The farmers’ organization Cooperativa Integral Agrícola La Montaña was formed about 15 years ago in the village of La Montaña in southern Guatemala. The organization has 21 members, seven of whom are women. While WFP offers a market for smallholders’ produce, P4P partner organizations give the farmers technical assistance in producing maize and beans. Part of this assistance is a demonstration plot of one manzana (about 0.7 hectare), where farmers can learn about new crops and new agricultural techniques. What is P4P?
Beans are important for farmers’ own food security and can be a source of income when sold on the market, but they were traditionally grown only on a very small scale if at all in the community. The farmers did not know how to increase the crop in order to achieve a good harvest - yields used to be around only 20-25 quintales per manzana (0.6-0.8 tons per hectare).
As WFP buys beans for its national food assistance programmes, there is a big potential market for the farmers, if they can become suppliers. In response to this market opportunity, the Instituto de Ciencia y Tecnología Agrícolas (ICTA), one of many P4P partners that help smallholder farmers on the supply side, introduced two varieties of black beans new to the area at the demonstration plot during the last planting season: ICTA Zam and ICTA Ligero.
The cultivation of the demonstration plot was the responsibility of all the members of the organization. Located on land owned by Mrs. Thelma Gómez, it was easily accessible to all participating farmers. The plot was not only used to introduce a new crop, but also to demonstrate good agricultural practices: the selection of the field, soil preparation, planting methods, advice on seed density, irrigation frequency, fertilization, pest and disease control, the best time for harvest and finally how to better estimate the yield.
The beans tested on the demonstration plot showed optimal growth and produced a very good yield. Icta Ligero, an early maturing variety, was ready for the market in only 75 days. This will help farmers in the future to reduce costs and risks in the field. It was developed to be tolerant to both bacterial and viral diseases, and produces less foliage compared to other varieties. Icta Zam was developed to have a high tolerance against a disease caused by the fungus Rhizoctonia solani which allows its cultivation during the rainy season, helping farmers build resilience against climatic shocks.
Now farmers have first-hand experience on how to grow black beans. The farmers are taking this crop as another alternative crop, backed by the excellent results from the demonstration plots. Yields should increase with the new techniques learned and the use of better seeds. With increased yields, more money will end up in the farmers’ pockets.