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

B Corporation

B Corporations are businesses that give back to the community by following a set of guidelines for transparency, accountability and that pledge a certain amount of profits for a greater purpose.

Five B Corporations You Should Know

  1. Salt Spring Coffee, Canada
    B Impact Score: 118.4/200
    Salt Spring Coffee is a fair-trade organic coffee company that works with the Nicaraguan farmers to sustainably farm, sell and serve the highest grade of coffee beans on the market. Salt Spring hopes to pave the way for the coffee industry in producing eco-friendly packaging and contributing meaningful donations. The company does this by donating to innovative, eco-conscious projects through their 1% for the Planet fund.  These donations have allowed the company to co-found a Canadian waste-reduction initiative, help install solar panels for isolated Nicaraguan farmers and assist a women-run Ugandan farming co-op.
  2. Hora Salud, Chilé
    B Impact Score: 117.8/200
    Hora Salud is a simple user-friendly app for the rural Chilean populace that allows individuals to schedule and cancel appointments and check-ups online without wasting time. The app uses SMS to schedule and cancel doctors appointments. This allows already-sick individuals to avoid the burden of traveling to a Health Center and waiting in line for hours to book an appointment. Hora Salud may also be used in tandem with other markets to spread relevant information including weather, national emergencies and public policies. Their mission is to “Improve the quality of people’s lives, optimize service delivery and decision making with reliable and quality data.” As one of many B Corporations, Hora Salud promotes healthy business practices and opportunities for rural Chilean people.
  3. BioCarbon Partners, Zambia
    B Impact Score: 177.3/200
    BioCarbon Partners (BCP) operates in and outside of Zambia to offset carbon emissions in the atmosphere by sponsoring payment for eco-friendly business operations. BCP is an African leader in the reforestation carbon offset program. With a mission to “Make conservation of wildlife habitat valuable to people,” BCP is cultivating an ecosystem that protects one of Africa’s largest migration sanctuaries. The company prioritizes community engagement and partnership to incentivize forest protection through long-term habitat protection agreements. BCP calculates the amount of carbon that is not released into the atmosphere due to its project and generates sales of these forest carbon offsets through independent external auditors. BCP then reinvests this revenue into conservation and development projects in local communities that rely on wildlife habitat for income. BCP has created 87 jobs for Zambians and continues to create opportunities for wildlife and humanity alike.
  4. Avante, Brazil
    B Impact Score: 136.1/200
    Avante is the largest benefactor of small businesses in Brazil with more than $200 million invested to serve “micro-companies” that are typically pushed out of the financial industry. Avante functions as a non-conventional financial technology service that uniquely combines credit, insurance and payments. It is currently the largest MFI in Brazil. Avante’s mission is to “humanize financial services,” through a combination of empowerment, ethical business practices and acknowledgment that small businesses are the foundation of a strong economy.
  5. Alma Natura, Spain
    B Impact Score: 153.8/200
    Alma Natura established B Corporation status in 2013 to give back to the Sierra de Huelva community of Spain. The first institution of the business began as a nonprofit. It eventually evolved into a limited partnership as Alma Natura continued to invest in rural businesses, guiding them towards a more sustainable and ethical future. With their increased profits, Alma Natura gave back by funding education, technological development and sanitation, ensuring financial equality and sustainable practices in towns with less government funding. Not only has Alma Natura functioned as a business consultant to guide rural communities towards a more equitable economic future, but their commitment to preserving the planet and providing care and education to disadvantaged agricultural centers places their ranking high among businesses that take responsibility for the betterment of humanity.

Natalie Williams
Photo: Pixabay

Nicaragua, although having made tremendous progress in recent years, is still one of the poorest and least developed countries in Latin America. According to the World Bank, 24.9% of Nicaraguans lived in poverty as of 2016. Of those people, 200,000 lived in extreme poverty making less than $1.90 a day. As a result of poverty and harsh climate conditions, hunger in Nicaragua is a prominent issue. Even though approximately 70% of the population works in agriculture, 300,000 people still require food aid. Located in what’s known as the Dry Corridor, Nicaragua faces erratic weather patterns prone to climate shocks that are consistent threats to stable food production. However, in spite of the unfavorable conditions, many organizations and programs are on the ground working to fight hunger in Nicaragua.

5 Initiatives to Fight Hunger in Nicaragua

  1. The World Food Program (WFP) offers various programs and services to alleviate hunger in Nicaragua. Since 1971, WFP has implemented strategies to improve food security. By supporting the National School Meal Program, the organization helped provide meals to more than 182,000 schoolchildren in April of 2020. Following a five-year plan that spans from 2019 to 2023, WFP aims to find long-term solutions to hunger in Nicaragua. Along with direct food assistance, WFP promotes creating efficient and sustainable agricultural practices by providing technical assistance in implementing weather-resilient farming methods, improving degraded ecosystems and developing technology for accurate climate information.
  2. The organization Food for the Hungry believes that chickens can be a catalyst for solving hunger. Food for the Hungry stated that chickens rank close to the top of its annual gift catalog because of their uses in decreasing hunger. The nonprofit sponsored a program in El Porvenir, Nicaragua called “Happy Chicks”. This initiative taught the locals skills related to running a poultry farm, which is a creative and sustainable way to provide daily meals to the community and, especially, children. These skills help communities learn to operate self-sufficiently.
  3. Indigenous women have a history of banding together to develop more sustainable agricultural practices. Slow Food is an organization that values the protection of food culture and understands the importance of responsible food production. The organization partnered with communities of indigenous women in Nicaragua to encourage cooperation in improving the quality of agricultural systems. Women in the organization shared ideas about planting and harvesting crops, while also promoting economic autonomy through marketing and commercializing excess products.
  4. The Caribbean Coast Food Security Project (PAIPSAN) is collaborating with communities on the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua to fight hunger. The organization provides assistance to those who would normally not have access to adequate technology or resources to engage in sustainable agricultural practices. PAIPSAN encourages farmers to utilize climate-resistant seeds and organic fertilizers, while also promoting innovative and environmentally friendly pest and disease control practices. The program also provides educational services to increase awareness of improving nutrition.
  5. Food assistance programs are a popular way of directly fighting hunger in Nicaragua. Food assistance programs generally provide a stable source of food for those in need. Hope Road Nicaragua works alongside other organizations, such as the Orphan Network and Rise Against Hunger, to provide 3,000 children with meals that include vitamin-dense rice and soy packs, beans, vegetables, chicken and tortillas.  The Rainbow Network is another food assistance program. It has set up 489 feeding centers, reaching approximately 13,581 people. The Rainbow Network also works with The American Nicaraguan Foundation to train community members on how to cook and operate the feeding centers. The American Nicaraguan Foundation itself is an organization that has provided more than 297.3 million meals to Nicaragua’s most vulnerable in the past 25 years. Along with its network of more than 700 partners, the foundation coordinates a variety of programs and allocates resources dedicated to poverty relief.

Nicaragua has made progress in recent years. However, vulnerable groups still need assistance with fighting hunger, a direct result of poverty in the country. In order to address this, many organizations are working to foster the idea of food sovereignty and fight hunger in Nicaragua. 

Melanie McCrackin
Photo: Flickr

Homelessness in NicaraguaNicaragua, a Central American nation between the Pacific and the Caribbean Sea, has a population of more than 6 million. Unfortunately, homelessness is a current struggle in the country. The homeless are known as some of the most marginalized groups in Nicaragua, and the population of homelessness is only increasing. Currently, around “30% of the population lives on about$2 per day.” As Nicaragua lacks the key characteristics of a well-developed country, a correlative relationship between development and homelessness. Here are four facts about homelessness in Nicaragua.

4 Facts about Homelessness in Nicaragua

  1. A strong factor in homelessness is mental illness. Compared to the general population, the homeless population has a more difficult time seeking help and beneficial resources because of the prevalence of mental illness. Recent studies state that reports of mental illnesses are increasing. The main cause is a combination of economic problems and the difficulty of social interactions, especially with family members.
  2. With such a high percentage of people living in poverty, there are very limited opportunities for education and development. Families often operate farms for healthy crops, but they struggle to make a comfortable living. For some who don’t make a successful living growing crops, it may lead to homelessness. The Opportunity International Program has helped improve Nicaragua’s agriculture with “loans and technical assistance” with higher-quality crops. Crop growth has increased by 30%. The organization also fights homelessness in Nicaragua by giving the children of struggling families opportunities to receive an education. Opportunity International has partnered with more than 20 leaders to help downsize the number of homeless Nicaraguans struggling to make good livelihoods.
  3. Natural disasters in Nicaragua are major contributors to homelessness. Since the 2007 Hurricane Felix, as well as the prior and subsequent weeks of heavy rain, rural parts of Nicaragua are still struggling to recover. This has left a total of 436,000 homeless. The storm also destroyed large amounts of agricultural land and forests, further devastating the livelihoods of those with farms. International responses have been actively sending aid to the least developed areas of the country as well as where homelessness is most prevalent.
  4. Social organizations and students have volunteered for years to aid poor, homeless communities in Nicaragua. Habitat For Humanity has been working in poor rural areas since 1984. It continues to mobilize volunteers to take action in Nicaragua’s homeless communities by building small homes. It has helped supply 91,900 people in need throughout the country. To ameliorate the homeless problem, the organization estimates that Nicaragua still needs an additional 957,000 in housing improvements and new home construction projects. Habitat For Humanity continues to mobilize students to take action in Nicaragua’s homelessness starting by helping build small homes.

These points mark four facts about homelessness in Nicaragua. There is a strong need for economic improvements in order to reduce the homeless population. The first step is creating more homes for families to stay in and improving the current homes with more available resources. Furthermore, improvements in crop production can help families in agriculture earn a sustainable living.

Rachel Hernandez
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Healthcare in NicaraguaNicaragua is a developing country in Latin America. After the successful expulsion of Spanish imperialists in 1821, the country began the arduous task of nation building. Domestic conflict and foreign intervention, however, has long inhibited its growth. Such obstacles have severely impaired the development of crucial institutions, including healthcare in Nicaragua.

The Rise and Fall of Socialism in Nicaragua

For decades, conflict and political disorganization have stunted the development of healthcare in Nicaragua. After the overthrow of dictator Anastasio Somoza in 1979, the installation of a revolutionary left-wing regime, the Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional (FSLN), gave Nicaraguans hope for social and economic advances.

Yet civil war, along with U.S. anti-socialist intervention, forced a weakening FSLN to neglect the development of necessary social programs in favor of national defense. After years of conflict, the FSLN finally lost power in 1990.

Healthcare in Nicaragua

The Nicaraguan healthcare system fell victim to this political instability. Preoccupied with bolstering the regime against its political opponents, the FSLN failed to bring their plans for universal healthcare to fruition. Instead, later regimes erected a fragmented, underdeveloped system that has left thousands of citizens without regular access to care.

Nicaragua’s Ministry of Health (MINSA) directs the country’s public health system through its regulation and provision of patient care. Under MINSA, Local Comprehensive Health Care Systems (SILAIS) lead health facilities such as departmental hospitals. SILAIS also oversees healthcare on the municipal level, which includes health centers and health posts. These public facilities provide affordable services to patients, including free emergency care.

Despite this sturdy framework, healthcare in Nicaragua faces significant challenges. Health education is shockingly low. Doctors and hospitals are in short supply. Millions lack any form of health insurance.

Moreover, public health services are disproportionately distributed. The rural Caribbean region of the country, home to roughly 40% of the population, is severely underserved. In 2011, only three of Nicaragua’s 32 public hospitals were located in the Caribbean region, an area that accounts for 55% of the country’s territory.

Without incentive for medical professionals to practice in remote areas, governmental neglect compounds the health issues of rural populations. In 2011, PATH, a nonprofit committed to health equity, reported these striking figures on rural populations’ health:

  • 70% of maternity-related deaths occurred in rural regions

  • 39.6% of children in rural areas were malnourished

  • Treatable diseases such as pneumonia posed a serious threat to children living in rural areas

Worse still, 35% of rural health facilities in 2011 lacked a reliable electricity source, making it more difficult for medical workers to treat these conditions.

Brigadistas, Midwives and Voluntary Collaborators

Nicaragua’s community-based health network addresses this rural health crisis. Comprising over 4,000 in-home health facilities, this immense network of clinics is staffed entirely by volunteers, ‘brigadistas,’ midwives and volunteers.

MINSA trained these 26,000 “brigadistas,” midwives and voluntary collaborators to offer vital care to rural populations without pay. Brigadistas’ roles include identifying pregnancy and malnutrition, referring patients to local health centers and providing health education to the public. Additionally, midwives’ work in child delivery and family planning helps to alleviate Nicaragua’s severe maternal health crisis. Finally, voluntary collaborators administer malaria tests and medication to monitor and reduce its spread.

Impact

In a country laden with poverty, the community-based health network has found an innovative way to enhance healthcare in Nicaragua. Though much progress remains to be made, the incorporation of volunteers into the healthcare system ensures rural communities receive basic medical attention without wasting resources on sparsely populated areas.

As COVID-19 has hit Nicaragua, these individuals have become more essential than ever. The Nicaraguan government, led by Sandinista President Daniel Ortega, has understated the severity of the virus and continuously reported unrealistically low case numbers. When hundreds of doctors decried their lax response, Ortega’s government fired 25 of the whistleblowers, even as suspected cases among healthcare workers rose.

In the absence of a government-led COVID-19 response, thousands of volunteers have taken the lead in raising awareness and stopping the spread. In the course of the outbreak, brigadistas have completed 4.6 million home visits to educate the public about the virus. Such massive displays of proactivity and community action can be the difference between 1 million cases and 10,000.

Years of political instability and misaligned priorities have delayed the development of adequate healthcare in Nicaragua. Despite such disadvantages, however, the community-based healthcare system has begun to correct the gaping inequalities in the healthcare system. Its volunteers, through their service to rural populations, exhibit true, unbridled compassion.

Rosalind Coats
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Poverty in Nicaragua
Nicaragua is one of the poorest nations in the continental Americas. With a population of 6.5 million, the country’s chronic cycle of poverty is linked to consistent political instability and conflict, high inequality between urban and rural populations, dependency on agricultural exports and natural disasters. Nicaragua’s unusual response to COVID-19 — which has entailed no formal quarantine measures and an underreporting of infections — will surely impact its level of poverty as well. Here are five causes of poverty in Nicaragua.

5 Causes of Poverty in Nicaragua

  1. Political Instability and Conflict: Since the turn of the 20th century, Nicaragua has experienced three authoritarian dictatorships, a period of U.S. occupation, a revolution and civil war. The Somoza family dictatorship — which lasted for 43 years, from 1936 to 1979 — created extreme economic inequality. The 1979 Sandinista revolution usurped power from the Somoza family; however, the revolution was short-lived, as a counter-revolution began shortly afterward. That counter-revolution lasted until 1990 and severely ravaged the country. Nowadays, Nicaragua is again experiencing authoritarian rule and state violence under President Daniel Ortega. Initially, Ortega’s government implemented social welfare programs that greatly reduced poverty. The government also created a fruitful business environment that led to high economic growth. However, protests in 2018 prompted a violent response from the government, leading to continued political unrest and economic recession. Nicaragua’s economy shrunk by 4% and 3.9% in 2018 and 2019. In 2020, experts believe that the economy could contract by 4.3%.
  2. Urban vs. Rural Divide: There is a significant difference between life in Nicaragua’s cities and in rural areas. Overall, 30% of Nicaraguans live in poverty and 8% live in extreme poverty. However, 50% of the population in rural areas live below the poverty line, and 11.5% live in extreme poverty. This inequality manifests not only in GDP per capita but also in access to resources such as water, electricity, telephone, mobile phone service and paved roads.
  3. Dependency on Agricultural Exports: Historically, many economies in Latin America and the global south have geared toward exporting agricultural goods to industrialized countries. Such economies tend to be entirely dependent on one or two crops. Nicaragua is no exception — coffee and cotton have been the country’s principal cash crops. Today, 70% of the Nicaraguan population still works in agriculture. Although agriculture accounts for 20% of the country’s GDP, food insecurity is high, which signals that the country still exports a large proportion of crops. Certain NGOs, such as EcoAgriculture Partners and Self-Help International, work to help alleviate food insecurity and other problems that result from the agricultural system in Nicaragua.
  4. Natural Disasters: Nicaragua’s topography includes many lakes and volcanoes. Situated along the Caribbean Sea, the country is highly susceptible to natural disasters such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, hurricanes and drought. In April 2014, Nicaragua suffered from two earthquakes in two days, hitting Managua and Granada and measuring 6.1 and 6.6 in magnitude, respectively. Natural disasters have repeatedly infringed on the development and maintenance of the country’s infrastructure.
  5. COVID-19 and Future Predictions: As in other countries, experts expect that the COVID-19 pandemic could increase poverty levels in Nicaragua. Nicaragua’s government has not implemented any social distancing measures. In fact, it has done the opposite, keeping schools open and promoting social gatherings like sporting events and beach activities. The pandemic has already reduced remittances, trade and tourism. On top of Nicaragua’s political situation, the pandemic also greatly increases the risk for investment in the country.

While these five causes of poverty in Nicaragua determine that poverty and inequality could increase in upcoming years due to COVID-19 and political turmoil, the people of Nicaragua should still have hope. The country experienced great success in slashing poverty from the mid-2000s to the mid-2010s. In 2005, 48.3% of the population lived below the poverty line, with 17.2% living in extreme poverty. Those percentages have since decreased by 18 and nine points, respectively, thanks to the current government’s investment in social welfare programs. These programs include Hambre Cero, which offers plants and animals to women heads-of-household; Usura Cero, which provides women micro-loans; Plan Techo, which provides roofing materials for families in need; and Agua Segura, which provides clean water. In addition, NGOs such as Self-Help International are working to advance agriculture, feed children, empower women and provide community nutrition for the people of Nicaragua.

Tirza Morales
Photo: Flickr

Women-Owned BusinessesNonprofit organization Mary’s Pence is working towards a world of empowered women making changes in their communities. To get there, Mary’s Pence partners with grassroots organizations in Canada, the U.S. and Central America to provide funding and development programs for women-owned businesses.

Executive director Katherine Wojtan believes Mary’s Pence is different from other nonprofits because the organization not only cares for the individual women, but also oversees the sustainment of their small businesses. Mary’s Pence also values the idea of “accompaniment,” explained by Wojtan as utilizing the abilities of everyone to accomplish a long-term shared vision. This concept is applied to the organization’s execution of both the programs in the states and in Central America, focusing on improving the whole rather than the individual.

ESPERA

The program in Central America called ESPERA, or Economical Systems Providing Equitable Resources for All, was created almost 12 years ago. “Espera” is the Spanish word for hope, a fitting name for the life-changing program working with women in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and El Salvador.

“This is very intentional, it is not about making individual women rich, but about ensuring all women have access to resources and skills to make their way in the world and earn what they need for a good life,” Wojtan said.

ESPERA aids women who were victims of domestic or gang violence or are single mothers struggling to make ends meet. By giving grants to grassroots organizations in struggling communities, Mary’s Pence creates community-lending pools which women can take loans from to start local women-owned businesses that generate income. To ensure success, the staff of Mary’s Pence teach the community loan management and help elect leaders to track the lending.

Gilda Larios, ESPERA team lead, grew up in Guadalajara, Mexico and worked with Central American refugees before starting work with Mary’s Pence. ESPERA funding gives back to the whole community, not just the women receiving aid. Instead of focusing on building credit, women realize the importance of circulating money and products.

“Their confidence grew – first they asked for a very small loan, and over time they asked for larger loans and grew their businesses,” Larios told The Borgen Project. “With their strength, they are role models for new leadership in the community.”

ESPERA and COVID-19

ESPERA has helped develop many small women-owned businesses that create jobs for their communities and generate income for struggling women. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic put many of these businesses at risk as workers feared for their lives, but the ESPERA team responded fast, changing their focus from long-term development to responding immediately to the needs of the women.

As some women panicked about their businesses and the effects of the pandemic, the ESPERA team responded with a 12-week emotional wellness series, delivered via WhatsApp, and supported stores so they could keep reasonable prices for the communities. For women in the midst of paying back loans to the community-lending pool, their status is put on hold until they have the income to continue their payment.

Despite the support network ESPERA provides, the pandemic revealed some gaps in the system. It was challenging to ensure the safety of women experiencing domestic violence. The lack of access to phones and the internet made communication between communities and ESPERA leaders challenging. However, this time of crisis also brought the communities closer and proved the importance of working together through local businesses.

In her interview with The Borgen Project, Larios told of a woman named Aminta, who is in the ESPERA program in San Salvador, El Salvador. She transitioned from working in a “maquila,” or factory, to starting her own business sewing uniforms for local sports teams. During COVID-19, she also began sewing masks to help keep her community healthy. Success stories of women-owned businesses like this one propel communities into further financial security and empower other women to do the same.

Confidence and Creating Futures

Above all, ESPERA and Mary’s Pence hope to give women confidence in their own abilities to create the future they want for themselves and for their families. For Larios, the most rewarding part of working with ESPERA women is the “feeling of satisfaction and joy to see them embrace their possibilities and capacities that before they thought they didn’t have.”

Through ESPERA and their role in the creation of women-owned businesses, Mary’s Pence continues to change women’s lives by showing them the power they already had within themselves.

– Kiyomi Kishaba
Photo: Google Images

renewable energy in NicaraguaLocated in Central America, between Honduras to the north, and Costa Rica to the south lies Nicaragua. Over the past few years, the country has taken steps to further its already growing renewable energy sector. In 2015 alone, the country was able to produce 54% of its electricity from renewable energy sources. Growth in this sector is notable and is expected to continue.

The Emergence of Renewable Energy in Nicaragua

Nicaragua’s government has turned to renewable energy for a few key reasons. One is the country’s natural abundance of renewable resources. Nicaragua experiences powerful winds and large amounts of sunlight on a regular basis. The country is also home to 19 volcanoes—a reliable source of geothermic heat.

The second reason for turning to renewable energy resources is to become energy independent. Nicaragua itself does not produce oil. As a result, Nicaragua has historically relied on imports of fossil fuel resources. While the country still imports foreign oil, the increased production of renewable energy, like geothermal energy from Nicaragua’s volcanoes, has reduced that dependency.

These two reasons have led Nicaragua to increase its consumption of renewable resources over the past few years. Much of the renewable energy that is produced in Nicaragua is sugarcane biofuel, which accounts for 33.2% of the renewable energy sector. The second most used form of renewable energy is geothermal, which comes in at 24.6%, followed by wind energy at 22.5%. The least used forms of renewable energy are solar energy at 0.5% and hydroelectric energy at 0.25%. As the percentages show, Nicaragua is using more renewable energy leading to a diversification of its energy sector. Nicaragua also has the potential to expand the amount of renewable energy produced, particularly from wind. Wind alone produces over 1,000 megawatts.

Benefits of Renewable Energy in Nicaragua

Nicaragua is an extremely poor country with high poverty rates, especially in rural areas. Fortunately, renewable energy has the potential to help the impoverished people of Nicaragua and provide a model for other impoverished nations.

People who live in poverty tend to have a harder time gaining access to electricity because of their inability to afford it. Some forms of renewable energy are becoming more affordable than fossil fuels. Take geothermal energy for example—the second largest form of renewable energy in Nicaragua. This form of energy is 80% cheaper than fossil fuels. Solar energy is on its way to becoming cheaper than fossil fuels as well. While installation of the technology needed to produce renewable energy is initially expensive, once installed, it lowers the cost and increases the accessibility of electricity for impoverished people.

Nicaragua is continuing to develop its renewable energy sector. The reward of this action will be a cleaner environment and cheaper electricity for its impoverished citizens.

– Jacob E. Lee 
Photo: Wikimedia

surf tourism and povertySurf tourism is booming across the globe. Once the sport of wandering beach bums, it now generates $10 billion a year and will make its Olympic debut at the 2021 Summer Games in Japan. Despite the surf industry’s success, a few key issues have occurred between surf tourism and poverty.

Surf Tourism and Poverty

With popularity comes overcrowding, and beaches can only hold so many surfers without creating unsafe conditions. As a result, many first-world surfers are opting to spend the extra money to travel where population density is lower. Yet, behind these exotic destinations, locals are losing their homes and living in poverty.

Countries like Nicaragua, Papua New Guinea and El Salvador are particularly experiencing the negative effects of surf tourism. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be this way. Through collaboration between governments, surf businesses, travelers and residents, surf tourism and poverty can be dealt with responsibly and bring much-needed economic stimulus to impoverished surf meccas.

Radical Changes

Nicaragua, one of Central America’s most impoverished countries, is an up and coming surfing destination. The nation sits between the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, giving surfers an abundance of waves to choose from. However, social injustice and extreme poverty threatens Nicaragua’s budding surf tourism industry. In the past two years, a student-led uprising has been protesting against Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega’s regime. Since then, the nation’s economy contracted by 10 percent, and foreign direct investment has fallen by 50 percent. Compared to 2017, the country’s tourism earnings have dropped 45 percent in 2020. Before the political turmoil, Nicaragua was predicted to become the next Costa Rica, but now the country is struggling to keep its head above water.

Hope lies in local Nicaraguan businesses persevering through the tough economic times. Local surfer Germán Sánchez opened a guest house in his hometown of Asseradores to cater to backpackers and surfers looking to score at a world-class beach break. The Boom Hostel is one of the few Nicaraguan-owned bed-and-breakfasts and is becoming a prime pit stop for travelers to surf, eat and lodge. This hostel provides access to amazing waves while supporting the local economy and community.

Surfing Sustainably

In Papua New Guinea, the Surfing Association of Papua New Guinea (SAPNG) has created the first-ever national surf management plan. One of the main goals of SAPNG’s plan is to “further social and economic development at the grassroots level” through the associated surf clubs of the SAPNG.

The Vanimo Surf Lodge is one of the affiliated village clubs responsible for upholding the plan’s tenets. Vanimo charges visitors 20 kinas ($8.50 USD) per day to surf the village’s reefs and beach breaks. The funds go to local landowners and stakeholders in the community. According to SAPNG, indigenous groups own the beaches and reefs and are responsible for maintaining them. The Vanimo Surf Lodge has been successful in raising funds for the community. With help from local leaders and Walu-International, it raised $17,000 to deliver working toilets to the village’s 1,500 residents. Unfortunately, land disputes, local reluctance and national corruption have prevented the public restrooms from being completed.

Waves of Empowerment

California State Governor Gavin Newsom recently visited El Salvador to market surfing tourism as a way to boost the developing nation’s economy. Newsom and other industry leaders met with president-elect Nayib Bukele to discuss El Salvador’s potential for becoming a beach vacation hub, similar to California. 

The U.S federal government has invested into El Salvador’s infrastructure through the Millenium Challenge Corporation (MCC). The MCC contributed $3 million last year to a $10.8 million project to develop a coastal area of the El Zonte region. California hopes to continue this trend of foreign aid by encouraging surf tourism development in the country.

After Newsom’s visit, President Nayib Bukele announced an initiative called “Surf City” to invest in beaches to attract more foreign interest to El Salvador. California’s tourism arm, Visit California, is considering working with El Salvador to help the country generate its economy with more tourist dollars. El Salvador is a wave-rich country ready to begin managing surf tourism and poverty. California’s guidance could help change the country’s reputation of a violent and poverty-stricken nation to a world-class surfing experience.

The Road Ahead

There are challenges in management and implementation for surf tourism. Many impoverished communities are abused by outsiders coming in to exploit their natural resources. Fortunately, surf tourism has the chance to be different. The fact that surfing can attract tourist dollars to better local economies is a great benefit for impoverished nations. Surf industry leaders building trust with local residents are laying the groundwork for a socially responsible model of surf tourism. Surfing and the business that follows it can give at-risk communities a stronger sense of identity and empowerment.

Henry Schrandt


Photo: Pixabay

Facts about Sanitation in NicaraguaAlthough Nicaragua is the largest country in Central America, it is also one of the poorest nations in the region. Its mountainous location presents a challenge when considering the development of infrastructure necessary for a functioning water and sanitation system. Although access to resources has been a persistent challenge, the following 10 facts about sanitation in Nicaragua explain the country’s upward trajectory of living conditions and a patchwork of support.

10 Facts about Sanitation in Nicaragua

  1. Improved Sanitation Coverage. Access to improved sanitation in the past 30 years has increased significantly. In 1990, Nicaragua had 44 percent overall sanitation coverage. As of 2015, that number increased to 68 percent, according to data collected by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
  2. Improved Drinking-water Source Coverage. Driven by the Millennium Development Goals of the United Nations (U.N.), Nicaragua has managed to increase access to drinking-water coverage from 73 percent to 87 percent of the population between 1990 to 2015.
  3. Urban vs. Rural Coverage. Like in many countries, access to sanitary services depends on location and economic status. This is even more apparent for the Nicaraguan population, which has a high coverage gap of 22 percent between rural and urban areas in basic sanitary services. Nevertheless, the gap has decreased somewhat over time. It is down from a 28 percent gap in 2000.
  4. Climate factors. Nicaragua is situated in what is called the “Dry Corridor” of Central America, leaving it exposed to heavy drought. To compound, the negative factors of “El niño” warming the surface temperatures has prolonged these dry spells and intensified storms. The consequence of these abnormalities makes it harder to travel for water pick-up, so families try to store water indoors. This leads to communicable diseases such as diarrhea. Luckily, humanitarian organizations have not been largely hindered by climate-related occurrences and continue to offer services such as new sanitation projects toward greater coverage.
  5. WaterAid and WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene). Created by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), WASH is a global effort to promote access to clean water, sanitation and hygienic practices to those in need. WaterAid is the biggest international nonprofit organization to exclusively promote WASH. It has intervened in principalities lacking water systems to connect 24,000 to clean water sources, 9,600 with toilets in their homes and 55,000 with hygiene education since 2011.
  6. Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). IDB is a Latin American regional bank with similar development goals to that of the World Bank. In order to finance the expansion of water and sanitation services, IDB loaned 11 Nicaraguan cities a total of $72 million for better access to potable water and sanitation facilities. The project is expected to bring clean drinking water to 65,000 people and benefit 31,000 with new sewage networks. These improvements in technical assistance and equipment will benefit 375,000 residents of the capital city, Managua.
  7. Water For People. Another nonprofit that is promoting the WASH initiative is Water For People. It works with district governments to construct water pipes and ensure their sustainability. It also started a microfinance approach by partnering with local institutions to train on how to offer loans for sanitation purposes. To promote better hygiene in schools, the organization partners with schools to bring hygiene programming into teacher-led activities. It helps parent-teacher associations to monitor its effectiveness. Water For People has brought reliable water services in two districts for more than 26,000 residents.
  8. American Nicaraguan Foundation (ANF). Founded in 1992, ANF is a nonprofit with the objective of reducing the ingestion of contaminated water and improving living conditions for Nicaraguans. Its projects have built sanitation facilities, wells, tap stands, rainwater collection and water filtration systems. In 2018 alone, ANF built 24 water wells, 711 sanitation facilities and more than 730 water taps, benefiting thousands of local residents.
  9. Faith-based nonprofits and agriculture. Since rural farmlands have poor access to water and sanitation, a number of churches in Nicaragua have partnered with local farmers to implement more sustainable farming practices that can protect the soil and water from pollution. Episcopal Relief & Development is a faith-based nonprofit. Its initiatives include crop diversity, increased food production, tree planting, constructing land ridges and ditches to reduce soil erosion and harvesting rainwater with micro-dams. The organization is currently working on a WASH project in Boaco to educate local communities on how to improve facilities and access to clean water.
  10. Esperança Projects. Esperança is a comprehensive nonprofit focused on health and education. Since 2001, it has been working in the northern region of Jinotega, a poor farming region of Nicaragua. Among its services, it provides clean water sources like wells to help limit water-borne diseases that disproportionately affect children, women and poor communities as they expose themselves to harm when traveling long distances for water. It also educates farmers on better agroecological techniques that leave water sources uncontaminated. Along with education, the organization provides families with seeds and livestock that help combat soil erosion and water pollution.

The Millennium Development Goals and network of nonprofits working in Nicaragua have proved paramount to the nation’s development of water systems, sanitation and agricultural sustainability. Basic access to clean water and sanitation services are directly dependent on proper hygiene education and resources that these organizations have increasingly provided. These 10 facts about sanitation in Nicaragua represent both the challenges and optimism for its people with a highlight on the notable progress that has been made with support from local and global communities.

Caleb Cummings
Photo: Flickr