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Making Change in Nicaragua: Part II
23 Jan '15

It’s exciting to see the determination of the San Antonio cooperative in Nicaragua, even during a time when they’ve lost up to 80% of their coffee production due to the devastating fungus, Rust. 

Their determination is being supported and enabled by the Just Us! Rust Recovery Program.  With the necessary funds in hand, San Antonio has sprung to action: they know what they need to do and have the skills and energy to do it.  For starters, the cooperative will use the fund to increase food security and support farm improvements.

San Antonio differs from the other cooperative we’re working with in Nicaragua, Luis Alberto Vásquez, because its members are individual family farms dispersed throughout the region.  San Antonio’s role is to support each family in their personal response to Rust.  They will give their members the knowledge and tools to regenerate their coffee fields, bolster their food production, and prevent against future Rust attacks. 

To begin, the farmers have worked to conserve soil and water on hillsides where they plant food and coffee.  They have used techniques like terracing and ‘dead vegetative barriers’ to prevent erosion, and have prepared these same areas for new coffee trees.

Next up, twenty families will be loaned $300 each to improve and replant the areas most affected by Rust.  This will allow each family to plant 2000 new coffee trees – a significant investment that will pay them back many times once the trees begin to produce.  Since the loans are revolving, when one is repaid to the cooperative, it can be loaned out again to a new family.  Eventually, all of the members of San Antonio will have access to the fund.

San Antonio will also centrally produce Organic fertilizers and foliar sprays to distribute to their members.  With fertilization, the trees will become more resistant to future plagues and they will produce more coffee. 

The work being done in San Antonio is a great example of how many farmers’ cooperatives have the skills and knowledge to create a brighter future, but often lack the capital.  Modest funds like the Rust Recovery Program can go along way towards empowering cooperatives to pursue their own goals and priorities. 

During our visit, we observed that women are not very active participants in running the San Antonio cooperative.  Responding to this observation, the leadership of San Antonio asked if we could organize a farmer-to-farmer visit to another cooperative.  Etico, our partner in Nicaragua, helped to make this happen.  Thirteen women farmers from San Antonio recently made a trip to the Juan Fransisco Paz Silva cooperative in Achuapa, where women have had great success in organizing and catalyzing their own growth and development.  This exchange will be the topic of our next blog. 

Coffee seedlings ready to be planted.

Upcoming blogs in the series:

Part 3: A report on the cooperative exchange in Achuapa

Parts 4-5: Updates on the harvest