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UniversitÁrea Protegida

 

UniversitÁrea Protegida

UniversitÁrea Protegida (UÁP) works with Nicaraguan university students in natural reserves throughout the country to promote research, conservation, and youth development work. The program’s first group of students, known as UÁPitos, has completed their social service responsibilities and fieldwork. They are now tabulating their research results and training UÁP’s next class of students.

kids, Ofelia Arteaga
A Padre Ramos youth group poses during a UÁP community cleanup campaign.
Photo: Ofelia Arteaga

The UÁPitos are making a difference with many diverse projects. For instance in Tisey Estanzuela, a natural reserve outside the city of Estelí, agro-ecology students are comparing traditional and organic agriculture methods. They are also working with local farmers to limit the use of pesticides and promote local organic markets.

In the Volcán Cosiguina area, biology and agro-ecology students are working with local families to create “model farms”. These farms serve as examples for the surrounding community that traditionally raises cattle.

In the Padre Ramos estuary, a student biology group is studying the mangrove forest and developing a sustainable management plan with the local NGO that administers the protected area.

Also in Padre Ramos, an agro-ecology group is working hand in hand with a local youth group, formed by the UÁPitos. They created a model farm project, experimenting with organic compost and a variety of crops that can be grown in sandy soils. They are also working with community members to demonstrate alternatives to the declining local fishing industry, the area’s main source of income.UÁP is also supporting social work students who are studying communities in Cosiguina and Padre Ramos and working with youth groups on small business projects to generate income that is invested back into their education. Additionally, UÁP provides scholarships to youth group leaders in Padre Ramos to continue their high school education.

UÁP’s program has proved challenging for the Nicaraguan university students who have been involved, but has affected their lives in a profound way. As UÁpitos Yubelka Palma and Wendy Pacheco put it:“The first time we traveled to the area alone, it was very difficult. We didn’t know anybody in the area and we felt alone at first, but that changed as little by little, we adapted to our situation. Within months, everytime we left the area to spend a few days in the city, we missed our lives in Padre Ramos.

“In Padre Ramos, we had experiences that we will never forget. We became close with our local host family. We were instantly accepted and knew from the beginning that we would be friends for life. Along with the positive, we also will never forget the tough times we spent in Padre Ramos; like battling the many mosquitoes that feasted on our blood, and the long walks in the midday sun to collect data. Through it all, good times and bad, we learned to live the way these rural communities live. We are grateful to have had the opportunity to know a part of our country that many Nicaraguans never experience.

“These experiences have made us more conscious of the world in which we live. It is a beautiful thing to go back to Padre Ramos for visits, and receive hugs from such warm people who you know miss your presence. And when we leave, we are surrounded by children who ask us when we will be back.

“As part of the program, we also had the opportunity to take a group of youth from the beaches of Padre Ramos to the mountains of Tisey Estanzuela, as well as host a group from Tisey in Padre Ramos. It is difficult to describe the feeling of sharing this experience with these children; to see their innocent faces as they asked questions like “why is the dirt a different color?” and “where does the sun go when it enters the ocean?

“Our lives have been deeply affected since the moment we became a part of the UÁP community; an opportunity to unite with other students doing similar work in other areas, going through similar experiences; also trying to have a positive impact in the rural communities of our beautiful country that truly need the support. All first generation UÁPitos, and all the beautiful and warm friends we made in Padre Ramos, will be in our hearts forever.”

To promote their good work, local director and ecologist Ofelia Arteaga will be taking her first trip outside of Nicaragua to be involved in UÁP outreach. Presentations will cover Nicaragua’s complex history, and the current social-environmental movement in which UÁP is involved. For more information, contact UÁP at uap@earthisland.org.
Olin Cohan
Director, UÁP Nicaragua

   

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