Leaders Have a Community Vision – 2019 Impact Report – La Venada, Nicaragua

These stories were originally featured in the 2019 Impact Report.

Antolín and Silvio are two leaders with a vision for La Venada and believe in improving the lives of everyone in their community.

A champion for clean water access in his community.

61-year-old Silvio Castro Villalobos is an acclaimed farmer and community leader who has lived in La Venada for 22 years with his partner and seven adult children. He has a reputation as an active and participatory community member and he has cared about water quality for a long time. His leadership in the water sector began when a non-governmental organization called the Water Sanitation and Community Organization Program (PASOC) contacted him to build the gravity aqueduct in his community in 2001.

Silvio was one of the first community leaders in La Venada to recognize the importance of improving the community’s water quality through chlorination and was instrumental in bringing safer drinking water to his community. In 2017, Silvio attended a series of seminars hosted by Self-Help International’s Clean Water Program Officer, Orlando Montiel Salas, about the importance of water quality and how the CTI-8 chlorinator could help improve water quality and community health. He invited Orlando to La Venada to test the quality of the community’s drinking water.

When Orlando came to test samples of the community’s water, he stopped by Silvio’s house and left a testing sample for Silvio to monitor. Silvio was able to see the change in the water sample and he was shocked to see the water sample turn dark and smelly. Silvio realized that even though the community’s water looked clear to the naked eye, the water sample test revealed that there was actually a lot of contamination.

It was an uphill battle to convince his neighbors who had been drinking raw water for 15 years that chlorination was necessary and that it would be worth it to their health to pay a bit more each month for chlorination. Yet Silvio persisted and convinced the community to begin chlorinating the water. Soon after, community members reported improved health thanks to the safer drinking water. Today, Silvio continues to serve as the president of La Venada’s Water and Sanitation Committee (CAPS), which is legally incorporated under Nicaraguan law. Silvio is a strong advocate for his community in both governmental and non-governmental spaces.

In his role as CAPS president, Silvio secures the chlorine tablets (typically from Self-Help), stores them safely, and applies them as needed to the chlorination dispenser in the water distribution basin. He regularly monitors chlorine measurements in the water and adjusts the level of chlorination accordingly to ensure that the entire community has access to safe drinking water.

A farmer leading the way for agricultural producers.

Antolín Aguirre Lira moved to La Venada at the age of 14 and has spent the past 40 years living there and building his excellent reputation in the community.

After completing his military service, Antolín and his wife had four children – two boys and two girls. He is proud of his childrens’ professional accomplishments – one is a nurse in San Carlos, another is an industrial engineer, the third is studying veterinary medicine, and the fourth is just beginning her studies in pharmaceuticals.

Antolín has always worked hard as a farmer to support his family’s well-being. He came in contact with Self-Help International when he was serving as an agricultural leader in La Venada and overseeing a bean seed bank of 56 other farmers. Today, Antolín is a member of Self-Help’s closest ally cooperative, la Cooperativa San Marcos y San Lucas R.L. de Los Chiles.

As a natural leader with strong community relationships, Antolín partnered with Self-Help and took the lead on organizing 35 farmers to establish demonstration plots. The farmers planted different maize varieties to learn which one adapted best to the local climate and to determine which pests and diseases the INTA-Nutrader variety of quality protein maize (QPM) was susceptible to so they can learn from one another and make more informed decisions about what to plant in the future.

Antolín also serves as a leader of nine rice producers in his community, overseeing their rice bank storage where 1,800 pounds of rice is stored. The rice consists of three varieties – INTA-L9 (rice biofortified with zinc), INTA-San Juan, and INTA-Dorado.

Antolín and the other rice producers have successfully increased the visibility and reputation of rice produced in Río San Juan rice due to their high yields. In fact, they compete nationally with other, more experienced rice producers, and credit their excellent rice production to their good agronomic practices and their years of agricultural experience. Antolín’s demonstrated leadership in rice production has made him even more loved in his community.