Since 1980, Save the Children has worked to improve the lives of Nicaraguan children and families
living in poverty. After the devastation of Hurricane Mitch in 1998, we concentrated our efforts in the heavily affected departments of Chinandega and Leon.
Food Security: PROCENI (a Development Assistance Program) continued to show positive results. A final evaluation indicated a dramatic reduction of chronic malnutrition in children under age 5 from 22.5 percent (2002) to 9.6 percent (2008). The main emphasis in 2008 was on providing opportunities to groups of women, especially in organization, food availability and commercialization, and helping families serve as development models in their communities. Food availability increased 13 percent above target and the number of families that improved grain storage was 28 percent above goal.
Irrigation: PROCENI surpassed its irrigated cropland acres goal by 11 percent. By the end of the program, 615 families had improved production levels by introducing irrigation in 158 acres. A guide for establishing and managing irrigation systems was developed.
Micro-enterprise: The owners (16 families) of two successful micro-businesses, one in vegetable production and another producing seedlings, were trained in administration and accounting for small business. Both businesses established ties with their local and regional
markets and now belong to vegetable affiliations formed in 2008.
Livelihoods: Top priorities include strengthening food production among low-income families, including mechanisms that allow them to obtain seeds and increase production time; helping families be more competitive in local markets; creating business plans that enable women to increase their income and establish savings; and strengthening agro-business capacity among women so that they can develop businesses and savings plans.
The Nicaragua project in Health and Nutrition has increased availability, access, utilization and education for beneficiaries of the program. Through this project Save the Children has made strides to improve chronic malnutrition for children under 5 in poor rural families by implementing integrated activities in agriculture and Health/Nutrition increasing availability and access to food, strengthening income generation, elevating levels in health and nutrition in mother and child through the improvement of key family practices, strengthening access to selected maternal/child services of project beneficiaries.
A series of diagnosis have been carried out to learn difficulties with management of storing technology. The results indicated that the biggest problem is the low availability of money to purchase the metallic structures whose efficacy is superior to other types of technology. Plastic container technology; with a purchase price 3 times lower than the metallic silo, is an alternative for the poorest families.
The beneficiary families learned how to properly use silos and pre-harvest activities to guarantee a proper storage of grains. Families used salt to determine the adequate humidity of the grain to be stored, helping them have healthy grains with good weight stored over a longer period. A storing structure allowed families to provide part of their harvest for animal feed.
In Nicaragua, there are problems with water shortage would lead to food shortages. Families with water shortage overcame this by plating vegetables in sacks with manual irrigation. Families with wells and crop land had access to low cost micro-irrigation systems enabling them to plant up to five products (yams, beans, pumpkins, cucumbers and green peppers). Micro-irrigation systems were also installed in larger areas for groups for commercialization purposes.
Families acquired the capacity to manage technology and the skills for non-traditional crops, introducing tomatoes and green peppers at a commercial level. Families learned to handle vegetables with irrigation systems throughout the year. In addition, they made better use of small areas in their patios using irrigation and learned to save water to harvest better crops. Most of all, families received a high economic benefit from planting non traditional crops.
Some accomplishments perceived by the project’s beneficiaries:
The most important achievement for mothers and volunteers is the improvement and eradication of infant malnutrition in some of their communities. They recovered sick or weak children with improved diets by cooking new recipes using vegetables and fruits which are now available to them through family vegetable gardens. They also learned that providing more attention through fun and play during meal times, their children eat everything on their plate.
Mothers evolved from being simple spectators of their own health and their children’s health and nutrition, to being proactive by monitoring their weight. They jointly decide with the volunteer what steps to take when their children do not reach their weight or when they are missing a vaccine.
Through proper agriculture education the people of Nicaragua can supply food for their families all year round and even use their food to sell in the market to create a steady income for their families. Building a sense of community through these educational lessons is also important. If a child is going to fall into malnutrition, the community steps in to help that child. The increase in basic resources, productivity, income, equity and sufficiency in food consumption, added to the human capital development in the families, communities, municipalities, and economic and social services entities, are strategic factors for the program’s success and sustainability.
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