SCSRN founders Richard and Lonna Harkrader are here in San Ramón right now on their annual visit. They take this time to visit project sites, meet with old friends, and re-kindle their connection to the community. After a visit out to a cacao cooperative that is part of our cultural immersion ecotour, Lonna decided to share her thoughts about the trip.
Traveling to San Ramón for the first time in a year, Richard and I were surprised to see verdant hills and valleys where in years past January was the middle of the dry season. Rain is bad for the coffee harvest which is underway now because the beans/cherries get water logged and fall off the bush.
But today we are concentrating our travels on cacao (chocolate) which produces a crop year-round and is not as susceptible to problems caused by it raining out of season. Driving from one side of San Ramón to the other, a three-hour endeavor on unpaved roads, is something people here take for granted. We, however, are noticing the pumps in the road since it is our first trip on these roads in a year.
Our first stop is the cacao acopio (collection center) for the cooperative, Flor de Pancasan, which earned second prize in the Cacao of Excellence competition in Paris last year. They are hoping to do as well or better this year in Rome. The quality control during processing is meticulous. Vicente, who is in charge of the processing, has a happy face and beautiful smile which makes for a person who appears very sincere and inspiring. He and the small number of cooperative members who are overseeing the fermentation of the beans, answer all our questions. In less than a month an ecotour group from North Carolina will be here assuredly asking lots more. While chocolate is a crowd favorite, how it comes into the final form is a mystery to most of us.
On our way back to town, Esteban, the driver, stops at a house to drop off some medication. The man who needs the medication would have had a long bus ride to Matagalpa, the state capital, to pick it up. I believe these small gestures of solidarity, which come so naturally to our Nicaraguan team, is part of the reason for SCSRN’s long-term success.
We marvel at the familiar yet still breath-taking vistas, including one in particular of the town of San Ramón in the valley beyond. After 30 years of visits to San Ramón, we are as enthusiastic as ever about all that we and the 80 communities that make up the county of San Ramón have accomplished together: SCSRN supplying the materials, oversight and some technical support, the local government providing the engineering, and the folks of these communities putting in the labor. We continue to find new projects that will improve the quality of life for many.
If you’re interested in seeing all this for yourself, please contact us about our ecotours!
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