Juan’s Experiments Lead to Better Yields

By Rodolfo Ricardo Hernandez Navas – Agriculture Program Officer

Establishing the demonstration plots.

More than 70% of Nicaragua’s agricultural land is held by small and medium-sized farms whose farmers have made agricultural advances. However, these advances have led to deteriorated soil quality due to overexploitation, land misuse, and a lack of knowledge about best cultivation practices. Over time, the land yields less and less, and many farmers are unwilling to change their production systems and engage in different maize planting techniques.

This is why Self-Help International’s agricultural extension team in Nicaragua works with farmers on cultivation improvement techniques to obtain better yields and guarantee protein-rich food (quality protein maize, or QPM) to rural farmers and their families.

Juan, a farmer originally from Nueva Guinea, has spent more than 20 years in the Ojo de Agua community in San Carlos, Rio San Juan. He lives with his three children and his grandson, and in addition to having worked in neighboring Costa Rica as a field laborer, Juan has extensive knowledge regarding the agricultural sector.

Juan and his family are dedicated to cultivating the land, and he is a member of the farming group which receives training from Self-Help International. In May 2019, he planted a 425 square meter demonstration plot using the double-row planting technique to plant the QPM seed variety called INTA-Nutrader. He compared this technique and variety with his traditional planting techniques and maize varieties, and he observed higher yields utilizing the new technique and QPM seed variety.

During the second planting season of 2020, Self-Help provided inputs to Juan’s farming group, including INTA-Nutrader corn seed, fertilizer, and liquids for pest control and seed treatment. With this, they planted 70,560 square meters of maize, 30% using the innovative new planting technique and the other 70% using traditional planting techniques. The group then compared the results.

Juan and his group realized that, with good sowing techniques, handling, and fertilizer application, they were able to achieve better crop performance using less land. They also realized that the techniques would make larger tracts of farmland easier to manage.

Establishing the demonstration plots.

Ultimately, Juan’s farming group observed an 88.57% increase in maize yields, so Juan also decided to experiment with two pigs. He fed them exclusively INTA-Nutrader protein maize, and his 132 pound pig increased by 68 pounds while the other 105 pound pig increased by 55 pounds. He sold the pigs around Christmas 2019 and got a good price for them.

As a result of this, Juan is confident in continuing his family’s agricultural practices as recommended by Self-Help. He no longer needs to emigrate to neighboring Costa Rica in search of job opportunities since the results he yielded allow him to plant and produce more. With the profits from his corn sales, he purchased a solar panel for his family so that his home would have electricity. Additionally, they purchased more animals to increase their livestock herd.