Building independent women entrepreneurs through organic home gardens & farmers market

  • Jinotega, Nicaragua
  • Partner since 2011
  • 520 families

SOPPEXCCA is a 520-family-strong cooperative in Jinotega and Matagalpa. The average family farms five acres of coffee, and owns about 8.6 acres of land in total. Low income from coffee, combined with the lack of access to healthy food or a secure social safety net leaves many families vulnerable to food scarcity — facing an estimated three and a half months of food insecurity– every year. 

We’ve worked with SOPPEXCCA since 2011 to develop and implement long-term strategies that address seasonal hunger and help families build a more secure and diverse economic foundation right on their farms. Together, we’ve worked on crop diversification, school garden programs, soil and water conservation, and food security education for hundreds of families. 

The Opportunity

Due to the lack of government support or a social safety net, organizations like SOPPEXCCA serve as a critical resource in the communities they serve. The co-op has strong leadership and active members, and has established a Food Security Committee that spearheads programs within the cooperative’s strategic plan. Even so, members lack access to locally-produced fresh food, and women members – most of whom have not completed elementary school – have few opportunities to earn their own income.

“When women have access to the means of production of food, they have access to local markets and can move toward economic independence.” 

Fatima Ismael, Director of SOPPEXCCA

The Diagnosis

In 2017 we began working with SOPPEXCCA to develop Jinotega’s first-ever organic farmers market. Many of the women in our home garden project had advanced to a level sufficient to meet their families’ needs, and they want to build new sources of income by selling their surplus. 

SOPPEXCCA

2018 was a particularly difficult time to launch this new venture, as the co-op and its members reeled from a political crisis that shut off access to many of the communities. Even with this major roadblock, the women in the farmers market project were still able to supply their own families with fresh food and provide their neighbors with access as well.

By the end of the year, the situation improved and the women were able to launch the new farmers market. Their home gardens provided much-needed stability during the crisis; now, the market, located at SOPPEXCCA’s headquarters in Jinotega, is delivering consistent weekly income. 

Key Strategies

  • Training in food security concepts and best practices for families and young people.
  • Strategic crop diversification for food security, including cultivation of beans and corn, construction of a grain storage facility, and revolving loan fund for encouraging cultivation of basic grains.
  • Soil and water conservation and composting to reduce erosion and improve soil nutrients and water usage.
  • Development of an organic women’s farmers market in Jinotega.
  • Develop new economic opportunities for women and develop skills through organic gardens, nutrition education, and business planning and management
  • Training in monitoring and evaluation to build capacity for managing and sustaining projects.

Community Highlight: Sandra Isabel Obando 

Sandra selling her produce at SOPPEXCCA’s organic farmers market.

During the political crisis that rocked Nicaragua in April 2018, many roads to communities served by SOPPEXCCA were barricaded. Food prices quickly rose and many coffee farmers had to go into debt to feed their families.

Sandra put the skills she learned in our organic market program to good use, feeding her family with the fruits and vegetables she grew, while earning additional income selling produce to her neighbors, and quickly repaid her debt. Sandra continues to sell produce at the new farmers’ market in Jinotega, and has grown confident in her abilities as an expert in organic produce cultivation.