Bees and bamboo for the poorest

Despite the average smallholding plot of 2.8 hectares, many farmers in Nicaragua are confronted with half-empty plates. Every day, their existence is threatened by high production costs, fluctuating prices and climate change.

The buzzing of the bees is music to the ears of the men and women farmers in the district of Jumaiquí. The work of these industrious bees makes their lives sweet – and not just because of the beeswax and honey! The insects also preserve the diversity of the subtropical forest in the Matagalpa region. Thanks to sales of beekeeping products, women can also boost their earnings – with a monthly per-capita income of between 0.5 and 1.75 dollars, any supplementary income is extremely welcome. 

Despite all its benefits, the occupation of beekeeping had virtually vanished from this region. Now, beekeeping is beginning to thrive again thanks to SWISSAID’s project enabling farmers to achieve long-term improvements to their quality of life with quite simple means.

Barely any income, despite owning land

The 53 women and 55 men who joined the project want to introduce mixed cultures to their fields and to learn how to use new technologies and organic farming methods. This is a necessary step because traditional monocultures caused a series of problems: liberal use of toxic chemicals damaged the soil quality as well as health, and made production more costly. 

While production costs increased, the farmers still only achieved modest profits from the sale of their traditional crops at the local market. The uncertain climate with floods and long periods of drought also made the situation more challenging. 

Transfer of knowledge among farmers

As a local partner of SWISSAID, the regional farmers’ association UNAG Matagalpa is implementing the project along with the farmers in Jumaiquí village. UNAG has actively campaigned for 30 years for equal rights for men and women and for the introduction of organic farming methods. UNAG has been highly successful in working with a programme focusing on farmers passing on their knowledge to each other. During the first phase of the project in Jumaiquí, and following the example of neighbouring Jucuapa, all interested farmers were taught how to apply the basic techniques of organic agricultural management. These pioneers then become “promoters”, passing on their insights to other farmers. 

All-round effect

Having the courage to innovate is truly worthwhile: project participants who convert to mixed cultures not only introduce more variety to their diet, but also make more money at the local market. Last but not least, they also protect the tropical eco-culture that is so crucial to their survival. Thanks to the cultivation of bamboo, for instance, they can prevent deforestation. The shoots of these prolific plants are used instead of timber to support the cultivation of fruit and vegetables. 

To ensure the long-term improvement of their lifestyle, it is also important for women to have equal access to knowledge and financial aid. Workshops on gender relations are also carried out in addition to a series of agricultural seminars. Thanks to the SWISSAID project, women and young people are able to access loans to finance their small business initiatives. Setting up farmers’ lobbying associations is also encouraged so members can exchange views and set up a small library. Farmers can only deal with the constant uncertainties with strategies that promote diversity and sustainability. 

 

  • Project code: NC 2/12/17 Fortalecimiento de estrategias de los medios de vida familias campesinas de Jumaiquí Fase I
  • Duration: until 2014
  • Costs: 41,040 Swiss francs.
  • Direct beneficiaries: 55 women, 53 men