The Municipality of Jalapa is one of the largest producers of staple grains in the country. A statue of Xilomen, the indigenous Goddess of Maize, stands tall and receives visitors in a park within the city centre, which is located 70 kilometres North East of Ocotal, in the Department of Nueva Segovia. But a local producer is growing another type of staple food. After tasting dates donated by Saudi Arabia to the Nicaraguan School Feeding Programme, Alejandro Aguirre planted two date seeds at home. He was surprised with the results.
The sweet and nutritious Phoenix dactylifera (Date Palm) is a staple food to many Middle Eastern countries such as Saudi Arabia, Iran, Egypt and Iraq. This palm flourishes in dry desert climates. Even though the highly productive agricultural land of Nicaragua is far from a desert, date palms are growing!
Alejandro Aguirre, a participant of the Purchase for Progress (P4P) initiative, holds in his hands two date palm seedlings that he planted in September of last year, after the Maize Festival where he tried dates for the first time at the WFP stand.
"I enjoyed the sweet taste of the dates. The WFP stand told me I could grow the seeds. So when I went home and I planted the seeds of the three dates that I ate in an old rubber tire”, said Aguirre, who is the Manager of the Cooperativa Asociación de Campesinos para el Desarrollo Integral Sostenible (ACADIS, or Farmers Association for Integrated Sustainable Development).
Eight days later date palms sprouted. Since then Aguirre has taken great care of his palms, using organic fertilizer to strengthen them. “I was surprised when I saw the palms, I knew that they were from Saudi Arabia, a very different climate from what we have here," said Aguirre.
He plans to plant his date palms in a lot near where he is constructing a new home. “They will definitely grow there”, he assures. Aguirre’s dream is to incorporate home grown dates into his household’s routine diet.
To be continued.
- In 2013 Nicaragua was the receiver of a 136 Metric Tons contribution of dates from the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King of Saudi Arabia, His Majesty Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud. The dates were distributed amongst preschool and primary school students as a complement to the Ministry of Education’s School Feeding Programme.
Dates are sun-dried while on the palm tree, and then collected. They can be eaten of the palm, matured, or dry with their own sugar. Nicaraguan children who ate the dates said that they tasted a lot like syrup.