Finca Santa Marta
This is one of 50 Harvesting Nutrition project case studies. Harvesting Nutrition was a contest held in 2012 and 2013 that showcased active projects working to improve the impact of agriculture and/or food security on nutrition outcomes. Co-sponsors were SecureNutrition, Save the Children UK, and the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN). Learn More.
The main objectives of FSM are to continue to maintain and develop a farm project that feeds, supports, and gives back to their local community. FSM is currently focused on building a water irrigation system, as well as a workshop for learning, sustainable education, and housing.
The growing scale of the farming and the dry season in Nicaragua make water management and irrigation systems necessary. There is one pump on the property currently, and all watering is being done by hand. While this is laborious and careful, it is not the most sustainable or conservative method, especially in the dry months. As such, FSM seeks the means by which to develop the best water management system for the growing needs of the farm.
There are very few structures on the property. FSM is working to build a workshop that will serve as housing for interns/volunteers and staff, as well as an educational classroom. The organization incurs a monthly rent expense for staff which it seeks to eliminate, increasing infrastructure and self-sufficiency in anticipation of further growth.
These objectives have been prioritized to move towards responsible development and growth. All aspects are imperative, necessary for the project and organization going forward. With the growth of the farm, water management needs increase, as well as the need for workers, and an effective way to house them. FSM has reached a point where farm function will be affected if there is not an adequate water system and workshop housing structure in place.
Impact of project:
Finca Santa Marta impacts the local community in several ways. The farm operation employs, buys from, and educates locals currently. FSM directly supports and indirectly impacts many families, in a concentrated area. FSM purchases all materials, equipment, supplies, and plants from local businesses and gets educational materials donated. In fact, after learning about the literacy problem from the parents in the community, FSM immediately implemented a program to address the issue, conducting English and literacy classes on-site. This will not only ensure a successful future workforce and education overall in the community, but also lends to the farm’s message and mission. FSM can incorporate nutrition and agriculture lessons within a reading or English exercise, for example.
In a conscientious effort to mitigate footprint and support the community that fosters their growth, FSM contributes to the local economy and buys directly from small businesses. Aside from food, supplies, gas and all other necessities required by staff, FSM has purchased hundreds of plants and flora locally, collaborating with other farms and enterprises in the area.
An aspect of its sustainability mission, FSM provides a conservation and educational space to ensure the livelihood of future generation.
Why this project is a Good Practice example:
Finca Santa Marta makes a concerted effort to allocate its farm space in the most effective manner possible, concentrating on nutritiously-dense foods, and local awareness and education on the agriculture, processing and preparation for these foods. In addition to a strong variety of organic, native fruits and vegetables, FSM also produces moringa and honey.
The whole farm is dedicated to enhancing education towards nutrition and providing individuals with the tools and resources to eliminate food insecurity in their lives. Through experiential learning and FSM leading by example, the project is shifting local perception and awareness towards the importance of nutrition and the value and being able to grow what you eat. In a culture where the culinary emphasis is on foods that are high-calorie or high-carb for their nutritional value, FSM comes up from the bottom on the local level, creating a growing space for foods that individuals can incorporate into a traditional diet. FSM provides ready-access to alternatives with a local familiarity.
The FSM project model is so successful because it is planted in the heart of the problem, working with locals and providing nutrition, education, and a living, working example of sustainable agriculture. Besides providing foods and resources, FSM has an emphasis on nutrition and the quality of foods available to the local community. Almost more important than providing high quality foods and making them readily available, is educating people on why they should care about what goes into their bodies, and contributing to an improved livelihood.
Impact evaluation in progress
Like with any project, there have been some ups and downs, trials and errors. FSM embraces the opportunity to fail, as one must with agriculture and such a dynamic project. In order to stay abreast of the latest techniques and best management practices for the farm, FSM must try new things – sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t. FSM has staff from the US and when there is an opportunity to shares ideas across cultures, everyone benefits.
The youngest member of the farm’s team, Ronal, has spent the majority of his life working on farm projects. He is always thinking up new ways to make seemingly impossible work for a small team, possible. The farm team needed to remove a 6 meter long, hardwood post that was planted in the ground 1 meter deep, weighing about 5-600 lbs. Ronal proposed we use what local Nicaraguans call a "pig's foot knot" with a mekana (root splitting wedge tool) to wedge the tree up while lateral force was exerted to remove the post.
An essential aspect of the work that goes on at FSM is team morale. FSM represents the local community and is always focused on its mission. One of the most important lessons learned has been about creating a team that is cohesive. Working on a farm can be difficult and frustrating, and some find out they are unprepared for it. The farm team has had to make tough calls regarding staff and volunteers for their own interest and safety.
Funders: Finca Santa Marta, Inc.
Primary Contact: Jessica Gore, Development Finca Santa Marta, Inc
Project Dates: Project initiated in 2010, currently ongoing.
Interventions: Assess the context at the local level, Target the vulnerable and improve equity, Expand markets and market access for vulnerable groups, Incorporate nutrition promotion and education,
Target Population: Rural households, Smallholder farmers,
Project Stage: Ongoing activities
Geographic Coverage: State/Province