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Fair Trade Co-op calls for dialogue to end violence

News from Nicaragua | Thursday, 19 July 2018 |

The violence of road blocks has severely affected the livelihoods of small scale farmers.

The violence of road blocks has severely affected the livelihoods of small scale farmers.

Since 2002, NSC has worked with co-operatives in Nicaragua through promoting awareness of, and understanding between, Nicaraguan small scale farmers and UK Fair Trade activists.

One of these co-operatives is CECOCAFEN, an umbrella organisation based in the northern Nicaraguan Department of Matagalpa that brings together over 2,100 small scale farmers organised into eleven co-operatives. Their main source of income is coffee which is exported through Fair Trade markets and fruit and vegetables for family consumption and to sell locally.

Another important source of income was eco-tourism which contributed to environmental protection by providing families with extra income to invest in their communities and farms, enabling them to live more sustainably.

CECOCAFEN describes their perception of the social achievements of the Sandinista government, the impact of the current crisis on their livelihoods, and their hopes for the future.

What has been achieved under the Sandinista government?

*In terms of social wellbeing there has never before been a free basic health service; this service now includes some specialisms, increases in medical and tertiary personnel, health posts and hospitals in rural areas, community health care, pre and post-natal care for women and new born babies, and programmes of preventative medicine and treatment of infectious diseases.

* Education provision has been extended in cities and towns and even in small settlements, with more classrooms, schools, technical colleges and universities now accessible to poor families.

* The national road network is now properly paved and open all year round; the construction of bridges and sewerage systems has been extended including in our own area.

* As is the case over the whole country, nearly all the communities that are part of CECOCAFEN, even those who are in the remotest areas, have electricity. These are places where under previous governments getting mains electricity was beyond people’s wildest dreams.

* There has been peace and security in the countryside because of the work of the government and the police in controlling crime, principally theft. Measures have also been taken to prevent international drug cultivation and trafficking, something which differentiates us from our Central American neighbours and the Nicaragua of the past. All of this has helped us to improve and sustain our productivity.

l*There has been an opening up and growth of local businesses which has helped the families of the co-operatives and the communities.

What impact has the current crisis had on the farmers and their families?

Although most of the violence has been confined to the cities, the crisis is also having a dramatic impact on the livelihoods and wellbeing of the farmers and their families.

* This is a key time of the year in the coffee production cycle: the rainy season has begun and farmers have to manage the cultivation and fertilisation of the bushes as well as monitoring infestations of insects and diseases. If these activities are not carried out in a timely manner, it will mean a significant decline in production with a knock-on impact in subsequent years.

* Road blocks on the main roads and streets (see photo) are preventing the movement of staple foods and vegetables, this is affecting the supply of basic food stuffs and shortages are occurring. These road blocks have also become the focus of violent clashes and have affected rights of farmers to travel to sell their produce. There has also been damage to vehicles and ill treatment of the occupants.

* Farmers and their families are being forced to stay at home in their communities, a violation of their human right to free movement, to work and manage their affairs. The fear and uncertainty this creates has an impact on their psychological wellbeing. It also means that support staff are not able to reach farmers to provide advice to ensure a good harvest.

* The stifling of the economy has meant serious disruption in the functioning of banks, the commercial sector, government offices and services so that loans cannot processed. This means that farmers are not able to access resources essential to coffee production.

* The police are not as visible as before so crime has increased in both cities and the countryside.

* Because of the violence tourism has collapsed which means that eco-tourism programmes, an important source of income for some small farmers, are at a standstill.

Hopes for the future

‘We have faith in the efforts being made to encourage dialogue and understanding in the interests of the country’s wellbeing and the work being undertaken to ensure the functioning of government.’

‘We hope that the international community will be properly informed about events and that it will declare itself to be in favour of promoting the objectives of peace.’

‘In spite of the current damage and adverse prognosis, we in CECOCAFEN are continuing our work with families and their organisations at grassroots level to defend their right to life, to work, and to sustain themselves and their communities.’

Nicaragua Solidarity Campaign

7th July 2018