our job was to provide simple water harvesting ponds for which we had fundraised. CEPAD provided seeds which are germinated in seed beds and newspaper pots, which are then planted into the soil, using home-made composts and natural plant insecticides.
Fruit trees are grown and planted out; this solves the problem of soil erosion and provides shade for the smaller crops. The fruit provides vitamins and varied nutrition as well as a surplus to sell at market. By the end of the five years each participant should have 19 different varieties of fruit tree and vegetable in their garden, also they should have taught another to use the CEPAD method.
In one community we worked in a garden attached to the school, this was enormous fun as we worked with the school children and the local community who all came out to help. Some of the group helped cook a delicious meal for the whole workforce using the locally grown organic vegetables. The local pastor was always much in view, always in the midst of the hardest work, providing love and encouragement to his little flock. The church in Nicaragua is very focused on helping the poor and being an integral part of poor communities. After we had finished our work for the day, it was very natural for us to all troop into the little shanty church for a session of joyful hymn singing, the pastor and various locals passing round a guitar. Our team is now fundraising to provide waterfilters .