Farmer to Farmer began in 2003 with much enthusiasm and optimism. Through the Land Ownership for Landless Farmers Program, families were successfully being brought out of extreme poverty. However, there have been many challenges as well. A major challenge for the farmers is lack of access to capital and markets. For this reason, Farmer to Farmer will be adding emphasis on rural business development alongside our land ownership program in the coming years.
This is part one of a three-part blog series detailing the early success and challenges of the Land Ownership for Landless Farmer Program and the reasons for expanding our programs to include rural business development.
- Optimistic Beginnings and Signs of Success
- Threats and Challenges
- Adapting Our Focus & Bright Hope for the Future
Farmer to Farmer began in 2002 with a lot of excitement about helping landless farmers have the opportunity to purchase land. Hopes and expectations were high that farmers would become food secure and profitable quickly and that land loans could be repaid within a ten-year time frame. Land payments would be placed into a revolving fund so that new land purchases could be made, and more farmers served. The initial funding goal was to raise $90,000 to purchase land for the program. This goal, with the help of generous donors and some matching funds, was easily achieved and greatly surpassed. This was a great provision and confirmation that God was blessing and working through this project.
The first landbank, La Esperanza, was started in 2003 in La Dalia, Matagalpa with our partner organization Acción Médica Cristiana (AMC). Not long after this, we started a second landbank, El Progresso, with AMC. At the same time with our partner, Asociación Cristiana de Jóvenes (ACJ), we were starting two landbanks near Boaco: El Peneil, and Milagro de Dios. In 2005, the Mombachito landbank was started near Boaco with an organization that has since closed down. Overall, in the first four years, 68 families, in 5 landbanks began their journey to food security and land ownership.
Signs of Success
In the early years two things stood out as indicators of success. First, the food security of the farm families was increasing. Food security can be defined as having enough, healthy food during all seasons of the year. Among the extreme poor in rural Nicaragua, food insecurity is common and through the Land Ownership for Landless Farmers Program this problem was diminishing. Second, almost all of the farmers’ children were being enrolled in school. Through participation in the program families now had the ability to purchase school supplies and the stability needed to be able to send their children to school.
After several years, a change was beginning to take place in the mindset or worldview of some of the farmers. For many of our landbank farmers there was an attitude of despair and hopelessness at the beginning. Now, as they were developing their own land, the attitude was shifting to one of hope. They were beginning to understand their role as stewards of the creation and that they now can affect change in their lives and circumstances. This was made very plain to us when, receiving his land title, one farmer, Manualito, proudly declared “I am not poor.”
Another milestone was reached in 2012 when AMC started its third landbank, Nuevo Jerusalen. This landbank was partially funded using money from the revolving fund. This was a great first step in our goal to reuse money from land repayments to help another group of farmers. In 2015, AMC started a fourth landbank, La Bendicion, also partially funded from the revolving fund.
As we stand near the close of 2019, in the five original landbanks nearly 95% of the 68 families have repaid and most of them have their land titles in hand or are in the final stages of the legal title process. The two newer landbanks with AMC are progressing nicely and repayment is occurring at a much faster rate than with the original landbanks.
Next week we will look at various challenges that the farmers face and challenges that Farmer to Farmer and our partner organizations face in serving them. Part 2, A Season of Transition: Part 2 – Threats and Challenges will be posted next Thursday, November 21.
How You Can Help
First of all, please pray for wisdom and guidance for the new rural business development program. We know the need, but finding the best solution is always difficult, especially in rural Nicaragua. Second, learn more about our values and approach on our website https://f2fnicaragua.org/ to understand how we view poverty an how we aim to alleviate it. Third, prayerfully consider joining Farmer to Farmer. Visit Nicaragua with one of the upcoming trips. Finally, we need financial donations. We are striving to build up our capital to be able to invest in new rural businesses and we also hope to start a new land purchase in 2020 if it is God’s will. Visit https://f2fnicaragua.org/donate/ to learn about the various ways you can support us financially.