Friday, July 1, 2011

Food Security

I wanted to blog a little bit about the projects we've been working on with the church.

La Misión Cristiana has just completed the first year of a project designed to provide greater food security for communities in the Western region of Nicaragua. The food security project was such a success that they are aiming to expand it to the Eastern region in the coming year. “Food security” is a fancy technical term for making sure everyone has enough to eat. In rural Nicaragua two out of every three people subsist on less than $2 a day, which means that hunger is still a very real problem.

The project has three components. First, La Misión has set up seed banks in seven of the small farming communities where their churches are located. The seed banks provide corn, red bean and sorghum seeds to farmers with the agreement that they will repay 125% of the seeds they receive after the harvest. This structure ensures that the project can continue and benefit more families the following year.  The bank focuses in particular on farmers who own small plots of land or who rent land to farm (sharecroppers) -- the poorest of the poor, in other words.  Many of these farmers could not have afforded to farm otherwise and may have left to find work outside the community.

Church leaders in the Western Region meet to review the re-collection of seeds after the first year's harvest.

The other components of the project involve the gift, to each family in the local churches, of five fruit tree seedlings (3 mango and 2 orange trees) and enough vegetable seeds (tomatoes, onions, peppers, cucumbers and watermelon) to plant a substantial backyard garden. This past weekend, we accompanied a group of pastors and church leaders in a training on how to properly plant and tend a vegetable garden and heard first-hand how the project is already taking root. Here are a few pictures.

In order to load the delivery truck, the fruit tree seedlings had to be brought out by ox-cart.

Delivering the seedlings to church families.

Here's Quinn playing in the type of mango tree the seedlings will one day become. We can confirm that the mangoes are delicious!

Sonia delivering the vegetable garden seeds to the church families.

Josue, Darling and Edgar sort the veggie seeds into individual bags for delivery (with a little help from Quinn).

Don Hector, an agricultural engineer who works with la Misión, gives a training on the proper care and management of vegetable gardens.


  1. The seed repayment post-harvest is a really neat idea! Is there any talk of trying to expand the program to include animals? Seems like there could almost be something similar done with them, like here are your two chickens and a rooster for the village, we expect four chicks back next spring...

  2. Hey Marty - yes, in fact! The church has a very small program where they gifted one cow to a family and that family then receives title to the cow once a female baby is born and gifted to another family. And so on. I should have mentioned that project in connection with this one, but it's much smaller in scale (only one cow so far, AFAIK).

    That's also how Heifer Intl ( tends to work, and they do this sort of thing on a big scale worldwide.

  3. Yeah, the seed bank that charges interest is apparently a pretty popular model around these parts. The church I think stands out in two ways -- they "charge" a 25% interest rate, which is lower than any other organization they know of, and they limit the distribution to people working small plots of land, since their goal is to help the people who need it the most.

    Also, there are quite a lot of "pay-it-forward" animal projects around. Like Tim said, that's the basic model for Heifer International (and they have quite a few projects in Nicaragua). The church's cow-gifting project has been going on for years, at least in the Eastern Region. They're working on tracking down all the paperwork/ data and I think they may try to expand it into more regions of the country.