Jose Manuel Ramirez had to wait 10 years to have the opportunity of doing what he loves the most: farming, a tradition he and his brothers inherited from their parents.
But 10 years ago the lack of credit, poor agricultural techniques, and expensive inputs forced Jose Manuel and his family to stop farming. Instead he began working in private haciendas, but his salary could not cover his family’s needs, especially food.
“I barely made enough money to eat daily, and my wife had to sell matches and candles at the village to help me. We asked local authorities to give us books so our children could go to school. Those were really tough years,” he recalls.
From hacienda worker to founding member
However, the situation for this 40-year-old farmer, his wife and five children improved two years ago after Jose became a founding partner of the IZALCALU Agricultural Association, one of 18 smallholder farmers associations across El Salvador participating in the Purchase for Progress (P4) initiative that supports some 4,700 Salvadoran poor farmers.
Besides Jose Manuel and his family, Purchase for Progress has brought new opportunities for other families cultivating the land the town of Caluco, Sonsonate, in western El Salvador
IZALCALU gave Jose Manuel a credit of US$950 to purchase agricultural inputs. Thanks to this credit, in 2011-2012 his corn yields rose from 1,632 to 5,443 kg and his bean yields from 136 to 589 kg. He also managed to increase the size of the land he cultivates from less than half a hectare to more than 1 hectare.
Surviving a tropical depression, rains and flooding
In mid-October 2011, Tropical Depression 12E hit El Salvador and other Central American countries. Torrential rains and flooding affected farmers participating in the P4P initiative, who lost 30% of their corn and 60% of their beans crops.
In the past, loses could have been higher, said Jose Manuel, but thanks to the implementation of new techniques and emergency measures, and the use of tools and supplies –provided by WFP in coordination with its government partner CENTA (National Center for Agricultural and Forestry Technology)—farmers were able to save their crops.
Paying credit, increasing yields
Today, Jose Manuel can ensure enough food for his family and sells the surplus. For instance, he and his family harvested 5,443 kg of corn, of which Jose Manuel sold 2,721 kg at the price of US$ 1,080 –which allowed him to pay off his credit. He kept 1,814 kg (valued at US$720) for meet his family’s food needs and sold the remaining 907 kg –valued at US$360—to IZALCALU. In the case of the 544 kg of beans, he sold 272 kg to the farmers’ association at US$540 and kept the rest as food reserve.
“IZALCALU will become a great company”
All these achievements inspire Jose Manuel to continue working as a grain trader and aim to double the amount of land available for the next planting season, with the support of IZALCALU.
“I’m sure that in the next 15 years IZALCALU will become a great and well-known company. We are overcoming the problems we had with the rains, we are learning, sharing knowledge and experiences. I know that someday we all farmers will have a good year,” he said.