5-15-19  |  Shared Stories

The Mendez Family: Surviving Climate Change

BY: Edelsin Méndez

Higher temperatures and erratic rainfall are devastating the coffee crops of Nicaragua. A few years ago, the coffee harvest was down by more than fifty percent. This year, due to the socio-economic crisis in Nicaragua, and worsened by continued climate change, the coffee harvest is predicted to be the worst in years. This story is about one farming family, my own, and how we are trying to survive.

My parents own a small coffee farm on the side of the mountain. It’s been in our family for generations. It’s a long climb up from our house to the road but we’re used to it. Very few farmers own trucks, so walking long distances is what everyone does. It takes me an hour to walk to school and two hours to walk to church. Electricity hasn’t reached our community but we get by.

For generations, Nicaraguan farmers have relied on growing and selling coffee for their income. But rising temperatures can allow a fungus, called roya or coffee rust, to take over. Through Fabretto’s SAT program, I have acquired organic farming skills which my family and I put into practice at our coffee farm. My family is proud we are growing the finest coffee in the world.

Because our entire community is made up of farming families, our schools are closed during harvest time and the whole family will pitch in. I learned from a very young age to pick only the hard red coffee cherries. When enough beans are collected, the work of processing them begins. The outer red shell has to be separated from the white bean inside. Then the beans are washed clean. They are left to soak for a few days and are then dried in the sun. This is as far in the processing we will go. My father will deliver the filled bags to the 5 de Junio coffee cooperative in town, where the coffee will be further processed. There are one hundred and ten members of the coffee co-op. They are all facing the same difficulties as my family. That’s why we want to keep learning about climate change. Many farmers are aware of the problem, but not all of us are concerned. I talk about it all the time with my family and my close friends and have discussed solutions for the future. We really don’t want to see our region devastated by the consequences of climate change but we can’t act alone.

Climate change affects all farmers who practice subsistence farming in Nicaragua, including my own family. Our crops are my family’s main source of food and income. High temperatures and droughts constantly put our crops and lives at risk. I think it will take more families like mine to stop the disaster. But we’re getting ready. In the future, I think we will need to identify new types of coffee beans which may be resistant to the changes in temperatures and climate.

If I had the chance, I would tell people in Europe and North America that their impact on the planet has been devastating for Nicaraguan farming families. Although we are strong, we are truly struggling with the consequences of not only their actions but our own actions against the environment. Climate change affects everyone, but we, as farmers, are hit the hardest. I hope my story helps others to think about what they can do before it is too late to save our beautiful planet Earth.

Meet the writer:

Photo courtesy of BYKIDS

Edelsin was born on April 4th, 2003. She lives in the rural community of El Castillito, department of Madriz, Nicaragua. Her family practices subsistence farming, making a daily income of less than $2 a day.

Despite her living conditions, through Fabretto Children’s Foundation, Edelsin has had access to quality education, including agricultural technical courses which she puts into practice alongside her father. Edelsin is currently in 11th grade. This year, she will graduate from high school, something her parents were never able to accomplish.

In 2017, Edelsin was selected to participate in the first film for Season Two of FILMS BYKIDS, which was broadcasted on PBS. FILMS BYKIDS — a collaboration between THIRTEEN and the non-profit organization BYkids — gives voice to youth from around the world. The series pairs teenagers from diverse cultures with accomplished filmmakers to create short personal documentaries that educate and encourage understanding about global issues.

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