Thursday, April 9, 2015

F2F Country Highlight: Nicaragua

Since February 2014, Partners has sponsored 29 Farmer-to-Farmer volunteers to travel to Nicaragua to train livestock farmers to achieve three primary goals. The first is to promote the nutritional value and stimulate demand for Nicaraguan beef and milk through branding and country marketing. The second is to develop a market for 100% natural dairy products that are produced and processed under certified quality standards, with competitive traits for niche markets. The third is to add value to Nicaraguan beef and milk by producing on natural pastures and certifying farms for adoption of best practices for hygienic, safe, and environmentally-friendly products.

DAIRY EDUCATION CAMPAIGN 

To support the dairy sector in launching a dairy education campaign, F2F volunteer Katherine Wingert supported the National Dairy Chamber in leading focus groups with children and mothers to gain a better understanding of why the general population consumes little dairy. Some of the results surprised the host organization.  The women and children explained, for example, that although they understand the benefits of consuming milk, it is not offered at schools so the children end up choosing other options.  They also expressed concerns about the quality of milk and said that local street vendors sell milk that has been sitting outside for several hours. The information gathered from these focus groups will be used to determine the best strategies for promoting increased milk and dairy consumption. To read more about Katherine’s experience, check out her blog post here


BEEF BRANDING 

For the first time in the country’s history, representatives from the livestock sector came together and formed a committee to discuss the creation of a national beef brand that would highlight the use of Nicaragua’s natural pastures. To identify common goals and work together, a committee of representatives was formed. F2F volunteer Doussou Traore recommended that to improve the country’s competitiveness and trade, productivity and quality would first need to be addressed. This process would involve getting different actors within the industry to agree on concrete goals for improving the quality of beef. F2F volunteer Daniel Shaneyfelt followed up to Doussou’s recommendations and added that to achieve the desired production rates and quality, producers must shift from dual- to single-purpose cattle. The committee continues working toward achieving these shared goals and are currently identifying ways to improve the quality of beef through improved feed and to increase reproduction rates by better understanding cattle fertility and genetics.

F2F Volunteer, Otto Wiegand, assesses current nutritional practices of livestock
CATTLE PRODUCTION 

Some of the work related to cattle production has involved training farmers and cooperatives in rotational grazing systems, balanced forage, and reproductive management. As an example, Wayne Burleson traveled to Nicaragua to train farmers in the benefits and implementation of rotational grazing and low-cost electrical fence systems to improve soil quality. After his return, Leonardo Castro wrote him to express his gratitude and let him know that within just twelve days he was noticing regrowth, and the land still had another 16 days to recover before the cattle would be rotated into the first pasture again.  

F2F Volunteer, Doussou Traore, prepares to enter a processing facility.
VALUE ADDED PRODUCTS 

Daniel Hewitt worked closely with individual farmers, Leonardo Castro and Rojer Monje, and trained them and other community members in the production of gouda and cheddar cheese. To learn more about the cheddar cheese making process, read about Daniel Hewitt’s experiences here. Melvin Pascall worked with Cooproleche cooperative and shared techniques for extending the shelf life of dairy products to prevent contamination. According to Rosalino Lazo, a member of the cooperative, these newly acquired techniques doubled the shelf life of their yogurt products from 15 to 30 days, which led to a 10% increase in revenue. 

F2F Volunteer, Melvin Pascall, trains Cooproleche's staff in testing for mold and antibiotics.
To learn more about volunteering for our Farmer-to-Farmer program in Nicaragua, please contact Michael Moscarelli at mmoscarelli@partners.net or visit our website here to see open volunteer opportunities in our other countries.

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