An interview by Anne-Sophie Garrigou
“Many of us are aware, but not all of us are concerned.”
12-year-old Edelsin Linette Mendez lives with her siblings and parents on their small coffee farm in the beautiful highlands of Nicaragua. Coffee farming has supported the Mendez and thousands of other families for generations, with coffee accounting for 30% of the country’s exports. However, as a result of climate change, increasing temperatures and erratic rainfall now facilitate the growth of the ‘La Roya’ fungus that kills the coffee crop. In the last three years alone, the Mendez family harvest has been reduced over 50% by this fungus, forcing them into poverty.
The family practices subsistence farming, making a daily income of less than US$2 a day. Despite the toughness of her living conditions, Edelsin will graduate from high school this year, something her parents were never able to accomplish.
Edelsin was selected by BYkids, an organization that mentors teens around the world to tell their stories through film and share the realities of global inequality and injustice on the world stage, to share her life story and fight against the climate crisis with the world. With this documentary, the young woman hopes to make vivid the serious consequences of a severely damaged coffee harvest to her own future and that of her country. Since January 2016, Edelsin has documented her family’s traditional, labour-intensive method of gathering coffee ‘cherries’ and the many subsequent steps of milling, sorting and washing the beans before they were taken to be sold, by horseback, to a coffee co-op miles away.
During the process, she asked her family and members of the co-op to speak about the drastic changes that this disease has brought in such a short time. Edelsin and her classmates are learning, first hand, about climate change and realising they, too, will need to join other young people across the globe to forge a sustainable future. “It will take millions of kids like us to stop the disaster,” she says, “but we are getting ready.” We talk to Edelsin about her experience, making this documentary, and how she sees the future for her and her community.
What made you want to tell the story of your family on camera? What inspired you to make My Beautiful Nicaragua?
I am very proud of my family and where I come from; that’s why I wanted to share my story. I also wanted other children to learn about our reality as farmers.
How has climate change impacted the people in your community? What consequences does global warming have on your future, and the future of coffee producers in Nicaragua?
Climate change affects all farmers who practise subsistence farming in Nicaragua, including my own family. Our crops are my family’s main source of food and income. High temperatures and droughts constantly put our crops and lives at risk. In the future, I think we will need to identify new types of coffee which may be resistant to the changes in temperatures and climate.
What did you learn during the making of this documentary?
Making the documentary made me question and think a lot about the future. I have realised the importance of taking action now before it is too late. But I feel like there are still only very few of us who are really concerned.
Are your friends–and people your age–aware of climate change? Is it something that you talk about? And do you talk about the solutions to fight climate change?
Many of us are aware, but not all of us are concerned. I talk about it all the time with my family and my close friends; we have discussed solutions for the future (like identifying new types of coffee resistant to climate change). We really don’t want to see our region devastated by the consequences of climate change but we can’t act alone.
Your film raises awareness of climate change and its impact on people in Nicaragua. Is it something that you would like to continue doing, raising awareness for climate action?
Yes. I would love to continue creating awareness about climate change. Making the film took me out of my routine, and I am now very excited to continue to take action in any way that I can. I want to motivate people in my community to get involved in reforestation and conservation of the local fauna.
Is there something you would like to say to people in Europe and North America, whose impact on the planet has been devastating for decades?
I would like them to know that although Nicaraguan farmers are strong, we are truly struggling with the consequences of not only their actions but our own actions against the environment. Climate change affects everyone, but we farmers are hit the hardest.
Let’s say you’ve got 15 minutes alone in a room with the next president of Nicaragua. What are you going to ask them to do for your community?
I’d ask her/him to be a good person. I would ask him to get truly informed about the impact on my community. I would also advise them to visit and meet with rural people from all over Nicaragua to realise the importance of environmental conservation. I really think that the next president needs to worry a lot more about the campesinos (farmers).
Watch the film trailer here: https://bykids.org/films/my-beautiful-nicaragua/
Edelsin Linette Mendez is a participant of BYkids, an organization that mentors teens around the world to tell their stories through film and share the realities of global inequality and injustice on the world stage, to share her life story and fight against the climate crisis with the world.
This article was published in The Beam #9 — Voices from the Global South. Subscribe to The Beam Magazine to read more.
This piece is also available on our Medium page.