by Bernis Cunningham (ELP 2015), Nicaragua
One of the main environmental problems of Nicaragua in this moment is deforestation. This problem is inflicted by the uncontrolled advance of extensive livestock farming, unsustainable agriculture and population growth. Nicaragua's economy revolves around agriculture and cattle raising. The extractive economic model and the population growth of recent years is causing the destruction of the last natural reserves of the country. (Bosawas and Indian corn)
The Central American region is receiving the early impacts of climate change. With this deforestation we become more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. In Nicaragua we have had 3 years of drought with the “el Niño” climate phenomenon. The prolonged drought is causing a serious problem in the dry areas and rural areas of the country. The main problem is the lack of access to water in quantity and quality.
Currently, I am supporting a project for strengthening the social movements in Granada. This project is led by the Nicaraguan Center for Environmental Conservation, a non-profit organization. This organization has two objectives, "the conservation of the environment and sustainable human development...” The project aims to strengthen the capacities of the leaders of social movements in the communities of Capulin and San Blas, which suffer from drought, poverty, and the negative impacts of monoculture plantations of sugarcane in the area.
In Nicaragua, there are more than 101,000 acres planted with sugarcane, more than 800 private cane, 4 sugar mills, 35 producers, 283 direct jobs and more than 120,000 indirect jobs generated. The sugar activity generates more than 5% of GDP, agricultural investment of the $ 200,000,000 of dollars. It generates revenue of more than C$ 30 million córdobas; "brings more than 60 MW of power to the national public network during the harvest period, generating more than 10% of port movement of Corinth and the production is located in rural areas: Chichigalpa, El Viejo, Chinandega, Bethlehem, Potosi and San Rafael de el Sur." (http://www.cnpa.com.ni/importancia-economica/)
The agro-industrial production of cane sugar, peanut, and palm is another serious problem of forest and water resources in Nicaragua. There is evidence of local experience and studies demonstrating the negative effects of monocultures of categorical and assiduously causes to water, land, forest and society as a whole.
Our social research and the testimonies of those affected conclude that the agro-business model generates negative impacts on the environment by using large quantities of water, large amounts of agrochemical, and contributing to soil wear. It also negatively impacts the economy through monopolization and land grabbing, with almost exclusive benefits for big economic groups, displacement of peasants, and low generation of jobs because of the modernization of the agro-industry. Jobs generated by the industry for the most part are of low quality. In the project in Capulin and San Blas, the Nicaraguan Center of Environmental Conservation have held 6 workshops with the community, the company and the local government in 2015 and 2016.
I also participate as a member in the association “Jovenes por el agua” initiative of Global Water partnership (http://www.gwp.org/es/GWP-Centroamerica/) and ANACC (www.anacc.org.ni) “Nicaragua National Association Against Climate Change.”
We hope to be able to promote Agroecology and organic farming within social movements that we advise. We believe that rural models should be focused on meeting the nutritional needs of people of Nicaragua and the surplus to exports to international markets.
I had the privilege of participating in the Beahrs Environmental Leadership Program at UC Berkeley. This experience changed my perspective in dealing with environmental problems involving various actors, the government, the company and the community. In the Beahrs ELP 2015, I learned that environmental problems are seen from different perspectives depending on the sector you are representing.
2_2.jpg Masaya Volcano
The other project that I'm working on is in the private sector. We have the legal structure of the recycling company and the professional team. We also have the land where we will start the project. This project has been very complex in financial and technical issues. At Berkeley, I met Dr. Thomas Azwell, who has kept me motivated in the difficult moments of this project. I know we have everything that the investors were asking. We hope to launch this project in a couple of months.
In the Beahrs ELP program, I met many environmental leaders from all parts of the world. I maintain communication and exchange environmental information whit ELP participants. In this course I had the opportunity to meet great academics, learn new skill and make new friends. The ELP hass definitely been a great experience in my life and professional career.