The name “Nicaragua” is derived from the Amerindian chief, Nicarao, who once ruled the region. Nicaragua’s first contact with Europeans came with Columbus in 1502. It 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.
One of Nicaragua's major problems is environmental degredation. 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. A 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. As a result, 91 percent of Nicaragua's city dwellers and only 59 percent of its rural population had access to safe drinking water.
Heifer's Work in Nicaragua
Heifer International Nicaragua established its program in 2000, gearing 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, with growing support from academic institutions, religious, cooperatives and nongovernmental organizations with a territorial presence in the rural sector, particularly in those areas where hunger, poverty and the progressive deterioration of the environment were evident.
During its first years, 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 around the country. Heifer also began to pursue opportunities for partnerships with other national and regional entities that promote public policy related to rural development.
Key Services Heifer Provides:
Sustainable agricultural production: Rehabilitating fertility and productivity of eroded lands; agroecological food production; minimizing or eliminating the use of chemical and nonrenewable supplies; crop diversification
Post-harvest management and processing: Developing strategies to commercialize products of smallholder farmers; promote incorporation
Market development: Reinforcing the direct link between farmers and consumers
Technology: Construction of semi-industrial milk-processing plants; disseminating technologies to improve food production systems
Nutrition: Promoting access to healthy, culturally appropriate, nutritious, harmless food; advocating for food sovereignty
See where Heifer is working around the world to end hunger.
Social Justice is girls in Nicaragua, where 32 percent of girls over 15 are illiterate, attending school because their families don’t need them to stay home and work.