During every rainy season in Nicaragua (which is the summer in the States) comes a period of drought. For anywhere from two weeks to one month, what was once a steamy jungle shrivels into dusty shrubs. Doors close every afternoon to fend off the dust, despite the perpetual heat that funnels unchanging through the rotating fan. The earth begs for water, only to see it evaporate moments later. The sequía is here, and we must be careful with the plants.
The crops are in a delicate time. We planted just over 5 weeks ago. The seeds have timidly sprouted, young roots forging unsure paths. The drought threatens their survival. The earth seems to be working against us, allowing no reprieve from the searing sun, scorching the dirt dry.
But the women work tirelessly. Most water twice daily, meticulously coating their gardens with hose water at sun-up and sun-down. Watching them pour freely from their hose, I often hear the words strung together in one breath, Graciasadiostenemosagua. Thanks be to God we have water. This was not always the case.
Indeed we are in a delicate time. The seeds have already been planted. Now all we can do is hope the roots are strong enough, water them daily, and look forward to rain. All we can do is take strength from the work itself, to spend hours working in the garden sprinkling moist fertilizer around the base of each tomato seedling, only to see it dry to pale crumbles.
This work, though frustrating and tiring, yields quiet but important results. 14 days into the sequía, the crops are alive and strong. From the women's efforts, just under the surface of the soil the young roots are holding on. From their efforts, invisible to the eye above the surface, their pride is swelling. Changes are beginning to become apparent.
Beneranda is a preschool teacher in Chinandega. Soft and intelligent, she is easy to be with, offering a kind smile at my often incorrect Spanish. She’s one of the older women in our project, with only one teenage son in his 3rd year of highschool. It’s just the two of them living together, but she says she has virtually lived alone. He’s struggled with depression, and it takes its toll. He doesn’t communicate with her, accepting the food she makes but refusing to eat together. She’s trained as a counselor, but says she hasn’t been able to do anything to help him or their relationship.
When Beneranda started to participate in the gardens, her son took an interest in the work. He enjoyed working in her garden, fascinated by the new skills she was gaining from the trainings. She would come home from a training and he would ask her what she had learned before getting to work. As she’s whispering this story to us, he’s working diligently in the garden behind us, organizing metiliculous lines of soil to transplant the tomato crop. She’s crying as she tells us they eat dinner together now almost every night.
Beneranda’s story is one of the social and emotional benefits that we could not have foreseen or dreamed of. Amid these dry and dusty times, with the rain holding out against us, some things still seem grow.