At a recent conference in Washington, D.C., Francisco Gutierrez, program officer and a former executive director of Christian Medical Action (AMC), says the organization's efforts in regions of Nicaragua affected by climate change and natural disasters such as Hurricane Mitch in 1998, have been successful due to the farmers' willingness to adapt to new techniques and technology.
"I have learned that there is a lot of capacity and knowledge in this population," says Gutierrez. "The people here only need support so that they can develop their capabilities."
Managua-based AMC, a group of Christian medical professionals, promotes community health and development in impoverished communities, focusing on women, children and adolescents. AMC is a partner with New York-based CWS to establish food and nutritional security in Nicaragua and 28 other nations in Central America and the Caribbean.
At six demonstration farms, about 5,000 people already have learned sustainable farming techniques ranging from organic pest control, to crop diversification and soil conservation, CWS said. These model farms include food storage facilities, a water source, seeds and tools, animal spaces, and plots for growing fruit, grains and vegetables.
AMC also promotes sustainable agriculture techniques in Matagalpa, an impoverished area of central Nicaragua. Already, the expertise gained by people in the Matagalpa communities is being transferred to indigenous people along the Río Coco river. The Río Coco program, implemented by AMC, is supported by CWS through the Foods Resource Bank.
"These demonstration farms empower communities to draw upon their own knowledge to help themselves," says Gutierrez. The farmers then teach these techniques to others, to help AMC and its partners in other areas develop a regional strategy for improving food security.