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How Wind Power in Nicaragua Is Alleviating PovertyIn the heart of Central America, Nicaragua is making waves in the realm of sustainable energy. Amidst economic challenges and a history of poverty, the country is taking significant strides toward a brighter future by tapping into a vast and often underutilized resource—the power of the wind. The advent of wind power in Nicaragua, through groundbreaking initiatives in harnessing wind energy, not only addresses its energy needs but also catalyzes poverty alleviation.

According to the World Food Programme (WFP), nearly 25% of people in Nicaragua live in poverty, making it one of the poorest nations in Latin America. Furthermore, nearly 65% of the population works in agriculture— an unreliable industry due to the country being prone to natural disasters such as hurricanes and droughts.

Unfortunately in 2022, Nicaragua was hit by Hurricane Julia, which drove poverty in vulnerable areas up to 40%. Hazardous weather and the lack of jobs outside of farming means that much of the population is at a high risk of experiencing poverty.

The Potential of Wind Energy

With its strategic geographical location, Nicaragua boasts impressive wind resources, especially along its Pacific coast. According to EV Wind, the country has an average wind speed of 9 meters per second, making it an excellent location for wind farming. In fact, the wind farms have become vital contributors to the national energy grid— two farms, Amayo and Eolo, both located in the Rivas region, contribute massively to the country’s supply of energy.

According to data from Power Technology, the farms collectively offset nearly 300,000t of carbon dioxide emissions annually, aiding the country’s goal of generating 91% of its energy from renewable sources by 2027. The World Bank Group reported that the Eolo wind farm alone produces 7% of Nicaragua’s annual energy demand. By creating energy locally, the farms help to reduce the average marginal costs of generation, reducing the energy cost to the population.

Job Creation and Economic Growth

One of the immediate impacts of the investment into wind power in Nicaragua is the creation of employment opportunities. The Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis reported that since 2008, the employment rate has increased from 59% to 62% in 2022.

The country experienced a higher rate of 63% in 2017 and dipped to 60.5% during the COVID-19 pandemic. The construction, operation and maintenance of wind farms have generated jobs across various skill levels, providing income to local communities.

According to Wind Power International, the construction of the Eolo wind farm generated about 400 jobs, alongside 40 full-time positions that oversee ongoing operations. As these projects expand, so does the demand for a skilled workforce, further boosting Nicaragua’s economy and providing a pathway out of poverty for many.

Access to Clean Energy

One of the significant challenges faced by impoverished communities is the lack of access to reliable and affordable energy. The focus on wind power in Nicaragua plays a crucial role in overcoming this hurdle. The National Electric Transmission Company (ENATREL) published data stating in 2022, nearly 71% of Nicaragua’s energy came from renewable sources, including wind power, hydropower and geothermal power.

Furthermore, by diversifying its energy mix, the country is not only ensuring a more stable and resilient power supply but is also working toward making electricity more accessible to remote and underserved areas. The integration of wind power into Nicaragua’s energy grid has contributed to a reduction in the cost of electricity, making it more affordable for households and businesses alike.

However, CEIC Data reported that in 2008, Nicaragua’s household energy price was at an all-time high of $0.300 per kWh and experienced a record low of $0.220 in 2021. This data directly correlates with the installation of wind farm projects in the country, proving its hand in making electricity more accessible. This, in turn, stimulates economic activities, creating a positive cycle of growth that directly impacts poverty reduction.

International Collaboration and Investment

Nicaragua’s journey into wind power has attracted attention and support from the international community. Collaborations with foreign investors, NGOs and development agencies have facilitated the financing and implementation of ambitious wind energy projects.

For example, the OPEC Fund for International Development reported in 2020 that it had provided $25 million toward Phase I and II of the Caribbean Coast Rural Electrification Process. The project aims to provide reliable electricity to more than 300,000 people in remote areas of Nicaragua.

Moreover, this support not only brings in the necessary funds but also contributes to knowledge transfer and technology exchange, enhancing Nicaragua’s capabilities in sustainable energy development. Nicaragua’s bold steps toward harnessing wind power are transforming the nation’s energy landscape and, more importantly, the lives of its people.

In addition, the commitment to sustainable development, job creation and community empowerment exemplifies the potential of renewable energy as a catalyst for poverty alleviation. As the winds of change continue to blow, Nicaragua stands as a shining example of how strategic investments in clean energy can create a more equitable and prosperous future for a nation grappling with the challenges of poverty.

– Lauren McKenna
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

Impacted by HurricanesOn November 2, 2020, Hurricane Eta made landfall in Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua. As a Category 4 hurricane, it was the strongest hurricane to hit the Central American region in many years. Shortly after, Hurricane Iota hit. Thousands have died and many have experienced displacement. Since Central America is one of the poorest areas of Latin America, the U.S. is in a position to help alleviate the crisis by providing foreign aid to those impacted by hurricanes.

Poverty in Central America

Nicaragua is the second-poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere. Moreover, Nicaragua’s poverty rate sits around 15.1%. Geographically, the poorest area of Nicaragua is the Atlantic Coast of the country. Similarly, Honduras is an impoverished nation located north of Nicaragua. Honduras is also one of the poorest countries in Central America. Furthermore, Honduras’ geographical location leaves it exposed to extreme weather such as heavy rainfall and droughts. The most vulnerable, oftentimes rural and coastal populations, are susceptible to these intense weather changes. Neighboring countries of El Salvador and Guatemala are also impoverished nations with vulnerable populations. The increased climate disasters leave these populations at risk of death, poverty and becoming climate refugees.

Hurricane Eta and Hurricane Iota

On the eve of Hurricane Eta’s landfall, the Nicaraguan government evacuated around 3,000 families living in the coastal area. According to UNICEF, more than a million Nicaraguans, which also includes half a million children, were endangered by the hurricane. El Salvador evacuated people as a precaution and many of Guatemala’s departments declared a state of emergency.

Hurricane Eta made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane. The storm destroyed houses, hospitals and businesses. Widespread flooding and mudslides were responsible for the casualties across the region. Unfortunately, Hurricane Eta was not the only storm blasting through Central America.

Weather forecasters predicted another strong storm, Hurricane Iota. Also a Category 4 hurricane, Iota made landfall 15 miles south of where Hurricane Eta did just days prior. The hurricane further stalled the rescue efforts of the region. In Honduras, the hurricanes impacted around 4 million people with more than 2 million losing access to health care. Moreover, Guatemala had more than 200,000 people seeking shelter after the two hurricanes.

Foreign Aid to Central America

The Central American region is impoverished and vulnerable to natural disasters. Furthermore, many Central American nations depend on foreign aid from the United States. The countries of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador (the Northern Triangle) rely on foreign aid from the U.S. to manage rural poverty, violence, food insecurity and natural disasters. Moreover, that aid has been reduced under the Trump administration. Since Donald Trump took office, the aid for these countries has reduced from $750 million to $530 million. In April 2019, Trump froze $450 million of foreign aid to the Northern Triangle, further diminishing the lives of many. Foreign aid keeps Central Americans from plummeting to extreme poverty and also curtails migration to the United States.

Congress Pleads for Foreign Aid

As Hurricane Eta ravaged through Central America, Rep. Norma Torres (CA-35) wrote a letter urging Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, to increase foreign aid to Central America. Torres (CA-35) wrote, “Hurricane Eta was an unavoidable natural disaster, but its aftermath is a preventable humanitarian crisis in the making.” In addition, the Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC), Eliot Engel (NY-16), also showed his support for increased aid to those Hurricane Eta impacted. Engel wrote, “a large-scale U.S. effort is needed to provide much-needed relief to those affected by Eta so that they are not forced to leave their countries and make the perilous journey north.”

USAID Provides Disaster Relief

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has agreed to increase aid by $17 million to the countries impacted by Hurricane Eta and Hurricane Iota. Studies have shown that foreign aid is a successful policy to reduce global poverty. Any aid given to these countries benefits the lives of those impacted by hurricanes in several significant ways.

– Andy Calderon
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

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

Consequences of Violence in Nicaragua
Since April 2018, the citizens of Nicaragua have been protesting against its government. What started originally as a movement against changes to the social security program quickly turned into an opposition movement demanding President Daniel Ortega and his wife’s resignations. The protests turned violent when anti-government protesters clashed with pro-government protesters and police. As a result, these protests resulted in the killings of more than 300 people and about 2,000 people becoming injured. Here are the major consequences of violence in Nicaragua.

Human Rights Concerns

One of the consequences of violence in Nicaragua has been the concerns surrounding human rights abuses by the government. According to Human Rights Watch, the Ortega administration has violated Nicaraguan citizens’ human rights by “[banning] public demonstrations by any group critical of the government, (…) [stripping] nine non-governmental organizations of their legal registration, [shutting] down media outlets, [prosecuting] journalists under the anti-terrorism law, and [expelling] international monitors from the country. The Ortega government has harassed and threatened the media, human rights defenders and other members of civil society.”

Additionally, it appears that the Nicaraguan government is not only denying its people the freedoms they are entitled to, but it is also retaliating against the reports the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) published. This becomes especially apparent by the government’s reactions to the release of these reports: “Following the high commissioner’s first report, the Ortega administration failed to hold perpetrators accountable for abuses and instead promoted senior officials who bear responsibility for killings and torture of demonstrators. In response to the high commissioner’s second report, the government has even defended the armed pro-government thugs that participated in repressing protests.”

Forced Migration

Additional consequences of the violence in Nicaragua is the forced displacement of 80,000 Nicaraguan citizens who are no longer able to live in their home country. Many are seeking asylum and refuge in neighboring countries like Costa Rica, Panama, Mexico and the United States. Of the 33,000 asylum requests that Costa Rica received in this past year, the country has only processed about 4,900 leaving more than 28,000 people to seek refuge elsewhere. Due to the mass displacement of these Nicaraguan citizens, many must survive on temporary employment or none at all, leaving them to suffer as a result.

Limited Access to Resources

One of the major consequences of violence in Nicaragua is the limited access to necessary resources such as food and health care as a result of the unexpected roadblocks that continually appear throughout the country and the capital, Managua. It is rather unclear whether these roadblocks are government-sponsored or a result of government opposition leaders, however, these often lead to detours and inconveniences when Nicaraguans are attempting to access grocery stores and gas stations. Additionally, government hospitals across the country have begun denying treatment to those who they suspect of being a part of the anti-government movement, which has led to people being unable to receive any kind of treatment for their injuries.

Economic Growth Concerns

In the past, Nicaragua has maintained a steady economic growth rate. In 2017, the growth rate was 4.5 percent. However, in the last year, since the outbreak of violence and political unrest, the economy has contracted about 3.8 percent and the World Bank suspects that this contraction will grow up to 5 percent in 2019. These violent protests have caused many to lose their jobs, while also causing a decrease in consumer and business confidence. As a result, some fear that the violence in Nicaragua will cost recent progress the country has made in poverty reduction efforts.

During the years of 2014 and 2016, poverty rates in Nicaragua had fallen from 29.6 percent to 24.9 percent due to the support of international organizations such as the World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA). Additionally, the extreme poverty rate also dropped from 8.3 percent to 6.9 percent in the same timeframe. It is too early to predict what the poverty rates will be for Nicaragua in 2019, but there is speculation that poverty rates will rise again.

Efforts by International Organizations

After six weeks of protests, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres addressed the situation in Nicaragua by asking the government to consider allowing the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to visit the country. On many occasions, the U.N. has established its willingness to resolve the situation by acting as a mediator in “national dialogue efforts to strengthen the rule of law, respect for human rights and the peaceful resolution of differences.” Additionally, there have been requests for the government to investigate allegations of human rights violations in order to hold perpetrators accountable and to bring much-needed justice and peace of mind for victims’ relatives.

Furthermore, representatives for Amnesty International have spoken out condemning the Nicaraguan governments’ repression of its people. They also suggested the creation of a committee in order to prosecute those guilty of serious human rights violations and crimes. In a report released by Amnesty International titled “Shoot to kill: Nicaragua’s strategy to suppress protest,” there appears to be evidence of Nicaraguan paramilitary forces using lethal weapons against protesters, of which many were students. This report sheds light on the situation in Nicaragua and hopes to bring international awareness in order for others to take action against the repressive forces of the Nicaraguan government.

The consequences of violence in Nicaragua range from human rights concerns to limited access to health care and even issues regarding Nicaragua’s economic growth rate. Though there appears to be no end in sight, there is hope for Nicaragua’s citizens as international organizations attempt to raise awareness and investigate the ongoing crimes committed against the Nicaraguan people. The situation is far from resolution but as it gains more international interest, there is hope that efforts will not be in vain and that the country can find a peaceful resolution.

– Laura Rogers
Photo: Flickr

Soccer without bordersSoccer is more than just a sport. It connects people from all around the world, crossing boundaries and eliminating limitations. Soccer Without Borders embodies exactly what soccer’s purpose is. Soccer Without Borders is dedicated to building a more inclusive world using the world’s universal language. Founded in 2006, Soccer Without Borders achieves its vision through youth-development programs serving underprivileged youth in more than 65 countries.

Soccer without Borders

The nonprofit organization believes that creating meaningful change is more important than the actual sport. They build their programs around the interpersonal element of the sport to meaningfully impact their youth’s physical, social and individual progression by using soccer as an agent of positive change in the development of skills necessary to overcome obstacles.

Impacting nearly 2,000 children on a yearly basis, Soccer Without Borders stretches across 10 countries. In the United States, the organization is stationed in Baltimore, Greely, Seattle and Oakland. Refugees seeking asylum in the United States comprise more than 70 percent of Soccer Without Borders participants. Internationally, Soccer Without Borders has program offices in Uganda and Nicaragua. In the past, Soccer Without Borders has worked in several countries in Latin America and Africa.

Soccer in Nicaragua

As one of the poorest countries in Latin America, more than two million Nicaraguans live in poverty with 20 percent of the population living in extreme poverty. Children are the first to suffer from poverty. Faced with health problems, violence and abuse, children lack the same opportunity. In particular, young girls are often victims of sexual exploitation, child marriage and human trafficking, increasing gender inequalities. Many children, especially girls, do not receive an education because of these disparities.

Founded in 2008, Soccer Without Borders hosts a program in Granada, Nicaragua. The organization works with girls ages 7 to 20 through the league with year-round programs, camps and clinics. In Nicaragua, the participants of Soccer Without Borders are 100 percent girls. The organization also provided education scholarships to 99 girls between 2013 and 2016.

Soccer in Uganda

Soccer Without Borders also founded a program based in Kampala, Uganda in 2008. There, the organization serves male and female youth refugees from Uganda, Rwanda, DR Congo, South Sudan, Somalia and Burundi. Ages range from ages 5-23, and they participate in tournaments, festivals and a variety of community events. Forty-one percent of the participants are female, and most of the coaches are refugees themselves.

A 2016 poverty reduction assessment shows Uganda has reduced poverty from a monetary perspective, but the nation still lags behind in non-monetary areas such as sanitation, health and education. Children often end up living in the streets, victims of child labor, child trafficking and child abuse. Both young girls and boys are forced into harsh situations. Boys become members of the armed forces while girls are forced to prostitute themselves. Young girls are often victims of violence and child marriage.

How Sports Can Help

Soccer and other sports can act as an agent of change. While they cannot eradicate poverty, sports help blur the divisive lives of inequality that poverty creates. Sports focus on building children’s developmental needs to then address the larger needs of the surrounding communities. Education through sports like soccer can provide children with skills such as decision making and taking responsibility that apply both on and off the field. The goal of sports is to help children develop the necessary skills to break the cycle of poverty.

For its efforts, Soccer Without Borders was named the winner of the 2016 Barry & Marie Lipman Family Prize by the Wharton School and the University of Pennsylvania. The organization was also awarded the 2017 Urban Soccer Symposium Impact Award by U.S. Soccer as well as the 2018 Sports Award Winner by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Most notably, Soccer Without Borders earned the FIFA Diversity Award in 2017.

Gwen Schemm
Photo: Cloudfront

Economic Growth in Nicaragua Has Helped Reduce PovertyThe amount of economic growth in Nicaragua is an unusual and unprecedented phenomenon in the Central American peninsula. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) even decided to close its offices in the country in 2016 as it considered the issue well resolved. IMF first opened an office in Nicaragua in 1995 with the goal of economically stabilizing the country, which had been afflicted by years and years of high debt accumulation and revolutionary wars.

“Notwithstanding challenging external conditions, economic activity remains buoyant,said Gerardo Peraza, head of the study that IMF led in 2016. The study also revealed how economic growth was projected at 4.7 percent that year. The main factors that contributed to such economic growth in Nicaragua were, according to the study, steady agricultural and commercial activity and an inflation rate that is projected to accommodate under four percent.

Where Did the Economic Growth Originate?

Experts argue that such improvements in economic growth in Nicaragua are largely attributable to the re-election of President Daniel Ortega. Many argue that his political identity and approach to crucial matters such as macroeconomy and anti-poverty measures have significantly shifted toward a more pro-business attitude.

Moreover, experts say that thanks to Ortega’s social programs, poverty fell by 30 percent between 2005 and 2014. Moreover, in 2011, Nicaragua was taken out of a debt relief program enacted by IMF in 2005, called Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative.

The Benefits of Economic Growth in Nicaragua

A study issued by the World Bank has also found that in 2011, economic growth hit 5.1 percent, slowing to 4.7 and 4.5 in 2016 and 2017, respectively. For 2018, predictions see the Nicaraguan economy growing at 4.4 percent, making it the second largest among Central American countries in terms of growth. The country’s overall stability led decision makers to focus on long-term improvement and growth rather than just damage control, with the war on poverty the highest objective, particularly in rural areas.

Such economic improvement also restored the international community’s trust in Nicaragua. It is thanks to this renewed trust that, for instance, the USDA awarded a McGovern-Dole Food for Education grant to the organization Food For The Poor in Nicaragua. The grant was distributed as a three-year program, from the fall of 2011 to the fall of 2014.

During this period, more than 4,500 metric tons of food were delivered to the poorest communities of the Central American country. The majority of the recipients were children. Students of  774 schools, located primarily in Managua, Nueva Segovia and Madriz, greatly benefitted from the program.

Looking Toward the Future

The mission, however, is far from being fully accomplished. A statement issued by the U.S. Department of State reveals that Nicaragua still has the lowest level of GDP per capita in Central America and, most importantly, 40 percent of the population still lives in poverty. The situation gets even worse in rural areas, where the rate of poverty reaches nearly 60 percent.

The hope is that the path of economic growth and fiscal responsibility, paired with social programs and foreign aid initiatives, will keep Nicaragua on a path of prosperity and heavily reduced poverty.

– Luca Di Fabio

Photo: Flickr

There are many components to consider when evaluating how well a country is promoting human rights. On many fronts, the government of Nicaragua is failing its most marginalized populations: women and indigenous people. Human rights activists and journalists are also subject to government harassment. Here are three issues of human rights in Nicaragua:

Violence Against Women and Girls
The lack of legal protections for women in the case of domestic violence is a huge issue for human rights in Nicaragua. Studies estimate that one out of every two women in Nicaragua has experienced violence. Though a comprehensive law addressing gender-based violence was passed in 2012, many of the major advances in the law were overturned in subsequent years. In 2014, President Daniel Ortega issued a special decree shifting responsibility for the law’s implementation to the Ministry of the Family and mandated the establishment of neighborhood-based counseling as the first step to resolving “family conflict” prior to filing a legal complaint.

In 2016, this decree made it more difficult to access legal justice in cases of domestic abuse. The already under-resourced police units in charge of handling gender violence cases were shut down altogether. There is an emphasis on “family values” within Nicaraguan culture which makes it difficult for women to be taken seriously when coming forward with cases of domestic abuse. The actions of the government are only exacerbating the problem.

Indigenous Peoples’ Rights
In the past several years, there has been a wave of violent attacks against the Miskitos, the largest indigenous group on the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua. According to CEJUDHCAN, a non-governmental indigenous rights organization, 21 indigenous men have been killed since 2014 and dozens more wounded or kidnapped. Women have been raped, and armed men have attacked several villages. The Miskitos blame the attacks on settlers coming from other parts of the country. Thousands of Mestizos (Nicaraguans of Spanish descent) have moved into the rainforest, enticed by cheap, fertile land and timber and gold. Tensions have erupted into violence, and almost 3,000 Miskitos have fled their homes since 2015. The government’s failure to properly address this conflict has been a huge blight to human rights in Nicaragua.

The Miskitos say the government has done little to stop this violence. The army was only deployed once in December 2015, and once stationed, they did little else to help the locals. President Daniel Ortega has publicly backed the Miskitos’ right to their land but has initially denied any connection between the violence and the land conflict. The Miskitos accuse the president of only using the conflict for political gain around election time, and of taking no concrete action to protect the Miskitos or their land.

Mistreatment of Activists
The Nicaraguan government has been accused of unfairly targeting, detaining and deporting activists. In June 2016, six foreign environmental activists were detained and expelled from the country. There was a human rights hearing last year in regards to the killing of Francisco Garcia, whose family claims that he was targeted due to his wife’s work in the field of indigenous rights. His family alleges the government failed to diligently investigate the incident. Several other indigenous activists have reported cases of harassment and intimidation, with little response or support from authorities. Governmental targeting of activists leaves these citizens vulnerable and is a hindrance to human rights in Nicaragua.

In Nicaragua, the government is failing to protect the human rights of women and indigenous people. Activists are being unfairly targeted and left without legal protection. Without fair legislation and concrete action by the government, these groups will continue to struggle.

Hannah Seitz

Photo: Flickr