My life in Nicaragua is starting to sink in. Not only have I had the opportunity to see so much more of this city and country,but I have also gained a much more intimate understanding of what my job will entail. This truly was the busiest I have been in a long time, with the Friday and Saturday being spent driving around to different towns to visit small scale farmers working with our first-round grant recipients of the Techno-Links project.
Three businesses had been selected as the grant winners from the first-round: Burke Agro, who works with drying and packaging fruits for export to buyers such as Whole Foods in the United States; EIAG (Escuela Interamericano de Agricultura y Ganaderia – Interamerican School of Agriculture and Livestock), which is a post-secondary institution in the southern region of Rivas, that works with educating farmers about using their new "vitroplantas", a selected strain of in vitro plants that are a more versatile, healthy, and resistant plantain crop. From this the farmer can use less fertilizer and pesticides because the plantain is already at a greater advantage from the previous in vitro process. The final winner we went to visit on the following Wednesday was that of Tecnosol, a company working to provide biogas from manure through the installment of biodigesters, of many uses in the house including cooking and a lesser need for fuel woods, while also simultaneously creating fertilizer to be used on the farmers' crops. For Tecnosol we needed to drive up into the mountains of Matagalpa, the coffee growing region of Nicaragua to the north. Here we performed a similar task as to the others, performing questionnaires with the farmers who are working in partnership with Tecnosol to improve their crops through the said technology they work with and promote.
The field trips were long days, usually on the road and meeting with the businesses and farmers between 8am and 8pm, returning home in the dark. We went on these visits the Friday and Saturday, as well as the following Wednesday. The Sunday was off, but the Monday and Tuesday were spent at a workshop where all of the second round winners came together to meet and sign the agreement with MEDA/Techno-Links. These were also quite info-intensive days at the Bank of International Development. Participatory activities were performed to inform the new businesses of MEDA's goals and visions of businesses development, as well as the indicators of progress and success that would be used in the future to measure the proposed goals at select intervals of the business plan.
Left: This man was showing us how the biogas produced from the biodigesters of Tecnosol that have allowed for odorless cooking fuel, with a direct gas line coming in from the biodigester directly outside.
Right: All of a sudden we came to a line up of buses (upwards of 18 long school buses packed with people to every square inch) and had quite a difficult time getting through. Of course being the one white skinned individual in the box of the truck, there were many howls and calls of different slangs as we passed - but I am sure they were all in good humour ;)
The next little while will be a more laptop based workspace, but I am looking forward to a little more structure in this sense for the next bit. I have a feeling more field visits are on their way quite soon though, and I am ready for them. The visits give me the opportunity to meet with the faces of the people that MEDA and Techno-Links work with, and gives a better understanding and deeper meaning to the work being done.