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Results Briefs October 16, 2020

Promoting Nutrition-Smart Agriculture in the Caribbean Coast Communities of Nicaragua

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Between February 2015 and December 2019, communities in Nicaragua’s Caribbean coast improved their agricultural practices, technology, and nutritional knowledge, allowing them to increase the production of nutrition-smart crops and products and enhance their food security and nutritional status. Predominantly smallholder-farmer associations gained capacity and technical skills in food security, nutrition, food production, post-harvest management, food processing, and marketing. A rigorous impact evaluation of the project showed agricultural productivity increased by 78 %, with 10,675 families (5,188 led by women) adopting improved agricultural technologies. The number of food groups consumed daily by women and by children under five increased by 91 %. Overall, 14,826 families (75,000 people) benefited, 33 % of whom were Indigenous peoples and Afro-descendants.

Challenge

In 2013, the per capita gross national income in Nicaragua was only US$1,780; 42.5 % of the country’s population still lived below the international poverty line, and 14.6 % lived in extreme poverty. Nicaragua´s highest poverty and malnutrition levels were found along the Caribbean coast, a largely isolated and culturally diverse area with 23 Indigenous peoples and Afro-descendant territories. In 2013, the prevalence of underweight children under five years old was higher in this area (25 %) than in the nation overall (22 %) and well above the LAC regional average of 3 %. The main obstacles to food security were low productivity and constraints to agricultural growth, including weak capacity, limited access to assets and inputs, low application of good agricultural practices, and lack of rural infrastructure. Other limiting factors included lack of storage and post-harvest losses, weak agribusiness development services, and climate vulnerability.

 

Approach

The Caribbean Coast Food Security Project improved agricultural practices and technology and nutrition and behavior-change education to increase the production of nutrition-smart crops and products, which in turn improved beneficiaries’ food security and nutritional status. The core project instrument was the Innovation Development Plan (IDP), a multifaceted package of subprojects with smallholder farmers. Several national institutions also received support to increase their capacities to provide technical assistance and train beneficiaries on food security, nutrition, food production, post-harvest management, food processing, and marketing. To ensure adequate food storage to cope with seasonal food shortages, small projects for food storage and processing infrastructure reinforced the multimedia dissemination of nutrition and behavior-change messages, increasingthe production and availability of nutrition-smart crops and products that strengthened producer families’ food and nutritional security. The IDP designs factored in regional infrastructure and logistical deficiencies, capacity weaknesses, and cultural perspectives by financing the incremental costs to deliver the full range of IDP support. 

 

Results

According to the Project’s Monitoring and Impact Evaluation, during project operations the following results were achieved: 

  • Project investments enhanced food security in 563 communities of the Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua:

  • 10,675 families adopted an improved agricultural technology promoted by the project, with the large majority reporting they had adopted between one and four technologies. Within this group, 5,188 families led by women adopted an improved agricultural technology; in addition, 1,123 women participated in the IDPs’ juntas directivas, community-level IDP decision-making and managing bodies. 

  • Agricultural/livestock productivity among all direct beneficiaries increased by 78 %. IDP support resulted in a significant increase in agricultural productivity, increasing access to and availability of nutritious food.

  • Increased access to market. Partnerships or agreements for product commercialization were established by 71 % of IDPs. Examples include Robusta coffee bean crop purchases; fish production purchases; threshing services for grain and seed processing; cacao production purchases by commercial groups; dairy production purchases by grocers’ shops; and market and street market spaces obtained.

  • Simultaneously, project investments enhanced nutritional security in beneficiary communities:

  • The number of different groups of food consumed daily by women and by children under five, as measured by the Dietary Diversity Score (DDS), increased by 91 %. Also, 100 % of IDP beneficiaries adopted nutrition sensitive practices; 45 % of IDPs included diversified production, and 10,833 beneficiaries received nutrition-related training. 

  • Other results include the creation of 53 “solidarity groups” several of which have evolved into cooperatives of family farmers and small-size local agribusiness; and of a network of 1,289 promoters (of whom 453 are women) in agriculture and livestock production, agro-industry, fishery, micro and small business, social and environmental topics, and food and nutritional security. Two Technological Development Centers managed by the Nicaraguan Institute of Agricultural Technology were upgraded to improve research and promotion of new technologies, serving the region’s farm innovation system. Limited availability of certified seeds contributed to initial difficulties in speeding up project implementation. IDPs supporting agricultural and agro-industrial ventures strengthened the quality and volume of seeds produced along with their appropriate treatment, storage solutions, and marketing.

 

Bank Group Contribution

The Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP) contributed a US$33.9 million grant, implemented by the Ministry of Family, Communal, Cooperative, Cooperative and Associative Economy (MEFCCA, acronym in Spanish) of Nicaragua. With a US$310,000 grant from the GAFSP, the Bank carried out the Project Impact Evaluation. With a US$30,000 grant from the Japan Scaling Up Nutrition Fund, the Bank trained key staff of the implementing agency and local partners in the main aspects of nutrition-smart agriculture.

 

Partners

The project also counted on contributions from the government of Nicaragua (US$5.9 million) and project beneficiaries (US$3.8 million) to help finance project costs. The project was implemented by MEFCCA, in a close partnership with the Nicaraguan Institute of Agricultural Technology, the Animal and Plant Health Institute, the Nicaraguan Institute of Fisheries, the Ministry of Health, and the Ministry of Agriculture. Close collaboration with the governments of the South Caribbean Coast Autonomous Region and the North Caribbean Coast Autonomous Region ensured synergy and complementarity with other public investments in support of project beneficiaries. The project took advantage of MEFFCA’s previous experience with the NICARIBE project, funded by the United Nations’ International Fund for Agricultural Development, in the indigenous territories of Nicaragua’s Caribbean coast.

Beneficiaries 

“PAIPSAN has brought us excellent benefits to improve our living conditions, such as food security in our family.” Marvin Palacios 

“I have received a fishing net, a fishing line; with this, I have the opportunity to be someone and buy things and food for my children and make a living.” Glenda Gibson

“Everyone has changed. Starting with our group, we have all changed. And the village has also changed because, before, it was difficult to go look for tomatoes in Rosita, and now you can find them here.” Andrés Rodríguez

“The benefit of these different types of crops is that they complement our diet.” Norman Sambola

“Let’s say, in terms of soil preparation or the selection of seeds, all of this has been an improvement for us because in a timely manner we can be ready to select and plant at the best time for us.” Mélida Rivera

“We were taught the law; we used to fish without control.” Alberto Martín

“Now we fish our product, we take it in a clean, healthy, and hygienic way, and we present our product at the fair, and we sell a quality product because we are now trained, we have the capability to be able to take our product and present it in the fair.”  Rommel Gómez

“We did not live like this before. Since the project came, we have changed our way of living. Thanks to this we are different. Now we live like the people within the community and in our homes; thanks to the materials that were given to us, we live in our house with our happy family. We buy our food, we eat fish, and we are able to oversee the problems in the home. From that help we maintain the home.” Omar Lakot

Moving Forward 

MEFCCA has developed a plan to promote sustainability of the project’s results, which includes: 

  • Further strengthening beneficiary organizations by continuing technical support to organizations already created, completing the structuring of some organizations, and fostering new community organizations.

  • Providing additional targeted assistance to IDP-supported agro-industrial ventures and microenterprises to ensure that the business standards acquired are maintained and that these organizations can access the financing programs available to them. 

  • Continuing to promote appropriate agricultural technologies through supported extension programs and phytosanitary services. 

  • Continuing the involvement of the promoters’ network to disseminate appropriate agricultural technologies. 

Project experiences are also informing the preparation of a similar approach to agricultural development and nutritional security for family farmers in Nicaragua’s Dry Corridor.