SEATTLE — Nicaragua shares borders with three countries: Honduras and El Salvador to the north and Costa Rica to the south. Nicaragua is still suffering from the aftereffects of a long civil war and dictatorship. The Sandinista government responsible for much of the longtime suffering was elected fairly in 2006 and since 2008 have regained full control of all of the branches of government. As a result, local and national elections have consistently registered irregularities. Internal political turmoil has hindered the growth of the Nicaraguan economy. Agriculture makes up 14.8 percent of the nation’s GDP and employs 31 percent of the labor force. Increased investment in sustainable agriculture in Nicaragua could greatly increase the economic growth in the country.
Fortunately, the economic stability Nicaragua has had has been noticed. A report compiled by the World Bank in 2015 notes that special attention should be paid to agriculture in Nicaragua because it is a mainstay within the national economy and aid should be considered if the economy continues to maintain stability. It goes on to say that careful investment can lead to economic growth and less inequality. It also warns investors of the risks of investing in sustainable agriculture in Nicaragua. Nicaragua suffers from deforestation, soil erosion and water pollution and its geographic location leaves it to susceptible to volcanic activity and hurricanes, all of which are factors that hinder agricultural growth. Care must be taken to mitigate these issues. Any aid or investments should also help tackle these problems along with sustainable agriculture.
Due to the unusually large amount of rain Nicaragua received this year due to hurricanes, the World Food Programme has launched a special mission to Nicaragua. The WFP will work alongside the Nicaraguan government to provide additional assistance to Nicaraguans affected by the hurricanes. This includes providing aid to farmers whose livelihoods are at stake. The government and the WFP will need an additional $680,000 to effectively assist the estimated 29,000 Nicaraguans just in the most devastated areas.
The World Food Programme has other projects at work in Nicaragua that focus on food security, sustainable agriculture, health and social programs. An important goal of the WFP in Nicaragua is to fight undernourishment and hunger. An example of these programs is the National School Meals Program, designed and carried out in conjunction with the government with the goal of providing nourishing meals to children in school. By working with the government, the WFP hopes to set up institutions that will allow Nicaragua to better deal with crisis situations.
Though farming organizations, the World Food Programme is instructing local farmers about sustainable techniques and how to better prepare for disasters. This initiative also educates farmers about advanced farming methods. Besides preparing them to handle crises, the WFP is also teaching business strategies, finances and accounting so that these farmers can more effectively participate in the economy. The women’s empowerment program also works with female farmers.
Another aid organization working closely with the Nicaraguan government is the International Fund for Agriculture Development. The IFAD has been working with the government of Nicaragua since 1980. They are focusing their efforts on a three-part mission to improve sustainable agriculture in Nicaragua:
- Improving access to markets, technology and financial resources for the rural poor and developing non-agricultural rural activities such as tourism.
- Improving the capacity and efficiency of local rural development institutions.
- Helping develop innovative strategies that, together with knowledge gained from experience and with best practices, can be incorporated into national and regional rural development policies.
A trend of political instability can be as dangerous for a country’s people as a corrupt government. The world will be watching closely to make sure Nicaragua heads in the right direction. But it is up to its people to hold their own government accountable. As long as this trend of economic stability continues and the government works to help the people who elected them, hope can be seen on the horizon in Nicaragua.
– Nick DeMarco