Over the past year, TechnoServe Nicaragua has continued to support three farmer associations in the regions of Jinotega and Matagalpa, helping them to increase the quantity and quality of their production, capture more value-adding opportunities, consolidate their markets and become stronger institutions. TechnoServe provided the following assistance to the farmer associations:
• Technical assistance: importation of improved seeds and linkages with suppliers of agricultural inputs, training in good agricultural and manufacturing practices to guarantee food safety; training in basic value added processing such as washing and packing to meet the needs of buyers; assistance in establishing accounting systems and other business records.
• Financing: TechnoServe helped producer groups to access financing through third-party sources. Microfinance organizations such as World Relief (Asociacion Pueblo Accion Comunitaria), Fondo de Desarrollo Local (FDL), and Funjides, as well as agricultural supply companies like Ramac and Duwest provided credit to producer groups. TechnoServe assisted producers in negotiating terms of credit and structuring investment packages.
• Sales and market linkages: TechnoServe worked with the farmer associations to identify and negotiate commercial relations and contracts with exporters, municipal markets, wholesalers, distributors and supermarkets. TechnoServe also provided market information on prices, volumes, competitors and other important data.
As a result of these efforts, productivity increased 20% while at the same time product quality has markedly improved. One of the assisted groups – Jorge Salazar - became the largest supplier of roots and tubers for export in the country. In 2006, the group exported 80 containers of roots and tubers to the U.S. and Puerto Rico. To continue serving this market and expand its supply, TechnoServe also helped the group acquire $50,000 for the construction of a collection and packaging plant that will create 80 new jobs, to be filled primarily by women.
Additionally, TechnoServe and farmers from the other two groups have carried out field trials to validate new varieties of seed potato from the U.S. and Canada. The results of these trials are enabling the farmers to register the varieties for import with the government authorities and then purchase quality seed stock with greater levels of productivity at better prices. Traditionally the farmers have used seed from Holland, with higher ocean freight costs. Four members from one of the potato cooperatives were invited by California-Oregon Seed, Inc., an important seed potato grower, to an event in the U.S. to share experiences. All of the costs were covered by the company and the farmers stayed in California for six days.
In 2006, the three assisted groups sourced product from 129 producers and had sales of $1.9 million. Of this amount, $828,500 was for the export market. Local sales, principally potatoes, were negotiated at very competitive prices and generated important profits for the farmers.