Nicaragua is the largest country in Central America and is well-known for its stunning volcanic landscapes, colonial architecture, beautiful beaches, and incredible coffee culture. The country has faced several periods of political turmoil since its independence from Spain in 1821, the most notable being the Nicaraguan Revolution of the 1960s-1970s, and the Contra War that followed in the 1980's.
Although Nicaragua suffers from high poverty rates and economic inequality, it is considered one of the safest and most stable countries in Latin America. Nicaragua has so far managed to stave off gang violence and narcotics trafficking that plagues the region through effective community policing and post-war integration, making it a fascinating place to visit and work.
According to the Foundation for Sustainable Development, approximately 75% of Nicaragua’s forests have been converted to crop and pasture land. In addition to pressure from agriculture and ranching, the country’s forests are at risk due to harvesting of trees for fuelwood, both for cooking at the household level and for industries such as clay brick and tile production, charcoal manufacture and quicklime production.
In addition to challenges managing forest resources, Nicaragua consistently appears on the list of top 10 countries most affected by climate change (GermanWatch, 2015). In recent years, climate change has led to severe cycles of drought and flooding, resulting in the loss of soil fertility and annual crops, affecting vulnerable rural farmers. Variability in climate and rising temperatures has also been detrimental to Nicaragua’s coffee crops, the country’s second largest agricultural export.
Since 2000, TWP and PROLEÑA have worked together to plant trees, design, manufacture, and distribute clean cookstoves, and promote renewable energy and resource efficiency throughout Nicaragua. During our time together, we have built a cookstove manufacturing facility in Managua, four tree nurseries throughout the country, have partnered with industry and farmers to create closed-loop woodlots for sustainable fuel production, and have bought and sold solar energy systems for on and off-grid applications. Currently we are in the process of designing, building, and opening the Nicaraguan Center for Forests, Energy and Climate (NICFEC) in La Paz Centro, Nicaragua.
The NICFEC will be an educational and training venue with doors open to academic researchers, development practitioners, policy-influencers and the general population, all working together to address the challenges wrought on the region by climate change. Activities at the Center will focus on soil remediation, agroforestry, agricultural diversification, biomass energy production and efficiency, and photovoltaic systems.