Nine organizations both national and international came together with Semilla Nueva’s farmers and their families at the first National Farmer Conference at the Semilla Nueva Experimental and Training Center Wednesday, October 29th.
Participation included over 270 farmers from SN communities along with representatives from various institutions including the Guatemalan Ministry of Agriculture (MAGA), the Institute for Agriculture Technologies (ICTA), Quetzaltenango Rotary Club, International Plant Nutrition Institute (IPNI), Universidad de Valle, Universidad Francisco Marroquin, and regional NGOs Miracles in Action, Seeds for the Future, Guatemala Hope, and Caritas-El Salvador. All gathered to learn about Semilla Nueva, the sustainable agriculture and food security technologies being tested, and hear from participating farmers in SN programs leading their communities in local experimentation.
Executive Director, Curt Bowen, gives an introduction speech to all attendees at Semilla Nueva’s First Annual National Conference
Throughout the day attendees rotated to four different stations where Semilla Nueva field staff, renowned partnering scientists and local farmer representatives delivered short presentations on a given technology in sustainable agriculture or food security. Field Technician Hugo Chinchilla hosted the rice and chaya station where he explained the benefits of growing rice in lands prone to flooding, and using chaya as a living fence and nutritional supplement for the family. Experimental Farm Coordinator Noe Estrada and Research Coordinator Lisa Eash explained various experiments being done with Conservation Agriculture practices and their benefits to the soil and to farmers’ pocketbooks. Programs Director Trinidad Recinos hosted the pigeonpea station, showing attendees the benefits of intercropping pigeonpea with corn and sesame, producing natural fertilizer, soil fertility improvements and food for the family. Dr. Armando Tasistro Director of Mexico and Central America research at IPNI showed participants the improved fertilizer-use tests being done at Semilla Nueva’s Experimental Farm, and the potential benefits in terms of improved farm efficiency, decreased fertilizer use, and increased farmer savings.
Field technician, Hugo Chinchilla, explains to farmers the benefits of planting rice in areas that may get flooded out during the rainy season.
Food Security Coordinator Jennifer Brito and Agriculture Development Fellow Haley Kirk hosted the first Tortilla Verde Contest promoting the incorporation of nutrient-rich ingredients into the traditional corn tortilla eaten by locals three times a day. One woman from each participating community developed her own recipe using Quality Protein Maize, along with local herbs like chipilin and chaya. Women presented their tortillas to a panel of judges including Penny Reimbacher from Miracles in Action, Susana Selle, a Chef from the University of Francisco Marroquin, Andrea Guzmán, a nutritionist, and Julio Weissenberg from Quetzaltenango Rotary Club. Judges graded the tortillas based on taste, texture, form, nutritional benefits and the presentation.
Women had the opportunity to present their homemade green tortillas to attendees and to a panel of judges. Here, Esperanza Sales proudly describes her delicious chaya enriched tortillas.
The event was hosted to share results from participatory experimentation lead by Semilla Nueva along with local farmers in the region of Retalhuleu and Suchitepequez over the last four years. Both the technologies and the Farmer to Farmer training methodology promoted encourage farmers take the lead and experiment with innovative ways to improve their soils, yields and incomes on their own land. Institutions were able to meet each other and farmers were able to have their voices heard. As Trinidad Recinos mentioned to each group that came through his station, “the goal of [the conference] is to plant a small seed in your mind and in your heart. You must believe that you can be innovative and try different things or else you will never improve your land.” And Semilla Nueva proved to plant that seed in the minds of over 270 participants last week.
Thank you to everyone for a wonderful turnout! We are already looking forward to next year!
The conference was held at Semilla Nueva’s Experimental Farm in Suchitepequez, Guatemala. To learn more about Semilla Nueva visit www.semillanueva.org. Inquires can be sent to Lee Stroman and email@example.com.