Pathways for restoring soils: Strengthening local capacities in Nicaragua

Two initiatives undertaken with partners are beginning to make a difference in fostering more productive use of soils and contributing to restoring soils in smallholder farming in Nicaragua. “These are motivating examples of what we can achieve if we work together with local partners on strengthening capacities,” explains Pablo Siles, CIAT scientist in the Soils research area.

Strengthening knowledge of soils and identifying interventions As part of the CGIAR’s Global Research Program on Humid Tropics, CIAT is supporting capacity strengthening of technicians from 14 organizations on sustainable soil management. Each organization brings together between 50–200 farmers from the coffee-producing areas of Jinotega and mixed crop-livestock areas of Estelí. Local partner organizations and CIAT conducted a workshop with 30 technicians on interpreting the results of soil analyses to be able to make better recommendations on more efficient use of nutrients and soils, taking advantage of the numerous soil analyses already available. This activity will help them avoid making general suggestions that do not take into account the region’s diverse soils and production systems. This initiative on capacity strengthening, conducted through territorial platforms, is expected to increase technicians’ knowledge on soils and improve the soil management practices of around 1,000 farmers in these territories. This initiative will continue over the next two years, during which interventions will be designed in a participatory process to make it possible to test and adapt improved soil and crop management practices including use of cover crops, selection of tree species, and improvement of agroforestry systems, fallow, application of a combination of organic and chemical fertilizers, as well as develop participatory trials in the field with farmers and technicians so they can learn to identify practices that have the greatest potential and are adapted to local conditions and needs. Designing production systems with INTA. Improving the Nicaragua’s national capacity to restore degraded soils through the use of promising production systems such as agroforestry (AFS) and silvopastoral systems (SPS) is the objective of the Nicaraguan Institute of Agricultural and Livestock Technology (INTA, Spanish acronym) and CIAT team. This initiative is conducted under the framework of the CGIAR’s Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems (WLE) funded by the German Government’s Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) in the Terranova, Somotillo and Condega regions. The strategy used for implementing this initiative, which will end in December 2016, has been to build on the close INTA-CIAT collaborative partnership to support the different impact pathways INTA is implementing, such as the Regional Councils on Agricultural and Livestock Research and Innovation (CRIA, Spanish acronym), in which research themes at the regional level are determined with the participation of CIAT scientists. INTA, in collaboration with local organizations, is now establishing Regional Innovation Nuclei (NIT, Spanish acronym), responsible for managing 60 technologically innovative farms, where soil management and the establishment and monitoring of AFS and SPS are key and being shared with more than 600 producers. Within this INTA-CIAT partnership, a training and demonstration course attended by 35 INTA technicians was held in May 2015. The aim of the training was to demonstrate the advantages that AFS and SPS can provide to producers and their impacts on the ecosystem. A key feature of the course was that producers themselves shared and showed their own experience managing soils and establishing AFS/SPS and describing in their own words the advantages of establishing them. These are just two initiatives of the whole program aimed at strengthening local and national capacities to help restore and make sustainable use of soils in Nicaragua