My husband and I have been involved with SosteNica since the early 1990's, first as friends/donors and, since 2009, as investors. Our family had the great good fortune to travel to Nicaragua in 2012, spending 2 weeks visiting SosteNica's numerous projects throughout the country. I am currently spending 6 months in Nagarote as a volunteer for SosteNica's newest project, the Eco Centro .
The Eco Centro includes a beautiful demonstration garden to educate the public on sustainable methods for growing food in small backyard spaces through our tours and workshops. Over 150 visitors, including a service delegation of Public Health graduate students from the US, have toured the Eco Centro since I arrived in January. We work continually with families in and around Nagarote to create sustainable, productive backyard gardens. Our services include workshops and training sessions, on-going technical support for seeds, best growing practices, irrigation systems, and training for soil conservation, well maintenance and water management which are crucial as climate change and a two-year drought wreak havoc on growing conditions here. Eco Centro develops and carries out local reforestation projects and is initiating a farmers' market and beekeeping/honey production operation in Nagarote to create new income streams for our producers.
Through our school garden project, we are teaching 250 children in 6 low-income rural schools techniques to create sustainable gardens that will diversify and enrich their school lunches of rice and beans which, in many cases, is the only meal the children get per day. Similar to 4-H projects throughout the USA, SosteNica believes in "learning through doing," so the children participate in all aspects of the gardens, from concept and design, through the digging and preparing of the soil, to planting, harvesting and enjoying the fruits of their labor. The children are encouraged to take their knowledge home and create gardens with their families.
We are also educating people to build clean, eco-friendly cooking stoves in Nagarote, Leon, and Matagalpa. These green technology stoves vent smoke out of the home, improving air quality and respiratory health of families. Our eco-stove design (a SosteNica original) consumes about one quarter of firewood needed for traditional Nicaraguan stoves, which will significantly impact the deforestation crisis of the nation. Additionally, the stoves cook with a more concentrated heat source, reducing cooking time and creating more time for other pursuits for the women of the families we serve. Working with an associate organization, SosteNIca has constructed about 50 eco-stoves in the last year.
The tireless efforts of SosteNica's team to educate and empower families to become more self-reliant, productive and healthy are a constant source of inspiration for me. I am honored to be part of this incredible network.
SosteNica is an incredible organization. I have spent the past nine months planning a service trip to support their many projects in Nicaragua, and I could not be more impressed with the dedication of the team. I have learned of their past work constructing eco-friendly sustainable housing, providing micro-loans to low income families, and planting school gardens. Now, our group of graduate students will be assisting SosteNica in building eco-stoves to reduce smoke inhalation and fuel requirements in rural Nicaraguan homes. I am very excited to begin our service project and proud to be supporting the SosteNica team.
SosteNica's work is based on a holistic vision of sustainable development of the community. Its work addresses the real needs of the small producers that it helps, and aren't just "feel good" projects. Because the economy of the community of Nagarote is still very much rooted in agriculture, SosteNica helps to promote agriculture that is affordable, sustainable and diversified. I volunteered with the team for seven weeks, and it was extraordinary how dedicated the members were to helping the community, as they often rode for great length to each producer's farm to deliver technical assistance and support. In addition to going out into the field, the team also frequently held workshops and demonstrations on topics such as creating organic fertilizers and preserving produce. I also loved how the team started reaching out to schools to encourage the younger generation to have more interest in sustainability and responsibility for their natural resources. In particular, I had the opportunity to help with the sustainable family gardens initiative, which had real impact in providing more food security, economic opportunity and better diets for the producers. All in all, it was inspiring to see how SosteNica developed such a diverse array of complementary projects to support community development and natural resource conservation. I highly recommend you to check out their work on Google+ and Facebook--the pictures are great windows into the meaningful projects that they do!