Thursday, November 27, 2014

Top 20 Countdown #4: Grown Organic Co-op to 3,000

In 1995 the first farmers we worked with planted sesame in a field that was lying fallow. We worked with the 16 farmers who were part of a dairy cooperative…a cooperative created when land was given to them during the land reform which followed the overthrow of the dictator Somoza.  It was also the cooperative from which we rented our little piece of land where we are today.

We received a grant from the Presbyterian Hunger Fund for start-up money for the planting of that first crop and the next.  By 1996 we had 69 farmers participating, and through us, the buyer Once Again Nut Butter was loaning the farmers capital to plant.   
Sesame crop lost after Mitch flooded the processing plant
By the time Hurricane Mitch hit in 1998 and all the sesame was destroyed in the flooding, we had 2,000 farmers involved!  In four years this agriculture project had grown from 16 farmers to 2,000!

Once Again Nut Butter had lent $142,000 to the farmers and the entire crop was lost.  But they allowed the small farmers to slowly pay back all the lost capital, and unbelievably, in 2005 it was finally all paid back from sesame sales… little-by-little.

Farmers kept coming to us.  Now we work with 3,000 farmers.  Many are members of cooperatives like the original 16 farmers.

Currently, we help these farmers sell their sesame, peanuts, and coffee… all cash crops.*

$1 million was lost by mismanagement of the peanut crop
We help them market different crops because prices fluctuate from year to year, but we and they are fighting an uphill battle with processors and shippers who mess up orders, as happened with the peanuts two years ago.

Over a million dollars in peanuts were lost due to mismanagement of the peanut storage and the processing, mistakes made by the processor and the shipper.  Slowly but surely the loss is being repaid, BUT all the farmers were still paid for their crops…keeping the farmers afloat is our biggest priority. 

The coffee farmers are part of a cooperative up in a remote area.  They do their own processing...which is a huge plus.  Their lives were spared in Hurricane Mitch, even though they are right beside the huge mudslide
El Porvenir processes its own coffee
that killed over 2,000 people, because they had and still have trees…huge trees holding topsoil in place.  They protect their land and produce what should be certified as shade- grown, organic coffee which would receive top price, but shade-grown certification costs in the thousands of dollars. 

We encourage diversification and rotation, so the coffee cooperative also plants sesame, cotton, cacao, and they are also getting into honey production.  Going up the mountain to give medical care 5-6 times a year with volunteer doctors, we can see evidence that even though they are still poor, their lives are improving.  They have a school building.  They have a clinic building.   They have a place for volunteers to stay when they visit.  They have water on the top of the mountain.  They have a nursery of coffee plants.  Their children have better nutrition.

The coffee cooperative is just one example of many that show how our agriculture programs are improving the lives of small farmers and their families.

Volunteers visiting the coffee co-op
Future Projects:
  • Continue to add value to all our agricultural products by creating such consumer products as organic peanut butter, organic sesame, organic cattle feed and biodiesel from cottonseed oil...awaiting funding
  • Increase access to credits for all phases of our production from field to final product...awaiting funding
  • Obtain financing to buy the sesame processing plant which we are currently renting from the state, as it is only available to us on a year-by-year lease basis...awaiting funding
*With our farmers, land is not taken out of food production and no land is deforested to plant export crops.


Counting down to #GivingTuesday on December 2nd, we’re highlighting the CDCA’s accomplishments over our 20 years in Nicaragua. Follow our countdown in this blog, on Facebook and TwitterHelp us keep doing more by giving $20. Our goal is to raise $20,000.