Fruitless to flourishing: How family gardens are transforming Nicaraguan communities

  • By: Compassion Canada
Girls wears a pink shirt and holds vegetables in her hands.

In the desert-like wilderness of Las Mojarras, Nicaragua, where the atmosphere is obscured by the rising walls of dust and merciless heat, the families of local Compassion centre, Center Emmanuel, are embarking on what their neighbours deem impossible. Despite the dryness of the land, they are planting family gardens.

A young boy wearing an orange shirt walks through a dry field with a water tank behind him

Yeri, who attends Center Emmanuel, walks across the dry land of his home in Las Mojarras.

Gardens of hope

Just a few short years ago, Center Emmanuel opened its doors to the children of Las Mojarras. Andres, the centre director, quickly noticed that many families couldn’t make ends meet.

“Many parents came to ask for help because they couldn’t feed their children,” says Andres. “At that time, we received the food packages for the families and that helped a lot. But all the time, I kept thinking, ‘What can we do to help them generate income?’”

Andres remembered that several families had unused land due to a lack of available resources and a scarce water supply.

“The biggest blessing is knowing that the Lord has given us resources to create our own jobs and change our realities.”

After brainstorming with other centre staff, Andres and his team decided to start a special project that would equip families with the tools they needed to cultivate sustainable gardens on their land. “Because not all of [the families at the centre] had land available, we made groups of five so they could work in teams to grow the crops,” Andres says. “They were enthusiastic and motivated!”

Planting seeds of change 

To start the project, Andres talked to parents who had previous experience with agriculture so that they could be the team leaders. Among them were Donald and Nuri.

Donald and his three kids stand in a field smiling off into the distance

Donald and his boys, who attend Center Emmanuel, dream of the possibilities that the new family garden project through the Compassion centre could provide for their family.

Donald had always dreamed of turning his acres of overgrown land into a flourishing garden. As the search for factory work continually yielded fruitless results, this new opportunity provided by the centre planted seeds of hope for a new life. While Donald prepared the land for planting, there remained a situation in need of a solution.

 “My house is four blocks from the river, which is the main source of water in the community, but I did not have the resources to create a watering system,” Donald says. “When the centre saw this, they provided me with the necessary materials to connect the pipes to the land where the crops would grow.”

Donald and his children till the land in the sun.

Donald began installing a power plant and irrigation grid to channel water toward families’ crops and additional produce such as watermelons, tomatoes, squash and zucchini.

“We are innovating,” says Donald. “The biggest blessing is knowing that the Lord has given us resources to create our own jobs and change our realities.”

Continuation of innovation

Nuri is a mother of five who never thought she would be working out in the fields as her husband oversaw planting and harvesting their crops. Nuri worked in factories or nearby homes providing laundering services. But when the pandemic struck years back, Nuri lost both sources of employment.

Yuri, mother of Yeri and Abner who both attend Center Emmanuel, inside of her greenhouse.

Yuri, mother of Yeri and Abner who both attend Center Emmanuel, inside of her greenhouse.

“Because the land is so dry, during the summer months, we didn’t have anything to eat,” says Nuri. “I often felt tired and helpless.”

After the family gardens project began, Andres asked Nuri to lead one of the teams. Nuri, while glad to be considered, had her doubts. Although she had never worked the land before, she was willing to learn. “I asked the Lord for wisdom so that with every new skill I learned, I could teach the other families.”

Before long, Nuri came to Andres with a new idea. She hoped to start a small greenhouse in her backyard. Here, she could teach her children and other mothers the necessary techniques to grow new seeds. The centre helped Nuri install a water tank that would carry the water to the ground inside the greenhouse through thin, plastic pipes.

Abner is wearing a tan shirt and a straw hat. He is standing outside in his family's garden.

Abner stands beside his family garden that his Compassion centre helped his family start.

“With this irrigation system, we make small holes in the water pipes so that when we turn the faucet, we can control the amount of water that the seeds inside the greenhouse will receive,” Nuri says.

As a result of Nuri’s innovation, the team she was leading grew spinach, lettuce and cabbage. For her, this project has been a blessing. It’s given her the opportunity to teach her children to be resourceful business owners.

“I want to be a good example for [my children],” says Nuri. “I want them to see that change can happen if we trust in the Lord and put in the work, creativity and effort necessary to make it happen.”

Children of the Compassion centre look at the fruits and vegetables produced in their new gardens.

You can help empower even more communities to provide for their families with the gift of Vegetable Seeds.

Give Vegetable Seeds

Words by Laura Gwayumba and Junieth Dinarte.