Environmental protection project ‘Amigos de Ometepe’

Environmental protection is an important part of health care. We at Sanito are aware: An unbalanced relationship between humans and nature always has long-term consequences and reduces life quality. That’s why it is highly important that humans don’t comprise the environment’s needs for their own beneficiary interests. Thus, Sanito Nicaragua supports the environmental protection project at volcano Maderas ‘Amigos de Ometepe’, which was founded to support the protection of the local water supply system.

Background of the project

The island of Ometepe – founding place of Sanito – is formed of two volcanoes rising out of Lake Nicaragua. These mainly determine the nature’s landscape as well as the life of Ometepe’s inhabitants. They use the islands for agriculture and for touristic purposes, depending on its natural resources. Especially drinking water is very limited. The water supply system is in poor conditions and completely depending on natural springs. The southeast half of the island consists of volcano Maderas, which supports a diverse rainforest environment. However, the land is very vulnerable due to the influence of human activities.

At the bottom of the volcano Maderas agriculture is very common. For example, Finca Magdalena is one of the biggest farmers cooperation. It plays a very important role for the local population as coffee farmers organise themselves here and process their coffee together. Additionally, the fincas’ owners have larger areas at the volcano’s slopes for agriculture on hand. Next to coffee they also grow rice, beans, bananas and corn. Moreover, the finca is the starting point for one of the main routes up to the volcano. Here many tourists start their journey up to the volcano every day. Along the agricultural fields they hike through breath-taking nature. The highlight of this trip is the spectacular cloud forest with its diverse flora and fauna.

The downside: The expansion of the croplands and the continuous work on the fields has negative impacts on nature. For example, native animals such as howler monkeys are scared away so that they need to relocate to higher or unused areas of the volcano. Moreover, the increasing agricultural areas reduce the distribution territories of the local tropical vegetation and make the volcano vulnerable to environmental risks, which has also impacts on the water supply system of volcano Maderas. The consequences, including damaged water pipes, are visible each year during rainy season. With heavy rainfalls, masses of water flow down the volcano’s slope causing flooding in the villages along the coast line. Quite often hurricanes and tropical storms devastate the volcano as well.

Nonetheless, tourism around volcano Maderas has drastically increased in the last years. The inhabitants have realised the potential of their region. Some of them got trained as tourist guides for the volcano, others have opened a restaurant or hotel. Thus, the number of hikers on the volcano continues to increase while the animals’ rest area gets further restricted and the trails as well as the water supply system get constantly damaged by heavy rainfalls.

Content and aim of the project

In order to conserve volcano Ometepe’s beauty and the integrity of its flora and fauna, some organisations combined their efforts and initiated the project ‘Amigos de Ometepe’. Amongst these organisations are ‘Flora and Fauna’, Finca Magdalena, leading hotels on the volcano as well as Sanito Nicaragua.

Aim of the programme is the natural conservation at volcano Maderas with focus on the water supply system. ‘Flora and Fauna’ thereto developed in conjunction with other companies a strategy that relates to the local possibilities, the volcano’s idiosyncrasies and its tropical nature. Tourist agencies charge an entrance fee of $3 to ascend volcano Maderas to be able to finance these projects. One dollar per tourist goes to finca Magdalena which engages in conservation projects around agriculture. Another dollar is paid to park rangers who maintain the volcano and the third dollar is spent on the project ‘Amigos de Ometepe’ which conducts overarching conservation projects.

Sanito Nicaragua has taken a coordinating role of the financial distribution. As one of two officially registered NGOs on the island, Sanito Nicaragua can assume the projects’ control and financing. Through this Sanito Nicaragua contributes to environmental protection and long-term conservation of nature on Ometepe. Conserving the environment on the volcano will help protecting the island’s water supply system, generating income from tourism and securing the island’s food supply.

(Translated by: Deborah Hosemann)