To work on a farm is no easy feat; it requires a great deal of physical labour and knowledge of the whole process from technical aspects of production (maintaining the earth and harvest) to the economic inversion (the commercialization). For young mother and head of household, Johana Martínez, 34 the struggle is even greater. Johana knows much about sowing corn and beans in her northern Nicaragua mountain community. Which food she grows to pay her family’s expenses depends on economics. An associate of an agricultural cooperative and a participant of the project “Purchase for Progress (P4P)”. Johana already is not alone; she is the backbone to better production and better conditions for her family.
One of the strategies of P4P is to partner with organizations and encourage subsistence farmers to work collectively to procure technical, financial and training support. “A farmer working alone has more disadvantages than one that is working in collaboration”, says Head of P4P in Nicaragua, Francisco Alvarado. The reason is because associations and cooperatives are given the opportunity to access to credit, agricultural tools and supplies, among others. “In P4P we are working with these collectives to strengthen their organizational skills and techniques and in this manner improve the benefits they provide to their members, especially women” says Alvarado.
Johana Martinez knows the difference between working alone and working in a collective. Since she joined “Cooperativa Campesinos Activos de Jalapa”, she is now taking part in workshops and assists in "field schools". It is here she improves her knowledge of cultivation techniques, fertilization, early harvest, postharvest, storage, marketing and much more. Technicians from her cooperative and institutions related to agriculture develop these sessions promoted by P4P. It was as a member of the cooperative Martinez acquired a "Matraca", a tool used to seed and fertilize at the same time protecting the soil by not exposing it to erosion.
As the rain approaches the farmers begin to clear the land and to select the seed. But many were left with no seed from the previous harvest and have no money to buy more “The earth was ready, but, without seeds there is neither work nor food in the house”, says Martinez. In response to this problem, P4P in partnership with cooperatives, created a revolving fund to provide soft loans to farmers to buy seeds, fertilizers and other agricultural supplies. “The loans are especially aimed at farmers and ensure food production and in the home” says Alvarado. Johana Martinez and other farmers went to the cooperative to withdraw supplies to start planting. P4P guarantees receiving supplies in a timely manner and that producers have adequate means to move them to their plots.
Johana is an example in her community and in her cooperative (standing, fourth from right to left). Works in the field, take care of her two children, Wesly, 8 and Valeska Francis, 13, but is also part of the Council of Directors in charge of its organization and Gender. In March this year he graduated the course "Leadership and Entrepreneurship" with 10 members of associations and cooperatives with which WFP works through P4P. His personal story is one of great challenges. “There is a great way to achieve progress, and I feel satisfied and proud” he said before his fellow students while promoting the final course work. The knowledge he acquired in the course is being shared with the members and partners of the cooperative to promote actions that benefit women and protect their interests and rights.
The corn grew and bore fruit, the time came to gather the crops and the fields were cleared again. Johana, together with her family, picked their crop of corn and beans and has assured food in their home. Working on a farm is a difficult job, to have the support of your family and be organized in a cooperative helps you reduce that stress. With the knowledge gained through the training in agricultural technique, leadership, entrepreneurship and gender, workers have the opportunity to choose the best options for their life and work, which strengthens their knowledge and thus their self-esteem.