Jinotega is a friendly coffee town tucked in a valley between lush, green mountains in the north of Nicaragua, where hundreds of surrounding farms grow an astonishing 80% of the country’s coffee beans. I had the good fortune of visiting Jinotega last year for a trip to help launch a new photography project, Project MangoMundo.
Project MangoMundo traveled to Nicaragua to bring donated cameras and digital photography workshops to youth in the coffee cooperative communities. Upon arrival, we were greeted warmly by our host, Jairo Rivera, who is in charge of the youth program, Movimiento de Jovenes Ambientalistas, for the Society of Small Producers for Coffee Export (SOPPEXCCA).
SOPPEXCCA is an association of coffee cooperatives representing 650 farmers in the area. It has created various programs within the community to help support and improve the quality of life for the families of the farmers. Since 1999, SOPPEXCCA has been selling coffee to the international market. They are now an entirely Fair Trade Certified union of cooperatives.
We chatted with Jairo Rivero over café cortos at SOPPEXCCA’s cafe, and planned how the workshop would go for the next two days. We decided that the focus of the workshop would be community reporting—using photos and words to bring light to issues in the students’ communities.
In the town of Jinotega, there is a striking contrast between its natural surrounding beauty and its immense problem with trash contamination; sadly, the streets are filled with garbage. This issue was chosen by one group of students for their community reporting story. What I took from this visit to Jinotega was the importance of community voice. It was inspiring to see how these skills could give this group a creative and open outlet for expressing themselves and a platform to share significant concerns. Our next plan of action for Project MangoMundo is to host similar photography workshops for youth in San Francisco, California.
Project MangoMundo is supported by Fundación MangoMundo (mangomundo.org), a California non-profit that raises awareness of Latin American historical, cultural, and social issues through documentary film and photography. Their current focus is on Nicaragua. In addition to Project Mango Mundo, Fundación MangoMundo is in the process of making a documentary film about the Nicaraguan Solidarity movement in San Francisco.
The following is a story produced by Marlon Mairena, Everth R. Montenegro and Harris Ulises Lopez, three young community journalists in Jinotega.
The problem with the amount of trash in Jinotega is extremely important, but is mostly ignored by municipal organizations and offices.
It is a problem that needs to be fixed, because the trash now fills the streets of Jinotega. And amid the trash, there is food that begins to decompose, which creates a terrible odor and attracts flies and rodents.
The riverbeds are also flooded with trash. This causes a serious problem because all of the trash will go to the lake, which is a source of income and food for people who fish. The trash in the riverbeds also contaminates the water and creates many illnesses, especially for the children.
Cleaning the riverbeds is fundamental because the idea is that the cleanest city is not the one that is swept more but the one that is cleaned less.
It is necessary to correct the trash problems that exist in Jinotega and our communities because the mosquitoes in the riverbeds and other pests are sources of disease, which are difficult to alleviate, so we must put a stop to it now before they extend further.
An important recommendation is that we don’t continue to throw trash in the streets and riverbeds, and that we think of the future of the children who are still growing.
We can also request that the municipality do something, make a day of cleaning and create campaigns to bring awareness to the people to stop littering.
Nina Menconi is a San Francisco-based photographer, with interests in documentary and social-justice directed work, often focusing on Latin American populations and issues. She currently is co-owner of a small photo and video business in SF, Three Thirds Visual, and is the director of Project MangoMundo.