Today we just got back from Ocotal, a city up in the mountains of northern Nicaragua. It is a totally different environment up there: pine forests, blue mountains, a pleasant 85 degrees, fewer people, a close knit community, a clean city. (Nicaragua is sadly a very dirty place, and garbage is everywhere. People just throw things out the window and see no reason to use garbage bins.) On Wednesday we made the trek up there, involving a two hour chicken bus to Esteli, then realizing we were dropped off at the south bus terminal and we needed to find the north terminal (who knew Esteli was big enough to have two terminals?), and then another two and a half hour chicken bus to Ocotal. As we journeyed north, the temperature slowly dropped and the houses spread further apart, and we began winding around mountains. We arrived as the sun was about to set and it was beautiful.
The trip to Ocotal was in part, my idea. We (as Enactus) are looking for new partners to work with over the next year(s) and I found a young organization that works to promote rural coffee farmers in a co-op type arrangement. I wondered if we could partner with them to get them Rainforest Alliance certified, which would allow them to sell their coffees at a premium and thus earn higher wages. Rainforest Alliance is a seal for sustainably-grown coffee that must demonstrate biodiversity conservation, community development, workers’ rights, and productive agricultural practices, and is highly desired by coffee buyers in the US and Europe who are trying to show that they will source sustainably. After reaching out to the organization, we met Claudia and Wilmer, two Nicaraguans who are shockingly well-traveled and believe in the quality of this coffee—grown in their native backyards—so much so that they are starting their own business to introduce this coffee to US and European markets. They are both a blast and clearly believe so much in Nicaraguan coffee, committed to living here and supporting these farmers, yet wanting to put their educations to use. Having this seal will give their nascent business a lot of credibility and attract potential buyers.
Anyway, they were wonderful hosts while we were in Ocotal, taking us to the largest farm they work with, run by a man named Jorge, for a tour and crash course in coffee growing. Of course, along our path up and down the jungle ravine—getting bit by ants and a bit sunburned and trying not to skid down the hillslide—Jorge and Wilmer made us try all sorts of fresh fruits. It was a ton of fun to try so many unique things, as fresh as I could ever get them.
After a late lunch we decided to go forward with the project, with Dawson and I leading the Rainforest Alliance certification process. I have a lot more to learn, but I am excited because this project combines all that I am interested in – supporting community development, promoting environmental sustainability, and utilizing my business/finance background. And of course, as our bus finally pulled into Leon today—after an excruciating five hour ride, with over 120 people squished on one chicken bus, it was 100 degrees and humid. I will not mind spending more time in Ocotal rather than here! The current plan is to spend Sundays through Thursdays in Ocotal, at a homestay that Claudia will arrange (eeekk, but I’m excited. Maybe I’ll actually get better at Spanish!), and then spend Fridays and Saturdays in Leon to finish our microloan business workshops and work in La Calle Real. Our last two and a half weeks just got a whole lot busier, but it's exciting too!
I'm a twenty-something from the Pacific NW making home in new places as I follow where God leads.
My intent is to show Christ's love to the world and use business to solve some of the social problems we face: hunger, illiteracy, healthcare, economic hardship. For now, I'm in a stage of learning. A little adventuring, a few books, some good friends, and a whole lot of prayer and life runs on.