For Honduran farmer Salomón Lorenzo Vázquez, Tuesday has become the most important day of the week. As he tends to his lettuce, cauliflower and broccoli on the farm that he has maintained for 20 years, he waits for his weekly visit from the Feed the Future field officer, an agronomist who has helped double his income.
Living in the second poorest country in Latin America, Salomón often struggled to provide for his family on less than $1.25 a day. But in the four years since the Feed the Future-funded USAID-ACCESO project came to his small town, Salomón has become more than a farmer. He has become an entrepreneur, thanks in part to a public-private partnership between the crop protection industry and Feed the Future.
CropLife International, a global leader in the crop protection field, provided experts and training materials to instruct 120 field agronomists from USAID-ACCESO, including the agronomist who visits Salomón. In recent years, public funding to agricultural training and extension services has declined, and organizations like CropLife and USAID have been stepping in to fill the gap. Thus far, the partnership has provided 30,000 farmers with technical assistance.
“For us, the partnership with CropLife has been essential,” says Andy Medlicott, who leads the USAID-ACCESO project. “As an organization, CropLife has the cutting-edge pest control knowledge, while we have the systems, knowledge and infrastructure to deliver training on a very large-scale.”
Receiving hands-on technical assistance and training, Salomón and his neighbors learned how to properly prepare their soil, optimize plant density and nutrient application, and identify, prevent and combat the various pests and diseases that had affected their crops in recent years.
“Nowadays there are a number of different pests,” he says. “The trainers come to inspect the farms and the plants, and if they notice any insect we don’t know, they show us. They also advise on prevention and control, and if we need to apply a pesticide.”
Access to production technology and crop protection products has been a game-changer for Salomón. Before, an attack from a pest or disease meant that a whole harvest could be wiped out, leaving him with nothing to sell. Now, the farmers have not only been taught how to prevent problems and apply the right product at the right time, but they are also able to handle the products safely and apply them correctly.
It’s not just yields that have increased. Thanks to Feed the Future, increased sales and market demand for the farmers’ produce have created 3,800 jobs. Sales by farmers involved in USAID-ACCESO increased by $41 million between 2012 and 2015.
With his increased income, Salomón wants to increase the reach of his business. “I am investing in buying more fertilizer and more seeds so that I can grow more,” he said.
Salomón’s story demonstrates that when given the right tools, technologies and knowledge, people can be empowered to drive their business forward, and pull themselves, their families and communities out of poverty.
The partnership with CropLife is now opening a new chapter in its effort, playing an important role in two follow-on Feed the Future projects. For beneficiary farmers, it will implement a recycling program for used pesticide containers. The partnership will also implement a national education and training program on safe and proper use of agrochemicals.