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“The pandemic’s not going away. But our health and planet are connected”: Fernando’s story

An agronomy graduate raised in the countryside, Fernando is using his knowledge of rural life to support young people to gain green jobs.

Fernando, 30, from the Carazo region of western Nicaragua, understands the impact of climate change better than most. Brought up in the countryside and a graduate in agronomy, Fernando is using his knowledge of rural life to support 250 young people on Raleigh’s ‘Dame Chance’ (Give Me A Chance) campaign into green jobs. Working with 16 farming communities, he’s showing how through fighting deforestation – which in the last 50 years has more than halved Nicaragua’s forest cover – we can solve urgent problems like soil erosion and crop yield challenges.


I volunteered back in 2016 with a community in the central Nicaraguan city of Matagalpa. I fell in love with what Raleigh did, the idea of developing a solution to a problem, working with the community to make it a success. When the opportunity came up to work for Raleigh after I finished, I took it.

I’ve always been interested in the planet. I grew up in the countryside, and still now live in the countryside. Living among nature and learning as a child about the production of coffee, beans and rice in our traditional Nicaraguan ways gave me a love for agriculture.

So I decided to study agronomy. But we were taught constantly that the production of food is all about profit, about seeing the land as a resource to be capitalised on. It’s a model that makes money for the owners of land but not for the workers. And by trying to maximise yield, by using pesticides and deforesting land to make room for cattle, it’s also a system that’s destroying the planet too.

Here in Nicaragua, we’re facing the direct consequences of climate change. Back in November, a devastating hurricane made landfall – just two weeks after we’d recovered from another. These changes to our climate are having a huge impact on our farmers and our food production. But if we start to treat the land as another living being, then maybe we can change the future.

And that’s what our campaign Dame Chance (Give Me A Chance) is trying to achieve. It’s about showing people that by giving our planet the opportunity to thrive, we can all benefit. For me, it’s a phrase of hope. It means, give me the chance to grow and I’ll give you food and shelter. Without our forests, our soil becomes eroded and we lose our water supply.

There is a community that we are working with called Santa Julio. There, a partner organisation is training young people to become park rangers. They’re learning to take care of the forests while earning a living as a tour guide too. It benefits everyone: rain is being captured and used for drinking water. And the best part is that this work is being replicated by other youth in other preserved forests.

We are in a pandemic, and that’s not going away. But our health and our planet are connected. Our health is related to what we eat and the air we breathe. Fix one and you help the other.

In 2021 we need Action not Excuses. Tomorrow is too late. Today is too late, actually. Words are being used for marketing and not as facts to create change. It’s very important that we see these climate issues as global problems. The Dry Corridor here in Nicaragua is not at risk solely from Nicaraguan actions, but from global actions. It’s important that the work we’re doing here is replicated.

As young people we are facing the same effects: lack of food, lack of water, loss of jobs and opportunities. By joining Action not Excuses you can help create a better society. If we dream about a better planet, if we dream about a place there are no differences, I think that our generation can make a huge real-life impact for future generations.

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