Nicaragua Work Projects

Selva Negra Hotel and Farm

There are a growing number of “eco-resorts” throughout Central America. Selva Negra near Matagalpa,  is the real deal. Started in the 1890’s as a coffee plantation and converted to an eco-resort in 1975, this combination of biological reserve, organic coffee plantation and hotel/resort predates all of them by at least 30 years. Current owners Eddy and Mausi Kuhl are descendants of one of  the original owners Otto Kuhl.  The property has been in family hands for most of the last 140 years. The continuity is obvious to a visitor. The consistency in values and operation has led to a property that exemplifies best practices in protecting the environment and ensuring that almost nothing is wasted. From the 20,000 sq ft organic greenhouse to the 325 acres of mostly organic coffee to the 300 acres of cloud forest, this site far exceeds any of the eco-resorts we’ve visited in Nicaragua in its authenticity and scope.

The finca or farm within Selva Negra is named “La Hammonia”.  Indeed, harmonious would be a good way to describe it, as the 250 workers and their families who live on the farm receive free housing, meals, primary education and health care from Selva Negra.

During a 5 week stay, we gleaned much more detailed information about the extensive range of permaculture and waste prevention measures in place in Selva Negra.   A report on these measures can be found here.  More details about Selva Negra can also be found here.

During a trip to Nicaragua in the winter of 2016/17, WNP wrote a detailed marketing proposal for SN to improve its outreach capability particularly in the US.   We are working closely with the owners to help implement this plan and help increase awareness of this remarkable resource in the US and elsewhere.

Comunidad Connect

Students in the garden behind La Comunidad Connect office, San Juan del Sul

Comunidad Connect was founded in 2007 by Jon Thompson and Roman Yavich in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua. Jon was directing a local education foundation and Roman was conducting research on the impact of tourism development on a Fulbright grant. Their shared interest in contributing to community and economic development in Nicaragua led to the formation Comunidad Connect, a social enterprise that combines sustainable tourism with bottom-up development work.

From the beginning, Comunidad Connect has worked with local residents and leaders, public institutions and the private sector to identify development priorities to which to attract resources in Nicaragua and from abroad. Working on a shoestring budget, with small grants, volunteers, and key donors, Comunidad Connect restored a neglected community space into a bustling multi-use recreational facility coined the San Juan del Sur Sports Park, and launched San Juan del Sur’s first municipal recycling program.

Comunidad Connect, in partnership with the Nicaraguan sister-organization Sociedad Civil Comunidad Connect, which was formed in 2012, works with groups of volunteers and students on service learning trips through the Cultural Connections program. The revenue from this program enabled CC to expand its community development work that now includes rural healthcare access and a major water filter project. With the recently built rural health clinic providing primary care to thousands of Nicaraguans, we can be proud of far we’ve come, and look forward to how much more we will do.

During a trip to Nicaragua in the winter of 2016/17, WNP helped create a food scrap collection program in San Juan del Sur in conjunction with CC.   The food scraps collected will be composted in a garden operated by CC and in a permaculture finca operated by a local hotel, Casa Oro.   We look forward to this collection system being expanded to include more residences and businesses in San Juan del Sur during the years ahead.

In the future, WNP hopes to conduct trips to Nicaragua to help WNP members and friends engage in our work in Nicaragua.  We also intend to teach a Permaculture Design Course as a part of our work in Nicaragua that will include students from both Nicaragua and the US.

Why Nicaragua

Arbola installed by the Sandinista government in Managua.

Nicaragua has had a long and troubled relationship with its northern neighbor, the United States, more so than most of its neighbors in Central America.  This is in part due to its strategic location.   Until the building of the Panama Canal in 1914,  Nicaragua was the primary transit point for Europeans and US citizens on the East Coast wishing to travel to the West Coast.   As such it has been are area of interest for both the US government and several of its wealthy citizens.   These interests were expressed often with little consideration for the residents of Nicaragua.  For example in the 1850s, Cornelius Vanderbilt established the Accessory Transit Company to profit from the many gold seekers traveling through Nicaragua on their way to the California gold rush.  In 1855 William Walker briefly ruled the country with a force of “filibusters” who exploited it for fame and profit.   In 1912 the US government sent in the US Marines to “restore order”,  to prevent anyone except the US from building a canal through Nicaragua and to protect the interests of US citizens owning land in the country.  When the Nicaraguan August Cesar Sandino succeeded in defeating the Marines militarily, the US government installed a dictator, General Garcia Somoza in the country.  Somoza assassinated Sandino in 1934 and imposed the will of the US on Nicaragua up until 1979.  Shortly after the Sandinista movement successfully removed the Somozas from power, the US sent “contra” guerrillas to Nicaragua to disrupt the new government and wreak havoc among the population.  These contras did not cease fighting until a US-based government was installed in 1990.   The current government is headed by Daniel Ortega who was elected in a broad-based national election in 2007.  It largely reflects the values of the indigenous Sandinista movement and is for the most part free of US influence.

Because of the US government’s continued interference in its domestic affairs, Nicaragua failed to develop politically and commercially to the same extent as other Central American nations.   As a result until recently it was the poorest country in Central American with a  per capita Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of only $1,851 in 2013, versus $10,184 for its southern neighbor, Costa Rica and $53,041  for the US.

To help make amends for the disruption created by the US, Waste Not Permaculture has chosen to assist two non-profits located in Nicaragua.  Both provide a variety of services and programs to improve the quality of life of Nicaragua.