After nearly 20 years of facing the same economic challenges over and over again, rural farmer Manuel Figeroa was ready to turn the page and to start a new chapter in his family’s story.
Before partnering with Amigos for Christ, Manuel grew a variety of traditional crops such as corn, rice, and sesame seeds on his farm. For years he was barely breaking even. Every harvest was a gamble. Without commercialization, he relied on unsteady market prices. One year he lost everything on his rice harvest. “After months of hard work, when it came time to sell, I didn’t even earn one dollar. It was devastating.”
Challenging climate conditions also affected his work, allowing him to work only six months out of the year on his farm. Without access to a steady water supply and irrigation systems for their crops, rural farmers in Nicaragua are often faced with unstable work and economic conditions. Even after Manuel constructed a shallow well on his property, the water source would frequently dry up within the first few months of an intense six-month dry season, producing unsuccessful harvests.
Manuel’s experience reflects a reality that many rural Nicaraguan farmers face. The grit, hard work, and talent is all there, there’s just a lack of access to opportunity.
Opportunity can help farmers overcome these circumstantial challenges – opportunity can change everything. The 1 Manzana Project is about opening that door to opportunity by providing access to irrigation systems, commercialization, no-interest capital, and specialized technical assistance.
In 2019, Manuel was ready to walk through that door of opportunity. He partnered with Amigos and in a just under a year, he transformed his previous plot of land to plant pitahaya (dragon fruit) and papaya, which are crops that reap a greater opportunity for profit. Soon he will be planting and harvesting avocados and citrus. His irrigation system is also up and running and connected to a deep well, in order to support year-round crop cultivation.
Manuel embodies everything that it means to be a bright spot leading his own transformation. His momentum is incredible. He’s already employed two individuals from his neighborhood to help take care of his farm and with time he will be able to employ two more. Plus, after just one harvest of papaya he was able to pay off 50% of his loan from Amigos for that specific crop’s startup investment. He’s already seeing an increase in his profits, and those changes continue to fuel and inspire his growth.
In addition to startup capital, Manuel’s partnership with Amigos includes technical assistance which focuses on financial training and crop production management. He works closely with Amigos’ Agriculture Engineer, Alfredo, to learn how to apply this training and technology towards the success of his business plan. Manuel describes his work with Alfredo like working with a compañero (friend). Someone who is walking alongside him, patiently and humbly supporting him in his work and dreams. He is grateful for the accompaniment on his journey and for the opportunities that have already changed his life.
He is looking forward to what’s to come as he harvests his first round of pitahaya and other crops this summer. His seasons of barely making it are becoming a thing of the past.
This is all just the beginning for Manuel. He is one year into this partnership, and he’s already well on his way to becoming completely debt-free while growing his income through his successful organic farm. Stay tuned for updates on his transformation!