Women on the Frontlines of Climate Change: Cherly del Carmen López

Women comprise 70% of the world's low-income people, making them especially vulnerable to climate change. But with the right support, they can be a tremendous force for protecting their livelihoods, their families, and the environment.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in March 2022 and updated in October 2023.

When Cherly del Carmen López’s partner left her and their two young daughters, Cherly was devastated. In addition to her children, Cherly supports her mother and a disabled aunt, who both live with them. Wondering how to support her family, Cherly would look out at the green rows of crops on her family’s farm, nestled among the rolling hills and streams of Rancho Grande, in northern Nicaragua.

She had about two acres from her father and about 20 more from her mother, on which she worked to grow coffee, bananas, beans, and cocoa.

Matagalpa, Nicaragua, where Cherly and her daughters live

Now Cherly and her mother had to work the land alone, as their main source of income. Cherly wasn’t sure how she was going to make things work without her partner, but she did know this: “If he’s gone, he’s gone,” she says. “I can’t stop to cry.”

Cherly Shows Resilience as Mother, Student, and Farmer

When Cherly was growing up, she would often accompany her father to do farm work. But she was never taught the more technical agronomic knowledge that would maximize the profit from her crops.

Recently, however, she discovered a training program from TechnoServe (MOCCA – Maximizing Opportunities in Coffee and Cacao in the Americas). The TechnoServe team is working with 100,000 coffee farmers in Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Peru to help them regenerate their coffee farms and maximize their profits, improving their incomes for the long term.

Cherly and her daughter stand amongst their trees

The need is especially acute in Nicaragua, the poorest country in Central America. In addition to challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic, the country is battling climate change threats like never before. In November 2020, Hurricanes Eta and Iota ravaged several departments across Nicaragua. Rain, landslides, and flooding tore through infrastructure, farms, and homes – leaving some 3,400 hectares of coffee farms damaged.

Cherly’s farm was spared the brunt of this damage, but she still knew there was much to be done before her crops could reliably support her family.

As she began working with TechnoServe, Cherly’s eyes were opened to a whole new way of farming: regenerative agriculture, which helps rejuvenate, rather than degrade, nature so that the land and crops can prosper in the long term.

Through the project, Cherly was given a small demonstration plot along with the tools and basic fertilizers for the adoption of good practices promoted by the project. This helped her test the fertilizers and processes before using them on her entire farm, a technique used to help farmers overcome any reservations they may have about trying new things. 

Cherly soon found that she enjoyed learning all these new techniques to apply to her farm. After she’s completed a training or worked in her fields, “my mood is always better,” she says.

Regenerative Agriculture for a Better Future

Recently, a TechnoServe team visited Cherly as part of their regular farmer training outreach. Angélica Cubas Pérez, a TechnoServe trainer, was struck by Cherly’s buoyant demeanor – quite the shift from her earlier days of struggle. 

“In front of me is a woman with no sadness or discomfort in her face, with a lot of energy and very cheerful,” says Angélica.

TechnoServe farmer trainers walking the rows of crops

Cherly proudly took the team around her farm to demonstrate how she’s applying the regenerative agriculture methods she learned in her training. She’s currently in the process of preparing the land to rejuvenate her coffee trees, and had even hired extra help to clear and prepare the land for new coffee plants.

She’s optimistic about the new techniques improving her coffee income, and her ability to provide for her family. “The best thing I can give my daughters is [a chance to] study,” she says.

As Cherly asked the TechnoServe team technical questions about her crops, Cherly’s daughter loped alongside them. Jumping among the trees, she seemed intimately acquainted with the farm – and was now absorbing the kind of knowledge Cherly never had access to herself growing up.