Grupo Fenix is based in Totogalpa, a rural municipality in the northern Nicaraguan department of Madriz. We are proud to be a community organisation, run by the community, for the community. The majority of our staff, members and leadership team live in and have grown up in the communities of Sabana Grande and Santo Domingo, and they have been the focus of most of our projects. We also work in projects in the wider Northern Nicaragua region including the Departments of Nueva Segovia, Estelí, and Madriz with the vision to expand more into these areas and beyond in the near future.
Nicaragua, known as the land of lakes and volcanoes, has much to boast about. Like many of its Latin American neighbours, Nicaragua was conquered by the Spanish in the 16th century and remained under Spanish rule until 1821. The following independence was however anything but peaceful and in the following century and a half Nicaragua endured occupations, military dictatorships, revolutions, civil wars and natural disasters.
In recent years, as Nicaragua has stabilised becoming a beacon of peace in the region, and is now considered one of the safest countries in Latin America, tourism has boomed and millions of people flock to the country every year, attracted by beautiful coasts, lush scenery and some of the oldest colonial towns on the continent. While tourism has increased greatly in this beautiful country and is now the second largest industry, it is still the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.
The municipality of Totogalpa is the second poorest in the country, with 80% of the population obtaining their only source of income from agricultural activities, primarily from the planting of basic grains. Work in the fields varies in nature according to the season and weather conditions resulting in high unemployment rates in the community, especially in the dry season.
One of the greatest problems in the area is deforestation. It causes scarcity of water sources, especially for rural areas where people have to walk long distances in search for water during dry season. Due to mismanagement and indiscriminate cutting, 80% of trees native to the area have been lost provoking the appearance of plants that are typical to desert regions. The problem of deforestation has been extending throughout the country. Between 1990 and 2005 Nicaragua lost 21% of its forests with 97% of national consumption going towards cooking.
When we first began working in this community in 1999 the area was largely un-electrified relying on candles and gas lamps for lighting. Today, with the help of our solar installations and expansion of the electricity grid, all of our members, and a number of families in the surrounding area now have access to electricity.
It may have been the economic situation which brought us to Totogalpa, but it was the people, and their community spirit which kept us here.
Want to read more about the area? Check out these resources, including blog posts by some of our past visitors.