24-year-old agricultural trainer Alejandro Alfaro explains why training young people in sustainable farming is so important in helping Nicaraguan communities face the impacts of climate change.
Q: What’s the Feeding the Next Generation project about?
Feeding the Next Generation is a project run by Nicaragua YMCA (Asociación Cristiana de Jóvenes (ACJ) Nicaragua) with support from Y Care International which consists of empowering and training young people specifically in agricultural activities and production processes, taking into account disaster risks, water and agricultural diversification.
An important element is teaching business skills and marketing products that people grow – that’s a new thing we’re teaching.
We are also empowering families to help others families so that the communities are stronger – this is very important.
Q: What is your favourite part of the project?
My favourite part of the project is the agriculture part because that’s my background. In Nicaragua people are accustomed to growing just one crop – there’s not a culture of crop diversification. People are not used to saving seeds for the next harvest.
I am excited as I will learn from other aspects of the project like disaster risk reduction for example, and business skills as well.
Q: How will climate change and disaster risks impact the agricultural part of the project?
I think disasters and climate change usually come from the fact that people have basically misused the land. I think we are one of the pioneer organisations focusing on this. I have seen the impact of disasters and climate change in the communities for the last seven years or so, and none of the organisations – not even the local government – is working on the topic related to disaster and climate risks and advocacy. They have it on their agendas but they haven’t yet carried out any concrete actions. I know for a fact that the people in the communities didn’t know about loss and things related to disaster and climate risks.
Q: Have the young people involved in the project been interested to learn about the effects of climate change?
We tell the young people, the families and the community leaders how important it is to be trained on disaster risk reduction in case of an emergency. We tell them that disasters can happen overnight. I have to say that not 100 per cent of young people have the same enthusiasm, but we’re working hard through the community leaders to influence everybody to be on the same page.
Q: You work with community leaders, local organisations and local governments as well as young people – how important is that for the project to be successful?
The people in Nicaragua are organised in committees and family committees, and those committees have lots of influence on other families. If we are away from those committees, we won’t be able to integrate other families into the projects that ACJ-YMCA is trying to implement. The same happens with the local government. We have to be united with them and work shoulder to shoulder to promote the common work and break down barriers.
Q: What do you like most about your job?
Everything! First, I love working with communities because I was born and raised in a community similar to these [remote rural communities]. I like community work. I like that ACJ-YMCA gave me the opportunity to be part of this and am very thankful to them.
I am grateful to Y Care International and the donors that support our project – the Big Lottery Fund (BLF).
I am thankful to be here, and in Nicaragua having a job is becoming more and more difficult. So I like it all! It is equally important to do the office and the field work.
In the end, what we want to accomplish is reaching the communities.