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UN praises Nicaragua's urban garden programme

News from Nicaragua | Thursday, 29 May 2014 |

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) released a report on the Sandinista government’s ‘Healthy Backyard’ programme, an urban version of the Zero Hunger program which has brought food security and better nutrition to hundreds of thousands of poor rural families. Launched in 2009, the 'Backyard' programme provides training and seeds to urban and semi-urban households to improve their diet and to provide income from production for local markets.

The programme also provides rainwater catchment and irrigation systems, develops community seed banks, and teaches families to reuse plastic containers and other household items for growing fruit and vegetables in their yards.

It also improves family health by removing rubbish and organic waste, replacing it with healthy plants. The program has trained hundreds of families to produce vegetables such as peppers, tomatoes, onions, lettuce, beets, carrots, spinach, basil, mint, among others, using discarded tires, bottles and various types of plastic containers, along with simple irrigation systems. Agronomists are also studying and experimenting with the plants in Managua’s hot climate which is dry half the year to improve the fruit and vegetable yields.

The FAO paper called Managua one of the greenest cities in Latin America and the Caribbean with a great potential for urban gardening with support of the government. Since May 2012 to date, 76,000 households in Managua have planted vegetable gardens in their yards. The government plan is to create an additional 120,500 urban gardens throughout the country, 60,000 of them in Managua.

The FAO report said, “Among the countries of Central America, Nicaragua has shown the most firm commitment to urban and semi-urban agriculture, which is a strategy in the National Plan for Human Development 2012-2016.” In Managua, the government program has concentrated on two of the most impoverished and most densely populated neighbourhoods, Ciudad Sandino and Los Laureles Sur. Both areas were chosen for their high levels of food insecurity and malnutrition.

The FAO study shows that households with vegetable gardens have icreased vegetable consumption by 60% and have saved money on bying food. (El Nuevo Diario, 20 May)