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Climate Change Impedes Progress

Our partners at Project Gettysburg-León (PGL) have written an article about climate change and its impacts on progress. (This article also appeared in The Gettysburg Times)

On Friday, the 193 countries of the United Nation unanimously adopted a set of Sustainable Development Goals designed to eliminate poverty, reduce infectious disease, and reverse the negative effects of climate change in the next 15 years. “Many of these goals address the challenges we are facing in our work through Project Gettysburg-León,” said Dave Crowner, Co-President of Project Gettysburg-León (PGL). PGL is a sister city project dedicated to cross-cultural learning and poverty alleviation in some of the poorest communities in Nicaragua.

A key point from the United Nation’s report states that, “Climate change is one of the greatest challenges of our time and its adverse impacts undermine the ability of all countries to achieve sustainable development.” For many years PGL has worked in the rural agricultural community of Talolinga, which has been hit particularly hard by the effects of climate change. “Over the years we have implemented dozens of projects, from patio gardens and grain silos to a large scale community wash station,” notes Crowner. “These projects have significantly improved the quality of life in Talolinga where people live on less than two dollars per day.” However, the effects of climate change are quickly reversing these advancements.

Over the last three years Talolinga has suffered from a severe drought that has significantly reduced their agricultural production. Four years ago, PGL partnered with the Young Grower Alliance of Adams County to sponsor a scholarship program for young people of Talolinga to study agriculture at the university level. “The goal of the scholarship program is for the scholars to learn new and sustainable agricultural techniques and bring them back to their communities,” explains Yessica Holguin, PGL Country Director. “While many agricultural communities in Nicaragua began to feel the effects of the drought last year and the year before, the scholars have helped Talolinga better manage the conditions.”

“Traditionally, the rains come in May,” explains Edward Andino, one of the scholars. “Two years ago, they did not come until July, and last year in August. This year it rained for a few days in May and the people thought we had returned to normal so they planted their crops.” Unfortunately, the rains did not sustain and all those who planted lost their crops and valuable seeds. “We still had faith that the rains would come, so we worked with the scholars to create a seed bank for those farmers who lost their seeds,” explains Holguin. “But, it’s now September and the rains still haven’t come, so we have not been able to implement the seed bank project.”

“At least we have the grain silos here in Talolinga,” notes Andino, “so we have beans for a couple more months.” However, the situation in Talolinga is beginning to look dim. The local newspaper reports that this is the worst drought in more than 50 years. Nicaraguan government agencies are ramping up to begin delivering emergency food supplies to those communities hardest hit.

“Little rain might be our new reality so we will have to learn how to adapt,” explains Andino. “The other scholars and I are experimenting with drought resistant seeds, and researching water harvesting and irrigation systems. Together, with PGL, we believe we can find solutions to these challenges.”

This roll up your sleeves up attitude is the essential message of the United Nations goals. The report opens with the statement, “This Agenda is a plan of action for people, planet and prosperity.” “PGL is not a big organization with a lot of money,” says Crowner, “but we are doing our part, and it’s nice to know that we are not in it alone.”

If you would like to get involved with PGL or visit Nicaragua on a PGL Delegation please contact Yessica Holguin at yholguin@gettysburg-leon.org.

~ By Yessica Holguin and Carlos Valverde