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Improve Nicaraguan Farmers Nutrition & Incomes

by Self-Help International
Improve Nicaraguan Farmers Nutrition & Incomes
Improve Nicaraguan Farmers Nutrition & Incomes
Improve Nicaraguan Farmers Nutrition & Incomes
Improve Nicaraguan Farmers Nutrition & Incomes
Improve Nicaraguan Farmers Nutrition & Incomes
Improve Nicaraguan Farmers Nutrition & Incomes
Improve Nicaraguan Farmers Nutrition & Incomes
Improve Nicaraguan Farmers Nutrition & Incomes
Improve Nicaraguan Farmers Nutrition & Incomes
Improve Nicaraguan Farmers Nutrition & Incomes
Improve Nicaraguan Farmers Nutrition & Incomes
Improve Nicaraguan Farmers Nutrition & Incomes
Improve Nicaraguan Farmers Nutrition & Incomes
Improve Nicaraguan Farmers Nutrition & Incomes
Improve Nicaraguan Farmers Nutrition & Incomes
Improve Nicaraguan Farmers Nutrition & Incomes
farmers on a plot of corn in Ochomogo,Rivas
farmers on a plot of corn in Ochomogo,Rivas

When we welcome guests to our training sessions, we always share Einstein's idea that, "If you want different results, don't keep doing the same thing.” Farmers, women, and young people come from all over to be trained in the Fred Strohbehn Training Center (CECAL). Every month we host over 60 people and hold specific sessions to meet the needs of each group. We partner with the Ministry of Health (MINSA) and Peace Corps to “enrich the knowledge of women in agro-business and health,” and “teach leaders of the CAPS (Potable Water and Sanitation Committees) to better manage their community water systems and improve water quality using the CTI-8 Manual Chlorinator technology.

The specific objective for the first training was to share knowledge about new varieties of Quality Protein Maize (QPM). Nicaragua has the lowest yield-of-corn statistic in Central America and has primarily only planted regular corn and grain since most communities cannot afford a hybrid seed. We taught farmers techniques for raising their crop yields when growing QPM.

One farmer beneficiary said, “I don’t mind traveling far since I know that I am going to learn something new to improve my corn cultivation.” He continued, “I want to thank Country Program Director Jorge and the Self – Help International staff that are always willing to support us with resources, training, and time. The best way I can show I am really grateful is by showing that I am implementing all the knowledge and skills learned from you all. My family and I will always follow your advice because we have seen that it works - as a result we have a better yield in our harvest and have seen an increase in our income.”

We reflected on the current situation with our farmers: they now have access to modern technologies but, since the time of their grandparents, they have not made great changes to the way they sow and cultivate the land. For this reason, we have set out to launch the "Sustainable Intensification Strategy in Maize Production,” identifying the factors that negatively influence the levels of maize production.

Our farmers are in need of knowledge and technological updates. They are producers located in the humid tropics of Rio San Juan who work hard to feed their families, but their agricultural practices lack technical advancements. Because of difficult growing seasons and a poor economy, they often experience harvest losses and fail to profit at the end of the season. In addition, these farmers are not considered eligible for credit through government micro-finance institutions due to lack of collateral or have sufficient credit history. We at Self-Help are committed to ensuring that small farmers know the nutritional advantages of high-quality protein maize and we urge them to sow this certified seed because it sells at a competitive price. This incentivizes farmers  to attend every training taught by myself and my assistant Alfredo

Our micro-credit program has also had very successful training session at the Center. We trained 24 women on building a new INKAWASI oven to improve the safety of their baking. The traditional firewood stoves expose families to smoke and other gases that cause COPD (Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease).  These ovens improve health and living conditions, save wood, and are environmentally friendly. At the end of the training, five women decided to build their own ovens. Our goal is for young entrepreneurs to become promoters and builders of the newly improved ovens as their own small business ventures.

On July 26th we had the support of the Ministry of Health to hold a women’s health training. A gynecologist and nurse taught the women how to conduct simple at-home tests to check for breast cancer. They also brought them to a health center in order for the women to receive the Papanicolaou Test to screen for uterine cancer. We have held trainings of this nature since this center was opened to provide healthcare knowledge to rural women. We emphasize that the women in our program regularly monitor their health and check for these two types of cancer.

The last training event (July 27, 2017) was lead by the Clean Water program officer, Orlando Montiel Salas. Six leaders of CAPS from 4 communities came to learn about the methodology for calculating the drinking water tariff rate (the rate to be charged to the customer for the service of the Gravity Mini-Aqueducts (MAG) and Mini-Aqueducts by Electric Pumping (MABE) systems). This is a tool that allows leaders to set a collection rate adjusted to the real costs and administrative expenses incurred by the maintenance of the CTI-8 Manual Chlorinators and monitoring of the water quality.

At the end of the meeting, CAPS leaders realized that their rates of collection were far from realistic and that they needed to provide their communities with a report that would make substantive changes and set new collection rates differentiated by real consumption of water. Particapnts of the training said they valued the session and went back to their communities with new tools to better manage their water systems.

All in all, the training center has been busy collectively working on new, innovative ideas, and hopes to continue this upward trajectory to help families in Nicaragua improve their quality of life. 

Yields in Central America 2005-10 tons per hectare
Yields in Central America 2005-10 tons per hectare
volunteers building improved stove
volunteers building improved stove
women receiving health training
women receiving health training
new stove for micro-credit program
new stove for micro-credit program
training on calculating the the water tariff
training on calculating the the water tariff
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Kimberling helps her big brother raise the hens
Kimberling helps her big brother raise the hens

Over the past few months, we’ve been working with sixteen area farm families and their children to demonstrate the nutritional value of Quality Protein Maize (QPM) and teach entrepreneurship and business basics through a chicken-rearing project.  Sixteen children whose mothers are participants in our micro-credit program set out “to offer poultry meat to my neighbors and businesses in my community at a competitive price, achieve recognition as a young entrepreneur, and position myself as a producer of meat chickens.”

Thanks to your support, the boys and girls who participated in the project learned how to care for their chicks, and saw how they could contribute to their family’s income to break the cycle of poverty. They also learned about basic business practices such as how to factor in various production costs to determine the most profitable means of rearing chickens.

We obtained 64 broiler chicks from a poultry breeding farm in Costa Rica to start the project.  Sixteen children, 8 girls and 8 boys all about 10-12 years old, enrolled in the project.  All children were from families who were participating in either the SHI micro-credit program or the QPM seed production program.  Each child received 4 chicks.  Before the chicks were delivered, each family had to construct an enclosure to keep the chicks confined and safe from other animals and provide a feeder and waterer.

The children were randomly assigned one of four types of feed rations for their chicks.  Two rations contained QPM corn, one supplemented with soybean meal and one with no supplemental protein.  The other two rations contained conventional corn, again, one with soybean meal as a protein supplement and one without.  Each of the four rations was fed to four groups of chicks during the last four weeks of the trial.  During the first three weeks, all the chicks received the same starter ration.  The rations were all balanced for energy and protein and supplemented with salt and mineral.

SHI staff weighed all the chicks weekly for seven weeks.  The final results are summarized in the table below.  The chicks fed the non-QPM corn supplemented with soy meal had the highest average ending weight, 6.05 kilograms (13.3 pounds) per bird.  The chicks that received the QPM-based ration without soy meal had the second heaviest average weight at the end of the seven weeks, 5.77 kilograms (12.7 pounds).  However, the chicks receiving the non-QPM + soy meal ration had a higher feed cost, which resulted in a smaller profit margin.

At the end of the trial, the chickens were valued at 77 Cordobas per kilogram of live weight, the going price in the local market.  Each chick cost 20 Cordobas initially and received vaccinations costing slightly over 3 cordobas.  The QPM and non-QPM corn were valued at the same cost per kilogram, but the rations that contained soy meal in addition to corn were more expensive overall.   Thus, the chicks that were fed QPM corn without supplemental soy meal had the highest profit per bird.  This means that families growing QPM corn can raise chickens with only their own corn plus salt and mineral, without purchasing expensive protein supplement.

The children enrolled in the poultry project attended three seminars presented by SHI staff, to learn about the care and management of their chicks.  The children were each accompanied by a parent, so the seminars were actually family affairs.  Each child developed a brief business plan that included the product they were raising, the expected selling price, the potential market for their product, the actions needed to produce it, the expected time period, and the desired results.  Jorge Campos, SHI country director in Nicaragua, emphasized the importance of keeping careful records, including costs of production.

By taking an evidence-based approach and involving the families we serve, they are able to see for themselves the difference that feeding chickens QPM can make, and understand that even if the chickens have a slightly lower weight, the profit margin is still the highest.  The next stage of the project will include using profits from the first group to purchase a larger number of chicks.  You can read more about how Carlos, one of the project participants, plans to grow his poultry flock so he can earn money for his school expenses, here.

Thank you for your continued support, which is creating economic opportunities for rural farm families and inspiring the next generation of young entrepreneurs! 

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Broiler Chick Project Results
Broiler Chick Project Results
A poultry training session for children & parents
A poultry training session for children & parents
Carlos constructed a pen using recycled materials
Carlos constructed a pen using recycled materials
Alfredo helps Genesis track her chicken's weight
Alfredo helps Genesis track her chicken's weight
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A young entrepreneur & families attend training
A young entrepreneur & families attend training

This year, we started our training sessions early at the Fred Strohbehn Training Center in Nicaragua to get a head start with the growing demand from communities. We held the first session on January 27th, with 23 locals from nearby communities participating. Among them for the first time, was a larger-than-normal attendance of children who tagged along with their mothers. The mothers were eager to learn about the micro-credit program, but also about us introducing our new pilot project with raising chickens, but many didn't have anyone to watch their children at home.

In total, about nine children were sitting by their mother's side, swinging their shoes back and forth as they sat in chairs listening to Self-Help's staff introduce business training and information about the program. We shared the results and success stories of  many women from 2016, which peeked interest even further. After receiving a few hours of program-packed knowledge through visuals, handouts and lectures, locals left filled with hope, motivation, and were eager to participate in the new program. 

On February 1st, we had our second meeting at the Fred Strohbehn Training Center. This time, we held a separate training session only on the micro-credit program, due to the high demand of the new project we would be implementing with the newborn chicks. The women in the micro-credit program brought along their children, grandchildren, nephews, nieces, and cousins. Micro-credit program officer Yolanda Fletes, and I, taught the children and mothers how to properly raise chickens at home. We taught each participant and family member, the benefits of taking care of the animals, how to properly feed them with QPM seed, and how they could generate additional income for the family by selling them when they are fully grown.  

We decided to focus this training session on promoting the interest of raising chickens to the children, so they could learn to love and care for animals. We wanted to involve them in a positive and constructive way,  that would allow them to follow the footsteps of their parents in improving their quality of life at home.  Most of the children assured our staff that they were already going to start building their new feathery friends some homes out of  scrap wood and sticks.

I was taken aback when I heard from one of the children- a 12 year old boy named Carlos,  about his future plans. He lives in the community called “La Rampla” (located about 45 kms from the SHI office). He boasted that he had already built a shelter measuring 3x3 sq. meters, because he thought it would be a good business to be prepared, and then grow the business little by little.  His father participates in our QPM program, and he said he could help his father plant and harvest the corn, so that he could feed the chicks with better seed.  He told our staff, “I think I will take good care of my chicks, and then I will sell them. When I sell them, I will use that money to buy more chicks. Then, I can buy myself things and not have to ask my parents for money. I can also save for school.”  He went on to to also thank us saying, “I know my father is part of this organization, and so is our family now, but I feel closer to you because I get to work with you myself. Thank you.” I smiled and let him know I looked forward to working with him.  

On Friday, February 10th, the first set of chicks were delivered with their initial QPM seed to the families who participated in the training. We will be excited to see how this initial program grows. Our February training session about raising chickens saw a 33% increase in participation since our last one, due to more family members wanting to be involved. We are happy to watch our training center expand opportunities and programs as we identify the needs from the many different communities we serve. We look forward to welcoming more children like Carlos- young, innovative entrepreneurs, ready to help their family grow stronger. 

Children participating in the new training session
Children participating in the new training session
A mother and daughter working together
A mother and daughter working together
Ready to work together on the new family business!
Ready to work together on the new family business!
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Farmers learn about QPM at the experimental plot
Farmers learn about QPM at the experimental plot

Since it’s construction four years ago, the Fred Strohbehn Training Center has hosted a great number of leaders from several communities in the southeast side of Nicaragua at Self-Help International’s main Nicaragua office. Although many of the events and training sessions are held at the office, Self-Help’s staff has traveled to reach communities in the most rural parts of Nicaragua, (through mud, dust, ditches, and rain) in order to get to the communities of El Pajaro Negro, El Triunfo, Chontales, Santo Thomas, San Pedro de Lovago, and Muelle de los Buelles (just to name a few).  This year alone, the center has trained over 469 local community members. 

No matter how difficult it may be at times to access the center from their rural communities, locals will find a way to get there— whether it be by truck, bus, horse, or walking long distances in order to attend the meetings, so that they can benefit from everything Self-Help has to offer.

The training center’s main mission is to provide these trainings and skills to all the people who can benefit by the programs offered, and for all of those who are interested. Farmers attend to learn how to manage and implement corn planting, harvesting, treatment of the land, and marketing with the QPM (quality protein maize) program. Others find interest in bringing clean water to their communities by using CTI-8  water chlorination systems.  In addition, many more mothers and youth are taking interest in Self-Help’s micro-credit program, which provides training on how to use new and improved ovens, and teaches entrepreneurship by providing women the lessons they need to start up a small business.

In a typical training session at the center, the Country Director, Mr. Campos, explains the importance the health benefits of QPM, along with information about the three other programs’ benefits to create economic opportunity. During the most recent session, Self-Help was visited by a woman named Georgina, from the community of Loma Quemada. She discovered Self-Help through word of mouth from the San Carlos Rotary Club. Once she heard about the QPM program and the experimental plot in Quinta Lidia (located at Self-Help’s main office), she quickly requested that Self-Help’s Country Director  share the QPM information with farmers from her community and to sign them all up for the next training session. When he agreed, she hurried home to her community and passed the news onto the rest of the farmers. A month later, all of the farmers showed up to the next available training session, ready to learn.

Georgina is a prime example of how Self-Help reaches new communities. Inspired by what she had learned about QPM, she convinced all 25 farmers and leaders of three seed community banks to try something new. After a successful session, the farmers along with Mr. Campos, created a sampling plot in their own communities in which 10 farmers decided to use their own land as part of the trial. They planted QPM seed with several varieties (Fortaleza, Subtiava, Tepeyac, Nutrader, and a hybrid) in different plots to be compared with the commercial seed the farmers already knew (known most commonly as NB-6 and H-INTA 991). The new corn grew successfully. 

In addition to the new group of farmers were new mothers, who learned how to improve their recipes (bread, cakes, roasted chickens, and pizzas) for their personal businesses and learned how to best utilize new and improved ovens. Many of them requested to learn more about how they could get their own new-and-improved and environmentally-friendly oven, after seeing other women in their neighborhoods being met with success after receive a loan to build them through the program.

The women also learned how to utilize the fruit in their backyard by turning them into marmalades, jam, and pickling the vegetables that grow along with them.  For Micro-Credit Program Officer Fletes, having youth involved is vital to breaking the cycle of poverty. In the most recent trainings, children observed their parents becoming leaders in their community and were eager to learn additional skills to expand their family’s business.

Some mothers also took a leadership role in their communities by becoming a part of their local clean water committees, so that they can stay updated in improving their community’s water treatment. One mother said, "It is not just up to one family member; it is a group effort that we ensure safe drinking water."

With local farmers, mothers, and youth participating, it’s only a matter of time before more communities take interest in the center. The new San Carlos Rotary Club members now gather at the center regularly to host meetings.

The Nicaragua staff tells the community as they celebrate together amidst their success, “Our doors are open to anybody no matter their religious or political beliefs, our center is to be one for all and all for one.” 

Help us reach more communities with improved practices at our training center by donating on #GivingTuesday, and GlobalGiving will match 50% of your donation so your impact is magnified! 
This offer begins at 11PM Central on Nov 28 and runs through Nov 29 while funds last, so set yourself a reminder to donate as early as possible to maximize your impact!

Learn more at http://tools.blog.globalgiving.org/2016/11/01/globalgiving-has-huge-news/

the conditions of the road in rural communities
the conditions of the road in rural communities
the farmers recruited by Georgina
the farmers recruited by Georgina
a mother taking on a CAPS leadership role
a mother taking on a CAPS leadership role
excitement about the micro-credit program!
excitement about the micro-credit program!
community members planting in demonstration plots
community members planting in demonstration plots
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Country Director Jorge Campos Solis greets group
Country Director Jorge Campos Solis greets group

Although it was a rainy day at Self Help’s office in Quinta Lidia, it did not stop local community members from attending a capacitación (training event). Some traveled by bus, while others traveled by motorcycle, spending their morning and early afternoon in the training center. There were approximately 25 participants in attendance, coming from 12 different communities (Pavon#2, La Culebra, Empalme Cruz Verde, Los Chiles, Las Azucenas, La Venada, El Chacalin, La Argentina, La Palmera, La Bodego #2, Nueva Jerusalem, and Acentimiento La Venada). There were 14 men and 2 women who participated in the Clean Water program, 4 women for the Micro-Credit Program, and 5 men who participated in the QPM program.

The meeting commenced at 8:30 in the morning, with fresh cups of coffee and a room full of participants gathering around a table eager to learn.  The national anthem and prayer followed the welcome, and Country Program Director Jorge introduced the mission and vision of the organization.  He also gave a quick lesson on the importance of receiving proper nutrients in family’s diets, while presenting the benefits of the QPM program and what it has to offer. A sample of the corn grown outside the office was passed around the table for farmers to observe.

After the Director’s introduction, Clean Water Program Officer Orlando, used a visual presentation to demonstrate the importance of having clean water in communities.  Photos of contaminated water and treated water of a local project were shown on the wall, accompanied by a video showing the process to treat the water systems. Officer Orlando then shared with the group his five-year plan, discussing the goals of the organization to have 115,000 individuals in 25 communities receive 150 chlorinator systems by the year 2020. 

New to the group for this capacitación was Peace Corps Volunteer Michael. After the officers gave him a warm welcome and brief introduction, he assisted Officer Yolanda Fletes and Communications Intern Jacqueline Steinkamp in a visual presentation for micro-credit loans.  Together, the three broke down the rules and opportunities that the program offers to women in rural communities.  It wasn’t long before hands shot up in the air, ready to launch questions.  

To engage participants, Intern Jacqueline asked the group some true or false questions as a way to strip away the stigmas that can sometimes be associated with women in the workforce.  By teaching the women and men of the communities that the success rate for these loans are between 95-98% globally, they can gain more confidence that their business can be a success.

After the presentations were over, participants received a tasty lunch that consisted of chicken, rice, beans, salad, and a sweet beverage for participating. Having a strong background in engineering, the Peace Corps Volunteer was in high demand following the meeting. Men gathered to ask him questions about the water systems in communities, while women gathered to ask him questions about his design for a local pen that will be constructed for pigs. 

Officer Yolanda and the intern passed out a toothbrush and toothpaste to each woman, to thank them for traveling such a long distance to attend the event.  These items are given to improve hygiene of children and families, while providing incentives for their hard work.  Overall, the program was a success.  The staff in Self-Help International’s Nicaraguan office look forward to hosting another training event next month!

Water Officer Orlando Montiel Salas speaks
Water Officer Orlando Montiel Salas speaks
Micro-Credit Officer Yolanda Fletes Rosales
Micro-Credit Officer Yolanda Fletes Rosales
Peace Corps Volunteer Michael Canos explains MC
Peace Corps Volunteer Michael Canos explains MC
Intern Jacqueline Steinkamp assists Michael
Intern Jacqueline Steinkamp assists Michael
Women received toothbrushes and paste for families
Women received toothbrushes and paste for families
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Organization Information

Self-Help International

Location: Waverly, IA - USA
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @SelfHelpIntl
Project Leader:
Katie Seifert
Waverly, IA United States
$3,810 raised of $7,020 goal
 
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