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
Threats and Challenges
While the successes have been notable and significant, they have come with many challenges, some of which have been due to factors beyond our control and some due to our underestimating the complexity of the situation. Therefore, meeting the goal of repayment in 10 years has been a challenge. There are a variety of reasons for this.
One very significant challenge beyond our control was a result of the “No Payment Movement” in 2007-2008. After the election in 2007, there began a movement among our farmers to stop repaying loans to banks and NGOs. They thought that the government was going to forgive or repay the loans for them and give them the land. Some of the farmers even went to the local government to request that we leave them alone. Thankfully, the government backed us and told the farmers that they made a contract and had to repay. They were also told to not let that opportunity go as we were charging 0% interest, which is an amazing deal by Nicaraguan standards. This was a very difficult time, but it was a good lesson for the farmers, and we were able to come through it, with not much damage other than delayed payments.
There are two challenges that the farmers face that we did not fully understand or appreciate at the beginning. First, lack of access to investment capital and inputs delayed farm development and profitability. Landbank farmers tend to rely on either coffee or cocoa for their primary cash crop. These crops take 3 to 4 years before they start to produce. Sometimes farmers were still planting and establishing these perennial crops in their 5th to 8th years of the program because they didn’t have the funding to do it all at the beginning. This delayed profitability and ability to repay with in the expected timeline. Second, landbank farmers generally lack sufficient access to markets to sell products at fair prices. Landbank farmers often have a difficult time getting product to market because of lack of transportation, lack of sufficient volume, or quality certifications that larger farmers have access to. They often have to rely on greedy middlemen, who end up taking most of the profit.
In short, though land ownership has been effective in helping families out of extreme poverty, it has not always been enough to bring them into full inclusion in the marketplace. They continue to be on the margins of the current marketing and financial systems, which restricts their ability to grow and develop further.
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.