Still catching up. The following is taken from field notes on March 5, 2012.
There is so much water in the rainy season. Roads flood, water fills the quebradas and washes away roads and trails. So much of it could be captured, stored, diverted, retained to refill the aquifer. Last year’s efforts to repair and grade the roads and to build gutters and curbing have been undermined, apparently, by a strong rainy season. The road is nearly impassible in spots because of exposed rocky extrusions and ruts deep enough to conceal small children. And yet, the rainwater that was caught and stored during this time soon will be used up — well before the next rains come.
Clear-cutting the pine trees in northwest Nicaragua in the 1950s (by American and Cuban companies) has left the region a high mountain desert with annual flooding. The town where we spend our time, Ocotal, translates literally as pine tree and refers to the species that was abundant before the clear cutting. Some local citizens will share the irony of the name — if you are patient and encourage it. There are a few stands of pine now — mostly scrub — but the area is making at best a very, very slow recovery.
Over the last six years, we have seen the beginning of effective small-scale coffee planting. There are isolated farms that grow produce (pineapples, maize, coffee, mangoes) beyond subsistence. Plantains are increasing in number and produce.
In November, the mayor’s office (in Totagalpa, far removed from the daily lives of people in Cuje and Chaguite) partnered with an NGO to place rainwater catchment cisterns in each school in the region. The cisterns are 1000 liters. In Chaguite, the cistern diverts water from a formerly used cement container. The mayor suggested that the water could be used for a children’s garden at the schools — to improve nutrition. It is too small for that purpose and it is placed directly in the sun. The water will be too warm to use for watering or drinking, which in one sense is not too big a problem: the NGO folks didn’t provide a spigot or hose, or any way to extract water from the sealed cistern. The necessary parts were to be delivered in November. The cistern is full.