Upon the realization that we were lacking our required quota of small-scale farmers from each client, it was time for Roger (coworker and business consultant here in Nicaragua for MEDA) and I to embark on another adventure into the rural expanses of Nicaragua's countryside. The first two days would be spent in and around the municipality of Rivas, where we would gather information on 5 more farmers by means of a lengthy questionnaire taking approximately 1 hour. The clients were all very friendly and helpful with giving us all the information that we needed, and at the one farm we needed to park Roger's car and head to a different part of his farm by motorbike, as it was the only vehicle that would fit through certain areas and tiny dirt roads.
The best part about this was that the guy I was doubling with carried a shotgun strapped around his body, meaning it was literally pressed in-between us on the motorbike.
Lower Left: He spent time explaining to us how the in-Vitro Plantain plants are going to help him a lot, as his crops often suffer from plagues and illnesses that reduce his production and quality of final product. He showed a lot of enthusiasm to be working with EIAG (Escuela Internacional de Agricultura y Ganaderia) and TechnoLinks MEDA.
Lower Right: Another one of our clients was working more in the processing of the plantain to be made into chips. She even gave us each a little grab bag upon departure to savor the product, they were tasty.
The second phase to our journey took us out to the east coast of the country, entirely by land, in a tiny Nissan truck, squeezed full of equipment and passengers, fun... The actual trip was quite an adventure and an unforgettable experience, however, it was not an easy feat, with some 25 hours spent in a vehicle over the course of a few days, many of these hours being thrown around the backseat of a tiny pickup like a golf ball inside of a paint can, being shaken in that machine you see at Home Hardware. The morning after the first 7 hours on these roads left me feeling like I had been through an intense workout of weightlifting.
RAAS (Region Autonoma del Atlantico Sur) is a beautiful and unique part of Nicaragua, with distinct history, language, and culture. Many parts along the east coast are in fact primarily English speaking, with Spanish and indigenous dialects to follow. Containing much smaller settlements and underdeveloped road infrastructure, reaching many of these areas is usually performed by boat, but since we needed to deliver some equipment as well as carryout the questionnaires, we needed to proceed by truck.
The picture to the left is that of Rama, really the final jumping off point before you get into the jungles and winding river-ways of RAAS. Rama has a harbor area where you can take boats to further destinations towards the coast, such as Bluefields, Laguna de Perlas, and further boats after to Corn Island. The further east you get the more African American descent the people begin to appear, with Caribbean twangs to their creole English and only patchy knowledge of Spanish at times.
One of our clients led us on a trek to his farm, as we drove in for about 15 minutes, and then parked the truck and continued on foot for another 20. Along the way we passed beautiful, lush coconut trees and a magnificent setting sun, only for the peace to be broken by a sudden shout from the front of our march. I inquired to the nearest person to me and he said that there was a Yellow-Bearded, venomous Pit-Viper ahead on our path, with really no other route for us to go due to the thick brush we were traversing. We watched from a safe distance as the owner and farmer of the land beat at it with a stick (tactfully of course) and tried to get it scared off without getting bitten. I noticed he jumped back a few times as I could see something lunging at him; was I ever happy to be a good three people behind in the jungle trek line-up.
The trek out to Rama and the RAAS region of Nicaragua was an adventure for sure, but I do recommend that if you ever feel like reaching the small towns of Bluefields, Laguna de Perlas, or other coastal destinations, either take a boat from Rama or fly directly from Managua (although you would miss some beautiful mountain scenery then), but that's just my opinion.