Cocoa pods on the tree
Lucía Salmerón Méndez was born in 1982 in Nazaret I, 70 km from the town of Bilwi, and she was one of the founders of the Production and Technology Transfer Centre in her community. As a child, she was sent out to sell corn tortillas and fruit, and learned early the value of hard work. Now, she and her husband have 4 children of their own.Through working with AMC’s Food Security program, she learned how to rotate crops, and how to plant some crops together to make better use of her land, and how to prepare organic fertilizers, compost and pesticides. Lucía now has her own farm, with rice, beans, corn, root crops, oranges, lemons, papaya, coconut, coffee and cocoa, and raises chickens, pigs, pelibuey and cows, with the help of her husband and kids.Apart from cocoa and coffee, she was also able to sell vegetables, and with the U$80 income bought flour, salt, sugar and school supplies for her kids. In the future, she plans to plant more cacao and coffee, because these products are in high demand from the visiting buyers. Some of her neighbours in the community have requested government help in establishing cacao and coffee production. Lucía hopes that her farm can be serve as an example and inspiration to other families.
My name is Aureliano Spelman Richard, I’m 40 years old, and I’ve been living in the community of Yahbra Tangni on the Coco River for 18 years.My wife and I have 9 children, 3 boys and 6 girls, and this year we sent our eldest off to study agriculture. I fell in love with farming at a very young age, but did a lot of slashing and burning new land.With the training that the technician gives us, I’ve changed my way of farming over the last five years. I was chosen as a voluntary promoter for AMC’s program, and I put 100% into helping my 4 farmers. I’m very grateful to AMC for the idea of saving seeds from one planting season to the next, because it has benefitted me greatly.I’ve learned to make soil retention barriers to prevent erosion and nutrient loss from the soil, using both pineapple plants and scrub. We plant vegetables between the barriers.We are growing a great variety of food plants, including oranges, grapefruit, mangoes, cashew fruit, guava, waterpears, and other tropical fruits, almonds, cocoa, bananas and plantains, sugarcane, cotton, beans, rice, wheat and root crops. I grow trees for both wood and shade. As part of a revolving fund, we were given 6 hens and a rooster by the AMC program. Our greatest income right now is from selling the chocolate that my wife makes from our cocoa – it sells quickly in our community.Our family is happy and healthy; thanks to the produce we eat from our own farm and the income it brings us.
My name is Douglas. I’m 43 years old, married with 3 children, and I’m a member of a Farmer Field School. I’ve worked the land all my adult life, growing corn and beans on my 5-hectare (12-acre) plot. We used to have set planting times, and prepared the land by burning and raking. Our yields weren’t so good, so we had to go to pick coffee on other farms for a few months a year to earn money for food and home expenses.
Thanks to the training workshops, I’ve made a lot of changes over the past year. They include waiting for the best time to plant by consulting with others and listening for crop and weather information on the radio. And instead of burning and raking, leaving the ground naked, I use careful placement of organic refuse to protect the soil from erosion. I’m also trying out different drought-tolerant seed varieties.
Now, I don’t just grow corn and beans, but have filled our land with other food plants. Corn and beans are expensive to cultivate, and have not yielded well in past years. Instead, we are planting more crops for our families to eat, and we are also learning to grow coffee, cocoa and other cash crops. In fact, I’m even intercropping my bananas, chocolate, coffee, and cassava to use my land more efficiently. These changes have helped my family’s wellbeing. We’re improving our house, have bought a cow, and have replaced a part of our land that we had sold. Now we only go to the coffee harvest for a couple of weeks a year. I am working at convincing more of my neighbors try these new techniques so they can know the same success I have had.
FRB’s local partner, AMC, says that an initial needs assessment on each farm allows them to invest resources wisely. AMC staff has learned that adapting new practices is a long-term process with the farmers, so individualized technical visits to farms are a priority. Attendance at workshops is not necessarily an indicator of success, so follow-up with participants after workshops is a must to promote lasting change in attitudes in the farming families.
The following is the testimony of participant Martha Elena Angulo García in Asociación Cristiana de Jóvenes de Nicaragua (ACJ)’s Climate Sensitive Agriculture program.
I’ve always enjoyed having plants in my yard, and used to try to grow vegetables but without much success; they would wilt and not produce. I figured my soil wasn’t any good, or I just didn’t have a ‘green thumb’. I got discouraged when the animals would eat my plants. Then a year ago, I participated in a training with ACJ about how to grow vegetable garden, and they showed us pictures of how folks like me had done it in other communities where they work I agreed to give it another try, so the technical staff showed me how to prepare the earth for planting and how to use recycled materials like plastic bottles and other containers to plant in. We constructed raised soil beds out of the way of the animals. I was worried about getting enough water for my plants, but the ACJ staff assured me that they wouldn’t need as much in the containers.
It was very satisfying for me to find that I could harvest lots of vegetables like onion, cucumber, beets, peppers and tomato after all! What’s more, our family can enjoy eating all our fresh produce without any nasty chemicals. I’ve also learned how to keep my own seeds for planting and I’m saving money because I don’t need to buy vegetables any more. My kids are learning right along with me, since they help me with our garden, and they like to make good use of our plastic garbage, because they learn about recycling at school. I’m grateful to God for giving me strength and perseverance, and I hope to continue learning about how to grow more healthy, tasty food in my garden.
In the past, we never grew anything in our yard of our house. We only grew beans, corn and sorghum on land that we rented. After paying rent, the profit was very marginal, especially after having to pay for fertilizer.
The San Lucas organization’s agriculture promoters taught us how to grow our own gardens to produce food we can consume in our home. Today I have 14 types of vegetables and plants in an area of about 150 square meters. We were taught techniques to make use of organic fertilizers and insecticides that don’t cost any money. This gardens produces food for us all year round, even in the dry season when we must carry water from about a kilometer a way. Now we have fresh and healthy things to eat all the time.
Everyone in our family works in the garden. Before our garden, we would have to buy vegetables at a very high price or go without. We hope to grow more things in the future, we are considering grapes and a few more fruits. It’s a blessing to be able to share with others as well.
In the last two years, our community has seen a lot of changes. The two most significant changes is the access to water and now access to fresh food. With the food we produce, its ours! We don’t have to pay for it. It doesn’t mean it doesn’t involve a lot of work, but its something we can count on.
The community of Ochomogo held a community assembly with the participation of 45 representatives of families with the purpose of disseminating the results of the topographic surveys. The work function of each family member was defined in the assembly and ensured that all people work equally. Another point of the Assembly was to present 14 planes of the water network. The set contains various types of planes and among them we can mention the hydraulic planes, planes of the topographic profile and plant, constructive detail of the water system. We had the presence of 60 heads of families who discussed and approved the donation of a piece of land where the solar modules will be installed. The Ochomogo community was also visited by a brigade of 8 people members of the Lucas Society of South Carolina. For 4 days, they worked with us and contributed to the purchases of materials and equipment for the installation of the solar pumping system: such as pipes, tank of 10,000 liters and valves. We installed the storage tank and conduction pipes. We also purchased the pumping equipment which was installed in December. During the exchange time with the members of the Luke Society from South Carolina, 80 people from the community were involved, 8 members of the team and 4 members of the Luke Society Nicaragua.
The community of Ochomogo continues to organize and strive to monitor the development of its savings plan that will be a contribution of 3000 thousand dollars in total. Closing in 2016 the fundraising with a total of 1200 dollars which is a breakthrough. 20 people gathered and made a review of the progress of the water project so far. Agreements were reached as the community will be organised to work in the installation of the water pumping system in January. The community has contributed with their labor skills and have number the volunteers to have a better control of those who will collaborate in the installation of the pumping system.