Norlan’s Chilis: A Labor of Love
Norlan is a rock star pepper farmer
Norlan Lopez lives in San Jose, one of our villages in Nicaragua. Before choosing to work with Agros, he knew only corn and beans . “I didn’t know anything [about vegetables],” he told us, shyly. But highly technical crops like vegetables, coffee, and cacao bring much higher profits. He and his wife Martha have a 4 year old daughter, Jocelyn, so even though he knew he was signing up for a steep learning curve and thousands of sweaty hours laboring to nurture these delicate plants, it was more than worth it for his family.
Before Norlan planted his pepper crop, his friends and family told him he was crazy. “Peppers are too hard,” they would say. Despite the ridicule, Norlan pushed on anyway. Norlan invested nearly $2,000 into a chile pepper crop last year and saw an amazing return: he more than doubled his investment. Not only was he able to pay off the crop credit, but he made a $1,400 payment on his land loan and saved $1,000 to reinvest in a new pepper crop this year. Once his friends and family saw the results of Norlan’s hard work, they realized they were wrong. As a result many of his friends and extended family have started cultivating peppers too.
Why Has He Been So Successful?
Norlan has peppers down to a science; an agricultural science. With guidance from Agros agronomists, he has implemented region specific farming techniques that have facilitated extremely good production results. One such technique is contour farming, which saves water and fertilizer by utilizing the natural slopes of the land instead of plowing flat fields. Along with his newly learned techniques, Norlan tends to his crops like they are his children.
Why Is This Story So Important?
Not only is it another triumph towards the eradication of poverty, but this story, the story of Norlan and his family, is one that sets a standard. Agricultural sustainability is central to the foundation of Agros’ progress in rural villages. Farming, when profitable, allows families to generate enough revenue to not only own their own land, but to also escape the grueling cycle of poverty. But it’s not as simple as finding land and planting crops.
The truth is a lot of families struggle with agriculture because smallholder farmers are inherently vulnerable. They can lose everything to unexpected drought, market turbulence, pests or corrupt middlemen. With the proper tools, education, and market connections, it’s our goal at Agros to develop our farmers’ capacity to withstand these shocks. When a farmer has progressed enough, like Norlan, to reliably produce a consistently excellent crop, then he can transact with agricultural exporters who will guarantee a minimum price and a market. For Norlan, that means a reliable income, one he can invest in his family’s health, well-being, and dreams.
While Norlan has learned a lot from our agricultural technicians, we have learned even more for him. Our ultimate goal in each one of our communities is to facilitate prosperous agribusinesses like his, along with the needed tools to sustain them. Norlan’s story is one we want to replicate with every Agros farmer!
Norlan summarizes the impact Agros and pepper cultivation has had on him and his family. “Here, we have to work hard to be able to pay for the land, but when Jocelyn is grown at least she will have a place to live. If we had continued to work other people’s land we never would have had anything for us.”