Opportunity works to provide sustainable economic opportunities in Nicaragua, but what does that mean for our clients exactly, many of whom are smallholder farmers? Agriculture is one of Nicaragua's largest industries and yet the practices and materials most farmers use are outdated and hinder their production. Yucca is the main crop grown by small farmers, but without access to technical support and profitable markets, most farmers sell yucca at local markets at low prices and struggle to earn a profit. However, Opportunity’s technical support and new yucca processing plant are about to change all that by giving more than 1,000 Opportunity farmers and other local farmers the means to increase the value of their crops.
Farmer Assistance and Training
With just training and a small loan, these farmers can improve their farming techniques, produce more crops and create more capital for the entire community. There are currently 1,165 farmers organized into 68 farmer groups in Nicaragua, with an estimated farmer loan portfolio of $300,000. 22% of these farmers are women who are working to provide for their families, feed their communities and educate their children through the success of their farms.
Yucca Processing Plant
Opportunity built a centralized yucca processing plant that began operations in early 2016, and although it is still uncompleted, the plant is operating and processing a great deal of yucca. The plant buys raw yucca in bulk from the farmers and processes it into waxed yucca or yucca flour or starch, significantly extending its fresh-time and marketability. This has allowed small farmers to see how their traditional crop, formerly grown and sold for a quick return at a local market, can now enter high-value regional or international markets.
Once the plant is finished, it will dramatically increase production, and Opportunity is currently working to open a satellite plant to serve more farmers, strategically building off of what has already been learned through the construction and launch of the central processing plant. The plant has also started the application process for food-grade certification with testing and acceptance expected in late 2016 or early 2017. To date, there is only one food-grade certified plant in Nicaragua, making this an innovative move for the plant and the farmers it serves.
Yucca Planting Season
It is also currently the planting season in Nicaragua, and Opportunity is working to get seeds from seed banks to farmers in need of technical support while farmers are focused on seed propagation. The seasonal rains have begun in Nicaragua, which bodes well for the farmers’ yields during the harvest season and their sales from yucca processed through the plant.
These key initiatives and programs are ensuring that farmers have access to value chains that were previously inaccessible, giving them the means to feed their families and communities and build safety nets for the future.