In November 2007 I visited Puerto Morazan as a volunteer. One of the organisations I was most looking forward to meeting was the women’s shrimp farming co-operative, Lucrecia Lindo. I had heard that when they were set up in the eighties with support and funding from Blinc, they were the first women in the area to work in shrimping. Very quickly they became the most successful shrimp farmers in the area. I was hoping to learn about their enterprise and perhaps discuss ways that Blinc might be able to support them with diversifying their enterprise.
What I found was sixteen highly skilled and motivated women selling sweets and crisps from their front rooms. Their farm had been badly damaged by Hurricane Mitch which left a trail of devastation across Central America in 1998. With limited success they had tried to repair some of the walls and sluice gates after the hurricane, but their harvests were greatly reduced. In October of 2007, the whole north-western region of Nicaragua was subject to prolonged torrential rain which killed several people and destroyed large parts of the area’s infrastructure. The rains finished off the job that Mitch had started nine years before, and Lucrecia Lindo’s farm was left in tatters and unworkable.
I spent several days with the co-operative discussing what was needed to get the farm running again, costings for this, and what the long-term sustainability of the project was. The women of Lucrecia Lindo were far from despondent and defeated. They were full of ideas of how to get their project on its feet again and get back on with what they were good at, farming shrimp. What was most striking for me was how this project was so much bigger than just the sixteen women that made up the co-op. Between them they had over 90 dependents, young children and grandchildren that they wanted to provide a better future for. But furthermore, these sixteen women had been an inspiration to their community, they had proven that women can be successful entrepreneurs, and at the same time they had provided employment for other people in Puerto Morazan.
I returned to England with photos, testimonials and an outline of what Lucrecia Lindo needed in the way of funding and assistance from Blinc. Funds were raised by Blinc and Friends of Morazan, not least through the Copa Sandino and Copa Lucrecia Lindo football tournaments of 2008. Heavy machinery was hired in Puerto Morazan and the walls of the shrimp farm were rebuilt and compacted. The sluice gates were reconstructed. Shrimp lava was purchased and nurtured. And finally this year the women of Lucrecia Lindo were out again on their boat harvesting a successful crop of shrimp.
Their story has been printed in newspaper reports across Nicaragua. In the second poorest country in the Americas, success stories like this are sadly not commonplace. I think for a lot of people here in the UK our impression of Nicaragua is of a country still recovering from a decade of civil war, confronted by the reality of irreversible climate change and enduring a government that has attacked the rights of women. Whilst there is certainly truth in this impression, the country is also full of enterprising, dynamic people who are working together to build a better future. Thank you to all Blinc’s supporters who have helped the Lucrecia Lindo women’s co-operative do just that.