Irrigation Technology Promotes Diverse Planting, New Incomes
In Tencoa, San Vicente Centenario, in the department of Santa Bárbara, nine growers received 10 hectares of fertile land next to the river Ulúa as part of a land titling program 14 years ago, and in the process formed the group Empresa Asociativa Campesina de Producción San Vicente Centenario. They produced corn each year with traditional production practices, achieving average yields of 5,500 pounds per hectare in 2013.
In 2014 the group began receiving technical assistance from Fintrac-implemented USAID-ACCESO. They began applying new production practices to their rain-fed corn crops, and in late 2014, installed a drip irrigation system on 5.4 hectares.
With continued assistance under ACCESS to Markets, most farmers in the group began diversifying into higher value irrigated crops such as plantains. Applying good agricultural practices such as land preparation, proper plant density, irrigation management, fertilization programs, and integrated crop management, the farmers harvested 114,000 pounds of plantain on 2.2 hectares in their first year, and sales totaled $15,800.
“Having water available in the plots allows us to produce and harvest throughout the year,” said group leader Pedro Pineda Orellana.
In 2016 the growers replanted, increasing total production area to 3.3 hectares, and harvested 156,000 pounds with a sales of $21,200. Harvests from 2017 plantain plantings are expected to increase to 175,000 pounds with sales of $24,000. In addition to corn, small areas have also been planted with bean, green bean, and melon.
The improved practices, irrigation management, and diversified planting are having transformational effects on the group’s income. In 2013, annual income for all nine group members totaled $22,049, of which only 15 percent ($3,312) came from agriculture. The remainder of household income came from off-farm sources, namely day labor. Net income was $1.22 per day per person for 39 family members in the nine households.
By comparison, in 2016, the total group income was nearly double at $43,024, of which 27 percent ($11,799) came from agricultural production. Day labor income made up only 5 percent of the total. The average income increased to $1.90 per person per day.
With an increase in plantain and corn production, in the first six months of 2017, group income totaled $45,242 of which $16,120 came from agricultural production (36 percent). By the end of the year per capita daily income for all household members is projected to be above the $2.42 per person per day poverty line.
The group will continue expanding the production area and diversify into other crops. They are also forming a village bank to be able to reduce costs in finance, input purchases, and transportation.