Earth Island News
After several months of living and working in various campo sites (rural communities) in Nicaragua, UÁP students reunited in a conference in late August. They shared experiences of relationships made with local families, of schools without road access, and of the natural wonders of the areas in which they are spending their nine-month field phases.
During the conference, the students discussed a number of issues, including the poverty they see daily in the campo, their successes and difficulties teaching environmental awareness classes in grade schools, and their future careers.
The conference made clear that these students, as they finish their thesis work, will provide important insight for the future management of the resources in the areas where they have been living. It is also clear that their dedication to the social and environmental progress of their country will extend beyond their academic careers, which they will be able to finish with the support of UÁP.
Christian Medina, a biology student doing his thesis research on crocodiles in La Isla Juan Venado, put it succinctly: We do research and try to increase the youths base of education in these areas and the benefits are solid in the long term, but the fact is that people in these rural areas need to make a living for themselves today. I want to focus my professional career on projects to support rural communities in better providing for themselves and their families.
The students spoke about how the environmental problems rural communities face are generally related to their dire economic situations. Gerald Camacho and Zorayda Martinez mentioned the struggling population of the scarlet macaw parrot in the Volcán Cosiguina region. They are researching the status of this endangered species, focusing on the causes of its decreasing numbers in one of the few areas where the bird still exists on the Pacific Coast. So far, they have identified habitat destruction and illegal trafficking as the two main factors. The community where we live is a two-hour boat trip away from El Salvador, where a parrot can be sold on the black market for US$ 250. A family can live off of that for two months. We have talked to people out there and they are afraid to tell us about the harsh reality, but we see it. Most people are conscious of the importance of preserving the species, but the few people who arent are affecting the status of the number of parrots in the area.
In evaluating these issues and looking for long- and short-term solutions, students agreed on two immediate concerns: an increased focus on improving education among the younger generation of campesinos, and the need to support economic initiatives to provide alternatives to the destruction of natural resources.
The conversations during the conference were similar to those that often arise amongst international development workers: What is the key to improving the Earth and her people? How do we achieve sustainable development? How do we best balance education, environmental restoration, and economic equality? The answers are unfortunately hard to come by and are often beyond the immediate grasp of the international social worker, biology student, or university professor.
UÁP-sponsored students reconvened for a
youth group excursion and conference on October 1st. Each UÁP student
organized a small group of grade school students from the campo that
took part in the trip to the natural reserve Tisey Estanzuela in the region of Estelí. In all, 30 youth were involved in the weekend-long excursion/conference.