The Greenhouse Program in Nicaragua

Deyanira Alanis in her Greenhouse - Began in August 2015

Deyanira Alanis in her Greenhouse – Began in August 2015

Nicaragua is the poorest country in Central America. A large portion of the population suffers from malnutrition. Over 20% of children under age five suffer from stunting.  The purpose of our project is to improve nutrition and incomes in poor, remote communities in Nicaragua through the dissemination of low-cost greenhouses proven to help families produce organic vegetables, giving them access to economic opportunity in a growing organics market. In 2014, Namlo began promoting a locally-produced, low-cost greenhouse in Nicaragua on a pilot basis. We now seek to create models for expansion of this “organic greenhouse” market approach throughout Nicaragua.  In 2016, Namlo will help 50 families each year acquire a greenhouse and continue to work with 26 who already have one.  We will provide training in organics, conduct nutrition education, build market linkages, and measure the productivity of families to create a model for replication and expansion throughout Nicaragua.   In 2016, 76 families will produce $39,500 worth of organic produce, and will include vegetables in their daily diet.  Participants will increase incomes between 20 and 40 percent.   With the University of Nicaragua, we will create baselines for measuring impact on the family’s nutritional status and change in diet.

Jose Polanco - Greenhouse user since November 2015

Jose Polanco – Greenhouse user since November 2015

Categorized as a low-income, food-deficit nation, Nicaragua is the second poorest country in the western hemisphere.  The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reported that more than a fifth of the overall Nicaraguan population (22%) was malnourished in 2005.  The World Health Organization reported that for 2006 over 26 percent of children under five years of age suffered from stunting. In the process of working with schools in Nicaraguan communities since 2004, Namlo staff noted the impact that poor nutrition has had on academic performance of students. In 2015, Namlo International partnered with the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua to investigate the nutritional status of residents in Namlo’s target communities. In this study, field researchers discovered that poor nutrition in the communities was also coupled with a growing risk of obesity due to access to processed foods and snacks.

Hazel Blandon

Hazel Blandon

In 2014, Namlo International began an initiative to tackle the twin issues of poverty and poor nutrition by seeing if it was possible to tap into the increasing demand for organic vegetables in Nicaragua, and combine this opportunity with the entrepreneurship of poor rural families as producers.

To protect against insects, the only commercially available greenhouses cost over US$1,300, well out of the range of the average family.  To counter this challenge, Namlo partnered with Global Community Innovations (GCI) that had been prototyping a low-cost (material cost of $250) greenhouse for many years.  Namlo and GCI devised an initiative to provide a package to poor families that would combine a greenhouse, training in organics, and links to downstream market opportunities.

Flavio Cardoza Family - Greenhouse Owners since July 2015

Flavio Cardoza Family – Greenhouse Owners since July 2015

Families who installed greenhouses went from eating vegetables once a month, to daily consumption. Based on the success of the program’s initial  families, Namlo plans to expand this program to additional families in Nicaragua.  In order to combat trends identified in a study done in partnership with the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua (UNAN) in 2015 it was concluded that Nutrition Education needed to be included as an essential component of Namlo’s approach, since rural families not only had limited experience with growing and eating vegetables, and the awareness of poor nutrition was very low.

In 2016, Namlo will

  1. Improve dietary diversity and nutrition by increasing household vegetable production through the dissemination, use and adoption of small-scale greenhouses to 100 new participating families (and 26 from previous years), increasing their vegetable consumption from monthly to daily.
  2. Establish training curriculum for certifiable organic vegetable production techniques
  3. Provide installation and ongoing training and support in organic techniques, enabling families to become proficient in production.
  4. Conduct nutritional assessments, outreach and nutritional education for users and non users
  5. Increase household incomes between 20% and 40% among the 30+ families per year by helping them tap into growing market demand for organic horticultural products and improving market linkages. Namlo will  help families collectively access markets by organizing transportation, storage and marketing facilities.

    Namlo's Agricultural Trainer Don Vicente with Gerardo isaguirre - user since July 2015

    Namlo’s Agricultural Trainer Don Vicente with Gerardo isaguirre – user since July 2015

  1. Expand monitoring & evaluation & data collection protocols for Namlo to document impact, and create plans to bring the approach to scale, locally in Nicaragua and regionally in Central America.
  2. Identify market opportunities, gaps, constraints and approaches to disseminate the greenhouse and begin building marketing and supply chains.
  3. Document farmer reaction to and use of the greenhouse, their usage, productivity, output, problems, challenges and recommendations
  4. Identify local and regional market opportunities and gaps for vegetables, cash-crops and seedlings in initial target areas, and analyze the value chain to determine ways to link local families to markets
  5. Conduct analysis to determine affordability, pricing (wholesale/retail) and opportunities to bring vegetable production and greenhouse dissemination to scale, involving a combination of private and public sector partners.
  6. After year one, participants will generate a cumulative $39,500 worth of vegetables and $67,000 in year two. After paying 10% down, at least fifty families will pay the balance on the $250 greenhouse, generating $15,750.
Flavio Cardoza  and his family - Greenhouse user since July 2015

Flavio Cardoza and his family – Greenhouse user since July 2015

Since 1999, Namlo International has successfully used a broad range of approaches in Nepal and Nicaragua including education, economic development, women’s empowerment and infrastructure  improvement to build communities.  Namlo International began activities in Nicaragua in 2006. Namlo began it’s greenhouse project at the end of 2013, building on the work of GCI in Las Palmas.  Over 20 greenhouses were installed by GCI in Las Palmas over a seven-year product development period, and Namlo installed 26 in 2015.


Damasio Machado Rizo - now growing vegetables since December 2015

Damasio Machado Rizo – now growing vegetables since December 2015

This project taps into the growing market demand in Nicaragua for organic produce and uses the demand as an economic opportunity for poor, rural families so they may increase both their health and incomes.   Namlo targets individual families so they can determine for themselves if they want to invest in a greenhouse as an entrepreneurial activity.  Families typically put 10% down on their greenhouse.  With training from Namlo, rural families can engage in a growing market, which will provide nutritional benefits, as well as contributing to the growth of the organics sector in Nicaragua as a whole.  Namlo also seeks to put this effort on more of a sustainable commercial footing, and will be identifying ways to establish marketing, supply and distribution channels to create sufficient demand to attract private sector participants. The participating families themselves will become active promoters – and stakeholders – of the program, leading to an increasing demand for the greenhouses.

Santos Machado - User since December 2015

Santos Machado – User since December 2015

We project that after two years, at least 50% of participants will pay back the cost of the greenhouses, valued at $15,750. Complete repayment would total $31,500.  The speed at which participants pay back greenhouses is related to our ability to create market linkages for them, and how much of their produce they consume and sell.  At the end of two years, we will produce a model for expanding this program throughout Nicaragua in a manner that includes a significant amount of cost-recovery, has decreasing subsidy over time, and has a clearer trajectory to sustainability.  Over three years, we project that the project will have generated $202,000 for 126 families.

We can do all of this only with your help!  The total annual cost of the program is $140K, and we need your support.  Join us in this effort to bring better nutrition and quality of life to people in poor, mountain communities of Nicaragua, and help support the growth of the organics markets at the same time!

With a $250 Contribution You Can Cover the Material Costs of One Greenhouse

The Total Package (Greenhouse, Installation, 1 Year’s Organics Training = $585

The Value of the Vegetables Grown Per Year = $600