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An integrated farm brings new independence in Nicaragua

Nicaragua, September 1, 2004

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    Birgina Morales, who runs an innovative integrated farm, is a member of a women's agricultural cooperative near Jinotega. Photo: Roger Burks/Mercy Corps Photo:

The coffee crisis has meant harder times for Birgina Morales and her family. Her husband has grown coffee all his life, and his father before him. Most of their meager livelihood came from the coffee harvest each year.

The devastating worldwide coffee crisis has resulted in lower household income and smaller, less nutritious meals for many families around the Nicaraguan city of Jinotega - including Birgina, her husband and their children.

Mercy Corps and local partner Asociación Aldea Global Jinotega, a small farmers' association, are ensuring that families like Birgina's are able to weather the ill effects of the coffee crisis. The two organizations are working together with farmers around Jinotega to diversify food crops and lessen dependence on coffee. Families are encouraged to plant a variety of garden vegetables and fruit trees in addition to their traditional coffee crops.

After working with Aldea Global for over four years, Birgina's farm is now the pride of the area. She's a model farmer; she does organic gardening, maintains orchards of bananas, guava and citrus, keeps chickens for eggs and meat and has recently started raising fish for family consumption.

Her farm is truly integrated and sustainable. Everything works interchangeably: the organic garden is even watered by run-off from the fishpond during the dry season!

Aldea Global is also helping Birgina and her husband produce higher-quality coffee. The organization has trained them to use improved farming methods like composting and contour lines to protect the soil quality in their coffee plantations. They're also trying a wider variety of shade trees to ensure the best shade-grown coffee possible.

Aldea Global's special relationship with Nicaraguan coffee processors and exporters helps local farmers get a fair price for their coffee crop.

"Aldea Global is different from other organizations," Birgina said. "We've been selling coffee through them for two years in a row and have accomplished our quota both years, which we're very proud of. We've made more money selling through Aldea Global."

Birgina's new-found success has encouraged her to help other farmers around the Jiguina River Valley. She's now an active member of the Aldea Global board and takes every opportunity to tell other farmers about the good work the organization is doing.

Technical and financial support from Mercy Corps and partner Aldea Global are helping families like Birgina's find food security and much-needed income in the midst of the coffee crisis.

"These projects have helped us to pull out of poverty. We've benefited greatly from Aldea Global's training programs," Morales said. "My family and I have seen the difference."

For more information on Aldea Global, please visit the association's web site at www.PAGJINO.org.