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Crop diversification and food security in La Suiza - Case Study

The Latin American Travel Association (LATA) has teamed with De la Gente on crop diversification and food security in La Suiza. The following is a case study and follow-up on the community garden project DLG did with the community. 

Situation and Issues Addressed - Food Insecurity

  • Coffee leaf rust has caused huge losses in income, leaving little money to buy sufficient and nutritional food. 
  • Heavy isolation results in difficulty obtaining food, as well as increased prices due to transportation costs.
  • The community primarily focuses on coffee farming resulting little production of food crops.
  • There is a lack of knowledge of which crops grow well, and a lack of resources to begin food production (sees, greenhouses).
Personally, I would like to thank you all for your support this past year, as this has allowed me to support my children in buying new clothes and shoes, as well as resources for school.
— Maximo Velasquez, President of La Suiza Cooperative

Project Overview: Community Assets

  • Members have sufficient amounts of land to farm
  • Interest in becoming more self-sufficient in relation to food supply
  • Community is organized around issues that affect daily life, such as coffee and corn processing
  • A specific, well organized group of women interested in taking on new initiatives.

Goal to build capacity for food cultivation: Train 25 women on communal food cultivation

Actions:

  1. Sessions led by peer-to-peer trainer
  2. Topics covered include preparation of land, planting, care for plants and agricultural best practices
  3. Theoretical overview followed by direct field experience through guided preparation of land

Outcome: Women have skills and knowledge to cultivate crops necessary to increase sustainability and food security for their families and community.

Goal for crop evaluation: Evaluate and determine which crops are best suited to community's specific microclimate, soil, and growing conditions

Actions:

  1. The community was provided with a variety of seeds for different vegetables
  2. Fertilizers were provided for necessary plant health and care
  3. Materials for basic greenhouse structure were provided which was constructed by the community

Outcome: Community members gained knowledge on which crops prosper and which do not under their specific conditions.

Goal for food production: First production of food for own consumption

Actions:

  1. As mentioned previously, lessons provided on food cultivation
  2. Seeds, fertilizers and materials delivered
  3. Women continued to care for crops through rest of life cycle

Outcome: Crops that were successfully grown consumed by community members and provided low-cost, nutritious food

 Conclusions:

  • The women's group was extremely satisfied with the work done. Some crops worked (tomato, cucumber, beans, radish and broccoli) while others didn't (cilantro, lettuce).
  • Each family completely harvested what was theirs and consumed all of it.
  • Barriers to continuing the project include follow-up training and further seed provision
  • Heavy rains in the region mean that either greenhouse structure needs sturdier materials, or should focus on plants that grow outside.
This year we are hoping to export 10,000 pounds of coffee, and looking ahead into the future, we hope that the increased income will allow our community to have the necessary resources to improve the school in the community and to build a health center.
— Maximo Velasquez, President of La Suiza cooperative