Dartford man learns from Nicaraguan expedition
PUBLISHED: 11:23 22 March 2013 | UPDATED: 11:23 22 March 2013
No internet, no flushing water, no electricity, no showers or baths and certainly no mobile phones - this was not enough to put Dartford's David Kaye off trekking into the rainforest in Nicaragua.
For some this would be a nightmare, but spending time in a remote rainforest in the country’s Achuapa region was the experience of a lifetime for 26-year-old David who spent three months there at the end of last year.
The East Hill resident went on the expedition to work on sustainability and climate change projects, leading a team from the International Citizen Service (ICS), which provides volunteering opportunities to 18 to 25 year olds.
“Two main things strike me about my time in Nicaragua – firstly, how easy it is to live in the UK in comparison.
“It is a country of great contrasts – in the major cities like the capital Managua it is relatively developed. But in the villages, such as El Pajarito which hosted me, it’s a different story.
“Everyday life is very difficult. You can’t just go to a shop and buy bread, you have to make it, and communication is very difficult. We’ve got it so easy.
“It also taught me a great deal about the food industry and how our decisions affect producers in countries like Nicaragua.”
David’s branch of the project was run by youth and sustainable development charity Raleigh International.
He and his fellow volunteers spent much of their time in Central America helping people in remote villages to trial a new method of producing coffee that was more environmentally friendly and would yield a higher-quality crop – which will help to ensure the longevity of farmers and their farms.
It involved drying the coffee beans on beds in the sun before processing. The beds were built with help from the local communities, who were then trained on how to use and maintain them.
During his time in the country a small American roaster signed a deal to buy the batch of coffee at twice the normal rate the villagers were receiving.
If it is a hit with consumers in the US, David explains, the Nicaraguan farmers will have a long-term incentive to continue to grow coffee and look after their forest.
“The villagers there were smallholding coffee farmers and are some of the poorest people anywhere in the western hemisphere.
“The value of decisions we make at home affect so many people and communities in places like Nicaragua.
“Organic and Fairtrade food is not just for the middle classes. It is important to take care of these guys because they produce 70 per cent of the world’s food but get a raw deal due to the exploitation of major food companies.
“Everyone in the UK can have a positive impact as a consumer if we buy products in a socially responsible way.”
Heading to Nicaragua also helped David hone up his Spanish, acting as one of the main translators between natives and volunteers, which he says was another reason to take the trip.
The experience has convinced him to follow a career in sustainability and take what he has learned to other parts of the developing world.
“I’ve got my eyes on west Africa. There are some projects in countries like Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya which really interest me.”
For more information on ICS visit internationalservice.org.uk