The morning began with a craze of last minute preparations for the big seed exchange that has been in preparation for months. It’s going to become an annual event in line with neighborday to help connect the community and as a platform to teach rural farmers about permaculture design and a more sustainable future for their farms. I am currently volunteering at Project Bona Fide which is an experimental permaculture farm that works with the community of Balgue on Isla de Ometepe in Nicaragua. Their vision is to promote food sovereignty locally and regionally by serving as an example farm of what’s possible. The seed exchange was set at the Mano Amiga Community Center which is a project of Bona Fide.  

The day before we had hauled down over 300 plants, nearly 1000 seeds and had been cooking and dehydrating deliciously nutritious food for sampling. There were people present from the community of Balgue as well as other parts of the island, participants included aspiring and current local farmers, lots of children from town, families, volunteers, transient citizens, word travelers and the pinatas. Even though we might not all be living here in Balgue, we’re all still neighbors. As we were setting up the tables with plants, seeds and food everyone was bustling around mingling and enjoying the sun.

The morning began with an extremely informative talk by Nevis, a seasoned farmer that has been working on the Bona Fide farm for eight years. He talked about the ideas of permaculture and what it means to regenerate soil and grow more than just rice and beans on your land. People were fascinated with what he had to say and were asking lots of questions. Nevis is a native of Balgue and has lived here all his life. He loves teaching and sharing and is an essential part of the Bona Fide team. This day, Nevis helped serve as a cultural bridge between the seemingly crazy hippi ways of permaculture and real Nicaraguan farming. Many global development organizations face cultural challenges and Bona Fide is no exception. The farming methods being posited are radically different from what your typical Balgue farmer has done for generations and it can be really tough to get through in a way that’s meaningful and lasting. It’s an ongoing challenge that Bona Fide continues to rise with and learn from.

Bona Fide also does a lot of community work with educating kids about nutrition, planting seeds for future generations. There were many kids present from the community including kids that are part of Café Infantil which is a nutritional program aimed at addressing vitamin, mineral and protein deficiencies in children during peak mental and physical development stages. The program supports 70 children aged between three and six years old with a daily serving of fresh milk, eggs, multivitamins, tooth brushing and sanitation education.

The kids (as well as adults) were fascinated with all of the different foods we had brought for sampling. There was a hummus made from jackfruit seeds, jackfruit chutney, curried jackfruit stir fry (who knew you could make so many different things out of jackfruit?), sweet and savory sorghum tortillas, dehydrated fruits and a highly nutritious moringa salad. At first the kids were hesitant and shy to try all of these things that are radically different from their normal diet, but it wasn’t long until they were saying things like “ensalada es mi favorito!” It was really inspiring to witness the change and think about the possibilities for future generations. Investing in educating kids might not reap the fastest impact, but it will be an impact that will last generations. Bona Fide is currently piloting a new project where they’re giving farm tours to primary and secondary school students every Saturday.

There were lots of other activities and games we played with the kids including sack races, musical chairs and face painting. The community center was filled with the sound of children laughing the whole day and it was the perfect sound for neighborday.

We also traded nearly all of the 250+ plants and hundreds of seeds with people in the community. Each plant came complete with growing instructions and discussions about the values of each herb or tree with bona fide people. The community went home with a more diverse range of crops to grow in their farms and we had the opportunity to share a fresh perspective of agriculture.

The day concluded with a good ‘ole piñata bashing. All in all, I’d say it was a successful neighborday.