Nicaragua is one of the poorest countries in the Americas, with around 17 percent of its population living in extreme poverty. Some 76 percent of these poorest people live in rural areas where they struggle to make a living from agriculture and fishing.
The country is prone to natural disasters – hurricanes, landslides, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions – which wreak havoc on farming, livelihoods and food security.
In 2007, Hurricane Felix devastated Nicaragua, causing deaths and displacement and wiping out crops and fruit trees. The autonomous Region of the North Atlantic (RAAN), where food insecurity runs high, was particularly hard hit.
Soaring food and oil prices in 2008 and the global financial crisis in 2009 – both following closely on the heels of Hurricane Felix – have challenged the country’s ability to lift itself out of poverty.
European Union Food Facility
Several factors have hamstrung agricultural productivity in Nicaragua, including farmers’ limited access to quality inputs and credit, inadequate infrastructure and marketing services and unpredictable weather.
FAO launched a two-year project in June 2009 to strengthen the productivity of local farmers’ associations and to make food more readily available to households.
With funds from the European Union worth € 3 million, FAO is supporting the Nicaraguan government in distributing certified seeds and fertilizers to 5 500 small-scale farming families to help boost their production of maize, beans and rice – staples in the Nicaraguan diet.
Many small farmers in Nicaragua lack the resources to invest in proper storage facilities, thus running the risk of losing their grain and food to spoilage. To reduce these losses, the project is working to distribute metallic silos, create storage centres and share best practices for improving farmers’ individual and collective storage capacity.
Farmers are to receive training in production, processing and marketing to help improve income prospects, while workshops on such topics as drafting business and marketing plans and learning value-added processing techniques are also envisaged.
FAO is working closely with the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Forestry (MAGFOR), the Nicaraguan Institute for Agricultural and Livestock Technology (INTA) and farmers’ organizations to carry out this project.
Other FAO Activities
Through a Technical Cooperation Programme project launched in 2008, FAO has supported the Nicaraguan government in supplying red beans, maize seed and fertilizers to more than 5 700 of the most vulnerable farming families. These farmers live in the autonomous Regions of the North and South Atlantic (RAAN) and (RAAS), which, owing to their location on the Caribbean coast, have suffered enormously from seasonal hurricanes.
FAO is also finalizing proposals that would rehabilitate seed systems and thus increase yields through use of high-quality seed.