Smallholder farming creates family stability: José Salazar

José Salazar's Story
Hurricane Mitch slammed into the Caribbean coast of Central America in October of 1998, leaving a trail of destruction and millions of lives forever changed. The storm remains the second deadliest Atlantic hurricane on record, causing over 11,000 fatalities. Despite never hitting Nicaragua, Hurricane Mitch caused extensive flooding, directly affecting 2 million Nicaraguans. Goyena community member Jose Salazar was one of them: “Hurricane Mitch hit Nicaragua and caused families and communities west of the city of León a lot of pain, especially in the rural community of Goyena,” he remembers. “For days, the surrounding rivers overflowed and flooded nearby land causing the loss of human life, and severe damage to property.”

Now, Jose is 72. He was raised in the municipality of Quezalguaque, near León, in a poor family, of which he says “We found ourselves in the difficult situation of being temporary agricultural workers during the harvest season, moving from one farm to another. Though this work was difficult, it guaranteed my family food to eat.” Jose was unable to attend school, as he was responsible for helping out with his siblings and father. “As a young man, I married my wife, Gumelcinda Laínez, who I’ve been married to for over 25 years,” he says. The couple went on to have four children and settled in the rural community of Goyena.

In 2012, ViviendasLeon came to his community. He decided to attend a meeting after seeing the organization collect diagnostic information in his community. At the meeting, VL provided an overview of  their Human Capacity Training (HCT) programs, which piqued Jose’s interest. “I really liked the topics that the training was going to cover, like gender, human rights, and community empowerment,” he says of the meeting. After completing HCT, Jose participated in another VL project that built on the skills obtained through HCT, the Family Farming Program. The program develops and improves existing farming plots that provide families with healthy food and economic opportunity, as surplus produce can be sold. “It is through VL’s family farming program that I fell in love with the organization...and where they became a part of my family!” Jose says about his experience.

Now, Jose’s family has a constant source of healthy food. The family now cultivates a wide variety of produce, including tomatoes, papayas, yucca, and bananas. With technical assistance from VL, Jose’s family farm produces food free from chemicals. Recently, the farm has grown to include fruit trees, as part of VL’s fruit tree initiative. Fruit trees are a natural fit for the Family Farming Program, as they provide continuous fruit, rather than one harvest a year. In a wider ecological sense, fruit trees contribute to biodiversity and combat deforestation, a problem impacting many Nicaraguans in rural communities dependent on agriculture.

Jose is grateful to VL for their contributions, as he says “I’d like to thank ViviendasLeón from the bottom of my heart for bringing much needed hope to the rural communities that need it.” He is thankful to God as well: “At my old age, I am happy to say that I live a much calmer life that I share with my family at home and my brothers in my church community.”