Learning from others: "From Farmer to Farmer" in Nicaragua

In 2004, when the national farmers’ association, UNAG, launched an organic farming programme under the name “From Farmer to Farmer” in Jucuapa (in the north of Nicaragua), it was a reflection of the hard times that had been experienced by the local farmers. In the region of Matagalpa, 54 per cent of the population were living under the poverty line and malnutrition was common in rural areas. The price for coffee, the country’s most cultivated crop, had been very low for years, leaving many farmers and agricultural workers facing crisis; many fincas had to give up. There was also a low degree of organisation between farmers, with only one cooperative existing in Jucuapa. On their one or two hectares of land, the farmers cultivated coffee, maize or beans, mostly in monocultures.

After carefully analysing the situation, UNAG started to train the first 60 peasant families in Jucuapa in two key areas: enhancing soil fertility (for example by producing organic fertiliser, using cover crops and crop residue, and avoiding erosion through terraces and walls) and diversifying crops. They were taught how to establish mixed cultivation in order to achieve an effective symbiosis of different crops, including fruit trees, roots and tubers, and cereals. As a key element of the programme, UNAG trained an initial ten farmers to become “farmer promoters” - volunteers who shared their experiences with others. For several years, these multipliers spread their knowledge from village to village, passed on tips and tricks, and taught their farming colleagues useful techniques, such as how to make compost or how to build drainage canals to prevent erosion. Regular visits to other farmers in the area who had successfully switched to organic farming took place to exchange knowledge.

UNAG is also working to promote greater gender equality and improve local management. The successes can be seen in Jucuapa where it is obvious that women now have their say in all matters. Furthermore, the farmers who joined forces in groups have been able to enhance their influence with the authorities and improve their organisational structure. Today, more than half of the population in the Jucuapa area is taking part in organic farming training. Mixed cultivation is predominant on the fields; the number of farms cultivating more than ten different crops tripled between 2009 and 2012. The farmers also consume a more balanced diet and their income has increased remarkably. If one crop fails, they can still generate enough income from the other products. Farmer Pablo Cruz and his wife Cristina Garcia were even able to purchase more land for the very first time. They are confident: “We will have something to eat every day.” The Farmer to Farmer programme is currently present in 960 villages. ‘UNAG coordinates the knowledge exchange between the regional programmes, which otherwise work independently, and 2000 promoters are passing on their knowledge and experience to the men and women farmers.

More information from SWISSAID who support farmers in Jucuapa in the north of Nicaragua

Further reading

Campesino a Campesino by Eric Holt- Giménez tells the inspiring story of a true grassroots movement

Article by Nils McCune: Peasant to peasant: The social movement form of agroecology


Donors of globalagriculture Bread for all biovision Bread for the World Misereor Heidehof Stiftung Hilfswerk der Evangelischen Kirchen Schweiz Rapunzel
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