Heifer's Work in Nicaragua
“Nicaragua” is derived from the Amerindian chief, Nicarao, who once ruled the region. Nicaragua’s first contact with Europeans came with Columbus in 1502. Nicaragua would remain a part of the Spanish empire, under rule of Guatemala’s captaincy-general, until its independence in 1821. The country became an independent republic in 1838.
Nicaragua, the poorest country in Central America and the second poorest in the Hemisphere, has widespread underemployment and poverty. The US-Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) has been in effect since April 2006 and has expanded export opportunities for many agricultural and manufactured goods. Textiles and apparel account for nearly 60 percent of Nicaragua's exports, but increases in the minimum wage during the ORTEGA administration will likely erode its comparative advantage in this industry.
Nicaragua, the poorest country in Central America and the second poorest in the hemisphere, has widespread underemployment and poverty.
One of Nicaragua's major problems is environmental in nature. Soil erosion, caused by farming annual crops on steep slopes, deforestation and human settlement resulted in a 2.5 percent decrease in forests between 1990-1995. One contributing factor is the use of wood for fuel. In addition, excessive or ineffective use of pesticides to control malaria, along with widespread agricultural use, has resulted in some environmental contamination. Nicaragua's cities produce about 0.5 million tons of solid waste per year. Industrial pollutants have contaminated the lakes and rivers. Consequently, as of 2000, 91 percent of Nicaragua's city dwellers and only 59 percent of its rural population had access to safe drinking water.
Heifer International Nicaragua was established in 2000. However, the first initiatives originated in the country around 1977. With the assistance of the College of Agriculture and Livestock of Esteli, Heifer provided productive resources and education for poor rural families.
In subsequent years, Heifer Nicaragua geared its operations to provide continuity to three central elements: i) continue the provision of resources for the agricultural sector, ii) technical assistance and, iii) training for rural families in extreme poverty, garnering support from academic institutions, religious groups, cooperatives and nongovernmental organizations with territorial presence in the rural sector, particularly in those areas with evident hunger, poverty and the progressive deterioration of the environment.
It is in these years when Heifer Nicaragua began the gradual process of creating a specialized staff that ensured the development of projects managed directly and through joint work with other organizations in different geographical locations in the country.