A wasteland named "Peor es nada" (“better than nothing”) has become a model ecological farm in Nicaragua

A wasteland named "Peor es nada" (“better than nothing”) has become a model ecological farm in Nicaragua

in News
This news is part of the following focus area:
Judith Vanegas
Judith Vanegas
Consultora de comunicación del Proyecto Gestión de Conocimiento de la cadena de valor del cacao en Centroamérica

This farm, whose name reflects what its owner Juan Pablo Ruiz initially saw in it, has grown from 9.6 hectares of pastureland to a national reference farm with three organic certification seals for coffee and cocoa. What elements triggered this transformation? Join us on this guided written tour to his farm in Nicaragua.

In addition to coffee and cocoa, Ruiz's farm, located in the department of Matagalpa, 213 kilometres north of the capital Managua, produces basic grains, mango and rambutan. It also harbours a poultry farm and has plantations of royal cedar, mahogany and coyote (scientific name "platymiscium pinnatum").

The transformation of the farm is due to the 39 pilot cocoa plots under agroforestry systems that Rikolto has facilitated with the project Knowledge Management of the Cocoa Value Chain in Central America implemented in Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua from July 2019, with funds from the Swiss Development Cooperation Agency (SDC).

The farm of Don Juan Pablo has attracted the attention of other farmers, who come to what they call the "school" or "showcase" of ecological and economic production.

Climate change resilient systems

The farmer reiterates that all the organic fertiliser he uses comes from the farm itself.

"Here we make the bokashi (fermented manure to restore soil health and microbial life), the composters (a container in which organic matter is placed to obtain organic manure or compost) and the biofertilisers," he says.

Cocoa pods and coffee pulp are used for earthworm food. After the harvest, leftovers are collected and composted; and the waste from the chicken farm is used for the bokashi, which he then uses on the cocoa plot.

The fertilisers allow him to earn additional income by marketing them. He sells the biofertiliser and the worm compost for USD 10 per kilo, while the bag of processed compost sells for USD 7.

With this same fertiliser, he fertilises the 800 organic cocoa plants in dynamic agroforestry systems on his plot of 0.7 hectares, where he used to grow only basic grains. Now he also grows crops in association with cocoa, such as citrus, rambutan, mango, and timber such as royal cedar, mahogany and coyote, among others.

For Juan Pablo, having cocoa in agroforestry systems has allowed him to produce food for his family and at the same time to have timber that will generate income in the future.

For Juan Pablo, having cocoa in agroforestry systems has allowed him to provide food for the family and at the same time have timber"species that could mean more income in the future while protecting the farm's natural resources. "I strongly recommend working with dynamic agroforestry systems because I have seen the changes now," he says.

"This hurricane season my plot was spared. The storms did not destroy anything on the farm because it is well reforested. Many people tell me to throw away those sticks (trees) but if I throw away the sticks the wind will blow me away too. With the trees, there is a buffer. That helps, it is like a curtain, and the stick defends you," he added.

He also has a bamboo plot, with which he has already recovered three water springs located on his farm.

Producers, private enterprise and support organisations

He works with traditional cocoa and improved cocoa, with which he is optimising the quality and productivity of his plot.

"It's my second harvest this year, and I have improved varieties of cocoa with trees that have up to 60 pods, and a traditional cocoa tree yields have an average of 15 pods", says Juan Pablo.

Juan Pablo receives training and technical assistance from the company EXPASA, partners in the project with Rikolto; and with the company's team, he is learning about pruning management, organic production, use of waste, level curves, windbreaks, barriers around the property so as not to be affected by neighbouring farms that use chemicals, and water management so as not to cause pollution as it is close to rivers and streams, among other good practices.

Juan Pablo started from scratch and has managed to adopt technological changes. He has had the opportunity to validate the technical concepts and put them into practice, seeing how everything he has suggested has worked," says Jorge Rivera, director of the cocoa area of the company EXPASA.

"In Nicaragua, EXPASA is a partner in the project and its role is to provide technical assistance and training in cocoa management, keeping records and evidence of the good results in productivity and income in resilient and sustainable cocoa systems, to share knowledge and then replicate these technologies and good experiences" says Ninoska Hurtado, project coordinator at Rikolto.

Juan Pablo continues with the pruning and is very happy that he always invites producers to exchange experiences and show how things are done.

"I want us all to do the same to get ahead of this climate change that we have caused, and with the application of agroforestry systems we can get ahead both economically and in the face of climate change," he concluded.

The project focuses on documenting, validating and /or disseminating evidences of the application of agroforestry systems, and also, promoting governance at national and regional level, through strengthened multi-actor platforms, and facilitating the construction of policies and strategies aimed at increased competitiveness for cocoa in a sustainable and climate-smart way.

Want to know more about the knowledge management programme in the cocoa chain for Central America? Contact:

Ninoska Hurtado
Ninoska Hurtado
Coordinadora del Proyecto Gestión de Conocimiento de la Cadena de Valor del Cacao en Centroamerica | Nicaragua