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Dec 26, 2018

Scarleth's Vet Clinic

Scarleth makes her final presentation to the jury
Scarleth makes her final presentation to the jury

Although Scarleth is only 17 years old – the youngest in SosteNica’s most recent Young Entrepreneurs cohort – she already knows exactly where life will be taking her. “My older sister is an animal doctor. From a very young age, I knew that I too would study to become a veterinarian.” Scarleth joined SosteNica’s most recent class of Young Entrepreneurs with the proposal of starting a much-needed clinic for animals in Nagarote. She has already named her future clinic “My Little Mascot Veterinary Clinic.” She plans to serve rural as well as urban customers, offering services to the owners of cows, pigs, chickens and horses as well as to those with cats, dogs and birds. Her business motto is “Because Their Health Matters Too!” Scarleth was one of the top students in this year’s Entrepreneur group. She also leads her high school class in grades, which increases the probability that she will be admitted to University to study Veterinarian Medicine this year.

At the end of each training cycle SosteNica holds a juried presentation to decide which of the students will receive seed capital to launch their future business. Scarleth ranked among the top Entrepreneur students, although she will have to wait until well into her studies before she opens the doors to her clinic. Other students recognized for the quality of their projects included an aspiring baker as well as a future seamstress. When SosteNica looked at the variables determining why some students perform better than others, we found that many of the best-conceived projects are those where the Young Entrepreneur’s parents, or another family member already engage in the same business. Since the intention of our project is to encourage and support new business ideas, we have begun to ask ourselves, if the student is reproducing a parent’s already thriving business, are we indirectly supporting the parent, rather than helping to start a new business concept? It’s a delicate balance. On the one hand, we want to help young people get into business and succeed. If their family is also in the trade, the young person is more likely to get the support they need for sourcing raw materials, improving the efficiency of production, marketing and book keeping. On the other hand, we want to avoid the danger of simply strengthening an already existing business where the young person may find a job.

Nicaragua faces many challenges at the present moment. Young adults need all the support they can get to succeed in their chosen field. SosteNica’s donors help by funding the training program then providing seed capital for start up businesses. In effect, we are the angel investors that jumpstart new possibilities for creative young adults. In this holiday season, please give generously. Your gift could make a world of difference.

Jury hears presentations
Jury hears presentations
Logo
Logo

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Nov 12, 2018

New communities and new strategies

Nicaraguan children planting their future
Nicaraguan children planting their future

Every gift of $100 will plant 40 trees and build two stoves in rural Nicaragua.  Read more about how you can help.

"Chimneys and stove pipes have begun appearing on the houses around our village" noted Norma Elena, one of SosteNica's newest clients.  The village she refers to is Candelaria, a rural community 18 kilometers (11 miles) from the center of Nagarote, Nicaragua.  "The smoke coming from these chimneys attracts people's attention like a billboard.  Surely there will be more people interested in getting a clean, fuel efficient cookstove installed in their homes." she speculated.  "I hope that SosteNica will continue supporting us with this program.  My stove was one of the first to be installed and I am very happy with the results. My husband jokes that, now he will have a wife for many more years, because she no longer breathes smoke! It is very true. I get up very early every morning to make tortillas. The fire is burning, even while the children are sleeping. Before getting my new eco-stove designed by SosteNica, smoke filled our home.  There was no way to prevent my children from breathing it.  What a big difference now that the smoke is out of our house. I do not get so hot making my tortillas and our children don't have to breathe smoke. I'm going to tell all of my neighbors about the program so that they can get one too." 

When Nicaragua's economy recently tumbled into recession, many rural families found it impossible to afford even the modest  $100 price tag for a custom built eco-stove.  Thinking on their feet, the staff of the SosteNica EcoCentro found the perfect solution.  "If God gives us lemons, we will make lemonade!"  Leysman Mendez, SosteNica's Director in Nicaragua, organized a townhall style meeting to discuss one of Candelaria's glaring problems. The village has almost no trees standing.  Representatives of the 150 families living in Candelaria elected five residents to serve on a "community reforestation committee" to discuss how community members might help to solve the problem.  In their first committee meeting, they identified a number of village areas in need of reforestation.  They then created a list of people in town who might like to have a fuel efficient stove.  Their proposal -- each family that plants 20 trees (a mix of native hardwood and nitrogen fixers), donated by SosteNica, will get $50 knocked off the price their their stove.  SosteNica understands how micro-credit can help families with limited resources. By agreeing to pay for the stove in ten installments, a family can have a brand new Eco-Stove in their home for the affordable price of $5 a month.  Ten families immetiately signed up.  In the first reforestation effort, villagers planted 260 trees. In a show of good faith, SosteNica staff built the first ten stoves immediately. There is nothing better than lemonade on a hot day in Nicaragua!  Good work Candelaria.

One Reforestation Committee member noted the genius of connecting reforestation with the construction of fuel efficient stoves.  After all, they go hand in hand.  "Even as the stoves improve family health, they reduce the amound of wood being consumed.  If, at the same time, we are planting trees for the future, we are really doing something great for our community," commented one of the proud reforesters. 

Trees, especially young trees, capture carbon from the atmosphere. As far back as 2000, the IPCC issued a report which concluded that tree-planting could sequester between 1.1 and 1.6 gigatons of CO2 per year. Tree planting and reforestation were included as needed activities, eligible for finance under the Kyoto protocol. 

With your help, SosteNica could expand this program to other villages in rural Nicaragua.

Norma Elena
Norma Elena's new stove
Community Reforestation Day
Community Reforestation Day
Candelaria Reforestation Committee
Candelaria Reforestation Committee

Links:

Oct 22, 2018

Results triumph over superstition

Proud student farmer harvesting produce
Proud student farmer harvesting produce

The SosteNica School Garden Program began in 2013, as a pilot experimental project. Our goal five years ago, was to test whether elementary school students and their teachers would respond to practical lessons in self-sufficiency, combined with instruction regarding nutrition, soil science and small scale horticulture. Today the program is solidly established in 6 different elementary schools, serving more than 600 students between the ages of 6 and 12. The program is supported not only by the teachers of those schools but also by the Nicaraguan Ministry of Education, as well as by many of the parents of those children living in the surrounding areas.

For the first time this year, each of the six schools have begun competing with one another to see which school could produce the greatest amount of vegetables. Plants evaluated in the competition include: cucumber, tomato, green pepper, string beans and sweet corn. To everyone’s surprise, Candelaria -- the most recent school to join the network of SosteNica School Gardens -- won this year’s prize for sweetest and largest quantity of tomatoes harvested. By the end of the growing season, the Candelaria students had picked 105 pounds of tomatoes. The Candelaria students were led to victory by their teacher Erwin, who had himself received training from the SosteNica staff while working at a different elementary school five years earlier. At the beginning of the growing season, Professor Erwin had motivated his students by challenging them to lead the region in tomato production. “It was an ambitious goal, but by motivating everyone to work together, after five months we can see the fruits (and vegetables) of our labor. Mission accomplished!”

Parents of the Candelaria school children are also pleased to see their children having their diets improved by consuming a wider variety of foods than they have available at home. The children produce a wide variety of organic vegetables which they then eat with enthusiasm as part of their daily school lunch. Teacher Aurora added that when there are more vegetables harvested than can be consumed, the school offers the surplus produce for sale to parents at the end of the school day. Those vegetables go home to feed a school family, while the proceeds of the sale can be used to buy glasses, plates and silverware for the school. “Our goal for next year is to enlarge the garden by adding more beds, as well as to plant 100 hardwood trees. We plan to win first prize in the region as the best school garden!”

Another success from the past three months came from the village school of San Antonio, now in its second year participating in the School Garden Program. This year, the school inaugurated a new drip irrigation system, complete with pump and gravity fed water tower. Representatives from the Nagarote Mayor’s office, from the Regional Government, and from the Ministry of Education attended the ceremony, showering praise on SosteNica, the teachers and students of San Antonio for their dedication to sustainable food production practices. “This school garden is very large and is succeeding in producing not only nutritious garden vegetables, but also students who know how to grow crops other than the regional standards of corn and sorgum,” proclaimed Mario A., the regional Delegate for the Ministry of Education attending the ceremony.

At the same event, SosteNica’s Nicaragua Director observed “The great triumph of this School Garden Program is the extent to which communities have embraced the project and supported it with their volunteer labor. At the same time, two schools have been able to improve their school facility such that plants AND children have clean healthy water to drink. It is rewarding to observe students harvesting the crops they have produced themselves, then drinking water from a tap whose water is not drawn up from a well in a bucket but is hygenically delivered through a modern system of pump, gravity storage tank and pipes. This is an achievement made possible by the collaboration between donors, SosteNica staff, teachers, parents and students. Thanks to the friendship and hard work on all sides, we see concrete results” he added.

Kevin and Edwin, two students at San Antonio school, prove that the program is on the right track. Both boys always smile whenever they work in the garden. They work hard, and express curiosity, asking about the scientific names of plants, and enquiring about how best to help them grow healthy.

At times superstition interferes with education, even at the level of the school garden. One little girl, Alejandra, had been told by her family that she was born with a condition known as “hot hands.” Anyone with a “hot hand,” she was told, could not succeed in farming because whatever those hands planted would wither and die. She shared that information with the SosteNica staff, who immediately put Alejandra in charge of planting the school’s row of cucumber seeds. She beamed, two months later, as she showed off her row of healthy cucumber plants that were now producing cucumbers for the school lunch.

Pump Inauguration Ceremony
Pump Inauguration Ceremony
String beans anyone?
String beans anyone?
Elevated tank powers drip irrigation by gravity
Elevated tank powers drip irrigation by gravity
Harvest time
Harvest time

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