Executive Director’s Update: Rediscovering Namlo’s Communities in Nicaragua – Part II

A basic step in doing community development work regardless of where it is being conducted, is to have some baseline information against which you measure your efforts. Back in March we implemented two surveys in the communities where Namlo has operated since 2006 – Los Pinares, El Quebracho, El Salmeron, and Barrio Nuevo. What follows are some of the findings from our communities, summarized by Marydean Purves, an international development consultant:nicaraguan kids

“Respondents appear to have long-term roots in the community, and in the home they currently occupy. Almost half (48%) have lived in their village for more than 20 years, and over half (58%) have been in their dwelling for a minimum of 6 years.

  • The vast majority (89%) of the respondents own their home
  • Mobile phone ownership in the NAMLO area is 51%, compared to a national average of 89%
  • The principle source of income is generated through agriculture, and much of that appears to be not as a direct landowner/producer but in the form of daily labor, likely on coffee and/or tobacco plantations. The national percentage of the labor force in agriculture is 13% (FAO, 2013). Women are 8% of the agricultural labor force
  • Respondents self-ranked their income level on a scale of low, medium, and high. According to national statistics, 48% of the Nicaraguan population falls at or below the national poverty line , and 41% are in the multi-dimensional index for deprivation. The respondents in these communities consider themselves extremely deprived by comparison. According to the national OPHI/MPI indicator, only 5% of the population is ranked as ‘extremely deprived’.

Self-ranking income category
Community                Low         Medium          High
Los Pinares               69%          29%                 3%
El Quebracha            73%         28%                 0%
El Salmeron               79%         21%                  0%
Barrio Nuevo             78%         22%                  0%
AVG                             75%         25%                   0.8


The state of education in Nicaragua is one of the country’s most pressing concerns. This is reflected in the data from the NAMLO communities. One third of the respondents have no formal education at all. Considering that over half of the respondents were between 20 and 39 years, only half have any formal schooling (52%). School attendance by children is 79%. If the data reflects primary school-age children in the households, these communities are significantly below the national average of primary school enrollment (98.5%) Functional literacy in Nicaragua is still the second lowest in Central America, at 78% (ECLAC 2012). The respondents fall into the 30-32% of persons who cannot read or write.”

As you can see from the selections above, sometimes surveys result in more questions being raised than answered. The information collected in our surveys will give us some clues and ideas as to how to work in our communities in the coming months and years, but a lot of this remains to be worked out through the process of engaging directly with community members to create a vision for the community.

To jump start Namlo’s re-engagement process, and to respond to the interests of our largely agricultural communities, we are launching our “Greenhouse Project” that is designed to address the issues of poverty and poor nutrition. Last year we came across a low-cost, household greenhouse developed and designed by Tim Gibb and his staff at Al Campo International (ACI). ACI began developing these greenhouses as a part of student-led development initiatives in Nicaragua more than 2 years ago. These greenhouses provide a low-cost, low-risk way for small scale farmers with limited resources to improve their family diet and raise the family income.  These greenhouses have enable subsistence level farmers the ability to increase their vegetables intake from as little as once a month to as much as three times a day. Moreover, greenhouse owners have seen savings in their food expense, and surplus crops are sold in the market to bolster the family’s monthly income.

Greenhouse users have also seen a savings in other areas of their lives. As their nutrition improves the need for medical attention is reduced, turning that expense into more available money for food, education or investment. Other farmers, seeing the financial potential of the greenhouses have used them to grow seedlings which are transplanted onto larger parcels for cash crop production. Not only do they see an instant savings of $400-$500 by growing their own seedlings rather than purchasing them from an outside entrepreneur but they also see an improvement in the quality of their crop which brings them a higher yield in the local market.

Namlo has brought Tim on board to help us develop the Greenhouse Project in Namlo’s communities. Namlo expects to install 10-12 greenhouses among the 4 communities as part of a pilot project, announced on our crowdfunding site, https://www.crowdrise.com/FoodforFarmers.  We intend to use the Greenhouse Project as the first of many projects that build on the needs – and the strengths – of our communities.  As we begin to rollout this project, we’ll be inviting you to offer ideas and suggestions, and to directly participate.   Please join us for a 10-Imageday volunteer service trip in the first week of August, during which we will launch this exciting and ground-breaking project.