Dad-of-four Julio Lopez’s dream of spending more time with his family always used to be dashed by the reality of living in poverty. Or to be more precise, working in it.
The demands of earning a meagre living from a local landowner meant he had to leave home at 5am and wouldn’t return till 7pm most days. Quite simply, he hardly ever got to see wife Amselma and their four sons. Like many living on the poverty line in rural Nicaragua, Julio had no financial independence or land of his own, even his house was owned by his employer.
Visit Julio now and the picture has changed dramatically. The family have moved to a new area, built their own small wooden house and are working nine acres of land, growing mostly coffee. They not only have enough food for themselves but are selling the surplus at market and the boys are attending a local school run by a Tearfund partner.
The transformation doesn’t end there, according to Sarah Newnham, Tearfund’s Head of Latin America and Caribbean region, who recently visited Julio: ‘Julio and Amselma feel that the biggest change they have seen is their quality of life, of their relationships as a family and the time they spend together,’ said Sarah.
Free from dependence
‘Although it has been hard work and a lot of responsibility getting the farm going, they feel it has been immensely rewarding.’
Tearfund’s role in this move away from material, emotional and spiritual poverty has been supporting our partner AMC, which has launched a New Jerusalem Land Bank project. Under the scheme, AMC purchased land on behalf of 20 families, comprising 360 people. The idea is as the families generate income from the land, they will make making regular interest-free payments and after a dozen or so years, own their plots outright.
AMC provides technical guidance on farming techniques and uses Bible studies to teach principles about environmental stewardship and working together. Each farmer is paired up with another, so they can provide mutual support.
Sarah said, ‘The idea of the project is to provide a place to live and a livelihood but most importantly to free people from the dependence on the mercy of a landowner in seeking seasonal agricultural work on the landowner’s farm. Many in the community talked about the holistic transformation of the project, not just economic benefits but building of ownership, solidarity between community members, commitment, responsibility and improvements in the quality of life.’
A little history ...
Nicaragua is the second-poorest country in the Americas. One of the most disaster-prone countries in Latin America, Nicaragua experiences major floods and landslides.
Tearfund’s work in Nicaragua dates back to 1972, when a massive earthquake hit Managua, the capital. Our presence continues today through church networks that are building resilience to natural disasters.