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Cecilia Gonzalez leads the ECHO Latin America/Caribbean Regional Impact Team.
Major factors limit the food security potential for small-scale growers in Nicaragua:
1) Seed banks consist predominantly of maize and beans with few, if any, grains or vegetables.
2) Given a warmer and drier climate, the maize and bean varieties now grown may not be able to adapt quickly enough to further climate change. Consequently, year-after-year, small-scale growers have lower yields.
3) There are no seed distribution “systems” in Central America… no mail-order catalogs, no garden stores, no seed exchanges.
Consequently, organizations with garden projects resort to bringing in “suitcase seeds” from the temperate zone – most of these seeds are not appropriate for the tropics and pose a risk to the bio-security of Nicaragua.
BioNica and ECHO – in collaboration with the Universidad Nacional Agraria – are building a network of seed growers and seed distributors.
Our objective is to:
1) diversify the supply of seeds available to small-scale growers by introducing an assortment of vegetables, legumes and grains; and,
2) diversify the inventory of staple crops by introducing varieties from countries with warmer and drier climates, including Africa and Asia.
Six biointensive growers in Nicaragua have begun producing open-pollinated seeds for future distribution to organizations and small-scale growers who practice biointensive-agroecology methods.
1. Ligia Belli – Quinta Las Gardenias (Ticuantepe)
2. Yoli Hernandez – Huerto Anáhuac (Isle de Ometepe)
3. Juan Miguel Garcia – Clinica Verde (Boaco)
4. Javier Silva – Center for Biointensive-Agroecology (Tipitapa-Masaya)
4. John Wyss
4. Alexis Hernandez Medal
5. Galio Gurdian & Maricela Kauffman – Citalapa (Managua)
6. Ramón López & Hugo Parrales – INPHRU (Somoto)
Ligia Belli and Peter Schaller are coordinating the grow-out of the seeds.
These “seed growers” are producing seven categories of seeds:
1. Edible bean (cowpea, pigeon pea, peanut, lima bean)
2. Leafy vegetable – annual (Ethiopian kale, collards, lettuce)
3. Leafy vegetable – perennial (chaya, katuk, Malabar spinach)
4. “New” vegetable (seminole pumpkin, cucumber, jicama)
5. Nightshade family (bell pepper, eggplant, cherry tomato)
6. Cover crop – green (Caribbean stylo, sunn hemp, birdsfoot trefoil)
7. Carbon crop – brown (sorghum, sweet corn, sunflower, amaranth)
With the climate being warmer and drier – and some regions of Nicaragua becoming “semi-arid” – BioNica and ECHO are promoting the integration of more perennial crops through agroforestry, alley cropping, and carbon farming – including small-scale carbon-intensive (biointensive) gardens. These methods – when practiced correctly – build sustainable soil fertility, reduce agricultural water consumption, increase crop yields, and offset the causes and effects of climate change by sequestering large quantities of carbon in the soil.