September brings happiness to Nicaraguan farmers because it marks the start of an intensive corn harvest. Corn is a traditional and the most popular crop in the Americas. In most cases, small-scale farmers cut the golden cobs with their own hands. The cobs are classified depending on their shape and size for family consumption or for commercialization.
Corn is the main staple food for Nicaraguans. The list of traditional dishes made with corn include nacatamales, tamales pizque, stuffed tamal, yoltamal, atoll, rosquillas (a pastry), varied soups, tortillas, tamugas, stews, perrerreques, indio viejo, rellenitas, revueltas, quesadillas, and enchiladas. Drinks such as pinol, pinolillo, pozol, tiste, and the popular liquor named “cususa” are part of Nicaraguan’s daily meals, which are prepared by mixing corn flour or dough with meats, sweets, cheeses, and local spices.
Corn was an important part of the native Mesoamerican people. The Mayans believed that the gods created mankind out of corn after failing with many other elements. Due to its ability to grow in different climates, corn is grown all over the world, making it the third most important crop after wheat and rice.
Ancient civilizations developed around their productive processes. Traditional crops such as rice in China, wheat in Mesopotamia and corn in Mesoamerica were developed thanks to the farmers’ hard work and knowledge. “Corn strengthens community bonds. Nicaraguan families live thanks to this cereal which at the base of our culture and diet,” said Francisco Alvarado, head of the Purchase for Progress (P4P) project.
Purchase for Progress or P4P works with national authorities to assist 15 small holder farmers associations in Northern Nicaragua. The aim is to improve the quality and quantity of their yields, and help farmers gain access and fair prices at the local markets.
September also marks the start of celebrations around “el maíz nuevo” or fresh corn. For that purpose, national and local authorities organize the National Corn Fair in Jalapa –some 310 kilometers Northeast of Managua. WFP staff and farmers involved in the P4P project participated this year.
The 29th Edition of the “National Corn Fair” began with a field visit (locally known as field schools) organized by the Technical Agricultural Institute of Nicaragua (INTA) –a P4P partner. Farmers exchanged knowledge and learned about new technologies, better systems for harvesting, and plague control. “I am very happy because I am seeing changes. Now I have information to improve my plot of land,” said Santiago Romero (74), a P4P participant. WFP/ Sabrina Quezada
The P4P Team set up a stand where the population learned about P4P and other WFP projects. P4P is funded by the Howard G. Buffett Foundation. In the photo, people taste dates recently donated to WFP in Nicaragua by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
The National Corn Fair pays tribute to the corn. It includes culinary demonstrations, artisan sales, popular dances, concerts, mechanical games, and other events. In the photo, candidates of the “Queen of the Corn” contest dress in elaborate costumes decorated with corn cobs representing the ancient indigenous Nicaraguan culture.
The “Active Farmers of Jalapa” Cooperative –with more than 700 members—introduced the tractor named “Labranza Mínima,” which was purchased with WFP’s support. In the photo, Eveling Elizabeth Zepeda, the cooperative’s candidate for the “Queen of the Corn Fair,” parades on the tractor.