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Nicaragua; exciting update from Dianova school as they start on their journey to self-sufficiency

As part of our technical assistance work in Nicaragua in July 2011 Teach A Man To Fish developed a business plan for the Esther del Río Las Marías school. The school was set up by Dianova Foundation in 1998, an international foundation specialising in education, youth, addiction prevention and treatment work, and the school is classed as a social protection centre, catering to many students with difficult backgrounds such as families affected by drugs, alcoholism and domestic violence. The school is in the town of Santa Teresa, in Carazo department close to the capital city, and has 148 secondary students, with around half the students boarding.   

The main school building

The director of the foundation was keen to offer an agricultural qualification to the students, seeing as the school is in a rural area and many come from farming families.  The school also had a large piece of land, around 30 hectares, which was not being used. After a visit to our La Bastilla school in northern Nicaragua, Dianova was convinced that they could set up a similar self-sustainable agricultural school in Las Marías.   

 

Teach A Man To Fish spent 2 weeks at the school working with the local teachers and students to choose the business units and do the background research for the plan. The businesses selected included dairy production, chickens, and pigs as well as crops such as maize, beans, plantains and vegetables. We handed in the finished plan to Dianova in September 2011 in order for them to begin work on this ambitious project.   

Going back to the school 18 months later, it was exciting to see the great progress that is being made! It was a doubly special occasion as Las Marías took part in our School Enterprise Challenge business planning competition during 2012, and won the prize for best school business in Nicaragua for their wonderful handicrafts business!   I had the privilege of awarding the prize to the students and then was lucky enough to get a tour of the school and the farm.  

 

So far the school has planted 3.5 hectares of yuca and 2 hectares of bananas and plantains. They have also undertaken an extensive reforestation project on the farm and distributed over 7000 saplings in neighbouring communities. A well has been drilled and a pump installed for irrigation, and the school has been growing rice, beans and maize for the boarding school kitchen. There are more crops growing which will be sold in future including citrus trees, dragon fruit (pitahaya), hibiscus flowers and taro root (quequisque).     

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yuca plantation                                                                        Seedlings in the tree nursery

In preparation for offering the new agricultural curriculum, work has started on 3 new classrooms funded by Japanese cooperation, and high-tech science equipment including microscopes for the lab will be paid for by the Swiss development agency.   

The school aims to add cows, pigs, vegetables and sorghum wheat this year, and offer the technical agricultural course to students from 2014 onwards.  This would mean that students have the chance leave school with their high school leaving certificate or bachillerato, as well as a qualification as an agricultural technician. This will really boost their prospects, whether they stay home and help their families on the farm, or go for further studies or employment. 

We will be keeping in close touch with the Esther del Río Las Marías school and supporting them on their way to self-sufficiency. Watch this space for more news and check out their site at: http://www.dianovanicaragua.org.ni/


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