This was one of the BEST Strong Harvest trips ever!  In early December, we (SHI founders Rick and Jeri, and board member Sue Ellen) headed back to Nicaragua, partnering with Leader a Lider (Leader to Leader) to provide Moringa Peer Educator training in two very different places – each with their own strengths and unique challenges.  The first was the remote village of El Zapote and the second was the bustling town of Granada.  For me (Jeri), these trainings and new relationships were some of the most impacting experiences I’ve had since we founded Strong Harvest four years ago.

In El Zapote the people were kind, funny, and generous. We stayed in the home of a single mother, Mariella, and her daughters, Marciela and Brenda. Their home was near the village center and so they had electricity, but no running water, or indoor facilities. The floor was made of dirt and the kitchen was open-air with a traditional wood-burning cook stove made out of mud, from which Mariella produced simple, delicious meals.

In the evenings, when we were finished with the trainings, we thoroughly enjoyed our time with Mariella and her daughters. Sue Ellen had brought ping pong supplies, which we set up on the dining table and had rousing matches. We also regaled each other with stories of how we got our biggest scars and acted out dramatic occurrences in our lives – such as when an angry bull nearly charged us on a mountain trail earlier that day! As you can imagine, doing all of these things in broken English and Spanish produced a lot of laughter and friendship!

Ping Pong

The ping pong championships of El Zapote!


Storytelling in a language in which you’re not fluent is a great way to get the laughter started.
José, with Leader to Leader, was able to take us to his parent’s home outside of the village. They are in their 80s and live in a traditional wood home with a dirt floor and no electricity or running water. We were welcomed with lunch, singing, a piñata for the children, and a sermon for the adults. What a blessing it was to be in their home!

José’s Parent's Home

A 45-minute hike up the mountain from the village.

The Band

It was so fun to have live music in the middle of the forest!

The Piñata

What’s a party in Nicaragua without a piñata?
El Zapote, near the Honduran border, is set in a beautiful forested area in the mountains boasting live volcanoes and trees that are dripping with tropical flowers and vines. Despite the beauty, the people are weather-dependent farmers who struggle with health issues due to the lack of a consistent source of nutritious food and so they were anxious to learn about moringa. Some people had planted moringa in anticipation of our arrival and others already had it growing at their homes, but had no idea that they had a treasure-trove of nutrition right at their fingertips.
The two-day Strong Harvest Peer Educator training was held in the local primary school that had four classrooms in various states of disrepair. We had 20 participants who arrived from all over the area.  The group was made up of farmers, members of the local women’s agricultural co-op, a midwife, a shopkeeper, and a social worker.
While José provided translation for Rick and I during the seminar, Lesly, our Nicaraguan Country Coordinator, translated for Sue Ellen in our first-ever children’s program (more about that in an upcoming blog). This training was especially meaningful for José as he was born and raised in El Zapote, but has been living in the U.S. for the past 13 years. He was thrilled to be able to bring sustainable resources back to his home village. We were able to provide our normal classroom training and also had the opportunity to hike over the mountain to Oscar and Amparo’s home (José’s brother and sister-in-law), where they had planted moringa seedlings and our new Peer Educators were able to practice planting trees at his farm.

José with Some of the Guys

José (in the middle) is happy to see his brother Oscar again (2nd from left) and visit his farm.

Intensive Moringa Planting

Fresh moringa leaves will always be in reach of Oscar and Amparo’s kitchen.

The best dessert ever!

Amparo (on the right – she’s the president of the women’s agricultural co-op) made a traditional dessert for us and Mary helped her serve it up.  It’s made from milk, corn, cinnamon, and sugar.
Rick will be returning to El Zapote in April and will follow up with those we trained to see if people are beginning to eat moringa, how their trees are doing, and also to test a functionalized sand (crushed moringa seed and sand) water filtration system made with locally sourced clay pots. Stay tuned for the continuing story of Strong Harvest in El Zapote . . .