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FAO Calls on Taiwan Technical Mission in Nicaragua to Share Experiences

In September 2010, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) invited members of the Taiwan Technical Mission in Nicaragua to recount their experiences of advancing agricultural reform and development throughout Nicaragua.

The Taiwan Technical Mission in Nicaragua has won widespread praise for its work in the agricultural sector throughout the country, from participating farmers all the way up to the president. Local media regularly cover projects implemented by the mission, which have included rice, red bean and vegetable production and a hog-breeding program. These reports have earned the mission a high reputation not only among farmers looking to boost agricultural production, but also among entrepreneurs seeking advice on all aspects of agribusiness.

At home in Taiwan, this recognition and success has led to the mission being named “TaiwanICDF Outstanding Mission” for three consecutive years. In Nicaragua, it gained mission members an invitation from the FAO to recount their experiences at a seminar of UN officials and Nicaraguan government employees on September 9, 2010, in the capital city, Managua.

Key Changes to Rice Cultivation Yield Substantial Gains
Mission Leader Francisco Wang told the seminar that he and his colleagues had made gains in rice production by introducing a number of key changes to the cultivation techniques employed by local farmers.

These changes included drying rice paddies for a period of time, to give the roots of rice plants a chance to grow stronger. Wang also explained that the mission had lowered the average depth of water in the fields, so that plants would not droop before being ready for harvesting.

The mission also modified farmers’ traditional methods of fertilization by focusing on the so-called “heading” stage of the growth cycle, when the grain-yielding shoots of a rice plant finally begin to develop. Previously, Nicaraguan farmers had not taken the opportunity to apply fertilizers at this point, which produced unhealthy plants that yielded a poor-quality, brown-colored grain. By contrast, the mission studied local varieties of rice and climatic conditions before changing the timings associated with applications of fertilizers. This approach yielded plump, golden grains of rice.

The mission had also improved the success rate of pesticides by observing common diseases over a period of time and then selectively applying the most appropriate solution, Wang said.

Away from the field, the mission has helped farmers to boost profits by establishing marketing teams and advocating the value of good marketing strategies. Nowadays, Nicaraguan farmers obtain better prices by auctioning freshly harvested rice at public markets. Under this newer operating scheme, farmers work with rice mill operators directly and split profits. These changes provide better protection for farmers’ interests compared to previous ways of doing business, where farmers would sell to brokers through mutual but informal agreements.

Turnaround at Omar Torijos Wins Plaudits for the TaiwanICDF
Wang and the Taiwan Technical Mission in Nicaragua have had other notable successes. One such example is the once-ailing Omar Torijos farming cooperative, where intervention turned around US$800,000 in debt and saved farmers from bankruptcy. Wang was the first technician to promote planting over a 300-ha. scale in Central America, and gave local farmers all-round advice on running a successful agribusiness enterprise, ranging from strategies for successful foreign debt negotiation through to administration and management, technical support and marketing.

Since 2001, the mission has become involved with 13 other Nicaraguan cooperatives, modeling its work on the original rescue plan at Omar Torijos. The mission extends low-interest loans to farming cooperatives over a four-year project cycle. During the first three years of each project, the mission adopts a hands-on role in its implementation. Once a cooperative has been transformed into a successful agribusiness venture, mission members purposely take a hands-off approach throughout the final year, allowing farmers to assume responsibility and gain experience. Mission members remain available to assist farmers in a supervisory capacity.

More recently the Taiwan Technical Mission in Nicaragua has been working with rural banks and government agencies for rural development to supervise a 5,000-ha. project in a special rice planting zone set aside by the Nicaraguan government. The Taiwanese technicians have also been working with these partners on other collaborative projects that offer technical guidance and advice on administration, management and marketing strategies.

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  • Date:2010/12/14