Sustainable Development and Wild Nature Conservation in NICARAGUA
Be a volunteer with the GAIA Program at Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve in Nicaragua. Special discounts for
and volunteering for selected dates through March 2017.
Hurricane Mitch killed thousands of people in Nicaragua, and left many thousands more in very distressed
conditions. Homes were destroyed, washed away, or declared unusable due to the acute risks of flooding. Relocated people traded
the risks of life with rising water for new challenges in new locations, such as a community which rose up in an abandoned field near
Laguna de Xiloá.
In the Chiltepe Peninsula, north of Managua across Lake Xolotlán, lies a burgeoning community of impoverished
settlers, along the shores of a gorgeous volcanic crater lake. These people, displaced from other sites in the Pacific region of
Nicaragua by hurricanes, other natural disasters, and the tragedy of immense poverty, occupy small plots of land without access to
public services or even jobs, in an area marked by drought. Laguna de Xiloá near them is threatened by contamination from all kinds
of inappropriate use of the lake and by erosion from the deforested mountainsides surrounding it. This lake is the only habitat for four
species of fish, and is part of the Chiltepe Peninsula Nature Reserve.
GAIA, in coordination with the Municipality of Mateare, the Japanese Embassy in Nicaragua, the Ministry of Education,
the Ministry of Health, and the local community, built a six-classroom school with anti-sismic design, electricity and water, furnished with
desks, tables and chairs for students and teachers, with electricity and running water, and a library containing 75 books of importance
according to the criteria of the Ministry of Education. In addition, GAIA coordinated with the Municipality of Mateare, the declaration
of public utility of the land, which was formerly private property, providing one manzana (1.6 acres) for the school and 0.5 manzana (0.8 acres)
for future construction of a health clinic.
The budget for this project of US$97,000 dollars was provided by the Japanese Embassy (US$85,000), GAIA (US$5000), the Municipality of Mateare
(US$5000), and the local community (US$2000).
The poor people living in desperate conditions here had very poor access to the typical services one would expect from
a residential settlement, however small: no water, no electricity, no nearby clinic, no school. The GAIA project working in the area on
the ecology and taxonomy of Laguna de Xiloá fishes added a new dimension to its work there, by teaming with the mayor's office of Mateare,
the Japanese Embassy in Nicaragua, and the local community to strengthen the local community leadership and develop a plan for development of
community services. The local community leaders recognized the greatest need in this rural community to be a primary school. GAIA worked
with the municipality of Mateare to identify an ideal area for a school, register the land in the name of the state, and then build
a attractive, new school on it for the benefit of the local children.
The school, named for a local family who perished during the insurrection along with Sandinistas who had hidden on their
property, was designed, constructed and inaugurated through a complex alliance of institutions: the Ministerio de Educación, which presented
a series of criteria on the characteristics of the property and structures for a new school; the Japanese Embassy, which presented funding
for construction; the Municipality of Mateare, which provided an architectural monitor and countless hours of accompaniment; the local community,
which organized to provide census information and aid in the construction; and GAIA, which solicited funding and managed the financial and
physical aspects of the school construction.
Within months, a six-room school with electricity and running water was operating, and for the first time, the children of
this rural community had a real school to attend in their own area! With this school, local children get an education their parents
could never obtain.
Would you like to see more success stories like the Escuela Rural "Héroes y Mártires de Xiloá"? Your
however small, will help us continue to help rural communities prosper and live sustainably.
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Amphilophus chancho, one of the fish species endemic to
Laguna de Apoyo, discovered by scientists working in a GAIA project. This species is easily
seen while diving in Laguna de Apoyo. Photo Ad Konings.
The Gaia Program experts support wildlife studies important to the economy of Nicaragua, such as the impacts of windmills on wildlife. A major
wind farm in Rivas is located along an important bird migration corridor. Photo
Spanish classes are often held under the shade of
huge trees with monkeys looking down. Apoyo Spanish School is the oldest of the intensive Nicaragua Spanish schools. Photo
A tour of students of Apoyo Spanish School to
Catarina, with the lake and Granada in view. Photo Belén Camino.
San Juan de Oriente, on the edge of Apoyo crater, is the most important center of
artisan ceramic pottery in Nicaragua. The Gaia Program supports natural resource conservation in the region which is vital
to the livelihoods throughout the area. Photo Jeffrey McCrary.
Scientific SCUBA diving in Laguna de Apoyo. The Gaia Program can provide logistical and scientific support for studies of ecosystems such as
freshwater lakes and rivers, and tropical forests. We arrange, coordinate, and support internships and scientific partnerships throughout Nicaragua.
Photo Topi Lehtonen.