Thursday, February 23, 2012

A Day in the life of a Farmer to Farmer Volunteer: Nicaragua Solar Food Dryer Assignment

Youth at PIO XII helping to construct solar food dryer
Farmer to Farmer volunteer, Ralph Bucca,  recently returned from Nicaragua where he worked with four different horticultural host organizations which included Pio XII and El Portio. These local organizations have previously hosted other Farmer to Farmer volunteers that provided their technical assistance in the areas of organic food practices and pest management. Mr. Bucca's assignment used the healthy crops being produced to create low cost solar food dryers and workshops on food safety. The host organizations were enthusiastic about building the dryers and were quite anxious to use them. Following is an excerpt of Mr. Bucca's day to day accounts of his assigment in Nicaragua:

Sunday, January 22, 2012
Left DCA bound for Houston, 2pm on a drizzly day. Arrived in Managua at 9:30 PM. It’s good to be back in Central America on a warm January night.

Elisa and Taty helping with the solar food dryer construction
Monday, January 23, 2012
After a fine hotel breakfast, was picked up by Elisa, Partners of the Americas' field officer, and my driver and translator for the assignment. After the initial briefing and lunch at a Chinese restaurant we started shopping for the solar dryer parts. First went to the hardware stores and then lumber yards where we ordered the parts to be pre-cut to my instructions for three dryers, and to be picked up tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012
Spent most of the day hanging out at two lumber yards, overseeing the pieces being cut up to make 3 kits. Cutting the plywood pieces for the frame, the other cut were for all the rails and framing. I also had them bundle the pieces up into three kits; will make it easier at assembly time. Also bought the rest of the screening material should have enough parts now. Will be heading out tomorrow to Pio X11 to build the first one. We will also be accompanied by Taty a young UCA Nica graduate to be my interpreter. Went to a local Mexican restaurant for some fine pollo mole, using my best Spanglish. Just another rotten day in the tropics.
Working at PIO XII

Wednesday, January 25, 2012
A very full day. Went to an organic farm at PIO XII, 1.5 hrs.From Managua. Spent the whole day checking out their various crops they grow, and their pet iguana. We then began building most of the solar dryer, with the assistance of the farmers and Taty who I introduced to such tools as a hammer, saw and staple gun. She was an enthusiastic apprentice. We got about 2/3 done, but then it got too dark to work. Hit a local Nica rest stop on the way back for some traditional chow. It was a long but eventful day.

Posing with newly constructed solar oven
Thursday, January 26, 2012
Went back to farm at Pio X11, finished building dryer and taught food processing. They are trying different vegetables, fruits and herbs.

Friday, January 27, 2012
Long drive to Camoapa, feeling quite miserable, but the show must go on. Farm is at 900 meters, in the mountains. Got the usual walk about the farm, but feeling too sickly to enjoy it. Managed to build the dryer in 3.5 hours. Record time, with many student workers. Directed the process, while hacking and coughing. Got some chicken soup for lunch. We sat on the HI way for 2 long hours due to an unexplained accident. Finally got to Granada at 8pm. staying at Kekochi, a pleasant Inn. 

Local women asisting with the solar oven construction
Tuesday January 31
Surprisingly, Hotel Mercedes offered a decent breakfast, a cooked to order omelet. Left 8 AM and headed north in the mountains, sparcely populated, my kind of place. Booked a room in the Hotel Esquipulas, same name as the town. Picked up one of our hosts and then we headed deeper into the mountains and elevation. Climbing to the top of a ridge to our destination.

We were greeted by about 15 women and children, ready for action. After the customary farm inspection of various crops in small plots, we got started on solar food dryer #3. Many pitched in, including the grannies, who could swing a hammer with the best of them. Had just enough supplies to complete it. They had the trays ready with fruits and veggies to dry. Then rolled back down to town 5pm. I got a decent meal in the only known rest in town, and walked back to hotel, in between t-storms. Don’t expect electricity to last much longer, got flashlight nearby.
Women shown inserting food tray with vegetables and fruits

Wednesday Feb 1
Left at 8 AM to Visit Site #1, PIO XII to check on progress. The woman had dried, labeled and packaged all the items, quite impressive. Discussed winemaking and vinegar making then headed back to Managua. Will camp out back at Hotel Express.

Thursday Feb 2
Went to check out a newly built solar food dryer, in Fupade, about 1.5 hrs. away. Gave them advice on getting started and various items to be processed. They wanted me to return I told them, perhaps in the late fall. Went back to office to write the report and cover sheet. 

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