The Diffusion of Innovations

Diffusion of Innovations is a book by Everett Rodgers about “how, why and at what rate new ideas and technology spread through cultures”.  It’s also what is unfolding in our Nicaragua country program, as a result of introducing the household greenhouse to improve nutrition and incomes of Nicaragua’s rural poor, just five months ago.volunteers build a greenhouse

 

Namlo’s country coordinator in Nicaragua, Yulibeth Rosario Velasquez Mendoza, reported last week that interest in Namlo’s greenhouse project is beginning to spread in the countryside near Esteli.  She reports that the are five farm families in the Miraflor area about one hour from Las Palmas, three in communities around Las Palmas, 3-4 in Barrio Nuevo, 3-4 in Los Pinares and one in Salmeron – around 15 farm families in all.  The people who are interested in the greenhouse are interested in giving a downpayment a greenhouse – not getting them as handouts – which means they are part of the “early adopters” who are motivated to succeed and who play a key role in the process of spreading the idea of the greenhouse.  Namlo’s goal is to see the household greenhouse spread in the villages in which it has been working, and across Nicaragua, thereby having a potentially enormous impact in helping people move out of poverty and the effects of poor nutrition.

Nimia in her greenhouse

Nimia in her greenhouse

 

The greenhouse was developed and field tested among twenty five rural families in Las Palmas, Nicaragua by Tim Gibb and Al Campo International.  Tim “reverse engineered” a commercial greenhouse and scaled it down in size to make it more manageable and affordable for a typical farm family, with the benefits being a dramatic increase in vegetable production, nutrition and ultimately incomes.

 

The strategy adopted by Namlo involves:

  • Increasing the dissemination of the greenhouse, at the same time providing technical training to greenhouse users in organic horticultural practices, problem-solving, monitoring and customer support so that the farm families are successful with the greenhouses.
  • Establish monitoring and evaluation procedures so we can document the impact that greenhouse is having on health & nutrition, dietary diversification, incomes, and economic opportunity
  • Respond to interest in the greenhouses from other communities, thereby expanding the geographical distribution of the technology, as well as exposing Namlo to new potential community partners.
  • Learning and tracking local demand for vegetables, getting an understanding of the supply chains so we can advise farmers of strategies to best respond to local demand.  Later, we can help create the networks so that greenhouse users can best pool resources for transportation, storage and value addition.
  • Continuing to charge a down payment for the greenhouse as a way of ensuring rural families have a stake in its success. Handouts destroy motivation and create dependency.  Namlo’s target price to rural families only covers the cost of materials, so is already subsidized.  With increased interest among farm families and with volume production, we hope that the target price will be affordable and sustainable.
  • Beginning to market the greenhouse in Namlo’s communities and beyond, by letting rural families speak about their own experience
  • Begin to understand on how to use the greenhouses to “build community” by incorporating them into local schools, clinics or community groups.

    Nicaragua Coordinator Rosario Velasquez with Beets in El Salmeron

    Nicaragua Coordinator Rosario Velasquez with Beets in El Salmeron

As you can see, we are just in the early stages of developing this project.  But it’s the most exciting time…a great time to get involved, to help support and invest in the future of this project, the families and an innovative idea that just might spread across Central America.  If you are interested in being a part of this exciting project, and visiting the project,  please contact us!  We’ll be launching a crowd funding project early next year, but if you are looking at getting in at the beginning of the investment process, we are needing to raise $50,000 for the next 12 months of the program, to bring the benefits of the project to 50 more poor, rural families.

 

Keith Frausto