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Fran Franciscas daughter Damaso Angel Antonio Ramona Mercedez maybris gregoria Fransica MayaLin

about this book

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 and experiences.

The stories in this book reflect why we think the effort is worth continuing.





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