Meghna Manaktala reports from Nicaragua after meeting the young farmers who are using new farming techniques to be more resilient to climate change.
On a sloping field, two corn crops grow side by side: one with tall plants bearing large golden husks; the other, tiny, stunted stems and barely a full-grown husk in sight. They are both ready for harvest, however it’s clear that the second crop has failed.
This is part of an experiment in a remote and dry inland community. Farmer Marcos, has divided his land in two, planted corn on each. In one, he’s using climate adaptive methods, on the other he uses traditional methods. The difference couldn’t be more striking.
Climate change is affecting hundreds of communities, who have seen frequent and widespread drought. Rainfall patterns are changing, and farmers are no longer able to rely on traditional methods. Farmers, who grow food for subsistence, are pushed further into poverty and remain vulnerable to further shocks. Enhancing their resilience and that of their crops is critical.
Young farmers are increasing their resilience by learning climate-adaptive agricultural techniques, using drought-resistant seeds, improving irrigation, and making their communities more resilient through disaster risk reduction.
Marcos shows me what he’s learned during the project: each corn sapling on the sloping land was planted in a little hand-dug hole, which is filled with cow manure and covered with other plants he’s grown for mulching. The mulch helps the dry soil retain its moisture and adds to its fertility. Marcos is so impressed with the outcome of these techniques that he tells me that even though it is more work, he won’t be going back to his old methods of farming.
His friend and community leader Eliezer is with us. Eliezer tells me that he lost his entire corn crop this year because his farm was on flat land and an unseasonal hurricane brought heavy rains that drowned his crop.
In another community of El Tule in Boaco, I met Ayden, 17 – a young person trained in agricultural techniques. Ayden shared what he learned with his two sisters. Together with their parents, they grow coffee for sale, with corn and other vegetables. They’ve also been provided with drought-tolerant seeds and a drip irrigation system consisting of rain-water harvesting tanks, filters, faucets and hoses covering 60 square metres of their land.
Ayden tells me, “the drip irrigation system has transformed the way we do things – we are able to maximise the little water we collect. Crop yields have increased, and we are now able to grow and sell tomato, corn and papaya whereas earlier we could only sell corn.”
He hopes to use the extra money to buy a coffee de-pulper, and possibly more land. The de-pulper will add value to the coffee he sells, whilst the land will enable him to diversify his income sources.
The farmers continue to test, adapt and promote climate-sensitive agricultural techniques. In Camoapa, they are testing several different varieties of red beans, sugarcane and sorghum to identify ones most suited to local conditions. A seed bank allows farmers to safely store their seeds for use in the next season, or access good quality, drought-resistant seeds cheaply if they lose their crops.
Together, all of this work makes vulnerable young farmers in Nicaragua more resilient.