|Mike Doherty in the field|
I had an opportunity to learn something about that process of rural income generation, and hopefully help accelerate it, via a Farmer to Farmer (F2F) volunteer assignment in Nicaragua last year. Although I felt well prepared and supported (thanks to the Partners of the Americas (POA) specialists I had met in the capital city of Managua and via reports from their Washington, D.C. office), I was excited to be exploring the real backcountry with another F2F volunteer from Illinois and a local POA-contracted guide.
|Touring dairy plant - far left, F2F volunteer Michael Lofstrom, |
center, GRINSA's agricultural engineers,
far right, F2F volunteer Mike Doherty
A second F2F Nicaragua project awaited me in the town of Chichigalpa, located at the foot of the dramatic San Cristobal Volcano. Famous for its Flor de Cana rum factory, this bustling farm town is centered in a broad valley, backed by the smoldering summit of the volcano. I gave a presentation on strategic planning to a group from the Chichigalpa chapter of Nicaragua’s national business development association, called INDE. We had a robust question and answer session that morning, which revolved around agricultural development. On the way out of town, I noted a few tractor dealerships along the main road and a few tractors being driven out to the fields. It reminded me of a vibrant and diversified farm economy in the U.S. rather than a post-revolutionary Central American socialist country!
Nicaragua’s retail is also developing quickly, and not just in the form of new, gleaming, modern supermarkets and shopping malls in Managua, but also in the form of intermediate-sized “country” grocery stores in the smaller towns and cities. In all of these stores, one sees an increasing presence of “made in Nicaragua” agricultural products such as roasted coffee, chocolate bars, rum, flavored yogurts, various cheeses and more.
Assuming their country’s development stays on track, Nicaragua can be safely added to the list of up-and-coming emerging markets. I promised myself I would be return someday, not only to see that progress for myself, but perhaps to build even stronger relationships.
This article was previously published under the title "Nicaragua: 'Big Ag' in Central America" on the Illinois Farm Bureau's FarmWeekNow blog and in FarmWeek's hardcopy edition.