Landscape Nicaragua

Nicaraguan Landscapes

Having lived for the past four years in rapidly developing countries, I have become interested in living in a slowly developing country. Nicaragua is the poorest country in Central America, according to the UN 48% of its population live below the poverty line, 80% on less than US$2 per day. Nicaragua has the greatest percentage of its area devoted to National Parks of any of the Central American states. The civil war of the 1980´s and the American government´s subsequent funding of armed groups opposed to the Sandinista faction has resulted today in a war-weary and cynical population (memorials to the asassinated are a commonplace, found even in rural school playgrounds), which with 48% underemployment does not show itself as optimistic with regard to the future, or indeed the present. An ideal place then, to adjust one´s professional and private view away from the serving of Mammon to something, perhaps, more useful.

I have visited two biological stations in the two months I have been here, one based in the National Park of Laguna de Apoyo, the other in the National Park Penas Blancas. The first is part of Nícaragua’s astonishing lowland landscape of extinct and active volcanoes, many of the extinct ones now deep lakes, the second part of the upland landscape of cloud forests. Both are staffed by volunteers, living conditions are very simple, morale is high, the people are mainly young and all enthusiastic. The stations have specialities, at Apoyo it´s the endemic lake fish, at Penas Blancas it´s bees and orchids: both stations though interest themselves additionally with the widest range of the flora and fauna which surrounds them. Both are also primarily involved in simply finding out what is there and how it´s changing, there is little hard information to be had at the most basic level, they are collecting much raw data that no one has taken the time to do before. One meets Dutch and German students, either self-funded, or on government grants, but local people are the backbone of the effort. For young people (and older ones, too) tired of boring jobs, lack of motivation and opportunity and wanting to make a positive contribution to something, somewhere, this would be a place to come. Get dirty, get bitten, work hard, rise early, sleep early, learn Spanish and be part of a collective, forward-looking group of people: where in recession-ridden Europe is all of that on offer?

3 thoughts on “Landscape Nicaragua

  1. Tom Turner

    There are so many parts of the world I know nothing of. So it is very interesting to hear news from all of them. Re development and economic growth, I am heading for the view (ie not quite there yet) that it is a bad thing. Should this be correct, we could regard ‘recession-ridden Europe’ as a goal to inspire the rest of the world. History has not seen many societies in which millions of people can lead relatively comfortable lives with education, housing, food, heating, health-care, old age pensions etc paid by the governments. The Guardian, for example estimates the number of ‘unemployed’ in the UK at 6.9m. Sometimes, I yearn for negative ‘growth’ in the UK population and in GDP/head. As in Japan, we could enjoy the sight of properties falling vacant and perhaps even the expansion of green belts. Would this be good?

  2. Lawrence Post author

    Whether good or not, I think that Europe will have to learn to live with the current status quo, and probably worse. And perhaps it´s easier to wish for negative growh from a position of relative financial stability? Instead of negative growth under the current system of things, perhaps what you mean is a more equitable distribution of wealth?

    Nicaragua has not had the ability of, say, Costa Rica, to exploit its natural resources for tourism and retirement homes because it has been so politically unstable. The interesting question now is, which way will it jump? It urgently needs funds. None the less, and to my great surprise, nature conservancy is in the ascendancy. For example, Nicaragua´s unique turtle beachs are guarded by the armed military, to the dismay of the local turtle egg businesses. It is hard to see the political advantages in terms of votes that might accrue from these kind of governmental acts, just as extending the green belts might be viewed in Europe. None the less, there does seem to be a very “green” power active at the highest government level in this country, despite malnutrition and a poor supply of education at the grass roots level.

  3. Tom Turner

    It is definitely a political issue and opinions will differ. A (‘conservative’) US think tank reports that 60m Americans (out of 280m) live in welfare dependency. It is an astonishing figure. While it is true that almost everyone wants more money it is hard to know the extent to which this is a relative desire, rather than an absolute need. The project I have been working on in Ladakh has given me a glimpse of a society which was stable for a very long time and is now growing economically, because of tourism and because the Indian army is spending a lot of money to defend the region from China. Is the new money making for a better life? Heaven knows – but Helena Norberg-Hodge thinks it is making life worse. The older generation lived in peaceful rural bliss, she thinks. The younger generation has learned the ‘delights’ of driving taxis, riding motor bikes, taking drugs and hanging about on street corners. Which is best? And is the influx of immigrants from India benefitting the country? They certainly have technical skills not available locally. Also, they like the relatively cool (by South Indian standards) summer temperatures. Much better for playing golf – so agricultural land is being converted to this land use.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *