Climate Catastrophe

Heat in the land of a thousand volcanoes

In Nicaragua, farmers’ lives are rules by the climate catastrophe. There is nothing they can do about drought and floods. But they can tackle their effects with the help of agroecological cultivation methods and the right local seeds. The farmers first step is to more CO2 in the soil.


Country, region:
Nicaragua, Matagalpa
July 2016 - June 2021 (project over)
335 smallholders. Indirectly about 1,100 small farming families
Total project budget:
CHF 125,545


The aim of the project is for the small farmers to produce high-quality, traditional seeds so that the harvest can cover their own food requirements, with surpluses being sold. The project aims to improve the technical and scientific capacities of the producers and smallhold farmers and help them learn more about traditional seed varieties so that they can maintain and further develop the local genetic diversity of maize, beans and sorghum.

This project is co-financed by the SDC program contribution.

The rolling hills and idyllic landscape around Matagalpa, a town north of Managua, are deceptive. In the remote hamlets, farming families have been fighting the effects of climate change for several years. “It is getting noticeably warmer,” they say. Sometimes the temperature rises to 35°C, 5 degrees more than before. The heat alone shrinks the harvest and reduces its shelf life. In the past, farmers knew that thy would start sowing when the rainy season arrived in early May, but today this is anything but certain. Either the seeds wither in the fields because the rain simply won’t come, rr heavy rain washes them away. “This uncertainty is serious,” says Felipe Salgado, 53, a farmer through and through. To be able to harvest the staple foods beans and maize on his few hectares, he sows half and half drought-resistant and rain-tolerant varieties. Depending on the weather, little or nothing grows on one half of the field. “Still, I’m reaping more than I used to.”

Global warming means that farming families need different solutions

"Chaos" brings success

How come? Today he grows a huge variety of crops in his fields. It may look to a layman like a wilderness, but in fact, the plants complement each other perfectly. Helearned about agroecological farming a few years ago through courses and visits to model farms. Today he knows which plants thrive best where and how to protect the soil from erosion and increase its fertility. On his five-hectare farm, he has planted mixed crops and various types of vegetables, which he cultivates with home-made organic fertiliser and home-made pesticides. Around the modest finca, fruit trees provide shade. “We have everything, papaya, mango, coconut,” he says and looks about him proudly.

Varied seeds – varied harvest

Agroecology: good for the climate

This diversification has meant that he and his family of five can make ends meet. Agroecological cultivation methods lead to full food stores. And to less CO2 in the atmosphere. Healthy soils bind the greenhouse gas better if farmers do not use chemical fertilisers, prevent erosion by terracing and planting and increase soil fertility by spreading compost instead of ploughing. Another reason why Felipe Salgado has succeeded in damping the effects of climate change: is that he has installed a rainwater basin, which means he can irrigate the fields in dry weather. He uses the right local seeds and has stopped burning off the fields. In his village, many already follow his family’s example. That’s why he’s in good spirits in spite of everything. “I very much hope that one of my sons will take over the farm.”

Your donation changes lives

The farmer in Ecuador. The mother in Niger. The boy in Myanmar. The woman in Colombia. The family in Tanzania. The man in Chad. The girl in India. The father in Guinea-Bissau. The peasant woman in Nicaragua. Your donation will benefit them.