La Palma farmers meeting with SHI staff.
All gifts matched 60% this week up to $50! More details at the end of this story!
Located in the middle of Lake Cocibolca (or Lake Nicaragua), Nicaragua, is the island of Ometepe. Ometepe Island is 106 square miles (170 square km), has a population of approximately 29,000 inhabitants, and is known for its two volcanos, Concepción and Maderas. It is classified as a Biospheric Reserve by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
In 2018, Self-Help International worked with farmers who are a part of Ometepe Island’s local organization, Flora and Fauna International, which focuses on diverse organic agricultural initiatives. Self-Help staff trained and worked alongside 30 farmers from Moyogalpa and Altagracia, two of the most northernmost communities on Ometepe Island, on 28 maize demonstration plots utilizing INTA-Nutrader technology and double-row planting. INTA-Nutrader seed is the Quality Protein Maize (QPM) seed in Nicaragua. The results were surprising, and the farmers on Ometepe Island wanted to talk about their experiences growing INTA-Nutrader seed and implementing the new farming practices they learned.
“La Finca” Agribusiness
Carlos and his wife own an agribusiness named “La Finca,” and they’ve been able to sell a total of 53 bags of INTA-Nutrader certified seed to farmers in Altagracia, Ometepe thanks to the training that Self-Help staff provided.
“Many farmers liked the seed and came for more, planted it, and are pleased with the quality and price,” Carlos said. “Additionally, this is the first seed commercialization business on the island. I’m already planning ahead and have orders placed for next year. I hope Self-Help International takes my business in Altagracia into account when it’s distributing seed and marketing tools.”
The La Palma Farmers
The community of La Palma is 18 miles (30 km) from the city of Altagracias on Ometepe Island. Travel along the lake coast to La Palma is dangerous. The road has many volcanic rocks and there’s no cell service in the event of an accident. Despite its remoteness, a group of farmers from this community planted 400-square meter demonstration plots with INTA-Nutrader maize using the double-row technique and applying organic fertilizer.
Two findings emerged from the conversations with these farmers. First, the INTA-Nutrader variety of maize adapted well to the environment and climate. Second, the double-row planting method yielded more crop per surface unit than the farmers were accustomed to having. Each of the farmers yielded between 4 and 4.5 quintales (400-450 lb/181.4-204.5 kg) of maize in their packages, and one farmer even yielded more than 500 pounds of maize.
“I have good news: I shelled 4.5 quintales (450 lb/204.5 kg) of maize,” La Palma farmer, Eufemio, said. “I’m surprised by the yield of the double-row technique using only organic fertilizers and worm humus (manure produced by worms). Next year, I’m going to plant more and I’ll do even better.”
The farmers were surprised that they yielded between 16 and 25 quintales per manzana (1,622.4 lb/735.9 kg to 2,535 lb/1149.8 kg per 1.73 acres), meaning that the total average yield was between 64 quintales (6,400 lb/2,900 kg) and 80 quintales (8,000 lb/3,600 kg). The farmers seemed very pleased with the technical assistance of Self-Help International’s Agriculture Program.
“I am satisfied with this variety of maize seed. Even though I wasn’t able to cultivate it very well, I still yielded 4.5 quintales of maize (450 lb/204.5 kg),” Margarito, another La Palma farmer, said. “I want to show you all of the sacks of maize seed stacked up in my home right now so you can see it for yourself.”
“In the beginning I didn’t think this new seed and these new techniques would work; however, in the end, I’m satisfied with the 4.00 quintales (400 lb/180 kg) of maíze that I harvested,” José, another farmer, chimed in. “My whole family is surprised by this yield.”
“I also used the new methods Jorge taught us when I planted my seeds, but I really doubted the double-row technique and the new seed,” Honorio, an additional La Palma farmer, said. “When I saw the maize beginning to grow and it reached as high as my knees, I realized that his maize variety is unstoppable.”
“I think I had the same experience as my associates - we’re going to continue trying this variety because it also has more protein and the yields are fantastic when it’s paired with the double-row planting technique,” Honorio added. “I am about to plant and invite other farmers to plant with this variety and technique. Thank you Self-Help International staff for teaching us about this seed and this technique. This is new for us.”
Women business owners have also benefited from Self-Help’s work on Ometepe Island after Self-Help staff taught the women about new stone baking ovens that burn wood more efficiently and protect the women from inhaling as much oven smoke.
Martiza and Lilliam are two women business owners using improved ovens to make artisanal breads on the island. Self-Help facilitated the trainings and access to ovens through Flora and Fauna International. Maritza has been introducing her new oven to other women in her community so they can begin making artisan breads and learn how to use the new improved oven technology as well.
Both men and women on Ometepe Island are sharing in the joy of bountiful yields and better business. Self-Help International is looking forward to continuing the support of farmers and business owners on Ometepe Island to help them feed their communities, provide for their families, and manage their businesses.
From April 8-12, GlobalGiving will match donations of up to $50 to Self-Help's projects at 60%! That means that by making a donation of $30 today, GlobalGiving will give an additional $18 for you to sponsor a loan to a Nicaraguan farmer so that he can buy the seed he needs to grow two acres of QPM crop! Read complete terms and conditions here.
Jose showing his QPM crop.
Martiza showing her new oven.
Margarito opening a bag of fertilizer.
Bags of QPM seed.