Ariel Builds Successful Business

Ariel Aguirre is without a doubt one of the most recognized seed corn producers in the community of Las Minas, Nicaragua. Originally from the town of El Rama, Ariel arrived in Las Minas in 1994 when he married his wife, who was from there originally. Needing to support his family and not finding work locally, he worked as a field hand in Costa Rica periodically to earn money by harvesting coffee. When Ariel returned to Nicaragua, farming was totally different. Corn was planted by throwing the seed over the ground and then covering it with the stubble from the previous crop. With this planting system, he harvested yields of only 30 to 40 bushels per acre.

In 2011, Ariel learned that the priest in his community had organized a group of farmers to work with Self-Help International. They were planting corn plots and evaluating different varieties to observe which ones performed best in that area. The group also began to receive training in the double-row planting system. Soon, Ariel was one of several farmers chosen to produce high-protein (QPM) seed corn. Thanks to the training that Self-Help provided, Ariel is now able to harvest nearly 100 bushels of corn per acre. Plus, the certified seed he now grows can be sold for a higher price. He has a goal of producing 500 bushels of certified seed corn each year to be distributed throughout the region by agricultural input dealers, so that other small producers of the region can also benefit. He currently grows 8 acres of certified seed and 12 acres of commercial seed. His motto is, “Plant less but harvest more.” With extra profits from his seed corn production business, Ariel has been able to purchase tools that make his field work easier, such as a sprayer for applying agro-chemicals.

Self-Help also helped him obtain a gasoline-powered corn sheller, which is used both by him and by other farmers in the community. He has made several improvements to his home, too. For example, because he lives far from the electrical grid, he installed solar panels on his roof for lighting his house. Ariel and his wife have managed to help their children obtain better educations as well. Ariel is a responsible farmer who is a respected leader in his community. He formed a group of 26 other small producers who have taken advantage of the agricultural financing offered by Self-Help to help them purchase crop inputs. His group has a consistently high annual repayment rate. Ariel is the president of a cocoa bean cooperative, an active member of the co-op, and was elected to export certified INTA-Nutrader QPM seed to El Salvador because of his work quality and because he follows all the requirements needed for international business standards. Ariel exemplifies the types of community leaders who partner with Self-Help to alleviate hunger and improve nutrition both within and beyond their national borders.