Training new farmers to cultivate diverse and nutritional crops.

Juana Mercedes Artola on her family garden, Nicaragua

An interview with Juana Mercedes Artola, Troilo Nicaragua

More than half of all Nicaraguans live in rural communities, where agriculture is their only source of food and income.  Here people suffer from poor nutrition, the effects of climate change, and high unemployment. According to UNICEF, 19% of children in Nicaragua under the age of five suffer from chronic malnutrition, while rates of stunting among children are some of the highest in the world.

To reverse these trends, ViviendasLeon trains families in rural communities to farm their small plots of land while diversifying and updating their methods to secure their food supply. They are given fencing, drip irrigation, and hand operated fumigation pumps. They are provided with technical training and supervision to maximize their food production, and we improve their wells to provide irrigation water.

Families are taught, through hands-on workshops, an extensive list of technical farming strategies and techniques over 4 years. These include: selection of soil with organic matter, creating compost to fertilize the soil, creating seedbeds for germination, preparation of biopesticides and organic fungicides, creating linear mounds for plant cultivation, pest and disease control, and the importance of crop diversification to create nutritious diets

Families are introduced to as many as 30 vegetable varieties and a smaller list of fruits and citrus to plant in their farms.  Some of these include: 3 varieties of squash, eggplant, onions, green beans, cucumber, lettuce, lemons, corn, melons, papaya, guayaba, peppers, pineapple, beets, radish, cabbage, watermelon, tomatoes and carrots. All of these are organically grown, and are very valuable in local markets, especially when grown off-season, as our farmers can do with the water from their improved wells.

“Before VL arrived, we were growing traditional crops like corn and sorghum (a high protein grain consumed by humans and animals).  We knew nothing about organic farming, nor how to grow and harvest vegetables.  Now with the increase in water from our improved wells, we can grow and harvest year-round. Because of the training sessions, we know the entire process from soil selection to sowing and harvesting.  Typically, rural families cannot afford to buy vegetables, and this has created the poor nutrition we have experienced here for years.  With our new knowledge and small farms, our children and families are eating better, and we earn a living from the surplus to meet our other needs.”

Juana Mercedes Artola

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