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Aug 20, 2018

Training Nicaragua's small business youth

Team Building, because no one can do it alone!
Team Building, because no one can do it alone!

Through our Young Entrepreneurs program, SosteNica continues to develop the local economy by supporting Nagarote’s youth interested in advancing their own small businesses. The program began just over one year ago, with the support of MLAL (the Lay Movement for Latin America). Based on the early success of the program, other organizations have asked SosteNica to teach their young people, using this constructive model. Compassion Ministry (Ministerio Compasión), an Evangelical Christian program in Nicaragua, is one such organization. Compasión supports youth development throughout the country. Their adult leadership visited our EcoCentro facilities to observe our Young Entrepreneur training. Shortly after their visit, we signed an agreement to provide services for 20 new young people to be trained using our concepts, ideas and technical assistance, prior to the launch of their small businesses.

Thanks to donors like you, SosteNica, together with MLAL, created a social loan fund in which every young person who completes the training process with a convincing idea qualifies for seed capital with which to start a small business.

For the past three months these young people have received training from our business specialist facilitators. Some of the new business ideas being developed include: cabinetry and wood working; a beauty salon; a bakery; and even a sea salt evaporation plant. A panel of experts will analyze each proposal, evaluating which projects have potential for success. The program goal is to incubate 20 then launch at least five new companies within the municipality. These businesses would generate employment (both direct and indirect), would help to grow the local economy and, above all, would support a cohort of young adults in developing their business skills.

One participant is 18-year-old Alexander. While many young people enter university with no idea what the future holds in store for them, Alexander began his university studies with a clear plan and intention. “My goal is to build a salt production company by the ocean. I am taking advantage of the opportunity that SosteNica is providing to sharpen my business plan. I will continue studying for a professional career, but I already have ambitious goals. SosteNica is helping me to focus my studies!” The recent social unrest in Nicaragua has made it difficult for many young people to get a start. As a result, some young Nicaraguans are choosing to immigrate to Costa Rica, Mexico, or the US. This program offers Alexander an alternative. Alexander continued: “I worried that I would not have adequate funding for my project, given that my start up costs are rather high. It’s possible that SosteNica will support me, if my project qualifies.”

"SosteNica definitely supports solid dreams if backed up with concrete plans," our director assured him. "We encourage young entrepreneurs with ambitous start up budgets to execute their plan little by little. No one can run without first learning to walk."

Several of the program participants have begun to craft funding requests for SosteNica to consider. SosteNica’s Entrepreneurship Facilitator – Professor Roa, noted: “We are ready to present the first business plans. With the support of Youth Leaders of Compassion, they have finalized their investment requests. We have conducted surveys to know which businesses are viable within an economic sector. We have quoted equipment prices and have visited each company’s proposed site. It is clear that we are supporting the development of these young people. Today, more than ever, we want to support Nicaragua’s youth.”

If you believe in the value of supporting small-scale, start-up businesses owned by young entrepreneurs, please donate to SosteNica and share this report with friends and family. The more money we have in the revolving loan fund, the more micro-business start-ups we can support. Thank you for your interest in this work.

Alexander wants to harvest Nicaraguan sea salt
Alexander wants to harvest Nicaraguan sea salt
No financial credit before completing classwork
No financial credit before completing classwork

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Aug 13, 2018

Collaboration for Greater Impact

Petrona with her old open fire kitchen
Petrona with her old open fire kitchen

One of the ways in which SosteNica amplifies the impact of our Eco-Stove project is by collaborating with other non-governmental organizations in Nicaragua. One such collaboration happened recently, working with Fundacion Vida (Foundation Life), a non-profit organization that supports the development of families in the Department of Masaya. Fundacion Vida asked SosteNica to teach them to build eco-stoves by doing a demonstration building project for several families in the community of El Comejen (the Termite), where more than 250 rural families have settled outside of Masaya.

Before agreeing to the collaboration our EcoCentro team visited the community to assess the need for, and the viability of, a partnership with Fundacion Vida. Our staff found most families cooking on open fires in enclosed areas, creating hazardous conditions of unhealthy indoor air quality as well as high risk of burns for young children.   At the same time, the signs of deforestation were everywhere evident. Anytime 250 households scavange for wood three times a day, the pressure on the natural world is extreme.

SosteNica’s team interviewed several residents of El Comejen about the situation. One campesino, Luis, said that while obtaining fire wood was not a hardship for him (he has a small farm with ample trees), his wife, four children and five grandchildren all suffer from smoke inhalation. Luis’s wife Petrona complained: “Even though I enjoy cooking, my eyes burn from the smoke, and sometimes at night I can’t breathe properly.” Our team confirmed that this situation was common throughout the community. Accordingly, they agreed to the partnership.

The model stoves were designed to demonstrate to the community the health and sustainability benefits of an enclosed fire box, with a chimney that vents smoke through the roof to the outside of the home. Because the stoves are more fuel efficient, residents will be burning less firewood and cooking food faster.

Don Luis’s family was one of those selected for the demonstration project. Prior to the SosteNica team’s arrival, he built a base according to the terms of the agreement. Our team drove two hours southeast, from Nagarote to Masaya, on the agreed upon day, where they found a base awaiting a new stove top. The family and other community members watched as the new stove design took shape. Petrona loved the stove, even before it was finished. She could see how much it would improve the quality of life for their family. Luis joked that the design incorporated witchcraft when the SosteNica team began to incorporate glass bottles in the body of the stove. Our lead construction mason explained that the bottles help maintain the appropriate temperature in the combustion chamber.

Like a cherry on top of an ice-cream sundae, as the stove came to completion, the chimney stove pipe was attached and passed through the kitchen roof.   Both Luis and Petrona shared with the construction team that this was the first time their family had ever had a proper stove in their kitchen. They promised to maintain the stove properly, thanking both organizations for helping them improve their quality of life.

By the end of the day, the SosteNica team returned home to Nagarote, satisfied that another community would be served by adopting SosteNica’s improved stove design. Having trained the team at Fundacion Vida, we are confident that the process will continue without need of our staff, other than occasional consulting. It was a beautiful day of teaching, helping families in need, and empowering a fellow NGO to promote eco-technologies in Nicaragua. This is, in part, what your generous donations continue to make possible for people in need. Many thanks to our donors. Every $50 donation adds one more stove to the Nicaraguan landscape. A small price for such a significant impact.

Stove construction process
Stove construction process
Luis & Petrona happy and proud of their new stove
Luis & Petrona happy and proud of their new stove

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Jul 23, 2018

Transforming Food Security

On April 18th the first of a series of protests began in Managua then quickly spread to other parts of the country including Nagarote, disrupting transportation, tourism and other parts of the economy and even school schedules.  "Despite this difficult situation, SosteNica - Nicaragua reaffirms its commitment to the School Gardens program.  It is with the rural children that we plant the seeds of agro-ecology, of reforestation and care for Mother Earth, since these are Nicaragua's farmers of the future.  They are the ones who will supply food to the cities years from now." said Ing. Mendez, SosteNica's Director in Nicaragua.

In this report, we highlight the stories of two students at the Silvio Mayorga elementary school who have become leaders in their School Garden program: Sugeig and Jackson.  Jessica, the mother of ten-year old Sugeig, runs a bakery in the village near the Silvio Mayorga school. As a baker, Jessica knows the meaning of dedication and hard work.  She observed that, thanks to the School Garden program, her daughter is learning the value of hard work and dedication to a cause.  Sugeig loves working in the garden and has become a leader of other students.

Similarly, 12-year-old Jackson loves his school's garden.  He was able to participate in the Silvio Mayorga garden last year.  This year, he has been put in charge of the irrigation system in the afternoons.  "Ever since I was a little boy, I enjoyed helping my parents with their farm work." said Jackson.  His teachers observe that he is always one of the hardest working students in the garden.  He and other students prepare the soil, sow, take care of the plants, including watering them, looking forward to the day when harvest can begin. "It is a beautiful thing to observe when students like Jackson shows love and enthusiasm for nature." says one of his teachers.

As a suppliment to the School Garden Program, in which six schools with over 600 students are learning, SosteNica has begun an effort to guarantee adequate nutrition to the schools disrupted by the unrest.  Any school that is not adequately supplied by the Government system with basic items for the daily snack, SosteNica will be supplying.  We hope that the unrest will resolve soon.

In the meantime, we continue to serve the students and teachers in new and creative ways.

 
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