With over three-fourths of its population living on $2 or less per day, Nicaragua is one of the poorest countries in Latin America. Despite the fact that Nicaragua is primarily an agricultural economy, many citizens still face a daily struggle to obtain adequate food for themselves and their families and nearly half (46%) of children suffer from chronic malnutrition. Furthermore, only about 25% of Nicaragua’s rural families have access to safe drinking water in their homes, and only one-third have access to adequate sanitary facilities (i.e. latrines), which together contribute to the country’s high incidence of childhood mortality from diarrhea and malnutrition.

For 21 years, PCI has implemented integrated development projects in Nicaragua, combining interventions in the areas of health; education; economic empowerment; water and sanitation; food and nutrition security; and disaster response and risk reduction. By taking an integrated approach to all of its programs, PCI ensures that community needs are addressed comprehensively and efficiently. Central to PCI’s success is its focus on local capacity building, which ranges from strengthening rural farming cooperatives to mobilizing schools to meet the needs of their students to training networks of community health workers. Through this approach, PCI ensures that the impact of its work far outlasts the lifecycle of any given project. Finally, as demonstrated through its creative and rigorous approaches – ranging from the development of regional agricultural training centers to post-project sustainability studies to assess long-term impact –  PCI Nicaragua is truly a learning institution at its core.

Since 2002, PCI has been working with small-scale farmers in Nicaragua to help them grow higher quality crops, sell their crops for the best price, and increase their family incomes. Building on the successes of its seven year USAID-funded Development Assistance Program, PCI’s current USDA-funded agricultural program is working to increase the incomes of rural farmers in seven municipalities in the departments of Jinotega and Nueva Segovia. Through this project, PCI is strengthening two Centers for Rural Development, which provide hands-on demonstration and training for agricultural producers to help them improve their production and sell their products at higher prices. The Centers provide an important platform for the effective transfer of knowledge and skills that are vitally important for empowering farming communities as the principal agents of their own progress.

For the past three years, PCI has been working with the Ministry of Health and local partners to improve family health in 353 rural communities in rural Jinotega, where poverty, acute malnutrition and stunting are among the highest levels in the country.  By training a network of hundreds of community health volunteers; educating families on good health and nutrition practices; and facilitating linkages to hospitals and clinics, PCI is ensuring better health for over 7,200 children under two years of age and 5,700 caregivers.

As part of this effort, PCI is specifically targeting 6,000 of Nicaragua’s most vulnerable children under two years of age who are highly susceptible to malnutrition. The project takes a multi-pronged approach by providing children with a high-protein food supplement, while teaching caregivers and other family members how to improve sanitation and hygiene practices, diversify their diets through urban gardens, and access health services.

With 12 years of experience implementing water and sanitation programs throughout the country, PCI has become an expert in the development of sustainable, community-managed water and sanitation systems. PCI is also a leading clean water advocate and is an active member of Nicaragua’s RASNIC network which promotes access to clean water and sanitation facilities. To date, PCI has constructed 117 water systems and over 2,450 latrines in local schools and communities, and has organized and trained 117 water and sanitation committees to locally manage water and sanitation systems.

For example, PCI recently completed a water project in the Mozonte community of Nueva Segovia department whose only water source was contaminated by arsenic, which put the 250 inhabitants of the community at significant risk for cancer and other serious health problems. Utilizing its community-led water and sanitation model, PCI helped to meet the water and sanitation needs of this community in a low-cost, sustainable manner. Central to ensuring the long-term success of PCI’s model are community contributions, which include assistance with the construction of water systems and latrines, volunteering time to be trained as community hygiene educators, and/or participation on the community-elected water and sanitation committee.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Agency for International Development, NicaSalud, SG Foundation

Click here to read PCI’s Nicaragua fact sheet.