Carmen Herrera writes about a program in Nicaragua which “encourages an appreciation of local knowledge to reestablish food sovereignty. ”
In an area carved into small farms known as minifundios, where each lot measures 0.75 to 1.5 Ha (1.8 to 3.7 acres), participants in the project called Farmer to Farmer (Campesino a Campesino) are spearheading agroecology efforts in Nicaragua. Crop diversification is one method for which small-scale farmers are using their skills and creativity to “take advantage of the soil,” said Leonel Calero, an 18-year veteran of agroecology practices and program promoter in El Mojón, about 37 kilometers (22 miles) from Managua, in the municipality of Catarina, Masaya.
They are employing new techniques rather than burning the land, and use crop residue and weeds to their advantage, Calero explained. “It’s a matter of conscience, to understand the earth needs care, that it can die but it can also live if we treat it well,” he said. “Everything is in nature as long as we use those resources from our farm and from our communities.”
Since the mid-1980s, the promotion of soil management practices and the incorporation of other farming techniques have taken place in Nicaragua, pushed by the National Union of Farmers and Ranchers (UNAG). Founded in 1981, with more than 60,000 individual producers now of which 20,000 work with their families using agro-ecological practices, the organization is becoming Nicaragua’s agroecology keystone.
“After the Farmer to Farmer Program [PCAP] started in 1986, it has developed a methodology of learning by doing, placing great value on the knowledge of the campesino family, including women and young people,” explained PCAC expert Eugenio Pavón. “The program is focused on a variety of agro-ecological topics, food safety, organic fertilizer, and maximization of local resources, the farm, like using the plants, native seeds, and training space for promoters. There are 1,200 promoters at the national level, 38 percent of which are woman. The virtue of this program is the campesino family is the main protagonist in this methodology, while we technicians are only facilitators,” Pavón told Latinamerica Press.
“The program has done a great job of giving us knowledge, of teaching us to fish and not just giving us fish. They have taught us how to have diversified farms through exchanging information and training. Knowledge is important for the producer and allows one to become independent, to not just ask for a handout. Without knowledge you cannot do anything. This large crop I have, it didn’t come from my pocket, I didn’t go to a nursery to buy it, I only made use of the knowledge I acquired to reproduce plants,” Calero said. “If today I calculate the cost per plant, that would be an expensive investment, then the knowledge is crucial for helping people emerge from poverty.