From January through November 2009 I conducted project funded by the Fulbright Foundation (International Institute of Education) to learn about sustainable agricultural methods in Nicaragua and the educational and economic support structures necessary for their implementation in the region of León. I focused my project on two institutions using different methods to advance sustainable agriculture in Nicaragua.  The first institution, the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua in León, department of Agroecology, was founded in 1998 and focuses on an integrated approach to the social, ecological, and economic aspects of agriculture.  In addition to laboratories for soil science and the breeding of biological control organisms, the University maintains two model farms of 86 and 155 acres including several greenhouses.  I audited a basic course in Agroecology to deepen my understanding of tropical agriculture and become familiar with the academic research that is the theoretical and scientific base for the development of culturally and ecologically sound agricultural practices.  I also participated in a course for “Plant Doctors,” part of a national project to strengthen extension services available to small rural farmers.  The “Puestos para Plantas” project, which was running the course, is funded by the Global Plant Clinic, an arm of CAB International. With this project I was able to accompany agronomists from universities and agricultural cooperatives into the countryside to do informational tours about different crop diseases.

The other institution I interned with is the Centro de Promoción del Desarrollo Local(CEPRODEL), a Nicaraguan-founded micro lending bank that offers technical and economic support to enable the implementation of sustainable farming methods on individual farms.  Together with SosteNica, an American sustainable investment company, they support small farmers who are interested in receiving advice from trained sustainable and organic agricultural specialists along with their agricultural credit. In this way, CEPRODEL plays a unique role in rural development in Nicaragua, by combatting poverty through the micro-credit program, and working toward a more environmentally sustainable future through the technical assistants.  Much of my Fulbright project focussed on a reforestation project operated by SosteNica and CEPRODEL that offered workshops and assistance in soil conservation techniques, the production of organic fertilizers, and interest-free credit for irrigation systems and a diverse selection of fruit trees.

My Fulbright project led to two jobs in Nicaragua, the first of which I am still working with.  The first is Coordinator of Rural Development for SosteNica, which is a registered 510(c3) and socially responsible investment company based out of West Chester, PA.  They have been working with CEPRODEL of nearly twenty years in many ways, including financing micro-credit, building housing cooperatives and offering eco-friendly housing materials, and expanding a reforestation and sustainable farming project.  I have also worked with a community of women vegetable farmers I first met during a trip with the Global Plant Clinic project.  A group of individuals in Scotland who formed a group called Agua pa’ Todos (Water for All) was financing the repair of some solar powered irrigation systems installed by the Fundacion par la Promocion de Tecnologia Alternativa (FUNPROTECA).

Although agricultural methods differ from one climate to another, I believe sustainable farming has global relevance as an organizing tool. International attention is increasingly focused on practices which preserve the future of our environment and populations. The sustainable farming movement in the U.S. receives considerable support, and contributes to movements abroad through resource and information sharing. Globalized trade has made international support for the development of sustainable practices crucial for the developing world. As Nicaragua’s largest trading partner (U.S. Department of State, 2006) the U.S. shares the responsibility of supporting a sustainable agricultural sector in Nicaragua, and while the government and trade regulations have done very little in this regard, and actually have had the reverse effect, organizations such as SosteNica offer the option for individuals to make the choice.

Personally, I find the intersection of social justice, environmental stewardship through sustainable agriculture, and improved nutrition that come together in these particular projects very exciting.  I’m also absolutely thrilled to use Spanish and continue working with rural populations.

17 Responses to “My Connection to Nicaragua”

  1. Aleida Says:

    Hola,

    Thank you so much for your fantastic blog; it is refreshing to know that there are others out there that have similar interests as myself!

    I am a recent university graduate currently travelling Central America for a couple of month, and while I am here I am interested in visiting organizations and local projects which focus on sustainability and agriculture.

    I will be travelling to Nicaragua in a couple of weeks and am wondering if you have any suggestions for organizations and projects that I may contact and potentially visit while I am in the country.

    I would very much appreciate any suggestions you may have for me! I am very eager to learn more about what Nicaragua has to offer.

    Thank you,
    Aleid

  2. Bernardo Matute Says:

    Hi:
    I’m trying to locate vampire bat traps- I currently having some issuse with bats on my farm- I’m in Belize but was told that traps are available in Nicaragua but no location was give..

    1. rwlindsay Says:

      We didn’t use any special traps, we set up a bird-catching net (very fine) and then applied a poison to the vampire bats that were captured. For more information you can try asking at a MARENA (Ministerio del Ambiente y Recursos Naturales) office anywhere in Nicaragua.

  3. Daniela Says:

    Hello Rachel,
    First of all i want to thank you for the work you are doing for my country. Im from Nicaragua rasied over there for 15 years. Now i live in California. I would like to help my country and the people. Nicaraguan people are so nice and good people. I would like to work closely with you to help the rural communities over there.

  4. Michael Richardson Says:

    Hola,

    I am in Leon for three days to assist in the planning of community gardens. I am involved with similar projects in La Concepcion (Masaya) and in Esteli. However, I am departing tomorrow for Rivas. We would very much like to visit successful gardens that are now growing in Leon… can you provide me with the contact information… such as the community of women vegetable farmers you mention in your blog.

  5. merrill Says:

    Hi Rachel,
    Thank you for writing. I so much appreciate your work. I am heading to Nicaragua in august to see a new agric. project in Chinandega. Wondering if you might be available to talk and offer some suggestions/advice before I go. Thanks for your time. Merrill

  6. Ben Day Says:

    My wife and I recently visited Nicaragua. We fell in love with the people and are heart broken at the conditions that many of the people that we met live in. We have made some friends near Managua that we would like to help to provide some sort of sustainable food source for. We thought of investing in some fruit trees for them to care for. Also possibly some easily grown vegetables. Do you have any recomendations? They live between Managua and Masiah in a rural area. Thank you for any help. Ben Day

    1. rwlindsay Says:

      Hi Ben, that area of Nicaragua is fantastic for fruit trees, lots of citrus, mango, pitaya, plantains and bananas come from Masaya and the surrounding country side. There are also many nurseries close by to purchase good quality saplings. You might want to think about working through an NGO in the community, or organizing some workshops for how to properly manage fruit trees and vegetable patches. Often donated plants don’t survive – the chickens peck them, the calf gets out and munches, the pig lays on top of them, they aren’t watered or fertilized. Some donated fencing for the animals might help them establish more plants as well!

  7. LMMartin Says:

    Hello Rachel,

    This morning, while enjoying a cup of organically grown Mexican coffee, I was having a discussion with my oldest about the lack of social responsibility among most people. I am a Nica, born and raised in Managua, but I have lived in the U.S.A. for about 34 years. It has been inspiring and humbling to read about the work you are doing “con mi gente”. I have held a regular 9 to 5 office job for over 30 years and have only dreamed about contributing in some way to such a worthy cause as Sostenica. I did not know something like this existed until now. I will be taking a trip to Nicaragua on Dec. 25th for a 10 day vacation to visit with my mother and extended family in Managua, and would love the opportunity to visit the Sostenica community in Leon and learn more about your work. I would to be able to contribute in some way. Keep on eating maduros! You have not tasted nacatamales until you have had one of my mother’s.

    Abrazos,

    LMMartin

    1. rwlindsay Says:

      Hi Luz Maria,

      Thanks for writing! It’s so great to hear from a Nica in the states. I’d love to talk to you about how to bring a US based Nicaraguan community into our work, I think that sounds fantastic. I’ll be in the states over the holidays but I’m definitely sorry to miss your mothers Nacatamales!

  8. John Hicks Says:

    Greetings!
    I am still unsure as to how I came across your site, but I am thrilled at the work you are doing and it’s potential impact. I have recently left Nicaragua after spending extensive time on development research and project implementation sites. I would love to dialogue with you about malnutrition and how I feel it can be decimated within an initial target groups. Feel free to reach out to me and I will wait to hear back from you. Many Blessings!

    1. rwlindsay Says:

      Hi John,

      Your work sounds very interesting as well, I’d love to hear how you have been able to reduce malnutrition in rural areas, especially if they are community based models of organization. We are currently working on an analysis of our initial two year project and thinking of incorporating some direct preventitive health and nutrition work into our work in the future. You can email me at rwlinday at gmail dot com, I look forward to hearing from you.

  9. Tomas Laffay Says:

    Rachel,

    I stumbled upon your blog sitting in an internet cafe in San Marcos while kickstarting some research on sustainable farming NGOs in Nicaragua and now Im full of ideas! Im working with the Pulsera Project (pulseraproject.org) which essentially buys bracelects from adolescent boys and graduates of the Los Quinchos orphanage association which has some five locations between here Managua and Granada, sells them state side and donates all the profit. An incredible story of its own, I find myself in Nicaragua for only my second time exploring the best possibilities in which the Pulsera Project can support Los Quinchos. In San Marcos the boys of Los Quinchos stay at La Finca which is exactly that. Lacking many resources however, la finca isnt producing in the summer, but only in the winter. Just recently we have begun the discussion of funding an irrigation system that would draw from rain water collected from roofs and deposited into this giant cistern that already exists conveniently on the property. Although I have worked on an organic farm and meddled in some projects I am by no means an expert but rather a student looking to learn. You seem like you have a lot to teach, or at least know plenty of people who have experience and knowledge pertinent to our situation. Ill be in Nicaragua until July 20 this trip and would love to meet up, or at least be pointed in the right direction to someone who could share ideas and advice. I really admire the things Ive read in your blog and look forward to hearing back from you.

    sincerely, Tomas Laffay

  10. Rick Smith Says:

    Thanks for all you are doing in Nicaragua.


  11. […] project on the ground here in Nicaragua.  I arrived to León, Nicaragua over a year ago with a Fulbright Grant to learn about projects that promote sustainable agriculture, and specifically to work with […]

  12. Atta Turck Says:

    Hi Rachel,
    I was forwarded the link to your blog about two weeks ago by Roland Rothenbucher, who got it from your dad. Roland probably thought that as a former farmer and biodynamic agriculture activist I would be interested in your activities and maybe carry this interest somewhere within our school. And he was right. What struck me most, was your blog about the tree planting. The idea that popped into my head was that we might try a “help plant 800 trees in Nicaragua” campaign in our high school. Or we might even make it more effective if we stretch the money with the help of your micro lending activities. These are just spontaneous ideas. Please let me know your thoughts about them. I am willing to put some effort into it within our school.
    Thanks for the blog.
    Be safe, be good, and enjoy it.

    Atta

    1. rwlindsay Says:

      Hi Atta,
      That’s a wonderful idea! I think the best way to go about it would be to raise money to donate to SosteNica, and ask them to put the entire amount toward the Nagarote Reforestation Project. That way we are working with the micro loans project, and SosteNica is a 501C3, which simplifies any legalities with the school about donating money. I’ll talk it over with Alan Wright and get back to you personally. He is also going to be visiting Long Island in April with several representatives from CEPRODEL, and it could be a wonderful opportunity to connect personally with the people who are carrying out the project. If there is enough interest at Waldorf, it may merit a visit from them. My father would be the person to coordinate that with.
      Thanks for your enthusiasm and comments; the connection I keep here with people back at home is wonderful. All my love to the GCWS community!

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