Community Forestry in Nicaragua

Situated at the heart of the Central American isthmus and covering a total area of approximately 50,000 square miles (130,370 square kilometers) Nicaragua contains one of the largest intact lowland tropical forests north of the Amazon. Though its forests still cover nearly 7.9 million acres (3.2 million hectares), the country loses approximately 1.3 percent of its forest area annually, a figure driven by economic incentives to convert natural forest to agricultural land and pasture and the lack of secure land tenure. These dynamics are most pronounced along the country's agricultural frontier, which is moving eastward towards the Atlantic coast.

The loss of forests poses tremendous threats to the largely forest-dependent indigenous communities living in the North Atlantic Autonomous Region (known by its Spanish acronym RAAN). Deforestation in the RAAN undermines these communities' most basic needs including food, shelter, fuel, water and soil viability and compromises the area's best, and often only, potential source for economic growth. In 2007, the impact of Hurricane Felix -- which downed 1.2 million acres (500,000 hectares) of natural forest in the RAAN and left behind an estimated 10 million cubic meters of salvageable timber -- added an additional level of urgency and highlighted the need to conserve and restore the region's forests.

Nicaragua's Lowland Tropical Forests

The Rainforest Alliance Training, Extension, Enterprises and Sourcing (TREES) Program is working with partners in the region to help the RAAN's indigenous communities develop sustainable community forestry initiatives and capitalize on the area's resources. In order to achieve these goals, these forest-dependent communities must overcome challenge such as the lack of technological and financial knowledge and a history of marginalization when it comes to land-use decisions, forest-resource use and timber extraction and trade. Through our now-completed Nicaragua Sustainable Forestry, Agriculture and Tourism Alliance (NIFATA) project, supported by the USAID, the Rainforest Alliance helped facilitate regulatory policies relating to post-Felix salvage operations and laid the groundwork for future community forest enterprises in the RAAN. We seek to build on the success of these efforts through new initiatives such as our work with the community of Awas Tingni, an indigenous community whose forests have recently achieved FSC Controlled Wood certification, a first step towards FSC certification.

For more information, please contact your regional TREES representative.