Promoting School Gardens in Nicaragua

I never imagined that my colleague, Adolfo Reyes, head of the Bilwi Office, located on the Northern coast of Nicaragua, would grab a machete and gardening tools to “complement” his work with WFP. But he did just that, to prep the land for gardening right next to the WFP Office.

My memories of Adolfo are framed by his operational capacity, leading missions covering over 600 kilometers from the remote Nicaraguan Pacific to the vast plains and the coasts of the Caribbean Sea. WFP delivers much needed food to indigenous and Afro-descendant groups. These are the poorest and most vulnerable communities of the country. 

The Ministry of Education, with the support of WFP, is implementing school gardens as an educational tool that allows students to expand their knowledge on topics related to good nutrition. Fresh food consumption in schools is also encouraged to complement the daily school meals that students receive.

WFP Country Director, Anotonella D'Aprile, with the Vice Ministerof Education, Francis Díaz, delivering school garden supplies. 

Hailing from a family of farmers, Adolfo found the best way to show community members in the Caribbean town of Puerto Cabezas how to implement a school garden. How? By starting one himself. 

Leading By Example

There is little agricultural development on our multicultural Caribbean coast due to the acidic and unfertile soil and bad climatic conditions. In the communities, there are scarce and rudimentary agricultural tools because families do not have the habit of cultivating the land. But with the support of WFP, the Ministry of Education sent to the schools of Puerto Cabezas shovels, hoes, rakes, watering cans, wheelbarrows, pickaxes, and other gardening tools; as well as pumpkin seeds, pipian, watermelons, melons, sweet peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes and carrots to begin gardening.

The Ministry of Education’s staff provided horticultural training sessions to community leaders and members. “People were skeptical, they didn’t know how or where to begin. They didn’t trust the soil. They didn’t believe the gardens would be fruitful,” Adolfo told me later. With so much uncertainty, teachers and parents started to visit the WFP Bilwi Office seeking guidance. “I pondered on the best way to show them that not only would this work, it would be a success,” recalls Adolfo.

Tools in hand, Adolfo solicited the help of WFP Driver, Denis Duarte, together they started working on the vacant plot of land where mobile warehouses were installed. Two more co-workers, Erby Franklin and Selucia Levy, joined the initiative by watering and taking care of the plants cultivated by their colleagues. Soon, the team’s efforts showed the expected results: tomatoes, sweet peppers, watermelons and melons grew! Providing the much needed proof to the community.  

The success of Adolfo and the rest of the WFP Bilwi Office team was the needed motivation for the local community to start their school gardens. The fruits of their labor undeniable, as there is now 62 school gardens in the municipality of Puerto Calabazas.