Preserve and Share Grains to Ensure Good Nutrition

Medardo showing the Biofortified beans seed

Self Help International with the aim of improving and guaranteeing daily nutrition, it works hand to hand with farmers, providing them with basic grains rich in protein as corn with lysine and tryptophan, biofortified beans and rice with a high iron and zinc content; giving priority to them so that they could have high quality products on hand for their daily consumption.

In addition to this technology, Self – Help International provides planting techniques through training and demonstrations for the farmers to obtain higher yields and improve the product using existing sources on their farms.

This time we want to share with all of you the experience of Medardo who is responsible of a small community seed bank in the community of San Isidro in the municipality of San Carlos – Rio San Juan.

Medardo told us that he is originally from the city of Matagalpa which is 179.23 miles away from San Carlos, Rio San Juan, and that from a very young age he works in the agriculture helping his parents with field work, he commented that they were a family that used to emigrated frequently to the neighboring country of Costa Rica, looking for jobs opportunities, in that country they were hired on sugarcane and coffee farms and worked only for the season that the harvest of these crops lasted, then they returned to their native country Nicaragua.

He continued saying; in one of the many trips that my parents and I did to Costa Rica my father found out that the government of Nicaragua by that time was granting land to build houses, so my father made a request to obtain one and it was approved, receiving a plot of land and since then we settled in this place called San Isidro, being one of the founding families of this community. After having settled in the community years later my father decided to sell the house which was in the village because he wanted a bigger piece of land and with the money that he received from that selling he was able to purchased a lot of 3.40 acre in which we builded out home and the rest of the land we use it to work in agriculture.

Medardo keep going with his story saying: I live in the San Isidro Community located about 17.40 miles from San Carlos city head of Rio San Juan, married with two children who depend on me, I am passionate about what I do as a farmer and I also love music and I am part of a Mariachi group in my community.

Medardo showing how the seed is stored

I got to know Self Help International through an invitation from Mr. Benito (a member of the Agriculture Program) who organized a group to be trained on a new corn planting technique and the INTA – Nutrader maize variety with high protein content. Once the training was held the sowing implementation was carried out, and each farmer must implement a domonstration plot with 4 pounds of corn INTA – Nutrader donated by the Organization. In my case I did not do the planting as the agriculture program indicated us, because I didn´t have land available as the small plot I have was already planted the beans, even so I sowed the corn in between the beans to take advantage of the seed in some way, knowing that I was not going to have a good yield I still wanted to planted it to at least preserve the variety. From this planting of corn I obtained 2.67 bushels, managing to save seed for planting in the following planting season and the rest of the corn we (my family and I) used it for our consumption and we realized that this is a very tasty corn on the palate and my wife told me to plant more of this corn in the following planting season because she liked a lot.

After this benefit that we awarded with the corn, the group of farmers from the San Isidro community was benefited with Biofortified beans of the INTA Bioapante variety, we received a call from the technician Rodolfo Hernández who explained the purpose of these beans that basically was donated in a reasonable amount to obtain the necessary food for the family and in addition to saving seed for future plantings, the technician also gave us urged to form a small seed bank (a specific place where we can save part of our seed but together as a group to be used as sowing seed in next sowing seasons). The Agriculture Program Technician explained to us that 0.18 bushels of bean seeds would be given to each Farmer to implement a demonstration plot using the double row technique in order to save land and get higher yields from it plus save some seed in the place we recognized as Seed Bank storage place. The technician told us that we (the group) would not need to pay back anything to the organization, but that it would be great if we considered from now on to think and work as a group. We all agreed that it was such a great idea and that the only thing we had to take into consideration was to return back as payment the double amount of beans which at the end would be around 0.36 bushels to start the seed bank. At that moment we left in charge of the project to one person but unfortunately he got sick and had to leave the community to see his health, by the time the crop was ready to be storage there was noone to take care of it, then I assumed the responsibility of saving and caring for the seed to start shaping the seed bank, this seed was saved in a traditional way with debris from the same crop to protect the seed and avoid damage by pests, it was stored on plastic bags and sacks containers which are our common containers to protect seed in small quantities.

I took this big step because it is the first time I have seen a project of this nature in my community and I also saw that the people really wanted to work on something like this, since they saw it will benefit both themselves and other neighboring farmers families in the community.

The Seed Bank started with 3.93 bushels which was the Biofortified beans seed donated by Self – Help International to the 22 farmers members of the group, now the small bank has 7.86 bushels of biofortified beans in our inventory.

As part of our Seed Bank growth and agricultural extension policy, we agreed a cooperation and mutual aid between regions with a group of farmers from the North side of Nicaragua in where Self -Help International has also presence, as the San Isidro seed bank, formed by the Self-Help International, we have cooperated with a loan request for 3.04 bushels of INTA Bioapante seed beans, because those farmers were lack of good quality seed, which could be more resilience to extreme climate (dry region) and pests, therefore the La Herencia seed bank of the Las Marías community from Palacagüina, Madriz and two producers from the communities of La montañita and San José del Coyol from Condega,Estelí took the responsibility of manage and keep good track of our seed to later on pay us back in kind and with a double amount because the beans that we sent covered the needs of 11 farmers who established 4 acres of beans.

To ensure that we will receive our seed from the group of farmers from the North both groups made a Commitment that consists in the following.

We, the small Seed Bank of San Isidro is providing 3.04 bushels of biofortified beans seed to the La Herencia Seed Bank, which was delivered at the best time for them to sow in the month of May (because it is the time when they receive the most rainfall), and they will return the seed back to us with interest (double amount) in kind in the month of September (time when we are receiving less rain in our region of humid tropics in Rio San Juan), to benefit more families in our region and in this way strengthen our seed bank and continue establishing relationships with other communities in the country to guarantee better nutrition for Nicaraguan families. By everyone being in agreement, I just wanted to thank to Self – Help International on behalf of the San Isidro group for having supported us with high quality seed, knowledge and skills that we can apply in our daily planting process to improve the production and quality of the grains which is essential for our consumption, in addition to urging us to form the seed bank, which is a resource of high-quality variable seeds to support other small producers like us, and I want to tell you that we are willing to continue working with the organization to continue supporting the different communities in any part of the country so that they get to know the variety and keep the seed, hoping that they will keep it and continue to maintain this seed, since it is a beans with a good yield that is resistant to pests and diseases.

I am sure that by making this seed bank bigger with more varieties such as: rice, beans, corn, etc. we can grow and we would also like to have a space with better conditions to store our seed to prevent it from being contaminated, destroyed by pests or animals, for this I know that we must work hard, but for the moment I am very happy to know that we are already making our seed bank grow in some way since we are going to receive more from the producers in the North of the country who I am sure would be grateful for the new variety that they are receiving as well as we do.

So We are expecting good results from them up north and we hope to continue maintaining ties with them for the exchange of knowledge and seeds between the South Atlantic and North Zone regions of the country through Self-Help International, which has a presence in both territories. For my part and the group from the small seed bank of San Isidro, I appreciate all the support that Self – Help International have given us and we are going to grow in production and support other farmers like us.