Melvin’s story

First slide

Melvin Sánchez Ramírez makes his living as a coffee farmer in one of the poorest regions of Nicaragua. For him, his wife and his son, it has been a challenge, but they've managed to get by. Then came coffee leaf rust. The fungus killed so many of Ramírez' plants, he had no coffee to sell. His family struggled to put food on the table.

Catholic Relief Services is helping farmers like Ramírez learn how to protect their plants from leaf rust and how to grow other crops, like plantains and sweet potatoes. Some farmers in the area are learning to keep bees for honey and raise hens for eggs. Not only do these crops add nutritious variety to family meals, they bring vital diversity to plantings so the family isn't relying on one crop for their livelihood.

With the money he earns by selling these new crops, Ramírez is able to put food on his family's table. And he invests some of that money in a CRS-supported savings group. Together, the group members are able to save their money and offer loans to help one another prepare for the future.

By planning ahead and working together, families like Ramírez' are making sure they have bountiful farms and better futures.

Nicaragua: Gallo Pinto

Makes 6 servings

1 large onion, finely chopped

1 bell pepper, chopped

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

4 tablespoons olive oil

2 cups rice

4 cups water

2 16-ounce cans red beans, drained

1 bay leaf

Salt and black pepper to taste

Fried egg or cheese (optional)

In a large pot, sauté onion, bell pepper and garlic in oil. Stir in rice. Cook, stirring often, until onions are soft. Add water and cook, covered, until most of the water has been absorbed. Add beans and bay leaf. Mix well and cook over medium heat for 15 minutes. Add more water, if necessary. Serve hot with cheese or fried egg.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2015