Although all of the efforts the women of Las Diosas are showing in their new coffee crops, it brings us to the obvious question – what are these women doing to survive in the meantime as their income recovers? One approach the women of Las Diosas have recently been trying is diversification of cash crops and increased attention to food security. For cash crops, Las Diosas has increased their production of Jamaica (Hibiscus) and the wine and tea they produce with it. They have also begun an experiment with chia seeds, although thus far, they have not found a good market for it. On the coffee front, they are now trying their hand at branding and packaging their own roasted coffee and have begun to look for other markets for it. For projects like this, the women have a new packing and processing facility and are awaiting inspection and certification of the building so that they can try to expand outside the Esteli market. On a more local level, they have also increased honey production for local sales.
These projects have offered some alternatives to coffee income, but they are not nearly enough. Realizing that cash income is not totally dependable, Las Diosas has started a basic grains and food cooperative as well as a seed bank for native seeds. The hope is that they will become more independent in the production of their own food and able to preserve the seeds and plants that are indigenous to the area. These are big steps that come directly from their focus on agroecology and the drive for a sustainable food system.
And this leads to the current crisis situation that the women face. Because of the shift of rain patterns over the past decade, the area where the women live has become known as a “dry corridor”. This year, the now semi-dependable summer drought has hit with a vengeance. The entirety of their corn crop has died and now their beans and other late season plants are in danger. If it does not rain soon they will be in the same situation as the past two years – needing to buy food with no good income stream to do so. The farmers are very concerned about this and – with a good coffee crop still two years off – many are wondering how they and their families will survive.
Leaving Las Diosas and FEM with this knowledge was difficult for all of us. The contrast of their apparent defeat of Roya with the sense of desperation around food supply was stark. The nature of our relationship with Las Diosas is a partnership and we are going to help them get back on their feet. I want to strongly encourage you all to please consider donating to support them on the On The Ground Project Nica page or our delegation Razoo page. Please look out for future OTG delegations where you too can become an ambassador for the women, as well as future local fundraising events in Madison that you can take part in! – Matt