Category Archives: Nicaragua

Nicaragua’s Mayagna People and Their Rainforest Could Vanish

by José Adán Silva
IPS News

Nicaragua
Troops from the special military battalion set up to protect Nicaragua’s forests confiscate an ilegal shipment of logs in the Bosawas Biosphere Reserve. Credit: José Garth Medina/IPS

MANAGUA, Jun 19 2014 (IPS) – More than 30,000 members of the Mayagna indigenous community are in danger of disappearing, along with the rainforest which is their home in Nicaragua, if the state fails to take immediate action to curb the destruction of the Bosawas Biosphere Reserve, the largest forest reserve in Central America and the third-largest in the world.

Arisio Genaro, president of the Mayagna nation, travelled over 300 km from his community on the outskirts of the reserve in May to protest in Managua that the area where his people have lived for centuries is being invaded and destroyed by settlers from the country’s Pacific coastal and central regions.

In early June, Genaro returned to the capital to participate in several academic activities aimed at raising awareness on the environment among university students in Managua and to protest to whoever would listen that their ancestral territory is being destroyed by farmers determined to expand the agricultural frontier by invading the protected area, which covers 21,000 sq km.

The Mayagna chief told Tierramérica that in 1987 the nucleus of what is now the biosphere reserve had a total area of 1,170,210 hectares of virgin forest and an estimated population of fewer than 7,000 indigenous people.

In 1997, when it was declared a Word Heritage Site and Biosphere Reserve by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), the reserve covered more than two million hectares of tropical rainforest, including the buffer zone.

By 2010, when the indigenous people living in the reserve numbered around 25,000, the jungle area had been reduced to 832,237 hectares, according to figures cited by Genaro. The presence of non-indigenous settlers within the borders of the reserve had climbed from an estimated 5,000 in 1990 to over 40,000 in 2013.

“The y are burning everything, to plant crops. They cut down forests to raise cattle, they log the big trees to sell the wood, they shoot the animals and dry up riverbeds to put in roads,” Genaro told Tierramérica.

Antonia Gámez, a 66-year-old Mayagna chief, also made the trek from her community to speak out in towns and cities along the Pacific coast about the situation faced by her people in Bosawas, whose name comes from the first syllables of the main geographical features that delimit the reserve: the Bocay river, the Salaya mountain, and the Waspuk river.

“All of our families used to live on what nature provides; the forest is our home and our father, it has given us food, water and shelter,” she told Tierramérica in her native tongue, with the help of an interpreter. “Now the youngest ones are looking for work on the new farms created where there was once forest, and the oldest of us don’t have anywhere to go, because everything is disappearing.”

Gámez said that in the forest, her people planted grains and grew and harvested fruit, and hunted what they needed for food with bows and arrows. She added that there were abundant crabs and fish in the rivers and wild boars, tapirs and deer in the forests.

“Now the animals have gone. With each bang from a gun or mountain that is cleared, they either die or move deeper into the jungle. There aren’t many left to hunt,” she complained on her visit to Managua.

Part of the reserve is also inhabited by Miskitos, the largest indigenous group in this Central American country, where by law native people have the right to collectively own and use the lands where they live.

The complaints by the indigenous people were corroborated by Tierramérica in conversations with independent academics and activists as well as government officials.

Anthropologist Esther Melba McLean with the Atlantic Coast Centre for Research and Development at the Bluefields Indian and Caribbean University has led studies that warn that if the invasion by outsiders and destruction of the forest are not brought to a halt, both the Mayagna people and the native flora and fauna of Bosawas could disappear in two decades.

“The destruction of the forest would mean more than the end of an ethnic group; it would mean the end of the site where 10 percent of the world’s biodiversity is found,” she told Tierramérica.

The reserve is home to endemic species like the Nototriton saslaya salamander and the crested eagle, which are listed as endangered by local environmental organisations that point out that there are still many species that have not even been documented.

According to environmentalist Jaime Incer, an adviser on environmental affairs to the office of the president, if the destruction of the indigenous territory continues, “in less than 25 years the jungle will have completely disappeared.”

A study published in 2012 by the German development cooperation agency, GIZ, Nicaragua’s National Union of Agricultural and Livestock Producers (UNAG), the European Union and the international development organisation Oxfam warned that it would take 24 years to lose the forest in Bosawas and 13 years to lose the buffer zone around the reserve, at the current rate of deforestation.

Incer told Tierramérica that in response to the indigenous community’s complaints and the backing they have received from environmentalists, the administration of President Daniel Ortega, who has governed since 2007, has begun to take measures against the destruction of the forest. “But they have been insufficient,” he acknowledged.

Ortega ordered the creation of a military battalion of more than 700 troops to guard the country’s forests and nature reserves. The government also organised a committee of national authorities aimed at coordinating actions and applying a zero tolerance approach towards people and organisations accused of destroying the environment.

Alberto Mercado, the technical coordinator of Bosawas in the Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources, said at the Central American University in Managua on Jun. 10 that the government has been carrying out actions to curb the destruction of the reserve.

He said the authorities had removed dozens of non-indigenous families from the nucleus of the reserve, and that they had brought people to trial who were dedicated to illegally selling land in Bosawas.

Mercado said dozens of lawyers have been investigated and suspended for allowing sales transactions involving indigenous property. In addition, he said, the authorities have been combating trafficking in local fauna and flora.

“But the struggle is huge…traffickers identify the ‘blind spots’ and that’s where they make their incursions into indigenous territory, fence it in, claim it is theirs, and that’s how the trafficking of land starts,” the official said, sounding discouraged.

The complaints of the indigenous community have gone beyond national borders, and have reached international human rights organisations. The non-governmental Nicaraguan Human Rights Centre also filed a complaint with the Organisation of American States (OAS).

Vilma Núñez, director of the Human Rights Centre, told Tierramérica that she had denounced the situation faced by the Mayagna people during the 44th OAS General Assembly, whose main theme was “development with social inclusion”, held Jun. 3-5 in Asunción, Paraguay.

“The state and the government should guarantee the right of the Mayagna and all indigenous people in this country to live on their own land, and defend them from extermination,” Núñez said.

Social Justice Advocate Fr. Fernando Cardenal, S.J., Dies at Age 82

Ignatian Solidarity Network

nicaNICARAGUA – Fr. Fernando Cardenal, S.J., died earlier today, February 20, 2016 at the age of 82. Cardenal had entered a Managua hospital intensive care unit on February 9th.

Fr. Cardenal, born in 1934 in Granada, Nicaragua, led of life of advocacy and active commitment to the poor that emulated the Jesuit approach to injustice throughout the Americas since the Second Vatican Council. Continue reading Social Justice Advocate Fr. Fernando Cardenal, S.J., Dies at Age 82

Nicaragua canal protest: Thousands oppose Atlantic-Pacific plan

BBC

Unconfirmed figures put the number taking part at 15,000.
Unconfirmed figures put the number taking part at 15,000.

Thousands of Nicaraguans have held a protest against the planned construction of a canal linking the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

The $50bn (£32bn) scheme, being built by a Chinese firm, will be longer, deeper and wider than the Panama Canal.

But the demonstrators fear it will have huge environmental costs and force thousands off their land.

Nicaragua’s government says the canal will bring vital investment to one of Central America’s poorest countries. Continue reading Nicaragua canal protest: Thousands oppose Atlantic-Pacific plan

Thirsty in Nicaragua, the Country Where ‘Agua’ Is Part of Its Name

INTER PRESS SERVICE
By José Adán Silva

The people who live in the village of Santa Isabel in the western Nicaraguan department or province of Boaco have to walk long distances to fetch water from streams and wells, because nearby water sources dried up this year during the unusually long dry season. Credit: Courtesy of Jorge Torres/La Prensa de Nicaragua
The people who live in the village of Santa Isabel in the western Nicaraguan department or province of Boaco have to walk long distances to fetch water from streams and wells, because nearby water sources dried up this year during the unusually long dry season. Credit: Courtesy of Jorge Torres/La Prensa de Nicaragua

MANAGUA, Jun 4 2015 (IPS) – Nicaragua, the Central American country with the most abundant water sources, and where water – “agua” in Spanish – is even part of its name, is suffering one of its worst water crises in half a century, fuelled by climate change, deforestation and erosion.María Esther González is one of many residents of the Nicaraguan capital whose daily lives are affected by the water shortages. She lives in a poor neighbourhood in Managua’s District One, where piped water is now available for less than two hours a day.

González, the head of her household, hasn’t slept well for the past four years, because she has to be alert and ready when the water starts to run, any time between 11 PM and 3 AM.

She then has two hours or less to fill up a number of containers, wash clothes and clean her small home, before the pipes run dry again.

“For four years I’ve had to keep a vigil late at night to collect the water for our daily needs,” González told IPS.

But sometimes three days go by before the water runs, and Nicaragua’s water and sanitation utility, the Empresa Nicaragüense Acueductos y Alcantarillados (Enacal), has to distribute water in tanker trucks to many neighourhoods in the capital.

“People now have to walk long distances to find water, and those who can afford it buy water from farmers who have wells on their properties. The problem is that not everyone can afford to buy both water and food.” — Arístides Álvarez  In Managua – whose name also contains the word “agua,” – a city of 1.6 million people, the problem is more visible due to media coverage of the frequent protests by entire neighbourhoods taking to the streets.

But the shortage is a nationwide problem, and threatens the living conditions of the country’s 6.1 million inhabitants, and especially the rural population.

Arístides Álvarez, a member of the non-governmental network of Potable Water and Sanitation Committees, told IPS that in rural areas in central and western Nicaragua thousands of families used to depend on wells and rivers that have dried up.

The community organiser said, for example, that in some communities in the department or province of Chinandega, 140 km northwest of Managua, three rivers that supplied at least 1,300 rural families now run dry during the November to May dry season.

“Today people have to walk long distances to find water, and those who can afford it buy water from farmers who have wells on their properties,” Álvarez said. “The problem is that not everyone can afford to buy both water and food.”

According to Álvarez, rural families were desperately waiting for the rains that should fall in the May to October rainy season. But this May the rain was scant and sporadic.

Ruth Selma Herrera, the former executive president of the Enacal water facility, told IPS that another problem affecting water supplies is the lack of investment in the water system and poor water management.

“At least 150 million dollars are needed to upgrade the water distribution network, because the pipes are old and the losses due to leaks are enormous,” she said.

But no short-term solution is in sight.

El Niño poses a threat

According to forecasts from mid-May by the U.S. National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center, there is a 90 percent chance that the El Niño climate phenomenon will continue to affect Central America through the Northern Hemisphere summer and an 80 percent chance that it will last through the year.

El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is a cyclical phenomenon in which the surface temperatures of the equatorial Pacific rise and have repercussions on weather around the world as the currents flow west to east.

In response to warnings of a new drought, the Nicaraguan Foundation for Economic and Social Development sounded the alert about food and nutritional problems for the people living in the so-called “dry corridor” – an arid region in the northeast and centre of Nicaragua encompassing 33 of the country’s 153 municipalities, characterised by low rainfall and high poverty levels.

The concern, expressed in a report on the country’s economic situation for 2015 presented in April, is that in the dry corridor, home to over one million people, food production and consumption could decline again due to the drought-related loss of grains and livestock, similar to what happened last year.

In 2014 the central government sent emergency aid – food, water and medicine – to that area affected by the drought caused by El Niño, which periodically leads to drought on the western Pacific seaboard and the centre of the country, with a major drop in precipitation during the rainy season, according to the Centro Humboldt, a local environmental organisation.

The organisation’s concern was shared by the local World Bank delegation.

World Bank representative in Nicaragua Luis Constantino told the La Prensa newspaper that the Bank and the government were currently discussing a strategic plan for the dry corridor.

“We are focusing on water management programmes,” he told the paper. “We are proposing a conference (with experts) to discuss options for the dry corridor, mainly to ensure that local governments have enough water to supply the population, but also to discuss maximising irrigation possibilities for agriculture and livestock.”

Jaime Incer Barquero, a Nicaraguan scientist and adviser to the president on environmental issues, told IPS that climate change has been expressed in Nicaragua through the El Niño and La Niña effects, associated with drought and flooding, respectively.

This country has Central America’s two biggest lakes: the 1,052-sq-km Lake Xolotlán and the 8,138-sq-km Lake Cocibolca, also known as Lake Nicaragua. In addition it has 26 lagoons, over 100 rivers, four reservoirs and five of Central America’s 19 largest river basins.

Land degradation

Different organisations say the level of soil erosion in Nicaragua is 10 times higher than the maximum rate that permits an optimum level of crop productivity, and this is affecting the country’s water sources.

The International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) reported that Nicaragua’s soil is eroding at an irreversible pace because of the conversion of forest to pasture land for extensive grazing.

The maximum tolerable soil loss in the country is four tons (degraded due to poor agricultural and livestock management practices) per hectare per year. But in Nicaragua soil loss stands at 40 tons a year, CIAT researcher Carlos Zelaya explained during environmental workshops held in Managua in May.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) confirmed the magnitude of the problem.

“In Nicaragua land degradation is around 30 percent, and as high as 35 percent in the west,” said FAO food security facilitator in Nicaragua, Luis Mejía.

Incer Barquero, the presidential adviser, said that if erosion is not curbed, “in less than 50 years we’ll stop being called Nicaragua, and water will be a distant memory.”

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

More Fighter Jets in Nicaragua, Second-Poorest Country in the Americas

By José Adán Silva

 Nicaraguan soldiers unloading election materials from an Antonov 26 military plane, part of Russia’s cooperation with the country. Credit: Courtesy of the Nicaraguan army.

Nicaraguan soldiers unloading election materials from an Antonov 26 military plane, part of Russia’s cooperation with the country. Credit: Courtesy of the Nicaraguan army.

MANAGUA, Mar 14 2015 (IPS) – Nicaragua, the second-poorest country in the Americas, is tapping into its depleted coffers to upgrade its aging military fleet with costly new equipment from Russia – a move that has sparked controversy at home and concern among the country’s Central American neighbors.

The decision was officially confirmed Feb. 10 by the Nicaraguan army chief, General Adolfo Zepeda. Continue reading More Fighter Jets in Nicaragua, Second-Poorest Country in the Americas

One week back in “Normality” Chris’ early reflections on Nicaragua

CAFOD

Chris with children at the Sisters of the Guardian Angels in Managua
Chris with children at the Sisters of the Guardian Angels in Managua

Before Chris returned to the hustle and bustle of life at the Youth Mission Team near Consett, we asked him a few questions about his time in Nicaragua.
Just nine questions for now, although we’re sure that we’ll get to hear a lot more about his adventures and the people he met.
Continue reading One week back in “Normality” Chris’ early reflections on Nicaragua

Nicaraguans demand action over illness killing thousands of sugar cane workers

The Guardian

Families say government failing to address concerns that harsh working conditions are behind chronic kidney disease epidemic

Two men work in the fields of the San Antonio sugar mill in Chichigalpa, Nicaragua. Photograph: Estban Felix/AP
Two men work in the fields of the San Antonio sugar mill in Chichigalpa, Nicaragua. Photograph: Estban Felix/AP

In the blistering heat of Chichigalpa, the Sandinista heartland of north-west Nicaragua, weary men rest in shaded hammocks gazing at the endless rows of lofty sugar cane. The latest harvest weighs heavy on these communities that are being decimated by a deadly disease. Continue reading Nicaraguans demand action over illness killing thousands of sugar cane workers