Laura Rivera closes her eyes and remembers her grandfather’s garden in detail: a large plot of land with vegetables and an irrigation system built from bamboo. She still remembers it even though he died when she was six years old.
As the second vice mayor of Nicoya, Rivera’s memory inspired the slogan “sow what you eat.”
Her idea is embodied in a municipal project that consists of developing ten community gardens in the canton.
According to Rivera, the gardens are an alternative to municipal efforts so that residents can mitigate the economic effects caused by the pandemic, nine months after the first case of COVID-19 was diagnosed in the area.
“If you produce chili peppers at home, you save going to buy it. If the person likes it and produces more, they can market it. This project is focused on food security and then, depending on their production, on reactivating the economy with a stimulus to entrepreneurship,” Rivera commented.
Seven of the gardens are already included in the 2021 budget and will be located on municipal land in each district of Nicoya. These lands will be donated to each community to develop the project.
The remaining three are intended for the San Blas Nursing Home, the Nicoyan Association of People with Disabilities (Asonipe) and the Nicoya Prison, according to information provided by Rivera.
“This isn’t something I thought up overnight. I visited producers and acquired a lot of knowledge of how planting is done at a high elevation like La Esperanza and also in the lowlands where heat prevails. The microclimates within Nicoya are a great wealth that we can take advantage of in these times,” the vice mayor said.
Pilot Plan in San Martin
The first garden will be located in the San Martin neighborhood. It will serve as a pilot plan to implement the other nine during next year’s rainy season.
A month ago, the municipal lot, located one block north and one block east of the San Ambrosio Catholic Education Center, was an open-air garbage dump. “It was something horrid. They dumped everything! Couches, dead animals, mattresses, glass… It was a huge hideous heap,” said Tatiana Vargas, who lives in the San Martin neighborhood.
The municipality, together with a group of women, including Vargas, held an activity to clean up the lot, recover the public space and involve the community in developing the garden.
“Now it is very lovely. Everything is clear; as it had to be. The municipality is going to give us chain-link fencing and we want to hold an activity with food sales to buy the posts and fence in the land,” Vargas commented.
Fifteen women from the community lead the garden project in San Martin. They supported the vice mayor’s idea and now they work along with the municipality to implement it.
The community’s syndic (municipal representative), Jaqueline Zuñiga, is one of them.
Zuñiga believes that the garden can also benefit the families most affected by COVID-19. “We see that the garden can be a great benefit for the entire community. We have the idea that when the garden produces, a portion can be donated to the families of San Martin who need it,” she commented.
Tatiana and Jaqueline see the garden as a program for economic reactivation that will allow the women involved to put food on their tables, market part of the harvest and even create activities where neighbors can go and offer products from their entrepreneurial spirit.
Rivera, vice mayor of the municipality, hopes that it will be possible to open this garden before the end of the year or during the first few months of 2021.
Meanwhile, the municipality delivered 25 compost bins to families in Nicoya to promote soil fertilization, which will be used in the other gardens that, according to Rivera, will be ready in May 2021.
“I hope that people like the project and that they want to replicate it. Why not imagine a garden in each town? They will have my full support for that,” the vice mayor of Nicoya commented.