Marisol Guillen Martínez (Photo: Beatriz Oliver/USC Canada)

USC Canada in Nicaragua

This is the first year of the Seeds of Survival program in Nicaragua. The SoS program supports farmers dealing with climate change and repeated droughts in the region, including a pronounced drought in 2015/16. We work with farmers to diversify and improve crops to withstand the challenging local conditions and provide for food security and income.

The SoS Program in Nicaragua is piloting local agricultural research committees (CIALs), as used successfully in Honduras, in five municipalities (Totogalpa, Palacaguina, Cusmapa, Somoto and San Lucas), in order to expand farmer participation and program reach. CIALs are groups of farmers who work together and with the larger network of CIALs to solve farming problems. They take on issues like poor soil, changing climate, and lack of water, learning to grow more, diverse food by implementing new, Earth-friendly techniques, breeding crop varieties well-suited to these growing conditions, and starting seed banks.

The SoS program seeks to strengthen community organizing to improve agricultural systems and seed supply, develop local micro-enterprises, and engage more rural women and youth.

Our Local Partner: FECODESA

Our partner, the Federation of Cooperatives for Development (Federación de Cooperativas para el Desarrollo, FECODESA) unifies 16 cooperative associations and unions, and one non-profit organization under a common banner. With more than 6,000 members from 144 grassroots coops, FECODESA assists its members in farm improvement, diversification and marketing. The team works with communities in a highly drought-prone area, called the Dry Corridor, to increase food security and income through participatory plant breeding, sustainable, Earth-friendly farming (agroecology) and cooperative marketing. 

Where Do We Work?

The SoS program will support and amplify our partner's work in 34 municipalities in the Madriz department, an area facing critical challenges due to climate change.

Core Work

  • Completed baseline study of the region's seed system (seed security assessment)
  • Creation of farmer-researcher groups (CIALs) with support from our Honduran partner, who has been using these farmer networks for more than a decade. CIALs will help farmers collectively tackle challenges.
  • Training for farmers in participatory plant breeding (PPB) and participatory varietal selection (PVS)
  • Development of drought-tolerant, early-to-harvest maize using PPB and PVS
  • Development of nutritious sorghum varieties that can be harvested sooner and can survive drought
  • Establishment of a network of community seed banks, each with seed cleaning and storage equipment

Self-Sufficiency through Diversification

In Cayantú, Totogalpa, the farm of Juan González, his son Daniel and their families, is now brimming with diversity. Coffee, vegetables, fruit trees and medicinal herbs are planted together, next to local maize and tortillero sorghum. They made these changes with support from FECODESA over the last few years and have a magnificently productive farm despite their region's regular drought. The key is trees, says Juan.


Daniel González (Photo: Beatriz Oliver/USC Canada)

"By planting trees, there is water," he explains.

Now self-sufficient for most of their food and able to sell the surplus, Juan and Daniel are teaching their neighbours about the benefits of agroforestry, passing along both information and seedlings. They are adamant about the benefits of this approach: food security, firewood and an increased water supply.

The SoS program will build on this approach in this region which is suffering from climatic extremes and lack of regular precipitation causing crop failures and out migration.


Juan González (Photo: Beatriz Oliver/USC Canada)

Read 7895 times Last modified on Wednesday, 22 June 2016 18:45

LottaHitschmanova tbnWhat's in a Name?

We’re called USC Canada because we started out way back in 1945 as the Unitarian Service Committee, founded by the energetic Dr. Lotta Hitschmanova. We’re still planting the seeds that Lotta sowed. Find out more about our founder, Dr. Lotta Hitschmanova.



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