Freddy Torrez stands in his field, resting for a moment on his hoe. Under his wellies is soft, tilled earth where Freddy will soon plant different vegetable seeds. The young farmer is anxious for the harvest. Cultivating vegetables is a novelty for him.
Year in, and year out – only maize and beans
Until recently, on Freddy’s and his neighbours’ fields in the department of Matagalpa, Nicaragua, only maize and beans were growing. The families survived for the whole year almost exclusively on cereal with refried beans. Malnutrition and monotony on the plate were normal. What the families harvested on their maximum two hectares of land was not enough to feed everyone, let alone to supplement their income by selling produce. 40 per cent of the people in Matagalpa live on less than two US dollars per day; 10 per cent don’t even have that.
Virtually no prospects, few happy endings
The lack of prospects and high unemployment hit the young people particularly hard. They scarcely have any opportunities to make an independent income and break free of the parental home. Many of them scrape together their money to go find work in the cities or in the wealthier neighbouring country, Costa Rica, on construction sites, in a factory or as a home help. But happy endings are few and far between.
Youth organisations prove their worth
SWISSAID therefore works in Matagalpa with youth organisations to help young adults aged 15 to 28 to establish a livelihood in their home town. To date, 1,200 youngsters have received help. The members of the organisations can collectively complete further training in new agricultural technology, apply for scholarships or set up a small credit fund as start-up assistance for their own business. The youngsters organise themselves independently – the principle is “helping people to help themselves”. For example, 290 young people – 75 of them women – attended an agricultural course during the last project phase and afterwards passed on their knowledge to their peers. In addition, after completing the course they receive loans at a fair rate to purchase animals (e.g. for a cow in calf), plants, machines (e.g. a centrifuge for honey production), tools or building materials.
Discussions without taboos
The organisations have considerable social status in the villages where there are neither youth clubs nor secondary schools. Young people can interact and discuss ‘burning issues – domestic violence, teenage pregnancies, alcohol abuse, HIV, the lack of political co-determination. The young adults are dealing with some tough problems. They can speak about their problems in moderated discussions: there are no taboos. At the same time, in discussion sessions they learn basic facts about healthcare and legal rights which boost their self-confidence.
Eight to ten years’ support
SWISSAID generally supports the youth organisations for eight to ten years until they can stand on their own two feet. Of course, there is no shortage of new members. Sister organisations often emerge in neighbouring villages; in the early stages they are again supported by SWISSAID. Meanwhile, SWISSAID has established an excellent reputation in the region for successful measures supporting young people.
Click on our photo gallery to see the reality of how SWISSAID comes to the aid of young adults in Matagalpa.
- Project code: NC 02/15/03
- Duration: 19 mois
- Costs: Fr. 142'992
- Number of direct beneficiaries: 1200 young men and women in 47 villages