|Typical dairy cow and calf in Matagalpa|
I had the opportunity in December of 2015 to volunteer on an assignment in Matagalpa, Nicaragua with Partners of The Americas. This was my first time to Latin America and the weather couldn’t have been better. The area, Matagalpa where I was assigned, was located in the mountains approximately a two hour drive north of the capital Managua. It was the beginning of the dry season with gorgeous sunny weather in the 70’s during the day and pleasant sleeping weather at night with no need for air conditioning.
The agriculture in the Matagalpa region is predominantly coffee plantations and small and medium size dairy and beef farms producing grass-fed beef, milk and cheese. Most of the farms I visited grazed hillside pastures for their cattle during the rainy season and grew forages, maize and sorghum on steep terrain to be made into silage and fed during the dry season when the pasture ran short.
|Farmer, CONAGAN technician and |
myself in typical pasture
Every day was filled with several farm visits with a CONAGAN staff technician and my translator Pablo. The farms were small ranging from 10-50 Mezannos in size, raising between 6-40 cows, and milking between 1-6 cows. The cows were milked by hand once per day with the calf getting the milk the remainder of the day. The milk was either sold as fluid milk or made into cheese. The milk is taken by horseback to a collection point and taken to the creamery. Income from these farms is predominantly from milk and cheese sales and some crops.
|Farmers, CONAGAN technician, my |
translator and myself
The farmers I interviewed were very forthcoming and I appreciated them opening up their farms for evaluation. I appreciate their patience with my lack of Spanish and giving thei time for the farm tours and interviews. I also want to recognize the CONAGAN technicians that organized the farm visits. They do an excellent job advising farmers and have a great working relationship with them. In addition, the Partners of the Americas staff and my translator were always there when you needed them.
Finally, the Nicaraguan people were warm and very hospitable. They made my stay very pleasant. It is the people you meet on these assignments which makes it so rewarding.