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May 21, 2018

Second cycle bears sweet fruit

Danny receiving apiculture training
Danny receiving apiculture training

2018 marks the start of SosteNica’s second round of training for young Nicaraguan entrepreneurs. Our first group graduated at the end of last year, after seven months of training. This year, a whole new group of students have begun receiving preparation, having already received four formal classes. The social unrest in Nicaragua has had some negative impacts on the timing of our program but our students remain enthusiastic and committed.

As was the plan originally, last year’s top performers have begun receiving financial credit towards the launch of their new businesses. SosteNica is currencly supporting three of these rural businesses with technical assistance. We coach them in diversification of their fruit and vegetable crops high in demand at the local markets. We are also supporting young farmers who want to expand into honey production by taking on hives, following an extensive training in apiculture. Their goal is to sell, not only honey, but also value added products.

We recently interviewed one of these new bee keepers (Danny) for this report. Danny lives in the village of Copatepe, 8.5 miles outside of Nagarote.

“I attended all of the lectures and classes that SosteNica was offering during the past seven months. At the outset, I had no fixed idea of what kind of business I would start. I liked the idea of livestock because it’s something I have experience doing. But when I thought about bees, I realized that they, unlike cows, don’t have to ask permission to go into a neighbor’s farm. They are well organized, needed for the environment, produce quickly and generate income through the sale of the honey. Taking all this into consideration, I decided to start a small honey business, with the help of the Young Entrepreneurs program.” said Danny.

The Young Entrepreneurs Program has already supported Danny with $1,200 in seed funding to incubate his honey business.

He continued: “With these needed funds I was able to start my buisiness. I’ve purchased ten hives. I’ve stayed focused on the capital side of investments. I bought bee boxes, but not the bees yet. God willing, within a year my bees will have doubled their number and I will grow my business from 10 hives to 20.”

It's thanks to the support of donors like you that dozens of young entrepreneurs in the Nagarote area are receiving training, starting small businesses and contributing to the local Nicaraguan economy.  Isn't this the best way to protect the US from unwanted illegal immigration?  SosteNica, through your support, is helping young people to stay in their home country, proud of the creative work they are doing.

May 14, 2018

Expanding the Stove Program

Old smoky stove
Old smoky stove

38 year-old Geissel O. just made an important change for her family.  A resident of the semi-urban Orlando Cáceres neighborhood of Nagarote, Geissel makes tortillas to sell to her neighbors. She gets up every morning at three AM and begins her day by building a fire in the kitchen.  Her first task is to boil fermented corn ("nixtamal") to grind into meal ("masa"), which she then hand throws to make her tortillas. Until she learned about SosteNica’s “improved stove program” she boiled her “nixtamal” over an unvented, open fire inside her home (see photo above). She and her three children breathed particulate matter of cook smoke all day long, every day.  From now on, thanks to SosteNica, no more smoke in the house.

 “I have two wood-fired stoves for cooking” she told us. “One I use for making tortillas. That one is not too bad because it is sealed with a chimney to vent the smoke. But the one that I use for preparing the corn masa is hot, smoky and dangerous. It consumes a lot of firewood and really heats up the house. For this reason I sought out SosteNica, hoping that they would help me resolve the problems of wood scarcity and inhalation of smoke. They custom designed a single burner stove for me. It works great. I love it. I’m no longer breathing smoke all day and I’m not worried about my children coming into the kitchen and getting burned while playing around an open fire. And thanks to the revolving loan program, I am able to pay off the stove a little bit at a time.”

SosteNica’s Nicaragua based team has accelerated our stove program. Last month alone (April, 2018) we installed nine improved stoves throughout the region, expanding our service area to include two new communities: Candelaria - ten miles from Nagarote as well as Valle de los Jiménez, six miles from downtown Nagarote. Each stove installed, while customized to meet the needs of the individual family, seeks to meet four objectives:

  1. to reduce heat in the home and family exposure to high temperatures in the kitchen;
  2. to reduce the danger of accidental burns;
  3. to improve air quality in the home;
  4. to reduce the consumption of firewood which saves money and time for the family and protects the enviornment.

In addition, we remain vigilant about the cultural significance of kitchens.  Nicaraguans view cooking as an art passed down from generation to generation.  Even the location of a stove can have meaning for a family where a beloved parent or grandparent may have prepared gallopinto and tortillas daily.  At SosteNica we respect those values by honoring each family's history.  We customize every stove's look and location to preserve family tradition, while guaranteeing the highest quality technology to reduce smoke and firewood consumption.

Thanks to your gifts, we are bringing these improvements to more Nicaraguan families every month.  Please help us spread the word.  More donations means more eco-stoves in Nicaragua.

New Eco-Stove
New Eco-Stove
Nixtamal corn being cooked
Nixtamal corn being cooked
Proud Geissel hard at work making tortillas
Proud Geissel hard at work making tortillas

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Feb 22, 2018

Coming Alive

Garden students march in the Mother Earth Parade
Garden students march in the Mother Earth Parade

     Every year, the Nicaraguan national government awards the “Cleanest City in Nicaragua” prize. And every year, the prize is won by Nagarote. This year, SosteNica’s EcoCentro was invited by the Mayor’s office to participate in a parade honoring Mother Earth, thanks to our school garden efforts. EcoCentro’s multi-year project continues to garner attention and appreciation.

     Mario Alemán, delegate of the Ministry of Education for the municipality observed:  "SosteNica is doing so many things for our schools that we, as a ministry are not capable of doing. Sostenica has well prepared support teams, they supply tools and plants to our schools, and most importantly they transfer knowledge to our children. These kids are our future, and with the seed that SosteNica is sowing we have great hope for that future."

     Children from Valle de Jesús marched proudly in the parade: “This is the first time our school has received so much support. We never imagined that an organization would provide assistance, training and dedicate so much time to our children. Today we have SosteNica and my students feel that they are part of the organization. Their gratitude is so immense that they were willing to participate in the Mother Earth Celebration parade for the first time.” said a very happy Professor Hermongenes. She directs and teaches at the Valle de Jesús school.

     Each year, the school garden program adds additional schools. In 2018, the program will impact more than 600 children attending seven rural schools. That represents a lot of families, as well as faculty trained through the students. This year, thanks to ongoing and recurring donations we are adding Candelaria School to our list of participating schools. With the students, we have already begun building the new fenced in garden area.

     Unlike in the US, the Nicaraguan school calendar runs from February to November. December and January are vacation months. During the school vacations, most school gardens are deactivated until February when replanting begins.

    12 year-old Heysel and 10 year-old Yuri, two Valle de Jesús students, report that they are learning a lot.  “We are excited to reactivate our garden ... let's eat tomatoes, squash, watermelons, papayas. We are so happy. We don’t mind, even if we need to water the plants during vacation. Sometimes we go to school just so our plants do not die."

     That is true dedication. Students going to school during their vacation!

It
It's all about loving Mother Earth!

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