Meet the Leadership of Los Chiles Cooperative

Self-Help partners with farm families to help them increase yields so they can grow more and better food. We pair hands on training sessions with the resources farmers need to put that training into action, so they can afford the inputs they need in the right quantities at the right time to maximize yields.  We train farmers as individuals as well, but strategically partner with cooperatives so that we can help communities develop leaders, who will continue helping their communities to develop with or without Self-Help’s assistance.

Isidro and his sons

Standing in the Los Chiles Cooperative after treating their seed corn and preparing it for storage in the silos in the background

Isidro is one of those leaders, and the President of Los Chiles Cooperative.  He learned from Self-Help how to grow seed corn in addition to the commercial grade seed, which is for household consumption or sale. By cultivating certified seed corn, he enjoys increased profits, and is even able to create employment in his local community for 2 – 3 other people during 4 – 6 months of the year, because he knows his profit will be enough to pay them. Even though it is more costly to purchase the registered seed and comply with regular government inspections when growing the certified seed corn, Isidro estimates that he makes at least triple the profit, so it is a good investment.  But, he said, it is quite expensive to afford the registered seed and inputs up front, and many farmers struggle to put together sufficient capital during planting season to be able to grow seed corn.  He said that training from Self-Help is beneficial, and he is grateful for the financing available as well, because it required both for him to be able to increase his family income. The loans in particular are so helpful because the interest rates are affordable and they’re not due until after harvest when he can afford to pay them and still have a profit.

When asked what he does with his increased profits, Isidro proudly shared that he has been able to invest in educating his children: his eldest son will finish nursing school in December and it costs $800 for the final term. If not for certified seed and Jorge’s teachings, he would have had to sell land to afford his son’s education, which would have made it more difficult to send his younger children to school in the future.

This season, Isidro and the other farmers in the cooperative have not been able to purchase registered seed from the Nicaraguan government. The reasons why they cannot purchase the seed is unclear, and has been very frustrating both personally and for the coop at large since the inability to access seed lowers members’ confidence in the coop. Isidro appealed to Self-Help to meet with the Ministry of Agriculture to assist in securing the seed.  The Board of Directors will look into options to secure new seed from breeders in other countries if necessary, and we’ll continue to share updates in future stories.

Update: read more about the process of securing new seed here.