May is one of the happiest months in the countryside. Farmers gather their tools and begin preparing the land for cultivation. When the rain arrives, the planting begins and a new hope blooms. (Copyright:WFP/Sabrina Quezada Ardila)
Located in the mountains of northern Nicaragua, Wiwili is a small agricultural community. Winding around the outskirts of town, one finds what remains of the Coco (Segovia) River. In the summer months, it is nearly dry. At noon, although the thermometer reads 33°C (91°F), the temperature feels closer to 35° or 36°C (95-97°F).
I fight against the intense heat and resulting drowsiness, while drops of sweat slide down my face. Getting to Wiwili takes more than six hours from the capital city of Managua, time spent primarily on a narrow dirt road. A large cloud of dust is ever-present, penetrating through the cracks of our all-terrain vehicle.
We’ve come to Wiwili to participate in a meeting with small farmers from the "La Union" cooperative. The plan is to discuss the outcomes and successes of the World Food Programme’s P4P project or "Purchases for Progress". Cooperative members have dedicated themselves to harvesting basic grains, such as corn, beans, and rice.
P4P has given these farmers the opportunity to access credit for purchasing seeds, fertilizers, and other agricultural instruments and tools. They have learned new methods for planting and cultivation and have improved the conditions for storing their grain.
As I sit down to chat with Maria Luisa Blandon and Silvio Benavidez, the first topic of conversation is the intense heat. Silvio has a good explanation. "It’s going to rain soon," he tells me. I recall the news I recently heard on the radio that "according to experts at the Nicaraguan Institute of Territorial Studies, the rain will come after the 20 May."
"This year rains will begin early," continues Silvio. "How do you know?" I ask. I also remember hearing once that climate change has confused many farmers, who no longer know how to read the signs of the approaching rainy season, signs that have historically guided them to begin the planting.
Preparing the land
Maria Luisa assures us that the land is prepared for the planting of the corn. "I’m only waiting for two strong rainstorms, and then I’ll begin planting," she tells me. "This is a happy season for farmers, especially because P4P guarantees access to supplies."
Silvio, who promotes the use of the methods he learned through P4P in his community, is sure that the two small showers that fell a few days ago in various areas of the country are an irrefutable sign that rains will begin within the first or second week of May. "This rainy season is early", he assures me. "I know it".
The farmers are clearing the land, working with their cooperative to have access to supplies, and beginning a training cycle for post-harvest operations. This training is financed by P4P and other local partners.
Be it the first or fourth week of May, the planting will not begin until the rain arrives. At that time, with hopes of obtaining a harvest sufficient to feed their families and sell what remains at a fair price, the farmers will begin a new cycle. With the arrival of rains and the preparation of the land, the heat will finally come to an end!