The ‘Agrosolar’ project, funded by the British embassy, has begun to pump water to irrigate crops right at the start of Nicaragua’s dry season.
El Timal is in the almost forgotten area between Nicaragua’s two large lakes, only about 20km from the international airport but with practically no transport connections to the nearest town. Into this featureless, windy zone, families were relocated when the US-sponsored contra war ended in Nicaragua in 1990. Among these is a community of some 20 families in an area known as Cuadrante 81. All were relocated here from Northern Nicaragua, all were families of ‘contra’ soldiers, and they were each allocated 3.5 hectares of land on an old sugar farm confiscated during the revolution.
A partnership between the local organisation ADIC Masaya, the Leicester Masaya Link Group and the British Embassy has allowed this small community to make proper use of the well which used to serve the long-gone irrigation system for the sugar plantation. The well has a narrow bore which only allows a small bucket of water to be drawn – enough for drinking and a shower (first photo) – but inadequate for irrigating crops without a pumping system, in a zone remote from the electricity grid. As a first step in the project, a pair of solar panels was installed (second photo) to drive a pump inserted into the well. This feeds a large header tank (third photo) that not only gives the community a 24-hour water supply but will also enable ADIC to install an irrigation scheme for six of the families. They’ve taken delivery of fruit trees (fourth photo) which are now planted out and should be producing fruit within 2-3 years.
The whole project is rather expensive in terms of cost per head – the grant from the embassy is £9,000 – but should transform the lives of this very isolated and poor community. Some of the houses already have solar-powered electricity systems through ‘Proyecto Sol’, but a constant water supply will help all twenty families and should enable them to produce more crops and augment their incomes.
ADIC is committed to following up the project over the coming year and the ambassador Chris Campbell (far right in the third photo) has also said that the embassy will return to check how things are going in early 2016. What happens between now and then depends very much on the ability of this community to work together and make the most of the new resource it now has.