Sustainable Food and Agriculture

Nicaragua, a country with a strong tradition in agro-ecology, is updating its Agro-ecological Production Promotion Policy

FAO is using the Multidisciplinary Fund (MDF) to facilitate initiatives to support the promotion of agro-ecological production and organic farming in Nicaragua
11 June 2020

Institutionalizing agro-ecology

In Nicaragua, as in other Latin American countries, agro-ecological practices have been common among farmers for centuries. But the concepts of agro-ecology and organic agriculture began to be institutionalized only from 2007 with the emergence of a multistakeholder process developed by Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs) and agro-ecology associations, recognizing and supporting them in family agriculture at national level as an alternative means of boosting sustainable intensification in the agricultural sector.

In 2009 the “Organic Roundtable” gave rise to the National Movement of Agro-ecology and Organic Producers (MAONIC), whose main role has been to develop national proposals to promote agro-ecological and organic production. The National Union of Farmers and Ranchers of Nicaragua (UNAG), a trade organization with more than 70,000 members, has similarly launched projects and programmes in the last decade to promote agro-ecology, with very significant results in terms of volume and scale.

Law No. 765, the Law for the Promotion of Agro-ecological or Organic Production, was passed in 2011 and an executive order was issued in 2012 to enact it. Nicaraguan Mandatory Technical Standard (NTON) – 11 037-12 was subsequently approved and passed in 2013 for the characterization, regulation and certification of agro-ecological production units.

Law 765, its enactment and the NTON were discussed and agreed, based on the duties, rights and aspirations of women and men who have adopted good agro-ecological and organic practices in the management of their farms, as a substantial contribution to the health of farming families, sovereignty and food security, and to a healthy and nutritious diet, promoting the capacity for organizational and technical innovation, to deal with the risks associated with advancing climate change.

FAO in action

Towards sustainable food and agriculture 

An urgent transformation to sustainable, efficient agrifood systems is needed now more than ever, based on climatically intelligent agriculture and a healthy diet, in order to meet the challenge of feeding a growing world population in need of more and better food, energy, employment and agricultural products. This increase in production can absolutely not be achieved at the expense of the planet.

In this context, FAO is working tirelessly to support the transformation of agrifood systems and in Nicaragua the foundations have been laid to develop the potential of agro-ecology. FAO has helped to drive the Agro-ecological and Organic Agriculture Production Promotion Policy, whose main objective is to contribute to the transition and development of sustainable, inclusive, integrated agrifood systems resilient to climate change, based on agro-ecological principles, to improve living conditions for producers and consumers, ensuring healthy products for society at the same time as enabling ecosystem services to recover and improve.

Promoting the Policy is key for Nicaragua, where agro-ecology is an option for family farming. This traditional type of farming supplies about 80 percent of the population’s food, using less than 40 percent of the soil suitable for farming.

Family farming produces key items for the daily diet of the Nicaraguan population, supplying more than 60 percent of the production of beans, more than 50 percent of the maize, more than 40 percent of the pork production and 30 percent or more of the domestic production of meat and milk, roots and tubers, vegetables and cocoa.

Agro-ecological production utilizes the importance of promoting the sustainable use of natural assets and the generation of ecosystem services and is based on the implementation of conservation and sustainability practices in production processes, drawing on ancestral knowledge, cultural practices with an agro-ecological focus, and current technological advances according to the conditions of the territory and its partners. It thus contributes directly to reducing poverty and to food and nutritional security, as well as to mitigating and adapting to the effects of climate change.

Advances in developing the potential of agro-ecology in Nicaragua

In 2018 the Government of Nicaragua asked FAO for its technical assistance to review and update the Agro-ecological Production Promotion Policy in Nicaragua led by the Ministry of Agriculture (MAG).

This was the start of the process to update the Policy, involving the participation of the various key partners in the development of agro-ecology and organic agriculture, including: the Ministry of Agriculture (MAG), the Ministry of Family, Community, Cooperative and Associative Economy (MEFCCA), the Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources (MARENA), public bodies such as the Nicaraguan Institute for Agricultural Technology (INTA), and the Institute of Agricultural Protection and Health (IPSA), among others; along with universities and research bodies (National Autonomous University of Nicaragua – UNAN-León, National Autonomous University of Nicaragua-UNAN, Rural Workers’ Association – ATC), social movements including: MAONIC, UNAG, National Union of Associated Agricultural Producers (UNAPA) and the private sector distributing organic Nicaraguan products on the domestic and international market (mainly coffee and cocoa, but also tropical fruit).

The National Agro-ecological and Organic Agriculture Production Promotion Policy was reviewed, updated and formulated during an approximately year-long process of workshops and exchanges with national and international experts.

To launch this Policy, an implementation plan was also prepared which prioritizes the strategic and technical actions to be carried out.

Finally, continuing with the participatory process and with regional consultations, the necessary elements were brought together to formulate the investment project: “Agro-ecological Family Farming” as a post-COVID-19 agrifood strategy in Nicaragua, which will help to speed up the implementation of the activities prioritized in the Policy Implementation Plan.

The way ahead

Building on the initial work, two key actions in the agro-ecology agenda supported by FAO in Nicaragua were started in 2020 and aim to be developed with the aid of strategic partners in cooperation. These are:

The Healthy, Sustainable, Inclusive Nicaragua Initiative is an initiative for the communication, mobilization and commitment of consumers, citizens, producers, governments, organizations and the private sector to promote healthier and more sustainable food by increasing the consumption and availability of food, preparations and products with these characteristics. Its aim is to expand the range, prioritizing those based on agro-ecology, organic practices, and family and traditional farming.

It is a multidimensional response to the two objectives of the Policy: 1) To promote access to and consumption of healthy, nutritious, safe food, helping to build healthy environments and lifestyles; and 2) To develop internal and external markets for the various agro-ecological products and sustainable agrifood value chains to improve living standards for Nicaraguan families.

The second initiative started in 2020 is the validation of the FAO tool: Global Analytical Framework for the Multidimensional Assessment of Agro-ecology (TAPE), which is carried out with the aid of organizations such as MAONIC, UNAG, SWISSAID and, on behalf of the government, the Nicaraguan Institute for Agricultural Technology (INTA). This makes Nicaragua the first country in Latin America and the Caribbean to validate this key tool.

It is hoped, in the coming years, to include national and international cooperation partners in these initiatives, in order to promote the funding of programmes and projects focused on the promotion of agro-ecology as a high-impact strategy in Nicaragua.

Share this page