Getting seed back into the hands of farmers

By Lucia Vega & Jorge Campos – Program Director & Country Director

Alfredo, Rex & Isidro hold Nutrader seed to plant

Alfredo, Rex & Isidro hold Nutrader seed to plant

A little over a year ago, Self-Help imported new Quality Protein Maize (QPM) from the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) in Mexico to get this high-protein corn back into the hands of the farmers we serve in Nicaragua. We’ve made great strides since planting the demonstration plots in May 2015 that we’re excited to share with you.

The name of the QPM line imported is called Nutrader. Last October, Alfredo planted the basic seed to multiply the stock in an experimental plot. He’s worked hard to care for it and ensure the birds did not swoop in to eat the seed. Once the corn was fully mature, he selected the seed with the best traits and began the harvest – all done by hand. After selecting the best seed corn, he shelled it and in January was finally able to register the seed with IPSA, a division of the Nicagauran Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, which will enable us to provide it to the farmers and keep our production in the Quinta Lidia plot as well.

Alfredo welcomed the IPSA inspector, Engineer Rex Castro, who came to provide the final inspection of the experimental plots. The IPSA inspector praised the time, effort and care that Alfredo took during the daytime, and that Santos, our night security officer, took to ensure that the birds did not disrupt the field. Unfortunately, the birds were not the only challenge faced. Over two hundred ears of corn were stolen from the field during hours that staff members were away from the Training Center and Santos was not on guard yet. It was clear that someone was watching and waiting to steal the corn from the plots. This loss affected the progress and process since Alfredo and Santos had to harvest the maize earlier than planned to ensure no more was stolen. Despite these challenges, the maize is now in good shape and we are in the process of cleaning it and drying it to ensure the moisture content is correct for when we later begin the distribution to the farmers.

The next step in the process is that the famers will reproduce this registered seed under the supervision of IPSA to obtain the “Certified Seed” designation. Farmers who grow and sell certified seed, which is used as seed corn, rather than commercial seed, are able to earn 3x – 10x the income as compared to commercial seed. Alfredo, the first farmer Self-Help began working with through the Melchorita Seed Bank, and Isidro, the Presdient of the Los Chiles cooperative, have also planted 2 manzanas of the Nutrader Seed on their own farms to compare the yields to the seed grown at the Fred Strohbehn Experimental Plot at Quinta Lidia.

Country Director Jorge Campos has been working alongside Alfredo to take care of all of the legal paperwork associated with importing, multiplying, and distributing this new seed. Thanks to the dedication of Jorge and Alfredo here in Nicaragua, and of Self-Help Board Members in the US who are advising us, we are glad to report that things are moving along smoothly and everything is ready to grow the seed this year and ensure that we are able to get the seed back into the hands of the farmers in Ochomogo and Los Chiles, as well as any smallholder farmers in Nicaragua that request this type of support.

Finally, last week we planted the next round of corn utilizing drip irrigation since it’s still the dry season at both the Training Center experimental plot and at each of the two seed banks in Ochomogo and Los Chiles. When the rains come, the drip irrigation system will supplement the regular rains during dry spells.

Thank you to all of the people who are supporting our efforts to get this nutritious corn back into the hands of the farmers who need it most so they can better nourish their families and the families of people who buy the corn – particularly the children who need it most!

Interested in getting involved with Self Help International? Donate or Volunteer today!

Drying the recent harvest of Nutrader seed

Drying the recent harvest of Nutrader seed

Birdseye view of experimental plots & solar dryer

Birdseye view of experimental plots & solar dryer

Drip irrigation allows corn to grow in dry season

Drip irrigation allows corn to grow in dry season