A story of hope, opportunity, and chlorine
As you approach the home of Petronilo López Díaz and his wife, Franseca, it is easy to tell from the colorful drawings that cover the house’s entrance and the many pictures that cover the walls that their family, education, and their children’s accomplishments are of the utmost importance.
It was his family and his inability to provide for their basic needs that pushed Petronilo beyond his comfort zone. “I’m going to tell you the truth,” he begins. “[Where we were before] we lived with a lot of difficulties… Sometimes we had work and sometimes we didn’t.”
Without steady work and his own land, Petronilo felt powerless to change his family’s situation. “I didn’t think about the future,” he confesses. “I didn’t think about how to get ahead because I didn’t have anyone to support me.”
Petronilo’s life changed 11 years ago when a friend of his became a member of El Edén, an Agros community located in northern Nicaragua. When Petronilo saw his friend’s success, he asked if he and his family could join the village as well. Unfortunately, the village was full. But Petronilo was determined. His friend, who was the village president at the time, suggested that he start his own village. “He told me, ‘organize a new group, find 30 members and I’ll talk to the people at Agros to see if they can help you start a new [village],’” remembers Petronilo.
Petronilo found the interested families and nine years ago Agros gave him the good news that they had located a piece of land. The bad news was it was far from where they were living, which meant they would have to move. But this didn’t stop Petronilo. He remembers telling the Agros staff, “What I want is land to work so that I can have a little better life with my family…”
Petronilo and his family of 9 were among the founding members of Agros’ San José community, in northern Nicaragua. Life in San José is better, but it has not been easy. Like Petronilo, many families came searching for a better future. They brought with them their few belongings, and what knowledge and experience they had. And although Petronilo had worked in agriculture his whole life, he didn’t know how to cultivate land properly. “I just used the machete to cut grass and do a few other odd jobs,” he recalls, grateful that Agros not only gave him access to land but also helped him learn, with the support of the agricultural technicians, how to maximize his land. “Here, I have learned everything,” he says. “[Even] how to grow vegetables,” he adds, with a broad smile.
Petronilo is proud of what he and his family have accomplished. Today, he has a new purpose in life. Instead of just working to survive, he is working so his family can thrive. “Here, we always have work to do… we have enough food to eat and are able to meet our basic needs,” he says. “I cultivate the land. I work hard [because] with God’s help I want to pay for this land so that my children can stay here and they can have this land,” he says. To date, Petronilo has paid $2,865 toward his land loan.
Even though things are better for Petronilo and many other farmers in San José, he is aware that there is still a lot of work to be done. “[Access to water] is the biggest problem we have in our community,” he says frankly. “We have to bring water from a long way away and there are only three water points in the community, for 29 families,” he explains, noting that the women and children spend a considerable amount of their time and energy transporting water to their homes.
Access to water isn’t the only issue. “When we tested the water we learned that the water we drink is contaminated,” he adds. And although Agros health staff taught Petronilo and the community how to purify the water with chlorine tablets, it has been an uphill battle for the families to implement this practice. “In the beginning, every change is difficult,” he says. “Some say: ‘I have never drank water with chlorine,’… [The chlorine] makes the water taste different.”
Petronilo’s wife Franseca wasn’t on board with chlorinated water to begin with either, but since learning about water quality and how it affects health and hygiene, she’s now a strong advocate for clean water. “I demand that [my family] drink the chlorinated water,” she says. “I have seen the difference [it makes]. In other families [where they don’t chlorinate the water], their children are sick with diarrhea and vomit much more,” she says. “I tell [other moms] that they need to chlorinate the water,” she says.
Franseca enjoys a glass of freshly-chlorinated water.
A very involved family, Petronilo is also the leader of the local congregation. He feels a special affinity for the parable of the talents, drawing the parallel between his own experience and that of the farmers in the story, noting that his land is like the five talents. His goal is to work hard and multiply the opportunities he has been given.
“I feel grateful; grateful to God and grateful to Agros International because they supported us,” he says. “Today my life is very different…. [Before] I didn’t think about the future, but now I do,” he says with a smile.
As November is coming to an end, we'd like to thank you for being part of our Thanks-for-Giving 2016 campaign. We hope you've enjoyed our moments of gratitude and thanks! Again, we appreciate each and every one of you, what you bring to Agros, and the part you play in our mission and story. Happy Holidays from the Agros family!