Building Resilience

Lesbia Alvarado, Agroforestry director
Lesbia Alvarado, Agroforestry director

An interview with ViviendasLeón's agroforestry director

León, Nicaragua

Nicaraguan Health authorities have reported a total of 2,519 positive cases and 74 deaths. However, government reports lack details about which department or municipalities are most affected by the pandemic, nor do they share how many tests have been conducted. ViviendasLeón Agroforestry Director Lesbia Alvarado, shares how the pandemic has affected her work and personal life in Nicaragua.

“COVID has had a great impact on my work because a big part of what I do is supervising the family farms. It is necessary to walk in the [farms] because you are seeing the problems that arise in each [plot] and provide [the participant] answers to their [farming] problems and needs. In addition to sharing conversations with families, [one listens] to them [and] talks about [the] problem to see if you can give them advice.”

“Personally, [COVID] has affected me a lot. It is something I have never seen. I fear for the life of my family because my husband's work is risky. He visits the municipalities of León and I fear that at any time he could be infected and [that will] affect me or my children. [COVID] has brought [on some] family challenges.”

As Lesbia eluded to, the Nicaraguan government declared that there will not be an order of quarantine nor have they followed the World Health Organization recommendations of social distancing to prevent the spread of the COVID-19. There has not been a closure of borders, nonessential activities, or classes. Instead, the government encourages attendance at big events such as fairs, festivals, and pro-government rallies.

In the midst of all this uncertainty, resilience plays a key role in uplifting community members. Lesbia explains how she visualizes resilience and how it has played an active role in her life during this time.

“Well, I think from a very young age I have been practicing resilience. I’ve had to face many challenges in my life and I think I have managed to maintain a fairly strong balance in all situations.”

“At first I felt like I was short of breath and [thought] that I had COVID, but I managed to overcome it by not listening to several false and scandalous news articles because that is what makes you sick the most. Another thing, I have sought stability for my children because I am the one who has to encourage them so that they do not get traumatized and so that we can continue living.”

Since the spread of the virus started, large businesses have closed and people have stopped going out which has led to fewer customers in stores. Small businesses see the need to stay open because owners depend on local customers for their business and for the sake of their survival. Lesbia shares how she and others help inform families to prepare for the effects that the pandemic may leave on the economy.

“Since COVID started, we began to listen to the news about how this was going to affect the worldwide economy. We have been talking to families about the importance of growing food because of this impending economic crisis. There will not be work available, therefore they have to work their family farms with 100% effort and diversify [their harvest] with different types of vegetables.

Describing the issues rural families face, Lesbia says “families are very nervous. They want this [pandemic] to end quickly. They see that access to their basic food needs is getting more expensive every day. The families were grateful that ViviendasLeón helped them with masks because in the local health center they would not be allowed to enter if they were not wearing a mask.”

In an effort to support community members, ViviendasLeón partnered with Empower Nicaragua’s sewing team and teen mentors in León. They are producing and selling cloth masks and face shields for neighboring communities. The team is currently taking orders for communities and organizations. To help communities through the spread of COVID-19, ViviendasLeón placed an order of over 200 masks for community members in Goyena and Trolio and began its distribution in late June. ViviendasLeón continues to support community members in Nicaragua by providing information and face masks through the pandemic.

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