Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Crop Profile: Maya Nut (Ojoche) Local Solutions to Hunger

Hola reader,
I'm finally back from a short trip to Nicaragua and after catching up with the usual work that piles up while abroad, I wanted to blog about some exciting things happening in agriculture and the food security debate, foreign aid, and my garden.

But first, I wanted to tell you about Ramon, or Ojoche as he likes to be called in Nicaragua. Ojoche is a tropical tree endemic to most areas in Meso America. The nut of this tree was used by the Mayas as a source of food rich in protein, fiber and vitamins. Today, organization such as The Equilibrium Fund are promoting the use of Ojoche -Maya Nut- as a local, sustainable solution to chronic malnutrition so prevalent in the many areas Central American Altiplano and as a economic alternative in underserved rural communities.

Maya nut or Ojoche

Ojoche has many benefits. First, the trees already grow naturally in most Central American countries and its nut is consumed by some individuals. For those areas where there aren't any trees, seedlings can grow fairly quickly. Second, the nut can be grounded and its flour used to make bread, tortillas, cookies, and many more recipes. As mentioned above, Ojoche's nutritional content is quite high, serving as a viable solution to the food needs of families leaving in these communities. Finally, the nut is part of forest, protecting water basins, feeding wildlife, and supporting an endangered biodiversity.

In addition to these benefits, the nut can be sold in the form of flour, generating much needed income in communities left behind in the road to progress. I hope we can start promoting the use of the nut in the areas where Fabretto, the organization i work for, runs its programs. I envision a local women coop that collects and process the nuts and then sells it to the local school for its lunch program. In this model, one addresses some of the immediate food needs and perhaps more importantly, generates local revenue sources. This new income has the potential to fundamentally change the economic structure of these communities by generating revenue for poor families who often time have little money to meet their most basic necessities.

Anyway, i could keep going on about how this is the type of development approach that must complement, if not replace, the effort of those in power calling the foreign aid shots in Washington. By the way, If your are going to be in DC in November, make sure you stop by the World Bank's Development Marketplace awards to see the Equilibrium Fund showcase its support of grassroots organizations promoting the use of Ojoche Nicaragua.

Finally, for those Hispanoparlantes, below you will find a great video about the use of Ojoche in Guatemala

Episodio 45 from Caminos del Asombro on Vimeo.