Food Security in Nicaragua

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About the Project

Unearth the World (UTW) has partnered with an educational organic farm that uses permaculture design and agroforestry to support the rural economy and environment on the Isle of Ometepe in Nicaragua. (*Note: Permaculture is a design system for creating sustainable human systems. The aims of Permaculture are to create systems that are ecologically sound and economically viable.) The project’s goal is to promote food security locally and regionally and to educate and expose people to the possibilities of multi strata food production through demonstration agriculture on a model farm. The farm serves the local community through educational training opportunities, farm research and demonstration systems, seed banks/exchanges, living genetic tree ‘banks’ and pilot regenerative agriculture systems that are trialed on the properties of local partners. It also employs 25 local people who are essential to running the farm and are an important part of the community.

The farm’s robust volunteer program offers travellers experience-based learning that ties living in an ecologically and socially sound way with working alongside communities. Volunteers carry out a variety of tasks on the farm according to current needs.  The type of work depends on the season and the particular needs of the farm, but may consist of planting trees, harvesting fruit/vegetables, working on the garden or in the nursery, building terraces, digging swales, weeding, animal husbandry, organic fertilizing and pest control, building raised beds or watering plants and natural building projects. Longer-term volunteers can get involved in the ongoing advancement of larger projects.

Requirements

Volunteers must be 18 years of age or accompanied by an adult.  Groups are welcome.

Start/Duration

Dates are flexible as volunteers are always welcomed to this project.  Volunteers can spend anywhere from 1-52 weeks in Nicaragua.  Long-term volunteer placements and internships are also available.  (Please ask UTW about more details if this interests you.) Volunteers work together on the farm Monday through Friday from 7:00am – 12:00pm. Afternoons and weekends are free for volunteers to explore the island or get involved with other farm work, the community center and projects.

Accommodations and Meals

Life on the farm is rustic, but care is taken to make it as comfortable as possible. Lodging options include open-air cabanas/shelters, covered tent platforms, or a home stay in the local village.  There is also ample space for free tenting or hanging hammocks on the property (perfect for the dry season). The open-air cabanas/shelters include bamboo beds and a set of sheets, pillow and mosquito net. The shelters are normally shared with other volunteers of the same gender.

There is running water, compost toilets and solar power on the farm. Wireless Internet is available for volunteers who bring their own computer/device are able to use for Skype or other internet-based calling. Volunteers also have access to the farm phone if they need to make a call.

Volunteers have two meals cooked for them per day by local people and are expected to cook for themselves as a group in the evenings. Meals are cooked using fresh tropical fruits and vegetables from the farm, and other basic staples such as rice and beans, corn, eggs and fish.  The kitchen does close on Saturday evenings and volunteers typically eat together in town in order to support the local community.

Orientation

Volunteers will receive two orientations.  The first is before you even leave home!  Unearth the World staff believes in fully preparing volunteers for their travel experience.  So, prior to your departure, we will educate you about the country, customs, language, and project itself so you can have realistic expectations of the project prior to your arrival. Read more about Unearth the World’s global service-learning training curriculum here. Once volunteers arrive in Nicaragua, the project staff will provide another short orientation in order to acclimate you to your surroundings, give you guidance on the current needs of the project, and discuss the inner workings of the farm.

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About Nicaragua

The Republic of Nicaragua – the largest country in Central America – borders Honduras to the north and Costa Rica to the south. Known as the land of lakes and volcanoes, this varied country has a mixture of cultural traditions and biological diversity making it an interesting, dynamic and exciting place to visit. After gaining its independence from Spain in 1821, the country experienced years of political unrest, civil war and natural disasters. However, Nicaragua has experienced peace since 1990, and is now the safest country in Central America. Nicaragua has celebrated several successive free elections.

Despite all of this, Nicaragua is the least visited country in Central America and, so far, the most unspoiled!

Agriculture is the cornerstone of the economy constituting 60% of its exports and 17% of the GDP. The principal crops are corn, beans, sorghum, and rice. Tourism is the second largest industry in the nation and is increasing rapidly.

Nicaragua is one of the poorest countries in the Americas. According to the UN, 48% of the population lives below the poverty line and 79.9% live with less than $2 per day. This sustainable eco-tourism project aims to address poverty and conserve the environment by bringing jobs and income into the community and supporting local community driven initiatives.

Typical Volunteer Schedule

Volunteers work together on the farm Monday through Friday from 7:00am – 12:00pm. Volunteers break at 8:00am for breakfast and conclude around 12:00pm for lunch. Afternoons and weekends are free for travelers to explore the island or get involved with other farm work, the community center and projects.

A typical day might look like this:

  • 6:30 am:  Wake up and engage in a short meeting with other volunteers to plan out daily tasks.
  • 7:00 am – 8:00 am:  Begin work by doing a physical project before the day gets too hot.  Examples include building projects, watering plants, digging swales or feeding the chickens.
  • 8:00 am – 9:00 am:  Enjoy a home cooked breakfast of local produce and Nicaraguan specialties.
  • 9:00 am – 12:00 pm:  Continue working on your daily project alongside other volunteers and local staff.  The type of work depends on the season and the particular needs of the farm but tasks can include helping out in the kitchen, planting trees harvesting fruit/vegetables, working on the garden or in the nursery, building terraces, or various building projects.
  • 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm:  Enjoy lunch with the group and local staff.  This is a great time to practice your Spanish and get to know people from the community.
  • 1:00 pm – 6:00 pm:  Free time to explore the island or get involved with other farm work, the community center and projects.  Just ask UTW staff if you are interested in engaging in a special project during your afternoons.
  • 6:00 pm – 7:00 pm: Group dinner prepared by the volunteers.  This is a great time to use your new knowledge of locally grown food to get creative in the kitchen!
  • 7:00 pm: Downtime and bed

Typical volunteer week:

Workdays are Monday – Friday and are generally quite full.  When volunteers arrive on site, they will be introduced to the volunteer schedule so that they know what sort of projects are being done at that time.  Volunteers are free to enjoy and explore the island and surrounding areas during their free time on Saturday and Sunday.

Fees

At Unearth the World, we pride ourselves on being financially transparent so the volunteer can understand exactly where their money is going.  We have two different types of fees: a one-time application fee and general project fees.

Application Fee – $300 (USD)

This is the only money that goes towards Unearth the World.  This application fee includes the matching of the volunteer candidate with the international program, volunteer education and orientation, an information packet on volunteer program and country of travel, 24/7 support from UTW staff, program marketing costs, travel costs to inspect programs and communication costs with volunteer, and support from Unearth the World upon your return from your trip.

General Project fees: These vary based on length of stay (see below).

At this Nicaraguan project, these fees go towards:

  • Three meals a day, seven days a week for all volunteers, (except dinner on Saturdays when the kitchen is closed and volunteers go out to eat out in the local community).
  • The salary of the Nicaraguan workers with whom you interact daily.
  • The cost of maintenance of the program e.g. new beds, plates, cups, utensils, building upkeep, solar energy system maintenance, etc.
  • Projects led by the interns.

Length of Stay: Fees depend upon how long you intend to stay at the project.

Visitors – Two weeks or less (one week minimum). All visitors are expected to work in the mornings, though they are not required to partake in afternoon activities if they so choose. They do not have to participate in weekend animal chores but do assist in watering.

Short-Term Volunteers – Two weeks or more. They pay a bit less but are expected to partake in all chores and encouraged to participate in afternoon projects.

Long-Term Volunteers – Two months or more. Long-term volunteers are a vital entity to the farm as they help in all chores as well as afternoon projects and activities. After their third month they pay a reduced fee. Long-term volunteers who stay over three months have the potential to become interns.

Interns – Interns usually dedicate at least six months, although there are exceptions. Interns are responsible for completion of a specific project, and usually work on their projects during the morning and afternoon. They manage teams of volunteers and are expected to be leaders on the farm. Interns pay a reduced rate in exchange for their commitment.

* Optional cost for transportation to/from the airport with a trusted cab service: $120 each way.

Length of Stay Cost
> 1 week  $22/night
1 – 2 weeks  $20/night
2 – 4 weeks  $18/night
1 month  $440

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