Farmers of the Nueva Segovia department are participating in Purchase for Progress project (P4P). (Copyright: WFP/Sabrina Quezada)
Under a small shed that barely protects them from the intense sunshine, 15 small farmers clean and handpick maize from their most recent harvest. They separate the good grain from those that are broken or “dead” (damaged). This is painstaking and tiring work, but their enthusiasm is palpable.
These farmers belong to the “Nuevo Horizonte” co-operative, which brings together seventy staple food producers in northern Nicaragua. They are preparing ten metric tons of maize that are to be sold to the WFP through the project titled “Purchase for Progress” (P4P).
As part of P4P, and thanks to the contributions made by the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, members of the co-op received credits for seeds and fertilizers, and were trained in crop management and post-harvest techniques, good manufacturing practices and cooperative systems.
One of the main concerns among small farmers in Nicaragua regards marketing their harvest. Thus the project also provides them access to markets that offer better prices. “We used to sell our product to merchants, who don’t require quality but also pay very little. In addition, we lost out because the weights weren’t fair”, says the president of the cooperative, Luis Enrique Quezada.
The seven cooperatives participating in the Purchase for Progress project were given information on the mechanisms for selling their crop to the WFP, which uses the maize in its food assistance programs. “We didn’t participate in the first round of purchasing,” says Quezada. “We weren’t sure we could comply in terms of quality and the delivery date.” That year, the members of the “Nuevo Horizonte” co-operative sold ten metric tons of their harvest to a larger cooperative, which in turn sold the maize to the WFP.
“We couldn’t allow ourselves to be left behind,” says Abel Vílchez, a co-op member. “We were trained in post-harvest management and were informed about how WFP operates. Now we process the maize, and like that we get a better price.” The cooperative has also built a warehouse and received financing from P4P for the purchase of 60 metal silos in which to store its harvest.
Although “Nuevo Horizonte” lacks machinery for selecting, cleaning, drying and packaging, the partners do this work manually. This represents an opportunity to earn some extra cash in an area where migration is high due to poverty and unemployment.
“Now we sell good quality maize and get a better price. This effort is worthwhile because the extra income benefits our families”, says Vílchez.
Little by little the maize leaves the farm in bags marked with the WFP logo. There isn’t much more to go before “Nuevo Horizonte” will have completed the ten metric ton sale it contracted with the agency. “The co-operative has been strengthened with this vote of confidence by P4P. We are proud to meet the goal, and also because the maize we grow will be part of the lunch children are given at school.”