Where we work
El Sauce, Nicaragua
Los Altos de Ocotal, Nicaragua
The country of Nicaragua, in the heart of Central America, is often known as the “land of lakes and volcanoes.” Between its rich history, beautiful scenery, and variety of activities, the country has become a top traveler's destination for those seeking a unique and gratifying experience. Many urban areas are developing a budding middle class and the political landscape has now been stable for over thirty years, placing Nicaragua among the safest Latin American countries.
Visitors who travel to Nicaragua are amazed by the natural beauty of the countryside, the presence of a rich historical background, and the friendliness of the entire population. The country offers a range of beautiful beaches, jungles, volcanoes, mountains, lakes, and farms. The cities of Granada and León contain colonial relics and are among the oldest cities in the continental Americas. The East coast contains a mixture of Spanish, English, African and indigenous traditions. Throughout the country, family is highly valued, along with a general kindness and willingness to help others in need.
To truly experience Nicaragua, it is necessary to travel and interact with the people of the country. There is a high potential for growth and development, which can be seen by all those who have spoken with the bright, intelligent, and hopeful locals. Since the revolution, strides in education, literacy, entrepreneurship, and health and wellbeing, are moving the country ever-forward.
Despite its growth, Nicaragua remains the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Outside of the larger cities, some areas still do not have paved roads, electricity, or potable water. Agriculture continues to be Nicaragua’s primary export, growing products such as coffee, bananas, sugarcane, rice, corn, tobacco, beans, beef, dairy products, and cotton. The majority of Nicaraguans work in agriculture or in various services, although both unemployment and underemployment remain high.
The rural municipality of El Sauce lies in the north of the department of León, where the main street into town weaves between beautiful scenery of mountains and farms. With an economy based in agriculture, it is common to see horses, cattle, pigs, and other livestock walking through the streets alongside cars and motorcycles. The region’s farmers are known for the quality of their honey, cattle, and milk production, as well as beans, rice, corn, sorghum, and cotton.
The municipality is divided into 16 communities with a population of about 32,000 people, and an urban center of about 12,000. Residents are known for their friendliness and hospitality, which has brought many back to visit over the years. Since the 1990s, when Nicaragua’s train system was sold, El Sauce has seen a decline in economic prosperity. Few job opportunities are available, and most people in the urban area work in small shops or in the health and education sectors, although employment is limited. The urban center contains a hospital, a maternity ward, various sports stadiums, and offices for the mayor, health, and education departments. There is one bank in town.
El Sauce´s most historic site is the Catholic Church at the center of town. It is here that the famous traveling Black Christ crucifix found its permanent home in 1723. Between twenty and thirty thousand pilgrims from across Central America travel into town every year for a two-week celebration in January to honor this saint.
Enlace Project proudly works in El Sauce because it is a safe and friendly community with a great potential for economic growth. Despite the limited opportunities the municipality offers for residents, the community has shown its enthusiasm for development which has helped the community see improvements in recent years.
Situated high above the valley where El Sauce is located, the community of Ocotal offers breath-taking views, a cooler climate, and close contact to nature with pine and deciduous forests surrounding the rural community. About a 45 minute truck ride from the center of El Sauce, Ocotal is in the same municipality. For generations, the residents have been primarily farmers of corn, beans, rice, and coffee, as well as raising animal such as cows, pigs, and chickens. Others with more land sell timber from pine trees. Most people travel on foot and horseback on the unpaved, rocky roads. The average annual income for the area is below $1,000.
The residents in and around Ocotal have limited resources for health care and education. Many residents must walk for an hour or more to reach the nearest health post. While more schools are appearing in Ocotal, recruiting teachers is still a tough process. Nonetheless, the charm and eagerness of the local population continues to inspire development in the area.
Recently, Ocotal has seen the growth of cooperatives in coffee production, pine-needle basket weaving, and tourism. Coffee production is a traditional practice in the mountains, although sales had generally been low. These organizations now cooperate with local and international partners to sell their products. The latter initiative of tourism hopes to bring national and international visitors to see the life of rural Nicaragua for themselves.