After the military regime of General Manuel Antonio Noriega was toppled in December, 1989, the new government had to start from square one. One of the sectors that needed urgent attention was agriculture in the countryside. The indigenous population was almost starving, and there were not enough resources in the country to provide them with the urgent assistance they needed. We decided to request aid from the United Nations.
I started to work for the Panama government on January 1990, when the country was still badly shaken by the looting that took place after the military intervention of the United States and the new government was just starting to organize its structures. At the request of Vice President and Minister of Economic and Planning, Guillermo “Billy” Ford, I was given the responsibility of supervising a rural development program called “Programa Mundial de Alimentos—PMA” (World Food Program) sponsored by the United Nations.
The main purpose of the program was to develop economic depressed areas in the countryside, specially the Ngäbe-Buglé Indians in the Provinces of Veraguas and Chiriquí. My area of responsibility was the community of Altos de Chamí in Chiriquí. It was an integral development project with different improvement programs such as:
- Tilapia fishing ponds to procure proteins for the community.
- Planting coffee, cabbage, oranges, pine trees, tomatoes, and corn.
- Lessons on how to make tortillas, bread, and salads.
- Lessons on how to organize a credit union to market oranges, corn and coffee beans.
- Distribution of medicines and other health campaigns.
- Lessons on how to read and write.
I think I’ve said before, that the most productive years were those I spent working for the Panama government (1990-1995). It was the first and only time I worked for my country. Due to political reasons, I was separated from my job after a new government was elected. I was reluctant to leave, but I had no choice but to go. I returned to work in the private sector until I retired three years ago.
Below are several pictures depicting the different aspects of the PMA program. I apologize for the low quality of the snapshots. I took pictures of old photographs which were found by accident by my wife while looking for stuff in one of our closets. I thought these pictures were lost. A picture of a picture equals a low-quality result, but it’s better than nothing at all. Anyway, you can still grasp what we were doing in Altos de Chamí.
Tilapia are mainly freshwater fish, inhabiting shallow streams, ponds, rivers and lakes, and less commonly found living in brackish water. Historically, they have been of major importance in artisan fishing in Africa, Latin America, and the Levant, and are of increasing importance in aquaculture. In the picture above you can see the pond where the tilapia fish were cultivated.