Human Trafficking in Nicaragua
Human trafficking became a topic of global concern in the 1990s. However, governments, international organizations and nonprofits are continuing to research the issue and come up with new ways to prevent it. Less research exists on human trafficking in Latin America and the Caribbean in comparison with Asia and Europe. However, the available information highlights a few key aspects of human trafficking in Nicaragua.

10 Facts About Human Trafficking in Nicaragua

  1. Nicaragua’s Location: Nicaragua is a country in Central America. It is between Honduras to the north and Costa Rica to the south. This makes it a common transit country for migrants traveling between South America and North America. Migrants are one of the groups facing the highest risk of human trafficking and exploitation.
  2. Nicaraguan Migrants: Many of the Nicaraguan migrants who become trapped in human trafficking end up in Costa Rica. This corresponds with migration flows. Since 2018, more than 72,000 Nicaraguan migrants have fled to Costa Rica. Nicaraguan migrants are also victims of human trafficking in other Central American countries, Mexico, the United States and Spain.
  3. Women and Children: In addition to migrants, women and children face the highest risk of human trafficking in Nicaragua. In 2018, girls and women represented 79% of trafficking victims in Central America and the Caribbean. Traffickers utilize the majority of victims in Central America for the purpose of sexual exploitation.
  4. Human Trafficking Numbers: Walk Free’s Global Slavery Index estimated that 18,000 people in Nicaragua were living in modern slavery in 2018. Modern slavery encompasses a range of exploitative situations, including forced labor and debt bondage. It also includes human trafficking.
  5. Nicaragua’s Trafficking Status: In the 2020 Trafficking in Persons Report, the U.S. Department of State downgraded Nicaragua from a Tier 2 to a Tier 3 country. This means that Nicaragua does not meet the established standards for achieving the elimination of human trafficking. It also means that the Nicaraguan government is not making a significant effort to meet those standards.
  6. The Vulnerability of the Impoverished: Poverty increases the vulnerability of people to trafficking and exploitation. Human traffickers often target vulnerable individuals. Poverty can also drive family members to sell children to traffickers or become traffickers themselves. According to the World Food Programme (WFP), 30% of Nicaraguans live in poverty and 8% live in extreme poverty.
  7. Illiteracy and Unemployment: In addition to poverty, illiteracy and unemployment also increase the risk of human trafficking in Nicaragua. In 2015, 83% of Nicaraguans ages 15 and above were literate. Illiteracy and unemployment increase individuals’ vulnerability and make it more difficult for trafficked persons to escape traffickers and avoid future dangerous situations.
  8. Anti-trafficking Treaties and Protocols: Nicaragua is a party to multiple international anti-trafficking treaties and protocols. Some examples include the U.N. Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons and the International Labour Organization Convention 105 on the Abolition of Forced Labor. By being a party to these treaties and protocols, the Nicaraguan government recognizes human trafficking as illegal and states that it will work to prevent human trafficking.
  9. The U.S. Government: The U.S. government has paid increasing attention to preventing human trafficking in Latin America and the Caribbean. In 2016, the government dedicated $11 million to anti-trafficking efforts in Latin America. The funds go toward a variety of anti-trafficking projects, including working with governments in Latin America to solve specific challenges in preventing human trafficking that those governments are facing.
  10. Casa Alianza Nicaragua: One of the many nonprofit organizations fighting human trafficking in Nicaragua is Casa Alianza Nicaragua. Casa Alianza, or Covenant House in English, provides housing and support for children trafficking victims and teenage mothers who were trafficking victims. It can hold up to 70 children each night. It also offers courses in sewing, baking, jewelry-making and small business administration to the residents of its shelters. This helps to combat poverty and decreases vulnerability to future trafficking. Casa Alianza partners with other nonprofits to improve victim identification, build local capacity and provide help to suspected trafficking victims. The nonprofit has contributed to decreased gang activity in the area and increased school attendance among children.

Hope for the Future

Although the Nicaraguan government has decreased its efforts to combat human trafficking, many other countries and organizations continue to work to prevent human trafficking in Nicaragua. Casa Alianza is just one example of the existing anti-trafficking work in Nicaragua. Research on human trafficking in Latin America and the Caribbean is growing, and this will enable governments and NGOs to more effectively prevent human trafficking and support victims.

– Camden Eckler
Photo: Flickr

Economic Development in NicaraguaEconomic development in Nicaragua has encountered issues that have slowed the country’s development. Nicaragua declared itself an independent country in 1821. However, it has directly felt the crippling effect of economic issues from the onslaught of crimes. As recently as 2020, Nicaragua was recognized as a critical threat location for crime by the Overseas Security Advisory Council. Nicaragua has also encountered natural disasters. As of November 2020, Hurricane Eta and Hurricane Iota, Category 4 and 5 hurricanes respectively, caused more than $740 million in damage.

However, even with mounting external and internal pressure, economic development in Nicaragua has shown potential for improvement. This change is based on securing educational opportunities that turn into growth in economic projects. Private organizations have created community centers and offered low- and middle-income citizens better access to education. Such organizations have also created jobs by amplifying the reach of renewable energy, agricultural irrigation expansion and fortification of infrastructure.

Nicaraguan Poverty

Nicaragua has faced an uphill battle in economic growth due to its criminal and poverty-stricken background. The conflict between rival gangs within the country exacerbates this issue. This instability has also caused a decline in economic fortitude. Moreover, inflation has reached undeniably high levels, and people have left Nicaragua in droves to pursue better economic opportunities. The people left behind continue to suffer from a lack of proper healthcare and education.

Education Improves Economic Development

The educational system within Nicaragua is adjacent to the poverty level. Children within the educational system find themselves facing the challenge of completing school due to a wide range of reasons. A recent study from the USAID reported that an estimated 72% of Nicaraguans do not finish secondary school, leaving them likely to be impoverished. In addition, more than 18% of teachers do not have more than primary school education. This creates a new generation of unprepared Nicaraguan citizens.

The correlation between educational attainment and job development is significant. It is the bridge that keeps many Nicaraguans in impoverished income brackets. With the constant issues that many lower-income Nicaraguan students face, there has been an increase in steering them toward an attainable educational path and improving educational success.

Formative Ways of Change

Outside help from the U.N. and the U.S. has created a shift in economic and educational development in Nicaragua in recent years. Organizations such as Save the Children and the World Bank have supported the upturn of educational prowess within Nicaragua. Save the Children has created an infrastructure for educational access by establishing toll roads and paving new ones. Additionally, the World Bank has established more community centers with creative and technical workshops to teach and fortify skills. The skills taught include knowledge of irrigation, infrastructure fortification and a new era of clean and renewable energy.

The organizations have also increased job development and commercial development projects from the private sector. These development projects have provided more job opportunities within the industries of agricultural irrigation, the fortification of infrastructure, renewable energy and the reinforcement of trade.

Projects of this magnitude were given more than just a prime objective with the World Bank portfolio. Such projects totaled more than $400 million for nine planned projects. These projects include the enhancement of telecommunications, roads, education, health and insurance for natural disasters. Two credits have already been passed together, worth more than $100 million, to combat COVID-19 and help those most affected by hurricanes.

The Nicaraguan educational system has had a rise in scholars coming through the ranks to create an ever-growing class of job-ready individuals. Problems of organized crime and violence have troubled Nicaragua in the past, but there is hope to establish a better economic system that can create many more jobs and lead Nicaragua to a better future. Organizations like the World Bank and Save the Children are instituting an educational and job pathway for young and experienced Nicaraguan citizens alike to create a more prosperous Nicaragua.

Mario Perales
Photo: Unsplash

Aquaculture in NicaraguaNicaragua is a popular tourist destination but also the second most impoverished country in the Western Hemisphere. The resource-rich country has potential for significant economic growth but a long history of colonization, autocratic governments and neglect of human capital create barriers to economic growth. Agriculture is the main form of industry in Nicaragua as there are large expanses of level, fertile ground in the eastern part of the country. Fishing is also traditional to the area, especially shrimping. In the last few decades, the government began prioritizing the development of infrastructure to support aquaculture in Nicaragua in order to help fisherfolk and reduce poverty.

What is Aquaculture?

Nicaragua is one of the many coastal countries undergoing what is referred to as a “blue revolution.” Nicaragua is testing the capacity of the surrounding waters to bring significant income into the economy. This often means updating a traditional industry such as capture fishing and applying that knowledge with new technology. Furthermore, it means utilizing more environmentally sustainable practices. Aquaculture in Nicaragua was a natural step forward, as its land-based version, agriculture, is already a prolific industry. Learning how to farm the ocean is a relatively new concept but one that is gaining ground quickly in global agricultural circles.

The Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition released a brief in February 2021 detailing the benefits of aquaculture. These benefits range from increased nutrition and food security to a higher national GDP. The panel asserts that aquaculture is one of the fastest-growing aspects of the greater agricultural industry. Additionally, worldwide fish consumption is growing, creating a demand that traditional capture fisheries cannot support sustainably.

Aquaculture Potential in Nicaragua

Aquaculture programs supported by the Nicaraguan Government gained traction in the 1980s. Since then, shrimp farming has become the major export of the fishing industry. While many shrimp farms are owned by large corporations, small farmers are supported by the government and programs like the Nicaraguan Institute of Fisheries and Aquaculture (INPESCA). In 2018, INPESCA helped residents of the Palo Grande community to form fishing cooperatives and provided the necessary training to learn shrimp farming. Along with the municipal government, INPESCA then gave each of the eight fishing cooperatives, including more than 250 cooperative members, licenses to farm shrimp in designated areas in northwestern Nicaragua.

Not only does this opportunity provide people with the means of creating a steady income and access to a nutritional food source, but, many women who previously relied on their husband’s income are now able to be involved in the work. Instead of working for large companies that underpay workers, people can work for themselves earning the full price of the sold shrimp.

Looking Forward

There are serious challenges to the industry that created major setbacks. Hurricane Mitch devastated coastal properties in 1998, causing flooding and almost 4,000 total deaths in Nicaragua. Just one year later, with shrimp farms still struggling to recover, outbreaks of the fatal white spot syndrome in Nicaragua wiped out large quantities of shrimp.

In spite of past challenges, there are many exciting reasons to support aquaculture in Nicaragua. Offering stable income to uneducated citizens, economic growth for the country, affordable sources of nutritious food and a sustainable form of farming, aquaculture has an impressive array of possible benefits. The Government of Nicaragua and various international organizations continue to pursue further development of aquaculture technologies, hoping to facilitate economic growth and decrease overall poverty.

Kari Millstein
Photo: Flickr

SOPPEXCCA coffee cooperativeCoffee production in Nicaragua is a steadily maturing industry. The coffee industry in Nicaragua accounts for more than $500 million a year in exports and is responsible for more than 200,000 jobs. Roughly 40,000 coffee farmers and their families rely on the coffee industry as their primary income and support. But, despite contributing the lion’s share, small-scale producers are often left behind with paltry benefits. The Society of Small Producers for Coffee Exports (SOPPEXCCA) engages this issue by supporting farming families in Nicaragua. The SOPPEXCCA coffee cooperative was founded in Nicaragua in 1997 with the intention of improving the lives of its members and communities in the Nicaraguan coffee industry.

Coffee in Nicaragua

The rise of specialty coffee is promising for Nicaragua. Nicaraguan beans are distinctly known for their mild and citrus-like taste and are consequently gaining traction in the global market. Roughly 60% of the nation’s coffee output comes from northern regions like Jinotega where SOPPEXCCA was founded.

Most coffee growers face economic challenges beyond living a humble farming life. The crops require a decent amount of maintenance and are prone to environmental risks. A leaf disease called “la roya” puts 30-40% of coffee plants at risk of destruction and hurricanes destroyed 10-15% of the coffee harvest in 2020. Additionally, many children often have to dedicate school time to the farms due to the sheer amount of work involved in producing coffee.

The SOPPEXCCA Coffee Cooperative

SOPPEXCCA empowers farming communities with long-term solutions that stimulate financial literacy, strategy and growth. By building educational institutions, promoting gender equality, utilizing sustainable solutions and communicating with farmers, the cooperative helps give farmers life skills to improve their economic standing. The cooperative works in accordance with the U.N. Millennium Development Goals, which include eradicating extreme poverty and hunger. Farmers and communities who join SOPPEXCCA are also protected by a number of international securities. This includes Fair Trade certification and Food4Farmers benefits. These efforts are part of SOPPEXCCA’s anti-poverty agenda.

Muchachitos del Cafe

SOPPEXCCA’s youth movement, Children of Coffee, reaches out to younger generations through education. By providing classes, scholarships and building schools, SOPPEXCCA looks to fund programs that help kids who come from farming backgrounds.

Women’s Empowerment

The SOPPEXCCA coffee cooperative is led by Fatima Ismael and boasts a female membership rate of 40%. Ismael took over leadership in 1997 and pointed the cooperative toward a robust plan on a women-centric approach. Participating coffee businesses and entrepreneurs have supported initiatives for improving public health by investing in cervical cancer prevention programs.

The cooperative has also launched a number of movements to support women in the field of coffee agronomics. The coffee-growing industry is generally typified as masculine. But, cooperatives such as La Fondacion entre Mujeres and Las Diosas, within SOPPEXCCA, seek to empower women in roles typically reserved for males. SOPPEXCCA also supports female coffee producers by giving them the tools and knowledge needed to succeed in the industry, such as marketing and management skills.

Empowering Farmers

SOPPEXCCA also equips farmers with the entrepreneurial skills required to participate in the fast-paced global coffee market. In response to la roya, it partnered with a number of crop diversification outlets to help farmers grow safer and more resilient plants such as cacao. The cooperative has started a chocolate factory to help create jobs and support farmers. SOPPEXCCA also connects small-scale coffee producers with large corporations such as Starbucks, allowing them to apply for loans that can jumpstart their business careers.

The Rise of Craft Coffee

Caffeinated beverages are on the rise within the global market and Nicaraguan coffee will likely be one contender among many pioneering trends. Since its establishment, SOPPEXCCA has significantly grown. It started with fewer than 70 men and women coffee producers and since expanded to 650 men and women producers, organized in 15 cooperatives in SOPPEXCCA. By supporting Nicaraguan coffee farmers, SOPPEXCCA supports poverty reduction in the country.

Danielle Han
Photo: Flickr

help Nicaraguan RefugeesThe massive protests in Nicaragua, which began in April of 2018, has led to a humanitarian crisis. Thousands of Nicaraguans have left the country, the majority fleeing to neighboring Costa Rica. Civil unrest, poverty and COVID-19 have contributed to several issues Nicaraguan refugees are facing. Organizations have dedicated efforts to assist with the humanitarian crisis in Central America and help Nicaraguan refugees.

The Ortega Regime

In April 2018, Nicaraguan president, Daniel Ortega, announced pension cuts for his citizens. Following the announcement, protesters filled the streets of multiple Nicaraguan cities. The protesters demanded that pension cuts be canceled and requested an end to the years of corruption committed by the Ortega regime. The protesters were met with violence, with more than 300 dead and thousands injured or missing. Journalists covering the anti-government protests were harassed and attacked by authorities, ultimately silencing the free press. The government has been accused of using ‘weapons of war’ on its citizens and committing human rights violations. Consequently, the political unrest has created a push factor for migration out of the country.

Two-thirds of Nicaraguan refugees have fled to neighboring Costa Rica. According to the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNCHR), 81,000 Nicaraguans have applied for asylum in Costa Rica. Furthermore, the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively impacted the well-being of Nicaraguan refugees. The UNCHR found that since the pandemic, 14% of refugees eat once a day or less and 63% of Nicaraguan refugees eat only two meals a day. Moreover, many Nicaraguans have lost steady income, increasing the chances of falling deeper into poverty.

Humanitarian Aid: UNCHR

To handle the influx of refugees into Costa Rica, the country needed assistance from NGOs. In February 2020, the UNCHR granted Costa Rica $4.1 million to reduce poverty for Nicaraguan refugees. Furthermore, the UNCHR grant pays for legal assistance and civil organizations that help migrants. As much as 53% of Nicaraguan refugees had no health insurance, but with the help of the UNCHR, around 6,000 now have medical insurance through the Costa Rican Social Security System.

The IFRC Helps Nicaraguan Refugees

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is also actively partaking in addressing the humanitarian crisis for Nicaraguan refugees. The IFRC’s mission is to “meet the needs and improve the lives of vulnerable people.” Moreover, the IFRC is the largest humanitarian organization in the world,  assisting displaced people around the world with resources and relief. Francesco Rocca, president of the IFRC, called the migration crisis during a pandemic a “catastrophe.” Furthermore, Rocca has called the attention of government officials to take care of the most vulnerable, asylum seekers because they are most severely impacted by COVID-19.

Corner of Love Helps Migrants

The COVID-19 pandemic has made the Nicaraguan-Costa Rican border restrictive, making it harder for migrants to cross. Additionally, the pandemic has created more uncertainty for the futures of Nicaraguan refugees. Despite these struggles, NGOs are not giving up on this vulnerable population. The NGO, Corner of Love, is assisting migrants at the Nicaragua-Costa Rica border. Corner of Love ensures migrants have access to food and hygiene products, thus contributing to the well-being of Nicaraguan refugees.

The efforts of organizations stepping in to help Nicaraguan refugees with the humanitarian crisis give struggling people hope for a brighter tomorrow.

– Andy Calderon
Photo: Flickr

Child Poverty in Nicaragua
Nicaragua is among one of the poorest nations in the Western Hemisphere. In fact, child poverty in Nicaragua impacts one out of two children. Nicaragua’s population is young; out of 6 million people, 2 million are school-age children. To tackle the issue of child poverty, the Nicaraguan government has promised to create more access to education, sanitation and food security.

Nicaragua has a long history of chronic poverty. For much of the 20th century, the country was under a dictatorship. A revolution beginning in the late 1970s further decimated the well-being of many throughout the 1980s. The revolution ended with thousands dead and a need for Nicaragua to rebuild itself.

Child Poverty in Nicaragua

Child poverty in Nicaragua remains a critical issue. According to UNICEF, 50% of Nicaraguan children live in poverty, with 19% of them in extreme poverty. Furthermore, child poverty is much more prevalent on the Atlantic coast of the country. About 58% of children on the Atlantic coast had completed six years of primary education as opposed to 72% for the country as a whole. Moreover, 500,000 Nicaraguan children do not attend school at all, mainly because of the cost of education and the need to support their families.

When families need financial support, many children and adolescents have no choice but to enter the workforce. An estimated 250,000 to 320,000 Nicaraguans are child laborers. Some children work in sugar cane fields and mines, creating a dangerous work environment for them. In addition to child labor, human trafficking is a growing issue impacting young girls.

Preventing Child Labor

To curtail child poverty, the Nicaraguan government has signed agreements to make sure companies do not hire child workers. In 2019, the Nicaraguan government and private employers have signed 6,129 cooperative agreements that prevent the hiring of children laborers. The U.S. Department of Labor has found that the Nicaraguan government has done little to actually reduce young children in the workforce. However, the international community has been pressuring the country to be more aggressive in diminishing child labor.

Improving Education

An area of increased government involvement is in educational spending. Accepting the help of supranational organizations, such as The World Bank, the country has invested in education. The Alliance for Education Quality Project for Nicaragua has helped fund the training of primary school teachers and the construction of forty schools. Over 1,250 teachers received mentoring and more than 9,000 pre-school teachers obtained training. Additionally, the project supplied materials and equipment for the staff and students. Construction of most of the schools occurred in rural areas, improving these communities’ access to education.

Reducing the Infant Mortality Rate

The infant mortality rate is high, with child poverty in Nicaragua being the culprit. According to UNICEF, 74% of Nicaraguans use standard sanitation services and 52% have access to clean drinking water. Furthermore, 40% of children under 5 are malnourished. The Nicaraguan government and The World Bank have created strategies to tackle these issues. The Sustainable Rural Water Supply and Sanitation (WSS) Sector Project (PROSASR), provided rural communities with adequate infrastructure for sanitation. Furthermore, access to food and clean drinking water has also seen improvements. The Nicaraguan Caribbean Coast Food Security Project has invested in agricultural and fishery techniques for farmers and improved socio-environmental practices. Impacting mostly rural communities, food security increased with 33% of beneficiaries being the youth.

Political and economic instability, stemming from the civil war, has created chronic child poverty in Nicaragua. Nonetheless, Nicaragua has implemented changes, with the help of the World Bank, to decrease the child poverty rate.

– Andy Calderon
Photo: Unsplash

Solar Technology Alleviating PovertyGivePower, founded in 2013 by Hayes Barnard, is a nonprofit organization whose aim is to use solar technology in alleviating poverty worldwide. The United Nations reports that, as of 2019, “over two billion people live in countries experiencing high water stress, and about four billion people experience severe water scarcity during at least one month of the year.” These water-related stress levels are expected to rise with increased population growth and global economic development. Ultimately, yielding a rise in poverty.

Solar Technology: A Solution to Poverty

Solar technology presents a solution to this growing, global, water crisis. This is because solar technology holds the power to supply clean water and efficient energy systems to communities located in virtually any part of the world. Since 2013, GivePower has worked to help some of the world’s poorest countries gain access to a source of clean, renewable and resilient energy. This has in turn allowed for more readily available, clean drinking water, agricultural production and self-sustaining communities. For example, in 2018 alone, GivePower granted access to clean water, electricity and food to more than 30,000 people in five countries. Since its founding, GivePower has completed projects in the following six countries:

  1. Nicaragua: Though education through the primary stages is mandatory for Nicaraguans, school enrollment numbers are low. During its first-ever, solar microgrid installation in 2014, GivePower, recognized the importance of education. In this vein, GivePower shifted its resources toward powering a school in El Islote, Nicaragua. The school’s enrollment has improved tremendously, now offering classes and resources for both children and adults.
  2. Nepal: In Nepal, access to electricity has increased by nearly 10% for the entire Nepalese population, since GivePower began installing solar microgrids in 2015. Installation occurred throughout various parts of the country. Rural villages now have access to electricity — allowing schools, businesses, healthcare services, agricultural production and other forms of technology to prosper. Part of GivePower’s work in Nepal includes installing a 6kW microgrid on a medical clinic in a rural community, ensuring essential services.
  3. Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC): During 2016, the GivePower team reached the DRC, where civil war has ended in a struggle for both people and the country’s wildlife. The DRC is home to many of the world’s endangered species, making protection of the country’s wildlife essential. GivePower has successfully installed solar panels for ranger stations in one of Africa’s oldest national parks. In this way, wildlife thrives. This power provides a means for rangers to meet their basic needs and increases the likelihood that rangers can protect wildlife.
  4. Puerto Rico: In 2017, Hurricane Maria, a powerful category four hurricane, devastated Puerto Rico. The disaster left many without shelter, food, power or clean water for months. GivePower intervened, installing solar microgrids and reaching more than 23,000 people. The organization provided individual water purification systems to families without access to clean drinking water and installed solar microgrids. In this effort, the main goals were to restore and encourage more disaster relief, emergency and medical services. Furthermore, the refrigeration of food and medication and the continuation of educational services were paramount in these efforts.
  5. Kenya: Typically, only about 41% of Kenyans have access to clean water for fulfilling basic human needs. Notably, about 9.4 million Kenyans drink directly from contaminated surface water. During 2018, using solar technology in alleviating poverty, GivePower provided electricity to Kenyans living in Kiunga. Moreover, GivePower also increased access to clean water through a large-scale, microgrid water desalination farm. The water farm provides clean water for about 35,000 Kenyans, daily. The organization has also reached the Namunyak Wildlife Conservatory located in Samburu, Kenya. There, GivePower installed solar panels to ensure refrigeration and communications at the conservatory.
  6. Colombia: In 2019, GivePower installed solar microgrids in Colombia to preserve one of the country’s most famous cultural heritage sites. Moreover, the microgrids helped to support research conducted in the area. The grids installed have been able to sustain a 100-acre research field and cold storage units.

Solar Technology Alleviating Poverty: Today and Tomorrow

Renewable, clean and resilient energy has granted many populations the ability to innovate. In this way, other basic, yet vital human needs are met. Using solar technology alone in alleviating poverty has been enough to create water farms that provide clean water to thousands. With water and energy for innovation — agricultural production flourishes. This, in turn, addresses hunger issues while also working toward economic development. Having already touched the lives of more than 400,000 people, GivePower and solar technology present a promising solution in alleviating global poverty.

Stacy Moses
Photo: Flickr

A Solution to Nicaragua’s Dust Bowl
“When the wind blows strong in León, the sky changes color. Doors and windows slam shut. Darkness swallows the daylight and dust falls like ashes over the houses, buildings, churches and offices.” This statement from Maynor Salazar describes a common occurrence in Nicaragua: giant dust storms. Heavy winds pick up fine dust that whips through towns and cities. The air can get so thick that it becomes impossible to see. Already one of the poorest countries in the world, Nicaragua’s dust storms have made life difficult for families trying to climb out of poverty. Moreover, these dust storms form through extensive and overbearing farming of brittle soil. Fortunately, there is a solution to Nicaragua’s dust bowl.

Problems

Nicaragua continues to be one of the poorest countries in the world. According to the World Bank, around 13% of Nicaragua’s population lives on less than $3 a day. The giant dust storms that ride through the country only exacerbate the problem. Winds can whip dust as fast as 18-30 mph. There is little shelter against Nicaragua’s dust bowl. Many houses in Nicaragua are not airtight, so the dust easily gets in. This also causes numerous problems. Dust storms can create clouds so thick that it makes it hard to see. Traffic slows to a near standstill. People can barely stay outside without masks. In addition, dust particles can carry bacteria which spreads disease and lowers air quality. Nicaragua has experienced increased cases of influenza and pneumonia, as well as skin irritation and contaminated water due to dust storms.

Additionally, incomes halt when a dust storm rages. Many Nicaraguans sell goods in stands outside of their house. Dust storms make it nearly impossible to continue their business, which many rely on to provide for their families. It is clear that these giant dust storms have created numerous problems for poor communities. A solution to Nicaragua’s dust bowl would provide relief for the millions of people living in poverty.

Peanut Farming and the Storms

Nicaragua’s dust storms do not have natural causes. These storms are a result of peanut farms. Peanuts are one of Nicaragua’s main exports, and the industry continues to grow. There are three problems with peanut farming that lead to dust storms.

  1. The soil in Nicaragua is very dry. Farmers simply cannot afford to have their soil irrigated all year. Only 10% of land used for peanut farming undergoes irrigation all year. This allows the wind to easily carry soil into cities and villages.
  2. Nicaragua has exploited its soil far beyond what is sustainable. Once farmers harvest the peanuts, they collect the “stubble.” Stubble is the remaining stem and leaves of the plant that root in the ground. In addition, farmers pack up the stubble and sell it as cattle feed. When the harvest is finished, there is nothing but dirt left. Peanut farmers in Nicaragua grind their land for every last resource. This means that the dried soil is not rooted in plants or nutrients. It has all been tilled by farmers.
  3. There are no trees surrounding these farms to serve as “wind-breakers.” Many peanut farmers have cleared all surrounding trees for their land. This means that once the wind picks up the dirt, there are no trees to block the dust from getting out. Trees are effective at preventing large dust storms. Unfortunately, many of these trees have been removed.

A Solution

Because these dust storms are a result of human intervention, humans can also prevent them. The Nicaraguan government has initiated a program to plant trees around peanut farms to serve as “wind-breakers.” The Nicaraguan government has also offered tax breaks for irrigation systems. Aside from stopping dust storms, this is a step towards sustainable and environmentally friendly farming. Nicaragua has long suffered from bad farming practices, and the consequences show. Additionally, by providing tools like irrigation and wind-breaker trees, Nicaragua can continue to grow its important industries without harming the environment and its people. Promoting renewable farming has proven to be a solution to Nicaragua’s dust bowl.

Already one of the poorest countries in the world, Nicaragua continues to suffer due to its numerous dust storms. These storms have many negative impacts such as halted traffic, slowed businesses and spread diseases. Furthermore, peanut farmers in Nicaragua grind the already dry soil so much that the wind easily carries it away. There are very few trees that surround these farms. As a result, this makes it easy for the dust to get into cities. Fortunately, this means that these dust storms can be stopped. Local authorities are planting trees around farms to serve as wind-breakers. The Nicaraguan government has offered tax breaks for irrigation systems to moisten the dry soil. Farmers are on the path to more sustainable practices. A solution to Nicaragua’s dust bowl has already begun to sprout.

Evan Weber
Photo: Flickr

Fight Disease in NicaraguaIn Nicaragua, 30% of people live below the poverty line, making it the poorest nation in Central America. Not surprisingly, the risk of major infectious diseases in the nation was labeled as high in 2020. Therefore, a major step towards fighting poverty is to fight disease in Nicaragua.

The Foundation for International Medical Relief of Children (FIMRC), Project Hope, and AMOS Health and Hope all fight disease in Nicaragua with different approaches. All of these organizations have similar health-related missions and make a considerable impact on the lives of those in need. Both FIMRC and AMOS focus their efforts on the youth impacted by diseases rather than the entirety of communities. Project Hope can assist a wider range of ages as it focuses its efforts on a smaller region than the other organizations.

The Foundation for International Medical Relief of Children

The Foundation for International Medical Relief of Children is a nonprofit working to create sustainable health services for those in need. For almost two decades, the organization has been helping vulnerable health communities through three areas of pediatric clinical services, health education and special initiatives.

The organization’s Nicaragua program Project Limón illustrates its success. Limón is popular for tourists; however, the surrounding areas are considered vulnerable as many locals are left without health services. For instance, 17% of children 5 years and younger in Nicaragua are impacted by chronic malnutrition. FIMRC is working to lower this percentage and disease in Nicaragua in general by catering its program around community needs. After assessing their needs, the organization began to build clinics and provide medical care.

Project Hope

Project Hope focuses its health services on those suffering from diabetes. It also stands out as it concentrates on supporting health professionals. For instance, the organization trains and assists health care workers to maximize the number of people they can help. It places a large emphasis on education rather than aid.

Project Hope began fighting disease in Nicaragua through its partnership with the University of León. Through the partnership, the organization began to establish itself in the nation and support the health infrastructure. For instance, with the help of one of its partners, it administered over a million vaccines of Pneumovax to the population. Also, one of its successful programs benefitted nearly 9,000 women and children through “health education as well as micro-lending training.”

AMOS Health and Hope

AMOS Health and Hope has a broader plan of action compared to the other two groups. The group’s mission statement is to ensure children are not dying from preventable diseases. Similar to FIMRC, it works directly with the community it aims to help to develop long-term health solutions. Its solutions to fight disease in Nicaragua are based around three main pillars: treat, prevent and strengthen.

Although its mission statement is broad, AMOS only works within Nicaragua, catering towards those in vulnerable communities. Within the nation, its efforts help 24 different communities in need. Thus far, it has trained 670 health services workers in those communities and has helped 74,600 individuals.

Overall, although groups have different approaches to fighting disease in Nicaragua, their efforts all work to assist those in need of health services. Supporting the health workers and those in need ensures that both sides of the issue are met.

Erica Burns
Photo: Flickr

Reforming Education in NicaraguaReforming education in Nicaragua has been a major focus of rehabilitation efforts over the past few years. Prior to 2015, there were over 800,000 people who were unable to read or write in Nicaragua. Because of the educational barriers that exist in the country, many students were kept from remaining enrolled at their schools or building the necessary confidence to pursue an education. However, over the past five years, Nicaragua’s Ministry of Education (MINED) has worked hard to create superior learning institutions so that Nicaraguan children can have a more accessible, comfortable and innovative education.

The Public Education System

Nicaragua is considered the most impoverished country in Central America. With the unemployment rate rising over 3% in the past five years, the government decided to implement concrete policies that could create enough incentives to keep people enrolled in school and pull them out of poverty.

In Nicaragua, education is not equally accessible to all, even though primary education is compulsory. The government has not yet found the necessary tools to instigate accessible community action and counter the factors that keep students from enrolling in primary or secondary education. Moreover, the struggle to enroll students is not the only obstacle the government faces as over 70% of Nicaraguan children drop out of school before they reach the sixth grade.

Un Ministerio en la Comunidad

The Ministry of Education has been working to improve its participation in society. The ministry’s motto is “un ministerio en la comunidad”, which is Spanish for “a ministry in the community”. The language employed suggests the active role MINED wants to establish in Nicaraguan society, including reforming education in Nicaragua.

In 2017, the government redirected approximately 4% of the entire national GDP to MINED. The repairs that have been done since then directly benefit countless public schools, especially in terms of providing better study conditions to the many children that go to these.

In 2020 alone there have been four reform initiatives focusing on infrastructure reconstruction, student hygiene and health, drug awareness and increasing disability awareness within school institutions and curriculum.

 Initiatives Taken by MINED

  1. Special Education Curriculum Strengthening: For many students with mental and physical disabilities, the traditional classroom setting and curriculum can be overly challenging and discouraging. Because of that many students are left hopeless and unable to learn, making it nearly impossible for them to get a job that pays a livable wage in the future. In February of 2020,  special education directors from Managua to Chontales met and discussed how to implement styling, cooking and music courses into their school curriculum so that disabled students can better adapt to school and to the job market.
  2. My Life Without Drugs Program: Drug use and addiction are one of the leading culprits of high school dropouts, leading many young Nicaraguans to stay in poverty for their entire lives. The Miguel Ramírez Goyena Institute held a drug awareness discussion in March of 2020 for grades nine to eleven, covering the kinds of drugs that are prominent in their community and teaching the students points of prevention.
  3. COVID-19 Health and Hygiene: MINED started as early as March 30 with COVID-19-focused prevention workshops. There have been several health and hygiene panels held to reinforce the awareness of COVID-19 and how to prevent it by washing hands, wearing facial coverings and social distancing students and staff. In addition to that, the Ministry put effort into bringing the digital wave to Nicaragua. According to the official data released, MINED created 23 mobile digital classrooms that help low-income students and educators alike have access to equipment such as tablets, printers, projectors and printers.
  4. Bertha Díaz Educational Center: On July 10, the reconstruction of the Bertha Díaz Educational Center in Managua advanced by 60%. The improved space exhibits a new roof, electrical system and 12 reworked classrooms. The project has taken five million córdobas or $143,856. MINED hopes to have the entire project done by the end of the summer so that the center is up and running for students in the fall.

What’s the Next Step?

The Nicaraguan government has a powerful Ministry of Education that is taking the broken Nicaraguan infrastructure by the horns and pushing full force for a brighter future for the young population. Out of the 6.1 million people living in Nicaragua, 40% of citizens are under the age of 15. Children are the future of Nicaragua and MINED knows that. Each week, new efforts are pushed by those in power towards reforming education in Nicaragua to help bring students to the top of their educational and mental potential. Additional financial support from outside nations will only help bolster the potential for Nicaragua’s students and allow the country to work its way out of poverty.

– Nicolettea Daskaloudi
Photo: Flickr