What do Farmers Need? In Uganda, I was told pangas and seeds. In Colombia it was land titles and roads. In Kenya? Irrigation. In Honduras it was guaranteed buyers and fair prices and in India, access to credit.
This is what makes LWR’s work interesting and — frankly — hard. What farmers need in the various countries where LWR works is not standard and is never static.
LWR staff and partners must have an intricate understanding of farmers’ needs in each valley, municipality and region. They need not only listen to farmers’ requests, but also manage a complex understanding of local markets, national economics, and on-farm technologies to really help farmers produce more, eat better and sell at higher prices.
Cocoa Farmers in Nicaragua
Recently, LWR staff in Nicaragua responded to a specific need of cocoa farmers in the country: easily accessible technical assistance.
After working to strengthen cocoa cooperatives, provide cooperatives with fermenting infrastructure, and building collection centers for cocoa, LWR recognized that farmers also wanted and needed to learn new techniques for improving cocoa production. Extension services that provide farmers with technical advice, on-farm training and education, are limited in Nicaragua, and extension agents often work too far away to attend to all farmers. Farmers are left without answers to important questions for weeks, or are left with no assistance at all resulting in unnecessary crop loss and low quality harvests.
Launching a tool kit
This month, LWR is launching a tool kit for cocoa farmers. The kit is a dynamic manual created for farmers, based on diverse input by technicians and successful cocoa farmers. The kit has been tested by small-scale farmers. LWR anticipates it will be used by over 1,000 cocoa producers. ’
Carolina Aguilar, LWR’s Country Director for Nicaragua explains, “It’s really a tool for empowering farmers and ensuring greater gains from their hard work. The kit will decrease farmers’ dependency on extension agents and technicians, so when they have doubts about planting or tending to crops, the kit will offer them the information and guidance necessary to move forward and ultimately plant and harvest quality cocoa.”
The tool kit was recently launched in Nicaragua at an event attended by 200 people, majority farmers, and representatives of the Hershey’s company, the US Agency for International Development and representatives from Nicaragua’s Ministry of Agriculture. At the event, LWR's Vice-President, Jeff Whisenant noted, "LWR has been working in the cocoa sector for over a decade in a variety of ways, and that is because LWR recognizes the importance of cocoa in promoting rural livelihoods among thousands of farmers in Nicaragua and the region." He's right, cocoa has the power to improve livelihoods.
As a result of LWR’s work with Nicaraguan cocoa and coffee farmers in just one project (ACORDAR), 26 cooperatives have reached earnings of $19.3 million. 77% of these earnings are from environmentally friendly products and services, and 6,049 permanent jobs in agriculture have been created. And this is just the beginning.
Extending the Success
LWR will be promoting the toolkit among farmers throughout Central America, and is also launching a new regional cocoa initiative that will extend the success in Nicaragua to farmers in Honduras and El Salvador.
As Aguilar expresses, “The toolkit is what cocoa farmers need now. It will serve them for years, but it’s not the answer to all the challenges they face.” LWR looks forward to developing new tools and projects to meet the changing needs of farmers throughout Central America and sharing their success with you.
ACORDAR is a joint project supported by Lutheran World Relief, Catholic Relief Services and the US Agency for International Development (USAID)
- Total Program Cost: $4,608,711
- Amount USAID funded under this agreement: $2,599,656
- % of total funded under this agreement by USAID: 56.4%
- Amount funded by non-governmental funds: $2,009,055
- % of total funded by non-governmental funds: 43.6%