News - May 16, 2013

Farmers in a fix

Who? Ramona Langanki, MSc student of International Development Studies
What? Research on production chains for beans and maize
Where? South-east Nicaragua

'At last I could do some research. I had been looking for the ideal topic for a long time and at last I had found it, in south-east Nicaragua. Fifty years ago the area where I did my research was still tropical rainforest. It was chopped down to make way for monoculture, mainly of rice, beans and maize - even though the soil is not really suitable for crop farming. Now the soil is completely exhausted and the farmers are affected by pests that reduce their already meagre harvests even more. The level of expertise is very low and there is hardly any formal education. This means they are not quick to find solutions to problems brought about by things like the changing climate. Farmers soon end up in a fix: their costs soar whereas the production price is low and it fluctuates as well. For my research I looked into the chain for beans and maize: from farmer to middleman to distributer, and so on.
Before my Master's research I spent two and a half months in Nicaragua with a friend, doing another study on a development project. That was very useful. I was an informant and I formed lots of contacts which came in handy for my Master's research. I also got to know key players in the area. In Nicaragua many things are tinged with politics so that it can be difficult to figure out the real message behind what someone is saying.
In my spare time I often went to women's fitness. Because of the nice atmosphere I did more sports there than I do in the Netherlands. And I gained a great respect for Nicaraguan women. A lot of men desert their wives, leaving them with their children and the need to earn a living. In the family I was staying with it was the other way round, though: the mother had left and an aunt was looking after the children. The father went looking for casual work and the aunt had a job. The social safety net is strong and that is lovely to see.'