Restoring the Soil, Improving Farming

When technicians from local partner Caritas Estelí first presented soil restoration as a means of improving resilience to worsening weather patterns, Doña Emma says she and the 40 other farmers at the meeting could immediately see it was “a beautiful way to recover from the hurricanes” that had recently affected them.

As with most of those present Emma, her husband and their three children depend entirely on agriculture. They’ve mainly grown basic grains and a few vegetables, but that’s become more and more challenging here in Nicaragua’s “dry corridor.” Seasons are getting hotter and drier. When it does rain, it seems to come intensely and all at once, with disastrous consequences like washing away topsoil.

The main focus of the work is to restore soil fertility and moisture by planting cover crops, rotating and diversifying what’s planted, using water more efficiently, and practicing a number of other sustainable farming methods. Caritas Estelí is training 16 “promoters” who then share what they learn with their neighbors. Increasing the organic matter in soils builds soil health over time, leading to better yields and improving the quality and quantity of food the farm families eat. The promoters also learn and pass along solid ways of marketing surplus crops, and encourage participants to form Savings and Lending groups. As families save money, they are able to launch small businesses that ultimately improve their incomes and overall well-being.

Emma says that “For our first planting, each farmer received a kit of inputs that included corn, bean, and sorghum seeds, Canavalia beans as a cover crop to protect and stabilize the soil, and fertilizers. We also received supplies to establish twelve demonstration plots for our Farmer Field School.”

The producers chose Emma to be one of their ag promoters, since she has built a reputation in the community of helping others. She now serves twenty farmers, “preaching” what she practices on her own farm.

Nicaragua Estelí Program
Led by Catholic Relief Services and Local Partner Diocesan Caritas of Estelí

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