Abstract

In October 1998, Hurricane Mitch devastated Nicaraguan agriculture. Approximately 5,000 people died and 61,376 families living in the central northern and southeastern areas of the country were affected. Seed sources were decimated as fertile topsoil was washed away and erosion and sedimentation severely damaged the ecosystem. In order to satisfy the high demand for seed in emergency situations, both aide organizations and farmers, lacking technical seed knowledge, resorted to purchasing grain of doubtful quality. This lack of consideration for seed quality control has a negative impact on the farmers. Nicaraguan government agencies together with the Seed Improvement Project (PROMESA-USAID) carried out a seed production program in the humid mountainous areas during the Apante season. Seed producers were organized into regional associations to enable them to deal with emergency seed supply and production situations as well as promote the introduction of new varieties. Through this program, 654 seed producers were able to produce a total of 9,750 quintals of ‘apta’ grade seed with an average yield of 1.3 t/ha (20 quintals per 7,000 m2). In cooperation with the Nicaraguan Red Cross and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, agricultural aide packages containing seed, fertilizer and $30 in cash were distributed to 8,970 families. The agricultural aide packages, whose objective was to help the farmers achieve good harvests in the 1999 Primera crop cycle, comprise an essential strategy to eliminate dependency on distribution of food supplies.