Nicaragua is the second poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere. Over 80% of the country’s poor live in remote, rural areas with minimal access to basic services. These individuals often live on less than $2.00 per day of income, which limits their ability to care for themselves and their families. The lack of basic services, in particular water, in rural Nicaragua often leads to health problems, including malnutrition, chronic diarrhea, organ failure, and other critical concerns. For those who do have access to water, families typically spend nearly 20 hours per week carrying water from wells to their homes, a responsibility that falls primarily on women and youth. In addition to a lack of potable water, many rural Nicaraguans are also energy insecure. Currently, around 1.7 million people in Nicaragua live without energy and therefore have no way of refrigerating food, pumping water or completing school work after the sun goes down. Alternatively, families may rely on kerosene lamps for light, which emit toxic fumes that can lead to serious respiratory illness.
Green Empowerment grew out of the legacy of Ben Linder, a young engineer killed in Nicaragua who was working on rural development projects in the 1980s. Rooted in this legacy we have established long-standing partnerships with two local NGOs to increase access to renewable energy and potable water through the implementation of micro-hydro systems, ram pumps and solar panels. To support the effectiveness of these technologies we have also worked closely with communities to develop and implement watershed management plans to guarantee a consistent flow of water. Based on the success of our current projects, we have also expanded our work to include the designing of and installation of improved cookstoves and patio gardens and provided trainings and capacity building opportunities for our local partners. Our work in Nicaragua has served as a model of how empowerment based and community rooted development can successfully tackle some of the world’s largest challenges.