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Oct 3, 2019

El Juste Farmers See the Benefits of QPM Seed and New Farming Methods

Proud farmers in the El Juste community
Proud farmers in the El Juste community

Maize producers in the community of El Juste participated in a seminar about how to get higher yields of the INTA-Nutrader quality protein maize (QPM). The seminar was held at Self-Help International’s Fred W. Strohbehn Training Center in collaboration with the San Marcos y San Lucas and Los Chiles y COOPEMEL RL cooperatives of Melchorita, in the Río San Juan department, as part of the agricultural extension activities of Self-Help. 

Nicaraguan government official Ramón González arranged a meeting for 25 farmers in El Juste to participate in a Self-Help seminar highlighting the importance of QPM seed. Agricultural productivity is improved by focusing on food and nutritional security. Self-Help focuses on addressing the following agronomic issues: climate change, biofortified crops; efficient use of fertilization; weed and pest management; methods of selecting seed; recommendations for harvest and post-harvest; and grain storage. In addition to talking about the benefits of QPM seed and sharing information, Self-Help’s agriculture team offered a practical demonstration to carry out the double-row planting method. Two QPM seed producers from the Los Chiles farmers cooperative, Isidro and Ariel, worked with the Self-Help team to carry out the training.

The President of the El Juste Farmers Cooperative Says Farmers See the Benefits

President of the 20 member El Juste farmers cooperative, Juan, checked in with Self-Help’s agriculture team 65 days after planting his first demonstration plot of QPM.

“This is the first time we’re doing this study in El Juste with our cooperative. We’ve got the INTA-Nutrader QPM seed variety in our demonstration plot,” Juan said. “The El Juste farmers agreed to let Self-Help come teach us about this new seed and these new farming methods. Now, we see that the demonstration plot is showing us the benefits of the INTA-Nutrader QPM seed. 

“In our community, there was a dry month, and we didn't get rain. We believed we would be affected and that our maize crop would be short,” Juan said. “However, our crops are the right height.

“We were also worried we would not produce much, but now we see that we are duplicating the results. Farmers tell us they are doing magic due to this experience. We’ve now seen the results of our experiments. We learned a new technology for free, and this continues paying us back because we use this technology to work and to earn a day’s wage,” Juan said.

Juan told Self-Help staff that he’s planted four pounds of INTA-Nutrader maize (625 square yards), and the farmers cooperative is thinking they’ll harvest some 3,000 corn cobs which will sell at approximately 3 cordobas per unit for a total of 9,000 cordobas (~$270USD).  The farmers cooperative generated some 2,000 cordobas in costs, leaving them a net profit of 7,000 cordobas (~$210USD). 

“We now see that INTA-Nutrader QPM seed can be planted in double rows to increase our yields. We’ve seen the results,” Juan said. “Sincerely, this experience has also become a sort of educational resource in our region because the farmers pass by our farms and ask how we get such a high crop yield. It’s been a very, very good learning opportunity that has had a lot of benefits for our region.

“Farmers participated in the first demonstration plot that we planted during the practice day with Self-Help staff. Now, us farmers have results which are now in the stage of chilote (baby corn). One of the characteristics of this corn is that it gives chilote in 90% of the plants, so it’s got double purpose because it yields both kinds of chilote and elote (young dry corn),” Juan said. “Today we took 24 dozen at 10 cordobas, we’re speaking about 500 cordobas! Until it is in elote we are going to do this step in the evaluation. 

“It’s truly been a success. It’s the first time that we’ve done this training and the first time we’ve planted this QPM seed variety, and we are seeing the results,” Juan said. “We are thinking about reducing the cultivation area to be able to plant less, using this technology, and putting into practice what Self-Help has taught us. We are proud to share our experience with other farmers, and it’s satisfying for us to know that other farmers are also obtaining successful results in their work.”

“We’ve also learned about planting in double rows to increase our yields, and we’ve seen the results,” Juan said. “Sincerely, this experience has also become a sort of educational resource in our region because the farmers pass by our farms and ask how we get such a high crop yield. It’s been a very, very good learning opportunity that has had a lot of benefits for our region.”

Nicaragua Country Director, Jorge Campos, Provides Perspective

“It’s evident that the teachings of SHI are impacting the lives of farmers, as well as their practices of maize management,” said Jorge Campos, Nicaragua Country Director. “Helping farmers take advantage of the INTA-Nutrader QPM seed brings new experiences at the technical level and knowledge management to farmers. 

“Teaching about QPM seed also helps rural families with food security and helps them increase their incomes,” Jorge added. “We are bringing these farmers to the next level, and the best part is the way that agricultural extension and demonstration plots impacts families’ crop production and nourishment. The farmers’ new experiences turn them into farmers who are more resilient against the effects of  climate change (such as drier seasons) and guarantee rural families’ food and nutritional security.”

El Juste farmers doing double-row planting.
El Juste farmers doing double-row planting.
El Juste farmers doing double row planting
El Juste farmers doing double row planting


Sep 9, 2019

Jamilatu Gets the Support She Needs for Her Two New Healthy Babies

Jamilatu's twin babies.
Jamilatu's twin babies.

Jamilatu moved from her home near the Ivory Coast to Kumasi at just ten years old. She was staying with an aunt who had promised to pay her school fees and support her while she was in Kumasi, but her aunt did not follow through on her promise. To support herself, Jamilatu sold water on the streets, often in very dangerous road conditions. She met her husband through this work and moved to Beposo, a small village outside of Kumasi. 

Life in Beposo has been challenging. Her husband rents land to farm and making a profit off this rented land is often difficult. Jamilatu tries to supplement their income with growing and harvesting peppers, okra, and small eggplants found in West Africa known as “garden eggs.” 

When Jamilatu was five months pregnant, she was no longer able to work on her farm. She started attending Growing Healthy Food, Growing Healthy Children (GHFGHC) nutrition education sessions. She told Self-Help International nutritionists that she was not planning to receive antenatal care during her pregnancy because she already had two children and was familiar with being pregnant. Self-Help staff spent extra time counseling Jamilatu on the importance of doctors’ visits and medical care during her pregnancy, and she quickly realized how vital those visits would be. After visiting the doctor, Jamilatu learned that she was expecting twins! She was so grateful to have visited the health center. 

Jamilatu had a new onset of questions after finding out that she’d be having twins soon.


Getting Support to Have Two Healthy Babies

“Although I have two children already and I know some of the challenges that come with raising kids, I was afraid of having twins because of breastfeeding and the general care twins need,” Jamilatu shared with Self-Help nutritionists. 

Again, the Self-Help team spent extra time with Jamilatu to help ease some of her fears and equip her with the knowledge she needed to raise two healthy babies at the same time. They counseled Jamilatu through to the healthy delivery of her new babies and provided direction on breastfeeding and healthy eating for her as a new mother. 

“It took the magic of Self-Help’s staff to show me how to breastfeed children who will not open their mouth to eat,” Jamilatu said. “With my previous pregnancies, I depended on my mother to travel to Beposo to take care of me.”


Self-Help Trainings Benefit the Whole Family

In fact, Self-Help trainings have benefited Jamilatu’s whole family.

“My husband came with me to the first financial management training organized by Self-Help to help me take care of the children, and he became an unexpected beneficiary of the training,” Jamilatu said. 

Self-Help staff were discussing good financial management practices during the training. Her husband had not been sharing the family’s income with Jamilatu and had not been saving enough for the family’s supplies and necessities. After the training, he told Jamilatu that he had been listening attentively and understood that he should not be keeping money for himself. 

“He has now opened a savings account with a bank in a nearby community and has stopped spending on unnecessary items,” Jamilatu said.

Jamilatu is still involved in the program and is helping other mothers overcome any challenges they may encounter with breastfeeding. 

“I listened attentively to Self-Help staff when they were educating us on caring for our babies,” Jamilatu said. “Self-Help has indeed made me an even better mother.”

Jamilatu and her twins.
Jamilatu and her twins.
Sep 4, 2019

Adelaida Reinvests Her Income in the Things That Matter Most - Her Children and Her Business


42-year-old Adelaida has been a part of Self-Help International’s micro-credit and business training program in Nicaragua since 2015. She’s from the Laurel Galán community, and she has four children – three girls and a boy.

When Adelaida and her husband moved to Laurel Galán, they wanted to take care of a farm’s cattle for money. But, when their children were born, the family’s needs expanded but they didn’t have enough money to achieve that goal. Instead, Adelaida decided to start her own eatery, but she didn’t have all of the necessary tools. Sometimes, she had to borrow chairs and utensils to be able to sell and serve her food. Little by little, Adelaida bought supplies for her business, but the things she really needed were expensive and she didn’t have enough money to purchase them. 

One day, she heard someone talking about Self-Help International and its program for businesswomen. She figured that since she was a woman without economic resources or an ability to guarantee a loan, she wouldn’t be eligible to apply for or access a loan from Self-Help. 

Finally, Adelaida decided to attend a training for the first time about improving her business. She asked how she could be part of Self-Help’s micro-credit program because being at the training motivated her to learn how to improve her business and take better control of her sales and income. She wanted to grow her business, and she needed Self-Help’s assistance to make that happen.

Adelaida attended trainings on topics like Creativity in Business, Entrepreneurship, Self-Esteem and Leadership, and Basic Accounting. This motivated her even more because Self-Help was focused on helping Adelaida improve her income. 


Investing in Her Business

Using her strength and the loans she borrowed, Adelaida was able to expand her eatery. Prior to working with Self-Help’s micro-credit program, Adelaida only had four chairs and one table that had been lent to her in her restaurant. Today, she has four tables and 18 chairs in her business which enable her to serve more customers. On Saturdays, she sells 200 nacatamales at 35 cordobas and makes a profit of 2000 córdobas (59 USD). She also sells ice cream, chocolate bananas, and ice, and from these sales she’s able to pay her electricity and water bill for her business and house.

Adelaida has borrowed four loans from Self-Help, and it all has been invested in strengthening her business and funding her children’s schooling. Her most recent loan was for $500 which made her so happy because she was able to invest an even larger amount of money into her business. Adelaida’s sales are improving because she is working with her own capital. She used to buy supplies weekly and owed her suppliers money; now, she buys everything in bulk. She’s happy to be selling more meals, and she thanks the donors who supported her with this loan.


Investing in Her Children's Futures

Adelaida didn’t have the opportunity to go to high school because it wasn’t important to her parents, and she learned to read and write from a government literacy program. So, Adelaida always prioritizes her children’s education. Adelaida has been able to send her children to university thanks to the improvements to her business. Her oldest daughter is 24, and she studied medicine in Leon. She is now doing her residency at the Luis Felipe Moncada hospital, in San Carlos, Rio San Juan. Her second oldest child, her 22-year-old son, is fourth in his class at university where he studies clinical analysis. Her third child, her 15-year-old daughter, is in her 5th year of secondary school. Her youngest is six years old and in the first grade. One of her goals is that both of her youngest daughters will have university careers. Her youngest daughter wants to study Civil Engineering at the National University of Engineering (UNI) in the capital of Managua.

Adelaida has been able to put the trainings she attended into practice, and she has been saving money and reinvesting it into her business. She has also had the added joy of helping her children get an education. The satisfaction that Adelaida has is from all of her own efforts, and she’s achieving her endeavors thanks to the support she received from Self-Help International.

Adelaida cooking at her eatery.
Adelaida cooking at her eatery.
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