It’s hard to believe – it’s been seven years since I first arrived in Nicaragua, excited to learn everything I could about tropical sustainable agriculture. Although I’m living in the states now, I know the connections I made over the six years I lived here will persist for the rest of my life. One of the ways that I know this will happen is through the work of SosteNica: The Sustainable Development Fund. Now in existence for over 20 years, SosteNica makes it possible for people in the US to invest in family-run enterprises in Nicaragua, and support sustainable agricultural extension work in Nagarote, a town just north of the capital city of Managua.

As an investor since 2000, former employee, and current board member, I’ve been able to see and be a part of many eras of the organization. As a Fulbright scholar, I participated in a shift of programming from primarily investments to slowly building up a robust agricultural extension program, with tailored loans and educational resources for farmers, urban gardeners, and school children. There was an economic crisis to overcome, there has been political upheaval, there are active volcanoes that spew ash only miles from where many of our participants live and work their land. Living and working in Nicaragua is real, vibrant and never boring.

I’m excited to be back to participate in some of SosteNica’s new programs, to reconnect with old friends and document some of the new changes, and revive this stagnant blog again with photos and stories of the real struggles and good work happening here!

 

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For SosteNica´s promotional tour this fall I´ve made a short video highlighting our environmental work with borrowers.   Tell me what you think.

This is a video I took on the way to Puerto Sandino, a sparsely populated part of Nagarote where 13 of the 30 clients participating in our reforestation project live.  It’s a way of life that amazes me.  We are going to have one of the three trainings at the house of Jose Ramon Mendoza Herrera, who lives on 900 acres and earns about $150 a day.  The owners of the land live in the states and in a city about two hours north, and he has been taking care of the land and raising cattle for 30 years.  He was promised 50 acres five years ago in return for his years of service to the family, but as of now the paperwork still hasn’t been completed.

What amazes me is how some people live on so much land in such poverty!  One answer definitely is lack of credit.  Without capital it is nearly impossible to invest in the changes neccessary to create more capital.  As we have continued to interview the clients selected for this project, it’s clear that this is not an unusual situation.  Although the size of the land varies from 5 acres to 900, many were given land by a cooperative that dissolved, or a family member, but lack the paperwork that makes it legal.  Without proper ownership, they will never be able to take out a loan larger than $1500, which requires property as a guarantee.