Central America's economy is composed of two main economic sectors: agriculture and mining. Land, minerals, and tropical and temperate climates make it ideal for growing a variety of agricultural products, a potential for economic growth. Both Nicaragua and El Salvador have prioritized the focus on improving agricultural technologies and techniques to boost quality and efficiency. The improvement will strategically strengthen the economy and will have a direct effect on peoples’ living standards and self-sufficiency.
The challenges facing the agricultural sector in both countries are low efficiency and limited technologies. The low efficiency is due to the gap between the desired outcomes of the agricultural cycle and the high resource consumption of human and natural resources. Moreover, the technology used in many production lines is very limited, and some are outdated. This has contributed to the high cost and poor variety of outcomes.
Towards a Solution
The Palestinian International Cooperation Agency (PICA) has designed agricultural programmes aimed at enhancing the knowledge accessible to local farmers in order to develop individual small-scale projects. This will increase families' income and their production of healthy crops in integrated agricultural societies. PICA also aims to increase production efficiency and optimize the use of resources.
The project aims to contribute toward achieving Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 2 (Zero hunger), achieve good security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture. It will also contribute to SDG 1 (End poverty in all its forms everywhere).
Project goals are to:
- increase farmers’ income;
- produce healthy food;
- enhance the capabilities of agricultural cadres, raise their capacities and improve agricultural production;
- equip livestock engineers with both theoretical and practical aspects of aquaponic production and silage making;
- spread awareness of the importance of applying biosecurity in farms, institutions and laboratories, of early detection of veterinary diseases through laboratory testing, and of taking appropriate samples;
- disseminate the improved genetic traits of elite male livestock by using artificial insemination techniques to improve meat and milk productivity.
With respect to methodology, PICA’s experts together with key players in the host countries drafted a needs assessment through:
- Research: collecting information from local engineers and farmers, observing current farming techniques, weighting potential economical choices, and being informed on the current challenges faced;
- Identification of the needs and solutions: establishing the goals and timeline to deploy;
- Monitoring and feedback: providing continuous feedback before, during and after each phase of the project from local farmers and engineers.
Capacity-building programmes: Based on the needs assessment, PICA’s experts designed and deployed accumulative practical training courses in each project phase for local farmers and engineers in the following topics:
- Small-scale Aquaponic Production and Silage Making;
- Home-made Food Manufacturing;
- Innovate Techniques for Tomato, Cucumber and Pepper Cultivated under Greenhouses and Vegetable Grafting;
- The Biosecurity, Risk Analysis; and
- In the Laboratory Artificial Insemination in Cattle, Sheep and Goats.
The Palestinian experts provided the training, and the host government provided the laboratories, field and coordination.
There is a great momentum in the South-South Cooperation between PICA and Nicaragua and El Salvador. PICA and the host countries jointly designed the capacity-building programme that is adapted to the needs of the host countries and the know-how of the Palestinian experts. The host countries facilitated logistics and provided the experts’ team with the needed laboratories. PICA’s experts utilized the recent agricultural know-how to serve the host countries’ needs.
Palestinian know-how is specialized in maximizing results from limited resources. Palestinian experts have provided engineering tools, processes and techniques, assuring an overall boost in quality and efficiency.
In order to strategically design a plan to fulfil exact needs, PICA started the programme with exploratory missions to assess local need; the delegation consisted in agricultural engineers and senior government experts who all work with the relevant ministers of health and agriculture, as well as economic sectors in the host countries. All the Palestinian efforts were coordinated by PICA.
The outcomes achieved after the first phase of the project were the training of over 120 engineers in the above-mentioned courses in Nicaragua. During the second phase of the project and over eight working days in Nicaragua, over 140 local engineers participated in the training courses. In El Salvador, over five working days, over 110 trainees participated. During the second phase only, PICA was able to reach out and coach more than 250 agricultural engineers, veterinarians as well as agricultural entrepreneurs who are all fully or partially involved with and employed by the ministries of agriculture or the affiliated centres and agencies.
The Project is ongoing and aims to create a sustainable effect to the agricultural production cycle in host countries. In five years, Nicaragua, for example, could build the capacities of more than a 1,000 technical staff and improve their networking methods between farmers, societies and the government, equipped with the most recent, productive, efficient and effective know-how that can be applied in houses, farms, schools and factories.
PICA has signed many cooperation agreements on health, agriculture and education, as well as a general memorandum of understanding with an umbrella organization for the different fields of cooperation with the Nicaraguan Ministry of Foreign Affairs. PICA accordingly launched two agricultural missions to capacitate the Nicaraguan counterparts with Palestinian know-how, which will sustain at least a five-year plan in the already existing fields of cooperation as well as cooperation in the fields of irrigation, water and wastewater management, and any other agricultural need that the Palestinians can satisfy.
PICA plans on designing replicable missions and promotes sustainable cooperation within the country and across the continents within principles of geographical clustering of cooperation and best utilization of resources while maintaining the quality of the missions. The clustering of missions can be widely beneficial by deploying customized but similar programmes previously tested in countries with similar needs and resources. Also, within the same host country, replication of the processes will be smooth due to a clear systematic needs assessment, strategy and dynamic monitoring system.
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