We first came to know the work of CCID when seeking partners to help us create a demonstration farm to use as a tool to teach nutrition at Clinica Verde, our sustainably designed clinic in Nicaragua. Through another partner, CCID graduate Socorro Raudez was brought on to manage the garden and lead that program. We couldn't be more pleased. The level of skill, depth of understanding and pure passion Socorro has brought to the project is extraordinary. He's been able to not only manage the garden, but teach students, medical professionals and visitors the value of the biointensive method – and how to cultivate their own gardens. The BioNica-CCID Apprenticeship Program gave Socorro the knowledge and skills to apply the biointensive method of organic gardening and also the practical experience to teach others.
I found out about CCID, through a family friend, and after looking at their website, decided that I should definitely take the time to visit. During my visit, I helped Fatima, local architect and bio-intensive farmer, plant trees in her edible forest, and learned about the process of planning an edible forest. Although the trees are small now, I can only imagine how incredible the edible forest will be in 20 years or so when the trees are mature. I also helped Michael, President of CCID, build tables for their green house (designed by Fatima) and learned about the principles of bio-intensive farming in a tropical climate. For someone interested in sustainable farming systems and food security, CCID is seriously the place to be. Given his extensive experience, Michael in particular is a wealth of knowledge. I learned so much in just my three days there. My time at CCID really changed the way that I think about sustainable farming, especially in the tropics, where farmers face challenges that are often unaddressed by farming systems designed in northern countries. If you are looking for an immersive volunteer experience at an awesome bio-intensive organization, I highly recommend getting involved with BioNICA. But if getting to Nicaragua is not in the cards, I hope you consider supporting their work, which I have seen has lasting positive impacts for the soil, the environment, and the people practicing their knowledgeable bio-intensive methods.
Our organization - Solar Projects For Nicaraguan Women (FUPROSOMUNIC by its acronym in Spanish) - promotes the building and use of solar ovens as a way to use less firewood and lessen smoke inhalation in rural homes. We also promote use of solar methods of water purification for families without access to potable water. In addition, FUPROSOMUNIC works in construction of solar food dryers for dehydration of food, medicinal plants and clay crafts with an end goal of family benefits that include income generation.
In 2012, I met with Michael Richardson and learned of plans to improve food security at a small-scale level through soil improvement methods that make use of the organic bio-intensive method. Since this initial meeting, I have been very interested in this work in and of itself and as a complement to FUPROSOMUNIC’s work in alternative energy. In general, my organization works in rural or semi-urban areas where people make use of small-scale agriculture.
This year (2014) when I had the opportunity to see the work being done at the Centro Biointensivo training and research center, I once again felt much more motivated to work with the BioNica-CCID. I observed over sixty plant beds with different demonstration plants as well as fruit trees that have been planted at the Centro Biointensivo demonstration site. There are also numerous other organizations now implementing the bio-intensive technique in other regions of Nicaragua.
One of the things that has most impressed me is the effectiveness of double-excavation together with application of organic fertilizer, which conserves on the water needed by plants. Results have been excellent, especially notable in soils very deficient in organic material and soil which has been compacted or eroded.
For our organization, we intend to learn more from the work that BioNica-CCID is doing and implement what we learn at our own agricultural demonstration site (The Eco-Solar Center of Nicaragua near the village of Catarina). We will also promote these techniques with our beneficiary families.
FUPROSOMUNIC has received a great deal of support from the BioNica-CCID team as well as a lot of valuable technical advice in both practice and theory of sustainable agriculture. At our own demonstration farm, we now have eleven beds planted with a mix of grains and vegetables and we’re starting to see great results. In the upcoming year, we will plan on workshops to introduce the biointensive method of planting to the women who work with us as beneficiaries and users of solar ovens.
The women of FUPROSOMUNIC are very grateful for the support that has been given to our organization and we hope many other organizations will seek support from BioNica-CCID, so that their work in biointensive agriculture can be replicated by families, and that these techniques will also be used by small and medium-scale farmers here in Nicaragua.
María Mercedes Álvarez
I could not have asked for more from my experience with BioNica. When I contacted Michael Richardson I didn’t know what to expect, and I wasn’t even completely sure what Biointensive meant. After attending a workshop, visiting different farms of apprentices, and learning/working at the training center for more than a week, I feel that I have come to really know and understand the mission and work of BioNica. It seems this training center has developed at an important time – Nicaraguans who supposedly live off the land are suffering from lack of productivity and diversity in their crops and diets. My sentiments were summed up perfectly by one of the apprentices, who said that if apprentices like himself can go back to their communities and be an example of the method and way of living that the Biointensive method represents, more and more people can benefit from it. It was truly inspiring for me to see several of the apprentices dream of having their own farms, while continuing to teach others and engage in their communities. Seeing the will and desire of the BioNica apprentices to create positive change through gardening has given me the motivation I needed to do something similar with communities in the U.S. struggling for access to good, fresh food. It’s ironic to me that I had to travel all the way to Nicaragua to learn about this method and to see people putting it in action in their homes and communities. My life has changed because of the knowledge I gained and the people I met and worked with through BioNica, and I know that the apprentices and others involved with the center can echo that sentiment. While I may be living in the U.S. right now, I know that BioNica will continue to be an organization that I stay involved with. Anyone looking to learn more about the Biointensive method, work in a sustainable gardening capacity, or contribute to a non-profit that is actually creating positive change should consider volunteering with and supporting BioNica.
There are a lot of programs trying to teach NGO staff or university students in the developing world what it takes to help poor families grow food organically, but most of these students will get their a certificate without ever having grown a plant. Through the CCID program students get the practical experience they need to be taken seriously as trainers.
If you are an NGO leader working in Nicaragua looking to train your trainers in organic gardening, CCID is a top choice.
The sister city program I have worked with has a small sustainable agriculture program in place for a rural village of Nicaragua, and BioNica has provided extensive training for that project. Currently, we have a young man from that village working as an intern with BioNica, and as an end goal he will provide training to upwards of eighty families in the soil techniques he will learn. This can vastly improve the quality of life for people in areas such as this village, where nutritional levels are nowhere near adequate. In this way, BioNica is contributing to a much better life for Nicaraguans. The organization also provided training for a home gardens project to an urban community that my sister city program works with, including a demonstration garden at a local pre-school, and again this project has been successful so far and has contributed to better living conditions for very poor people. BioNica has simply been an excellent resource for these projects, and their staff and overall goals as an organization are highly recommended.
It is easy to advise farmers and gardeners to test their soil and improve it with organic fertilizers and sustainable organic practices like GROW BIOINTENSIVE. CCID en Nicaragua goes way beyond this by helping growers through each of the steps: how to sample soil, how to ship the sample to a high quality lab, how to know what organic fertilizers are needed to improve each grower's soil, and then ensuring that these fertilizers are available and affordable to each grower. This kind of guidance and thorough follow-through makes the goal of improving soil and growing more crops truly achievable for practically anyone in Nicaragua. CCID has also helped many farmers and gardeners in Nicaragua improve their yields by teaching the techniques of GROW BIOINTENSIVE agriculture, which is an outstanding food production method that requires few resources or inputs and is especially successful in both the wetter and drier times of the year. It has been my great pleasure working with each grower and each person involved with CCID en Nicaragua, and look forward to working with many more!
The Biointensive center in Nicaragua has helped our Sister City group start this method of cultivation in our villages near Sta Teresa. They have been extremely helpful in training our coordinator and offering workshops and advise. The people I've dealt with have gotten back to me immediately and helped get our project started. The training they offer is free to the local farmers we work with. Interestingly , with the drought this year, most of the farmers didn't even plant corn and beans but the biointensive garden was very successful and impressed many people in the communities.
I did a course with this group. I have say I came away with a lot more valuable knowledge then I thought I would. The team is very professional and yet personal and optimistic. Proud to say I have grown personally and professional because of my interaction with centro de capacitacion, investigacion y demostracion
The CCID is just getting started as has made amazing progress in its 18 months of existence in Nicaragua. The people who run it, both US and Nicaraguan, are accessible, knowledgeable and passionate about what they do, putting in countless unpaid hours and energies and keeping the Center vibrant and growing. My volunteer experience at the Center has included attending workshops, hands-on biointensive practice, and personal orientations with Center staff. I have learned so much in such a short time because of the proximity of theoretical education to hands-on practice that the Center provides. The on-site classroom, abundant practice beds, and meals featuring Center production make learning feasible, inspiring and fun. Recent diversification in bee cultivation, greenhouse construction, and always expanding to new sites throughout Nicaragua will keep the Center up to date with challenges, realities and outcomes of small-scale sustainable farming in the region. As shown by the hundreds of Nicaraguans trained at the Center in the biointensive method as well as the Center’s apprentice program with overflowing applicants, there is strong local interest and need for the Center’s technical offerings. I hope the CCID continues to grow and take root in Nicaragua and build on its strong start!