In November of 2007, Ken Ditzler traveled to Nicaragua for 12 days as part of a trip sponsored by the Canadian Foodgrains Bank to study and evaluate the food security practices of Nicaraguan farmers.
Last month, Ditzler shared that experience with Lacombians in a presentation at the Lacombe Memorial Centre entitled ‘End Hunger’.
“People of the world have always experienced food shortages,” said Ditzler.
He then went on to explain how the Canadian Foodgrains Bank is working to make that fact nothing more than a part of history.
Ditzler has long been involved with the Canadian Foodgrains Bank, which farms land in Canada and then distributes grains to developing countries around the world.
The Canadian Foodgrains Bank also sells grains and uses the funds for projects to help fight hunger in developing countries.
It was one such project that led to Ditzler taking a trip to Nicaragua to study food security.
He said the concept of food security is that people would have the ability to produce enough food to support themselves each year rather than have to depend on others for food again and again.
The Canadian Foodgrains Bank had funded the trip because a few years before they had started training farmers to use new practices that would better secure their food production abilities.
Ditzler said the purpose of the trip was to see what the program had accomplished and evaluate whether or not it was working.
In his presentation, he described how the program worked.
The Canadian Foodgrains Bank employed trainers to teach new farming practices to local farming families.
Ditzler said the farmers usually started by working with the wives because they tended to be more open to the new ideas.
Once the women in the family understood how the new methods worked, they would work on getting their husbands to employ the new practices as well.
Once the men saw how the practices worked, they would encourage their friends and neighbours to do the same.
Much of the high-quality arable land in Nicaragua is owned by wealthy international landlords, said Ditzler.
As such, the locals are forced to farm lower-quality land on the hilly slopes in the mountainous areas of Nicaragua.
Therefore, many of the problems faced by the locals are related to water and there is difficulty in retaining moisture.
Ditzler said some of the new practices that were employed to use against this included not clearing crops from previous seasons, using trickle irrigations, and digging water-retaining ditches to catch water when it rains.
Farmers were encouraged to use the new practices by earning points they could exchange for funds to buy a number of household items or small luxuries. During the trip, Ditzler visited several local farms to see what they had accomplished since the program began.
After his experience, Ditzler said he thought the Canadian Foodgrains Bank’s investment in this program was a sound one.
He said that, before changing their farming practices, many of the local farmers could only produce enough food to sustain their families for a little more than half the year.
After using some of the new methods, farmers could produce enough food to sustain them and their families year-round.
Some even produced enough that they sell the excess at market for a little extra cash or provide their friends and neighbours with a few seeds for new crops.