Strengthening the social capital of small and medium-sized producers in the municipality of Mulukuku, North Atlantic Autonomous Region (RAAN) Nicaragua, by adopting production techniques that contribute to preserving natural resources and reducing vulnerability to climate change


The Municipality of Mulukuku has a population of 51,202 of which 78% depend on agricultural activity and there is a high rate of poverty (80%) in the population, according to statistics from INIDE, CENAGRO and the Mayor’s Office.

The poverty situation is not compatible with the fact that the territory of the municipality is one of the most productive in the country, with more than 50% of the families owning land and cattle and a large number, much more than the national average, owning farms of more than 7 ha.

The main cause of this unsustainable poverty situation is the lack of capacity of small and medium producers to influence the chain of manufacturing and marketing of the main agricultural products of the municipality. There is no local or regional agroindustry and the companies present in the capital, Managua, form a group with oligopsony power that pays the worst prices to producers, against the rules of a competitive market.

This situation does not allow investment in the improvement of farms or the creation of capital reserves for emergencies, and the effect of climate change in the form of drought in the last five years has worsened the vulnerability of the inhabitants of the municipality.

As a result of the lack of investment in sustainable production, producers continue to use the extensive livestock farming model that destroys forests. Deforestation is also an effect of the migration of producers from areas that were once wet or also due to the effects of climate change, suffering now of long periods of droughts. In the last 10 years, according to data from the Municipal Development Scheme and Land Management Plan (PDOTM, in Spanish), the population increased by 112% and the cattle population by 130%, while forests were reduced by 80%, which also affects the water supply for human consumption.

The project tried to intervene in the problem of strengthening the social capital of the producers, connected with the specific objective of expanding the effort that the Mayor’s Office had begun on Sustainable Agroindustry for Sustainable Production, by adopting productive techniques that could open the possibility for eco-friendly certifications, adding value to production.

The project was a cooperation between Central American Higher University Council (CSUCA, in Spanish) in the context of the project PRIDCA for Disaster Risk Management and Climate Change Adaptation and UNAN-Managua (National Autonomous University of Nicaragua), the Faculty of Matagalpa. Funding was provided by COSUDE and the project lasted 2 years from 2014-2016 and ended in the middle of 2016.

The project carried out its activities in close cooperation with local and regional actors, and from the central government. The Mayor’s Office, the women’s cooperative “María Luisa Ortiz” with 25 years of presence in the territory, the Network of Producers of the Municipality, neighbouring Mayor’s Offices such as Paiwas and Rio Blanco, and the Mayor’s Office of the indigenous population Prinzapolka were involved in the project, as well as the Government of the Autonomous Region and the Ministry of Economy and the Ministry of Education of the Central Government. Meetings were held with the embassies of El Salvador and Uruguay in an effort to coordinate actions for a Sustainable Agroindustry.

Activities included:

  • Training workshops with 383 people (almost half of them women) involved in agricultural production, on production techniques and in the need for an eco-friendly certified agroindustry to reduce territorial vulnerability and face the effects of climate change.
  • Organising a meeting with 1,500 producers and the participation of regional and central government representatives, mayors and the media, to present the Sustainable Agroindustry for Sustainable Production project.
  • Meetings in the municipalities of Paiwas and Prinzapolka with the municipal councils and producers, to consolidate the intention of alliance around the Sustainable Agroindustry project and reduce the vulnerability of the territories to climate change.
  • Implementation of practical training in reforestation of water sources and the delivery of 5,000 trees to producers, with the assistance of the Mayor’s Office and youth organisations of the Municipality.
  • Training with 98 people, including students of the program University in the field, young people and officials of institutions on Sustainable Production and Agroindustry, and in the need for Partnerships.
  • Meeting with the Ambassador of Uruguay, who was working with the government on a traceability project to improve livestock production and holding a meeting with the Ambassador of El Salvador and the Minister Counsellor on the creation of an alliance around the Sustainable Agroindustry project.


The participation of small and medium producers, the most important economic actors of the municipality, is the main indicator that allows the affirmation that the community in general had the feeling and conviction that the project was connected with their main needs and aspirations, and that they were the "owners" of the project, because they could have a decisive influence on its development. For the first time in their history, the producers organised themselves into a network of 10 commissions in 10 core communities, representing the 44 communities that made up the municipality. On this democratic organisational basis, the project developed its activities. The meetings in the communities allowed the use of the skills and accumulated practical knowledge of the population and the specification of local problems. The other major civil society actor, the women's cooperative “María Luisa Ortiz" with 25 years of experience in the territory and activities in defence of women's social and economic rights, helped in the involvement of women, even in isolated communities. The local government, the Mayor's Office, supported with the person in charge of environment and natural resources, especially in relation to training, with the participation of young people and activities of reforestation of water sources. The project was coordinated by a commission made up of the local government, the producers' network, the women's cooperative and the representatives of the University. The commission was open to the participation of other actors, such as religious leaders of different denominations without any exclusion. Decisions were made with consensus and the project was always related to the objectives of the Municipal Development Scheme and Land Management Plan (PDOTM, in Spanish).
Women were involved in the development of the project activities, both professionals in the urban centre and small producers in isolated communities, as well as young people, students from the University in the field and producers.
The monitoring of the changing situation in the municipality and especially the situation related to economic and productive vulnerability, worsened by climate change, is carried out by the same actors participating in the project within the framework of the commission for monitoring the objectives of the Municipal Development Scheme and Land Management Plan. The participation of the University, which has a permanent local representation in the University in the Field Programme, can help with the updating of scientific tools for the systematisation of knowledge and strategic action.


The funding of the project by COSUDE was necessary, but it was very small in relation to the objectives and scope. The use of local resources by the Mayor's Office, the producers, the women's cooperative and the University were the real support for all the activities, and mainly, the voluntary work of young people, professionals, producers and students. The continuation of the project depends on the capacity to advance in the alliances of the territory with other territories of the region organised in municipalities and to influence public policies in the regional and central government. While significant progress was made at the local level, the responsiveness of the regional and central government was not transformed into an auxiliary action. Without this action, the Sustainable Agroindustry programme cannot move forward, because there are systemic national obstacles in the agricultural export sector. It is possible, according to the Municipal Development Scheme and Land Management Plan, the imminent arrival of a local, regional and national agricultural production crisis, anticipated and intensified by the effects of climate change, and this crisis may lead to the necessary connection between local initiatives and public policies. The destruction of forests and violent conflicts between mestizo producers and indigenous people is still a challenge.
The population of the municipality accepted the project as a reinforcement of the objectives of the Municipal Development Plan and in a situation that seemed very difficult, almost desperate, it aroused hopes and expectations, because it was one of the few projects that connected climate change with a pragmatic plan for a Sustainable Agroindustry for Sustainable Production and was directed at the rural productive middle class that is the generator of jobs in the territory. Thus, the intensification of poverty under the effects of climate change was not addressed from a philanthropic perspective, but from a perspective of adding value to local production and generating employment. The resilience and vulnerability of the territory and of the population in general, is related to the economic and social situation of the productive rural middle class, which is the axis of production, and this situation ultimately defines the vulnerability of the weakest social groups. It is a bit utopian to believe that the vulnerability of the community is a problem that can be solved locally, when the origin and cause are mainly regional and national. CBDRM's strategy is needed to mobilise local forces and specify problems, but a link between the local and the national is needed, which can be created through a series of inter-local alliances. The agricultural crisis that can generate waves of migrants to neighbouring countries should also be a Central American concern, bearing in mind that most rural migrants are heading for countries such as Costa Rica, which doubtfully can create jobs to absorb a greater number of migrants.