With these pictures and stories
we wish to introduce you to a group of Nicaraguan farmers,
their lives, hopes and aspirations.
In the region of Matagalpa in Nicaragua, where these people
live, most people are as they are: small-scale farmers living
at or beneath the poverty line, farming rain-washed mountainsides
as more wealthy ranchers and plantation owners monopolise
valleys and river basins. Typically they grow corn and beans,
but all aspire to bigger things: a few cattle, a row of coffee
bushes, or a vegetable plot. Some succeed.
Nicaragua is a paradise for humans, Nicaraguans say. In
the rainy season the mountains of Matagalpa show the truth
of it, so green and fertile do they appear. However, this
picture changes drastically in the dry season, when the soil
dries out and the degradation becomes visible.
Farming these mountains is for many a life of poverty and
for all it is a hard one. It is also unpredictable, as nature,
economics and politics play games of chance with the lives
of the poor, games that they only rarely can hope to influence.
It is a life that sometimes breeds despair but also a very
necessary optimism and a great sense of irony, humour and
fun. To live this life is to be an artist at survival, and
only a survivor truly appreciates what she (or he) has.
Most of the people you will meet in this book are community
leaders in one way or another, organisers and mainstays of
associations and cooperatives, of women’s groups and
churches. We hope that you, as we were, are impressed by the
strength of their lives as well as by the poverty.
We met them in November 2002 as part of a delegation from
the Danish Committee for Solidarity with Central America.
Together with Hedy Grønager and Lillah Emmik we were
collecting inter-views and photographs for a large photo exhibition
called World Visit, organised by the Danish development community
in the summer of 2003. We felt that the material merited a
more perma-nent record - so here it is.
We wish to thank the Matagalpa offices of the National Union
of Farmers (UNAG) and the Farm Workers’ Association
(ATC) for their hospitality, but above all Mercedes, Reynaldo,
Damaso, Christina, José, Bertilda, Fran, Ramona, Gregoria,
Antonio, Nicasio, and Francisca, who let us into their homes
and lives. Not to mention their children, who were all too
often displaced from their beds to make room for us and our
overflowing camera bags and rucksacks.
Half the sale price of this book will be used to support
their continuing efforts to develop their communities.
The people you have met in this book all participate in the
development project PROMAT, which is a cooperation between
the Danish Committee for Solidarity with Central America,
MAK, and two Nicaraguan farmers’ organisations; the
National Union of Farmers, UNAG, and the Farm Worker’s
Association, ATC. PROMAT is fully funded by the Danish International
Develop-ment Agency, DANIDA.
The Nicaraguan small-scale farmers and farm workers seldom
possess the capacity to manage environmentally and economic-ally
sustainable agricultural development. The reasons for this
are many and reflect the complexity of poverty. Many farmers
come from a background as labourers and subsistence farmers
and lack experience in analysing and finding solutions to
the problems they face in the emerging free market, globalised
economy. With a historical background of working in an economy
controlled either by the state og by the large landowners,
the farmers’ organisations have dealt with political
conflicts for 20 years but have not built skills in mobilising
local economic and market resources in favour of their members,
and they are inadequately trained in managing credit institutions
as well as organising their own marketing.
PROMAT works to solve these problems by strengthening the
capacity of local farmers’ associations and marketing
cooperatives affiliated to UNAG and ATC in Matagalpa. The
focus is not on providing expensive and non-sustainable professional
advisors, but on helping the farmers themselves acquire the
necessary eco-nomic and leadership skills and experiences.
The objective is to help farmers develop self-managed organisations
with the capacity to take initiatives and manage activities
related to economy in agriculture on behalf of their members.
PROMAT started in 1999 and reaches its termination in January
2004. However, the Danish Committee for Solidarity with Central
America has applied to DANIDA for a continuation of PROMAT
in order to secure the sustainability of the project activities
The stories in this book reflect why we think the effort
is worth continuing.