Tropic Essences in Yali, Nicaragua, is a FairTSA Fair Trade certified producer of chia. Since 2017, they have collaborated with FairTSA on yearly infrastructure projects that will help bring independence and financial security to their rural communities. In recent years, the drastically fluctuating market price of chia has jeopardized the livelihood of these rural farmers, despite the grain’s growing value as a popular superfood. To counteract such instability, FairTSA institutes a Fair Price Premium, and if necessary, sets a minimum price so that producers never take a loss on their harvest. These measures, in addition to yearly community development projects, create the stability necessary for rural communities in Yali to thrive and build for the future.
Right: Producers in Yali, Nicaragua
Chia Cultivation in Nicaragua
Chia has been cultivated in Nicaragua for centuries, with usage dating back to 3500 B.C. In ancient Mesoamerica, the Aztecs found chia to be especially beneficial and utilized the grain in food, medicine, and ceremonial tribute. Today in Yali, rural producers grow chia at high elevations of around 900 meters. Due to a recent rise in chia popularity (especially as a vegan source of protein and Omega 3 fatty acids), these producers have been able to subsist off the cultivation of the grain, which grows naturally in the region and is environmentally stable. Additionally, pesticides are largely unnecessary due to the essential oils naturally occurring in the plant’s leaves. Chia thus provides a durable, ecologically friendly income source that allows rural people to maintain their regional culture and preserve their habitat.
Community Development Projects 2015-18
For their inaugural infrastructure project, community members of the villages of La Bolsa and La Colmena looked to support the education of 50 preschool-age children belonging to 12 chia-producing families in the villages of La Bolsa and La Colmena. To help best prepare these students for academic success, social premium funds were used to purchase backpacks, notebooks, water bottles, teaching supplies, writing utensils, and other scholastic necessities. A community event was also organized for participants to generate enthusiasm for preschool education and its capacity to prepare students for continued scholastic success. Community Development Projects 2015-18 Students receiving school supplies
Community Development In Nicaragua
Due to the current socio-political upheaval in Nicaragua, Tropic Essences have struggled to access the labor, financing, and logistical support necessary for chia cultivation. Regardless, the communities at La Bolsa and La Colmena managed to continue their FairTSA Community Development by providing students with new school supplies, uniforms and teaching materials. Additionally, the community organized community cleaning days, landfill upkeep, and info sessions to learn about their natural environment and understand how to best preserve its unique biodiversity.
As their community development program begins to take shape, producers will continue to support preschool education and hope to nurture the potential of all community members. To this end, future projects will prioritize the creation of permanent infrastructure, with hopes of constructing sanitation and drinking water facilities at the schoolhouses in La Bolsa and Colmena. Another infrastructure development-goal is the formation of a community forum to address infrastructure improvement and facilitate discussion around how to best utilize Fair Trade premium funding.