Global Programs

When life gives you lemons – Dominican farmer’s produce is thriving after transition to organic fertilizer

“I am getting cleaner, healthier and bigger lemons,” Miguel said, thanks to the organic fertilizers he is using as part of NCBA CLUSA’s USAID-funded Resilient Agriculture Activity. [photo courtesy USAID]

The Dominican Republic has led the Caribbean region in improving food security for its citizens. However, dramatic increases in the prices of imported staple foods, fertilizers and other common agricultural inputs continue due to prolonged disruptions of the supply chain.

Costs of production of main staples doubled between February 2021 and May 2022. Consequently, Dominicans have been experiencing unusually high levels of socioeconomic vulnerability, potentially leading to food insecurity.

For farmers like Miguel Turbí in the Dominican Republic, the disruption drove an increase in fertilizer costs, which sparked action from the Dominican Government to subsidize fertilizers in order to avoid an increase in the cost of food. By the end of 2023, the Dominican Government was still subsidizing fertilizers, allocating RD $999,000,000 million pesos (around USD$17 million), and providing more than a billion pesos (USD$19 million) in food subsidies to reduce food insecurity and tackle inflation.

Miguel Turbí is a farmer located in Guayabal, a small town in the outskirts of San Juan de la Maguana province. This region of the southwestern Dominican Republic is often called the “El Granero del Sur (the barn of the South), meaning that tons of grain and other products are produced in this area. “I sow lemon, papaya, yucca, pumpkin, corn and sesame seeds,” Miguel said.

The chemical fertilizers Miguel used previously did not help his crop yields. “Before, I produced very little on the farm,” he said. During this time, with the costs of fertilizers rising, many farmers like Miguel Turbí glimpsed support in the form of a new development project. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)’s Resilient Agriculture Activity is working to reduce the use of chemical fertilizers, implement new farming techniques and increase access to credit for farmers and producers. Implemented by NCBA CLUSA, the Resilient Agriculture Activity (RAA) works in Azua, San Juan, Barahona and Elías Piña to support farmers like Miguel to carry out smarter, greener and more profitable agriculture.

USAID gave Miguel and more than 180 other farmers the tools to make and use organic fertilizers to support their farming activities. “We participated in workshops about organic fertilizers provided by USAID and NCBA CLUSA. I acquired more knowledge. We practiced with the fertilizers, we manufactured them, and we have been successful placing the fertilizers on our trees,” he said.

“I am getting cleaner, healthier and bigger lemons, and it is only because of the fertilizers that I have been adding through the guidance that has been given to me through USAID. I have been applying it as I have been told, and my production is improving a lot.” – Miguel Turbí

Life gave big limes (often called lemons in the Dominican Republic) to Miguel, literally. After applying the organic fertilizers he produced with USAID support, his lemon production, in particular, flourished.

Now he’s producing more and better produce. “I am proud to receive the support from USAID because I have been developing my farm with another disposition, another spirit,” says Miguel. “I am really happy.”

To date, USAID has helped 188 producers reduce their use of chemical fertilizers and implement new agricultural techniques with the support of NCBA CLUSA. Hear more from Miguel in the video below.

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