ECHO-BioNica Seed System

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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.

Suitcase seeds

“Suitcase seeds” put the biosecurity of Nicaragua at risk

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.


Storage-at-SSE2These “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.