"Innovamos": Harvesting knowledge in Central America

"Innovamos": Harvesting knowledge in Central America

The collaboration between 21 farmer organisations, 3 universities and research centres from Central America and Belgium aims to develop innovations that respond to key challenges in the horticultural sectors of Guatemala, Nicaragua and Honduras.
This project is part of the following focus area:

Food pressure in Central America

In 2021, severe food insecurity in Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua has quadrupled due to the economic crisis triggered by Covid-19 and several consecutive years of extreme weather events.

In January of the same year, 15% of people in Central America surveyed by the World Food Programme (WFP) expressed concrete plans to migrate, because their homes and crops had been destroyed, food was running out and employment opportunities were diminishing.

In a region where the population growth rate for 2030 is forecast to be 20%, farming families who feed the cities are struggling with rural poverty, climate change, low production, low competitiveness, and a strong disconnection with research centres in horticulture to develop innovations to face these challenges.

How can we ensure that the nearly 60 million people in Central America have access to quality and nutritious food while maintaining a sustainable and climate-resilient production?

The project "Innovamos": Harvesting knowledge in Central America, addresses these challenges by facilitating the connection and development of innovative solutions between 21 farmer organisations and universities, together with private companies, service providers and ONG´s linked to the horticultural sector, towards a competitive and sustainable production of safe and high-quality vegetables for Central America.

All stakeholders in the vegetable sector will develop and validate solutions to specific problems in vegetable production in each country, taking into account the well-being of consumers and farmers.

Inagro, a research centre of agricultural and horticultural businesses in Belgium is a knowledge partner of the initiative funded by the province of West Flanders in Belgium. During a two years period of implementation, starting in 2020, the project aims to improve the livelihoods of 1,200 smallholder farmers in Nicaragua, Honduras, and Guatemala.

Vegetable production in Central America: Some facts and figures

  • During 2020, Central American vegetable exports totalled $318 million.
  • In 2020, the United States was the main buyer of vegetables from companies in the region, accounting for 77% of the total value exported from Central America, followed by the UK at 8%, the Netherlands at 4%, Canada at 2%, France at 2% and Spain at 1%.
  • Vegetable consumption in Central America has varied from 2005 to 2015, according to data from FAO and the Integrated Agricultural Marketing Programme of Costa Rica. In 2005, annual per capita consumption was 80 kg in Costa Rica, 42 kg in El Salvador and Guatemala, 28 kg in Honduras and 18 kg in Nicaragua.
  • Since this year (2020), consumption has been increasing. In 2015, Costa Rica totalled 112 kg, El Salvador and Guatemala 58 kg, Honduras 39 kg and Nicaragua 22 kg.
  • The main vegetables consumed in Central America are tomato, pepper, onion, cabbage, lettuce, and cucumber.

Strategies

The focus is to develop innovations at three levels: technological, institutional and knowledge exchange, facilitated by public-private multi-stakeholder spaces in Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Honduras, where the 21-farmer organisation and university partners of the project and allies have developed the following 5 components.

1. Co-creation of institutional innovation

  • The set-up of a multi-stakeholder platform per country, where a co-created innovation agenda is defined and implemented.
  • Promote exchanges at the national level and between country platforms.

2. Technological innovation

  • The universities will lead research selected by the farmer organisations per country and share results on the platforms. This component is developed in partnership with Inagro.

3. Technological exchange

  • The 21 farmer organisation partners are responsible for validating solutions and technologies, carrying out Farmer Field Schools and participating in national and regional events (face-to-face and online).
  • The development of profitability studies and credit products for farmer organisations.

4. Documentation

  • Develop 21 technical guides for the validation of the innovative solutions,
  • Scaling up of the results at national and Central American events.
  • Audio-visual systematisation.

5. Communication

  • Facilitate the connection, dialogue, and knowledge exchange between the actors of the initiative.
The harvest of the first phase was carried out between 2017 and 2019

The harvest of the first phase was carried out between 2017 and 2019

Financial and technical support came from companies and research institutions such as Tomabel, REO-Veiling, ARDO, De Lochting and INAGRO, as well as the Province of West-Flanders in Belgium.

The decision to work with organisations from the three countries was not taken lightly. Rikolto had previously organised a very successful exchange between horticultural cooperatives in Nicaragua and farmers in Belgium.

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Period of implementation: 2020 -2022

Beneficiaries: 1,200 vegetable farmers.

Farmer members of the 21 organisations in Honduras, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. With an average of 18% female members.

  • Honduras: 6 farmer organisations (CONAGROH), with 771 producers (546 men, 225 women/29%).
  • Nicaragua: 6 farmer organisations, with 519 producers (454 men, 65 women/13%).
  • Guatemala: 9 farmer organisations, with 466 producers (466 men, 29 women/6%).

Budget: US$ 132,000 dollars

Guatemala partners

Guatemala partners

University of the Valley of Guatemala (UVG), Association for the Integral and Sustainable Development of Agriculture in Guatemala (ADISAGUA) / Economic Cooperation of Social Interest (CEIS).

Nicaragua partners

Nicaragua partners

Unión de Cooperativas Hortícolas del Norte (UCHON) that represents 6 farmer organisations and the Central American University (UCA).

Honduras partners

Honduras partners

Panamerican Agricultural School El Zamorano (Zamorano), Consorcio Agrocomercial de Honduras (CONAGROH).

Inagro

Inagro

Inagro is the knowledge partner of agricultural and horticultural businesses in the areas of innovation and sustainability. Geographically speaking Inagro is located in the very intensive and innovation-driven agricultural and horticultural heart of the province of West Flanders in Belgium.

Want to know more about this project? Feel free to contact our colleague:

Guillermo Gutierrez
Guillermo Gutierrez
Coordinador de proyecto | Nicaragua