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Nicaragua & the coronavirus:the perspective of campesinas

News from Nicaragua | Thursday, 7 May 2020 |

Some of the 2,500 members of the Fundacion entre Mujeres (FEM)

Some of the 2,500 members of the Fundacion entre Mujeres (FEM)

On 23 April, Rita Clark-Gollub interviewed Diana Martínez, president of the Fundación Entre Mujeres (FEM) in rural Estelí in northern Nicaragua. The 2,500 women of the FEM work together to defend their rights and their health, and practice agroecology.

This is a summarised version of an article published by the Alliance for Global Justice (AFGJ) on 6 May, 2020 https://afgj.org/nicanotes-peasant-women-take-stance-of-dignity-in-face-of-crisis

On the challenges of confronting COVID-19 in rural communities many of which have no running water

‘We have the water trucks the government has been sending around, and plenty of handwashing stations. People are using masks, and in our meetings have social distance (both online and in-person with people spread apart).’

‘In the FEM communities we have some innovative solutions, such as a system with a bucket and rope for handwashing. We are also using our community radio program to reinforce the message about handwashing and keeping physical distance from people.’

On examples of how the government’s community health approach is co-ordinated from national to community level

‘We’ve had lots of visits to our homes from the community health brigades explaining the virus and what our communities are going to do to stop it. We’ve also been spending a lot of time educating our members about the new precautions and putting the new standards in place.’

‘People in developed countries cannot understand our community health model. The health system is coming to us. We will never let them privatize health again.’

On how critical it is to continue production plans and agroecology training

‘The members of the FEM have not stopped working: they can’t or they won’t have any food. Our production plan and our agroecology classes are going on as usual. Government funds were approved to give us new rainwater capture equipment. And the young men in Miyotl, an organization allied with the FEM, have been hard at work putting in new cisterns. ‘

On the dangers of visitors bringing the virus into rural communities

‘We were very worried about Nicaraguans coming home from Costa Rica during Holy Week …. But the Ministry of Health (MINSA) knew where these people would be visiting and they went and found them to screen them for illness. There were 64 visitors from Costa Rica in the village of Guasuyuca, (Estelí department). The MINSA folks came back again and again to check on them. Fortunately, none of them got sick. I am more impressed than ever with Nicaragua’s community health program, because it is coordinated from the central level and works right down to the very local level. ‘

On the agroecology programme and prospects for good harvests

‘We are having the hottest dry season in a long time, with temperatures over 100F, which we believe means there will be a good rainy season. We hope to have two good harvests …’

‘The family gardens have been helpful in terms of providing people with enough food: fifteen young women agroecology leaders/educators have been taking an on-line course with a agroecology professor based in Chiapas, Mexico and will report back on what they have learned.

‘Never before has the FEM been so well-endowed with crops/food! Now we can share with people in the city! City dwellers have looked up the FEM, and come seeking our guidance. They listen to our radio programme which gives lessons on soil improvement and how to keep a backyard vegetable garden.’

On distribution of honey and coffee

‘The work at Las Diosas processing plant in Estelí continues as usual. And the Ministry of the Family, Community, Cooperative, and Associative Economy keeps the FEM busy with fairs. The work selling honey and coffee never stops and has been very successful. ‘

On how life has changed due to the virus

‘People go out very little. If they do have to go somewhere, they wear facemasks, and wash their hands before entering any building and several times in-between. Those who can telework, do so. Some staff from the FEM headquarters are teleworking.’

On schools and universities

‘In the countryside, the children are going to school; in the city of Estelí, a lot of children are staying home. But university studies have been impacted most because that requires travel on public transportation. So even though classes are still (pretty much) in session, lots of students do not go because they are afraid to ride the buses. The young women in the FEM cannot follow their classes online because even if they had a computer available, they would not have internet. ‘

On the actions of the opposition and their international supporters

‘The hatred displayed by the opposition is visceral. Those people couldn’t take power in their attempted coup a couple of years ago, so they are now hoping this virus will do for them what they were unable to do. ‘

‘What [those people in the opposition] have always sought is to destroy the economy. Now they hope that Covid will finish the job for them. It’s true that it is going to be hard; we will probably have a recession. But the important thing is that we have all the basic foodstuffs. ‘

On building resilience, food sovereignty and our enemies

‘We Nicaraguans are not quite 100% food self-sufficient. But in the FEM we will do everything within our power to be as self-sufficient as we can so that the government does not need to give us aid and can give it to people who have greater needs than we have. That is what I am telling our members. ‘

‘What we can do in this crisis is not be a burden. If we are strong and healthy, using our bio-intensive gardens producing healthy food, we can boost our immune systems. We are taking a stance of dignity, being part of the solution. We will help Nicaragua however we can. ‘

‘Our enemy is the world economic order and the United States government that wants to crush us, along with Cuba and Venezuela. ‘