Photo Essay on Mother’s Day 2024: A Mother’s Path to Resilience

Meet Nelda Gaitan, a smallholder farmer and mother in Nicaragua who changed the trajectory of her farm to secure a brighter future for her daughters.

As we celebrate Mother’s Day this time of year, we are inspired by the women around the world who are making a better life for their families. In Nicaragua, Nelda Gaitan is one such mother who has changed the trajectory of her father’s farm, turning it into a sustainable livelihood and securing a hopeful future for her two daughters. 

A Mother’s Day Essay: Meet Nelda Gaitan

This Mother’s Day photo essay showcases Nelda Gaitan, a mother and smallholder farmer in Nicaragua. In this photo, she shows off a pitahaya, also known as dragon fruit. (TechnoServe)

Meet Nelda Gaitan, a 37-year-old mother of two who lives in the community of Temuá, Nicaragua. She and her two daughters are in charge of a 0.5-hectare plot of land that Nelda’s father left as her inheritance. Being one of the few women working in the sector has been difficult, but the challenges she has encountered as a farmer and a businesswoman have motivated her to push each day for new solutions for her family. 

Nelda, a mother and farmer in Nicaragua, harvests pitahaya with her daughter. (TechnoServe)

Nelda started planting pitahaya five years ago. Pitahaya is a cactus native to southern Mexico and Central America, where it is grown in dry, tropical zones for use in juices and pulps. 

This photo essay shows Nelda and her daughters harvesting their crop. Here Nelda reaches high for a pitahaya while her oldest daughter looks on. (TechnoServe)

In the first three years, Nelda had low yields. She considered growing other varieties or even eliminating the crop. But in 2019, Nelda heard of TechnoServe’s Smallholder Market Access Program, an agricultural and marketing program in Guatemala and Nicaragua. The program aims to improve the livelihoods of 5,000 farmers by training them to improve the quality and quantity of their yields and to connect their improved production to formal, high-value market systems. 

Nelda inspecting her crops. The mother and business owner is passionate about helping other women forge their own career paths. (TechnoServe)
This photo essay shows Nelda Gaitan among her pitahaya crop on a clear day. The mother is forging a new path for her family.


Nelda changed her operations after learning new techniques from a TechnoServe farmer trainer. Rather than investing in a new crop, she now has the skills to reduce her operating costs while maintaining and improving her hard-won pitahaya crop. Even as extreme drought and storm events increase in frequency across Central America, low-cost strategies such as capturing rainwater within her plot can help to conserve water and reduce erosion. Improved farm planning approaches have also allowed her to better identify the most important activities for her operation and to plan how she invests her resources in each one. 


This photo essay shows Nelda with her two daughters. The mother’s hard work as a farmer is making their education possible. Here Nelda helps her younger daughter with her homework. (TechnoServe)

Thanks to her hard work, Nelda has not needed loans to maintain her farm and household. She can continue pursuing her business goals.

Beyond her personal success, Nelda is a mother who is motivated to lift up her fellow women farmers. She explains, “Women in the community are [usually] housewives, and even though they perform agricultural activities on the farm, they don’t participate in decision-making on its income…I see myself as an example and am proud because I am the highest-producing farmer in the community and can educate my daughters. One is in elementary school, and the other is in her second year at university.”

Nelda stands with her two daughters on their farm in Nicaragua. (TechnoServe)

Despite the challenging conditions, Nelda continues selling her product to a local exporter and fruit pulp processor. The income has allowed her to sustain her household and make new investments. 

Above all, Nelda’s motivation to build a successful business comes from building a bright future for her daughters. 

She says, “I have hope for a better future for myself and my family. I want to expand my pitahaya production and even start a store.”

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