Thursday, June 13, 2013

ProNica, Nicaragua: Food Security Initiatives in Adapting to Climate Change

Cacao tree nursery, agroforestry project
in Rio Blanco of Women's Cooperative

My name is Laura Hopps. I’m 28 year-old Friend from Yardley, PA, alumna of George School, and more recently Harvard Divinity School. This past year, I started as Program Director of the Quaker non-profit ProNica and live in Managua, Nicaragua. 

It's wonderful to meet the other grantees here and learn about their inspiring work in creating rooftop gardens, organic farming, mapping of reconciliation efforts in Rwanda, supporting Quaker camp programs, and increasing access to summer camp for kids of color. All great initiatives from all over the country and the world, and I look forward to learning more about them as the year progresses! 

Here's a bit of background on ProNica and what I hope to use the funds from the Pickett Endowment for in the coming months:

ProNica Origins
Check us out on on Facebook!: here

ProNica was born out of the U.S.-backed Contra War of the 1980s in Nicaragua, when a dedicated group of Friends from the St. Petersburg Meeting gathered to stand in solidarity with the Nicaraguan people. In opposition to the war and economic embargo the U.S. imposed against Nicaragua, these dedicated Friends began collecting and shipping material aid to communities in need.
Laura Hopps and former ProNica
Program Director, Lillian Hall, July, 2012
For almost 30 years, ProNica has been working in solidarity with grassroots Nicaraguan community partners to support initiatives that they identify as the highest priorities for meeting their people’s needs. ProNica also organizes educational delegations and service-learning programs for people from the U.S., including high school and university groups, and Friends Witness Tours, to learn about Nicaragua’s history, the Revolution and its legacy, and the innovative ways that grassroots organizations continue to struggle for change.

ProNica supports Nicaraguan grassroots organizations focused on:
  • Sustainable agriculture initiatives and community organizing 
  • Women’s health, rights, and empowerment
  • Children’s rights and rehabilitation of street children
  • Access to education and community-based educational programs
My Project: Investigating Food Security & Agroforestry Initiatives as a Response to Climate Change and Environmental Destruction

With the support of the Pickett Endowment, I will be conducting research on organizations involved in food security initiatives in Nicaragua. In a 2012 report from the climate change research institute German Watch (report, Nicaragua was listed as among the top 4 countries in the world already most impacted by climate change-related extreme weather events.

This grant will enable me to learn more about food security initiatives in Nicaragua today so that ProNica can facilitate information to our community partners working in agriculture and identify potential partners focused on these issues. Unlike conventional agriculture that depends on mono-cropping of annual crops, agro-forestry, simply described, means increasing dependence on tree crops. Tree crops planted in dynamic and diverse systems (sometimes described in terms of "permaculture") have many benefits over mono-cropped annual plants including supporting reforestation and: 
  • Regeneration and protection of soils depleted by conventional agriculture
  • Protection of groundwater
  • Creation of wildlife habitat and support for dwindling biodiversity
People in Nicaragua have already begun to feel the effects of increased frequency and intensity of hurricanes each year, with the harshest in 1998 with Hurricane Mitch and in 2007, Hurricane Felix. Both extreme flooding and droughts have increased in the past decades, as predictable growing seasons have been thrown off, endangering food staples. As the second poorest country in terms of Gross Domestic Product in the Western Hemisphere, Nicaraguan communities are very vulnerable in the face of climate change. 

Already in recent years there have been food shortages when an untimely flood has ruined bean crops nationally, and other variants have caused food prices to go up. In a country where 80% of the population lives on less than $2 a day, most Nicaraguan families cannot bear increases in the principle staples of rice and beans. Many working in the area of climate change, such as the Nicaraguan research institute Centro Humboldt, list the promotion of agro-forestry, permaculture, and seed-saving of native seeds among the top strategies to improve food security in Nicaragua. 

With the support of the Pickett Grant, I will learn more about climate change adaptation strategies already being implemented in Nicaragua that improve food security.

Laura (center) with leaders of the Women's Agricultural Cooperative of Rio Blanco and Oficina de la 
Mujer Domestic Violence network. ProNica has support their initiative to accompany survivors of violence for several years.
 The women are now engaged in a project to plant cacao as an attempt to increase 
revenues in the community as well as to support reforestation - June 9, 2013


  1. Great to see you connecting with other Pickett grantees through the blog! Very excited to hear more about the project's outcomes.

  2. Can you cook traditional food from your country? then check out this competition where you can win an iPad mini: