Central America: Seeds of Hope – Literally
Growing for the market: Horticulture professor Jim Nienhuis offers women in Central America quality seed and technical assistance both in their native countries and on the UW – Madison campus. Photo courtesy of Jim Nienhuis
Jim Nienhuis, a CALS professor of horticulture, spends a lot of time conducting research in Central America, a place he has cared about deeply since serving there as a Peace Corps volunteer in the early 1970s. He’s never stopped thinking about how to address the region’s most pressing problems. Among them: the striking number of single mothers among the rural poor.
“The men had used them and then left for the cities,” says Nienhuis. “They were cast off, but they are young, they are smart, they are willing to work, and they love and care for their children. They can’t abandon their young families and go to work in the city, but they can and usually do live with their parents, and together they survive.”
Often, too, they have small parcels of land—and thus a means of support by intensively growing vegetables both to sell at local markets and to feed their families. Women’s agricultural cooperatives—groups that allow these farmers to share resources and experience, ranging from shared tools to increased bargaining power at the market—were formed to help them in those efforts.
The problem: quality seeds are often beyond their means. Multinational seed companies looking to make a profit prefer to sell to large-scale producers—and at up to 15 cents per seed, women hoping to grow crops for market simply cannot afford them. And inexpensive local seeds are highly susceptible to plant diseases that substantially decrease yields.
That’s where Nienhuis could help. With funding from USAID, three years ago he began a program called “Seeds of Hope” to teach women in Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua to raise their own seeds. As a plant breeder, Nienhuis helped develop open-pollinated varieties of disease-resistant tomatoes and peppers that women could save from their own crops and replant the following year.
The program is making a difference. “The women have really liked the new seed varieties for their rapid growth and high demand in the market,” says Doris Hernandez of CARE El Salvador, who works with the women. Each year Nienhuis conducts at least one training program in Central America that brings all the women together. And each year the program brings the women to the CALS campus. Workshops have covered everything from small business management and greenhouse production to business technology and seed storage.
Last summer, for example, they learned how to better save seeds with clay “drying beads” that are mixed with seeds to absorb moisture. In humid Central America, their use means much higher rates of unspoiled seed for the next planting season. Seeds of Hope supplied beads to each cooperative.
Having access to seeds and training has boosted the women’s confidence. Not only do they raise and sell vegetables, they have taken their businesses in new directions. Many of them, for example, now raise seedlings on an increasingly large scale to sell to other local farmers’ cooperatives.
“They continue to surprise me with their ingenuity,” says Nienhuis. With the new skills and international networks they have developed from Seeds of Hope, women’s cooperatives scattered across Central America are positioned for growing success.
Central american seeds
Agriculture and Livestock Ministry of El Salvador Agriculture and Livestock Ministry of El Salvador –> Agricultural Development Ministry (Panama) Agricultural Development Ministry (Panama) –> Asociación de Productores y Exportadores de Nicaragua (APEN) Asociación de Productores y Exportadores de Nicaragua (APEN) –> Ministry of Agriculture Livestock and Food in Guatemala Ministry of Agriculture Livestock and Food in Guatemala –> Food And Agriculture Organization of the United Nations Food And Agriculture Organization of the United Nations –>
Nicaragua: Import of Seeds for Sowing Up 40%
Tuesday, January 10, 2017
The dynamism in agricultural activities and insufficient local supply explain the 40% increase registered between January and October 2016 compared to the same period in 2015.
Between January and October 2016 the import of seeds for sowing grew by 40% compared to the same period in 2015. According to data from the Central Bank of Nicaragua, between January and October 2016, 816.6 tons of seeds for sowing were imported, while in the same period last year the amount was 580.4 tons.
Monsanto Will Not Charge Royalties for GM Seeds
Thursday, January 24, 2013
The company will stop charging for the use of first generation GM soybeans in Brazil during 2012 and 2013.
The multinational has reached an agreement with Brazilian farmers to stop charging royalties for the use of genetically modified seeds, for which it owns the patent.
Honduras and G.M. crops
Tuesday, September 13, 2011
The use of genetically modified (GM) seeds has led to increased yields.
Martin Zuniga, director for CropLife Central America noted that Honduras is the only country in the region which has these commercial plantations. In the case of Costa Rica it produces products for export only, not for the domestic market.
Monsanto Invests in Plant in Guatemala
Monday, November 28, 2011
$2.5 million has been designated for a seed research station, located in Salama, Baja Verapaz.
In order to continue advancing the process of upgrading the seeds in its plant in Guatemala, Monsanto Vegetales has invested $2.5 million in a “molecular markers” unit, which will be used to improve the seed’s resistance to the weather.
Industrial Use of Tropical Roots
Thursday, May 24, 2012
In Costa Rica, businessmen, academics and officials are joining forces to improve seeds of yellow cassava and other tubers and roots for industrial use.
A statement from the Ministry of Agriculture reads:
A project has been launched to reproduce yellow cassava seeds, which are characterized by their quick cooking, appealing taste and color suitable for culinary arts, as well as the development of traditional cassava flour for complementary pig feed. These are just some of the projects already planned by producers of roots and tubers with the recent implementation of Innovation and Transfer of Agricultural Technology (PITTA in Spanish), which integrates public sector entities, private companies, academia and producers.
New Citric Varieties Planted in Guatemala
Monday, April 11, 2011
A project being developed in Zacapa, eastern Guatemala, seeks to diversify the species of citric fruits grown.
Guatemala’s Rural Development Program (PNDR in Spanish) is to invest more than $40,000 in setting up a 73 hectare citric fruit plantation that will benefit 582 families in 20 local communities, announced Byron Paz, PNDR regional coordinator.
The Ghost of GM Maize
Wednesday, January 23, 2013
“I was completely wrong to oppose Genetically Modified Organisms” – Mark Lynas, environmental leader.
Faced with the recent approval by the National Biosafety Commission for planting of genetically modified corn, granted to the company DPL Semillas, discussion on the topic has once again opened up.
Biotechnology: Chinese Company Begins Operations in Costa Rica
Friday, December 20, 2019
JH Biotech, a subsidiary of Jianghuai Horticulture seed Co., dedicated to the genetic improvement in seeds of horticultural products started operations in Nandayure, Guanacaste.
From Costa Rica, the company will work on generating hybrid seeds of different varieties of watermelon, melon, pumpkin and chilies. In its laboratories, molecular analysis processes are carried out to verify quality results.
Transgenic Crops Approved
Thursday, October 24, 2019
Since October 1, in Guatemala, the Technical Regulation of Biosafety of Living Modified Organisms has been in force, which will allow the importation, commercialization and sowing of modified seeds known as transgenic, for human and animal consumption.
Until now, Guatemala could only import food that was the product of crops with modified seeds. With the entry into force of the regulation, the entry of transgenic seeds for marketing and planting purposes will be authorized.
Shortage of Rice Seed in Panama
Tuesday, January 3, 2017
The union of rice growers foresees the need to import certified rice seeds for the sowing period beginning in May 2017.
Excessive rains which affected rice production, mainly in the province of Chiriqui, will force producers to import certified seeds before the start of the agricultural season in May.
El Salvador Protects Local Seed Production
Thursday, January 10, 2013
A government decree will limit the purchase of foreign certified seeds of maize and beans, prioritizing Salvadoran producers.
The first article of decree number 198 (which has already been sent to Legislature) states, “certified maize and bean seeds may only be purchased if they are from Salvadoran producers and meet the technical specifications.”
Law Suit Stalls Cultivation of GM Seeds
Wednesday, February 6, 2013
The Constitutional Chamber of Costa Rica has accepted for consideration an appeal against the planting of transgenic corn for seed production and export.
While the judges of the Constitutional Court make their ruling on the appeal, the planting of transgenic corn seed for export is paralyzed, a project for which the company DPL Semillas LDT, a subsidiary of Monsanto, was authorized by the National Biosafety Technical Commission.
Salvadoran Assembly Approves $5 million for Corn and Beans
Thursday, November 10, 2011
The National Assembly has approved the Ministry of Agriculture’s budget increase for the purchase of seeds for planting beans and corn.
With 71 votes, the Legislature approved the favorable vote of the Treasury and Budget Commission, to empower the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock with the special temporary provisions to ensure an adequate supply of seeds for beans and corn, as well as the materials required for their production.
El Salvador: $35 million in Loans for Grain
Wednesday, January 25, 2012
The Banco de Fomento Agropecuario BFA (Agricultural Development Bank) will be investing $35 million this year for loans for the cultivation of basic grains, with interest rates of between 4 and 8%.
The Agricultural Development Bank (BFA) will provide $35 million in loans this year for growing grains, and always with interest rates between 4 and 8%, the newspaper El Mundo reported in its online edition.
Tender for Seeds in Guatemala
Friday, May 3, 2019
The National Electrification Institute tenders the supply of different types of seeds for the production of plants in the institution’s nurseries.