Monday, December 14, 2015

Cash Crop Possibilities in Nicaragua

Nicaragua's hilly farmlands
By Volunteer Rip Winkel

In October of 2015, I was privileged to have traveled to Nicaragua in Central America to work on a Farmer-to-Farmer assignment, supported by the U.S. Agency for International Development through the organization Partners of the Americas. The assignment was to assess the viability for small-scale cash crop production in four farming communities in the municipality of Nueva Guinea.  My principle responsibilities were to meet with representatives from each community, extract one or more soil samples from each, and analyze each sample for pH, and N, P, K availability. After the analyses was completed, I was to recommend avenues that could be taken to amend the soil as well as possible crops that would perform well in the given soil/climatic conditions.

The day after arriving in Managua, I was met by Moises Guillén, the F2F field officer that assisted me for the duration of my stay. Moises was the best of gentlemen; extremely helpful in transporting me around the country side, stepping in when my Spanish failed, and holding me to the two week schedule. The trip to the town of Nueva Guinea was approx. 280 km southeast of Managua in the South Atlantic Autonomous Region of Nicaragua, and took about 4 hours. The two lane road was sinuous almost the entire way, but in good condition with many incredibly beautiful vistas over-looking the Nicaraguan countryside.

Testing soil samples 
We arrived in Nueva Guinea around noon, and of course, it was raining. Moises and I checked-in to the hotel and ate a quick lunch as we had a meeting with Jamileth Méndez, the president of UNAG (Unión Nacional de Agrícola y Ganadería) that afternoon. For the most part, the next two weeks were spent in that region, where Moises, Ms. Méndez and I worked on two main objectives of the assignment. The first was to review current cultivars being grown, discuss crop pests/diseases, soil issues with the farmers, and extract soil samples representative of each community.

The second objective was to conduct an informative presentation to each of the communities with applicable recommendations. When the results of the pH, N, P, and K (and soil texture analysis of each) were completed, presentations were given to each community and to a group at the UNAG office. The presentations discussed various topics such as soil origin/ composition (general and specific), soil maintenance, importance of organic material in soil, facts on crop production (with fact-sheet handouts). The presentations also reviewed the results from the each community’s soil samples. Recommendations were then discussed over the mitigation of soil acidity, soil erosion prevention, increasing micro biotic activity via organic material, and crop options that would be best suited to the existing soil conditions, etc.  
Winkel gives recommendations to potential farmers

The last part of this objective was to initiate some test-plots, where treatments were applied to four quadrants of soil. Commonly planted crops were planted in the treatments. There were three of these test-plots in total, located in areas with easy access, and open for all four of the communities. The intent for initiating these experimental plots were to be a source of information/education for the farmers; to test new cultivars, to try various soil amendments, resolve disease problems, etc. in a hands-on

Over all, the two week trip went very fast...too fast. I wish I could have stayed there quite a bit longer for the amount of work that could be done. 

No comments:

Post a Comment