DRI Foundation Partners with Namlo International for Greenhouse Project

Greenhouse user, NicaraguaThe DRI Foundation partners with organizations worldwide to achieve its vision of resilient communities worldwide. This time the Foundation has joined with Namlo International, making a $5,000 donation toward a greenhouse project in Nicaragua that will have a sustainable economic impact on the local communities.

“Namlo builds sustainable, resilient communities in Nepal and Nicaragua through a multi-sectoral approach including education, economic development, women’s empowerment and infrastructure improvement,” said Keith Frausto, executive director of Namlo International. “We create long-term partnerships with communities – 10 years or more – that enable us to build local leadership and capacity, and help community leaders create their own vision for a resilient future.”

“As an international organization, the DRI Foundation has supported residency following disasters in numerous places, including domestically in New York following Hurricane Sandy, the recent flooding in Texas and the American Red Cross in Texas and Atlanta,” said Jerry Vevon, DRI Foundation giving committee chair. “Internationally we have supported Habitat for Humanity in the Philippines following the cyclones and numerous organizations supporting Nepal following last year’s earthquake. Supporting Namlo’s resiliency efforts in Nicaragua, helping them recover from storm and insect damage and building resilient communities, is the DRIF’s vision.”

The DRI Foundation spoke further with Keith Frausto to learn more about the greenhouse project in Nicaragua.

How will the donation be used to support the mission and vision of the DRI Foundation? 

In Nicaragua, the communities we’ve been working in are food insecure and very vulnerable from environmental, economic and political calamities, which has left them with low income, poor diets and sometimes cut off from basic services. Namlo has been in Nicaragua since 2006, concentrating on infrastructure and services with school construction, water systems and sanitation. We are now engaged with economic development as a key component to helping families and their communities become more resilient and in control of their own futures.

Since mid-2014, Namlo has been focusing on the dissemination of affordable greenhouses that can help families raise organic vegetables, improve their nutrition, incomes and connection to regional markets. Namlo’s “OrganiCasa” is the most affordable (at $250 for material costs) greenhouse in Nicaragua, and is now giving people – many of whom have not grown vegetables before – an economic opportunity that can grow with the increased demand for organic vegetables that is taking place in Nicaragua. Using a market-driven approach, we intend to create a model for sustained growth of the program, including geographic expansion in Nicaragua and an increased number of participants over time.

Another greenhouse goes up

What community will benefit, and what do you hope to accomplish?

Namlo began the greenhouse program in mid-2014 in its original communities of Los Pinares, Barrio Nuevo, El Quebracho, and El Salmeron. Recently, the program has expanded to a total of 32 families in twelve communities scattered around Esteli, Nicaragua, and by the end of the year, we plan on reaching a total of 50 new families, who will be supported in addition to the original 25 that joined up to the end of 2015. By the end of the year, participants will grow an estimated $39,500 worth of vegetables, 60% of which they will consume at home and selling the rest,  increasing their incomes by 20%.   Depending on funding, Namlo’s targets for a three-year period include a total of 176 families (880 people) growing a total of $202,500 worth of vegetables. 

Can you tell us about the contributions of Namlo for community resilience?

In its original four, remote communities Namlo has worked with community members to build four schools, two water systems, school kitchens, and train teachers. When working on community economic development projects, Namlo learned that local preference was in favor or economic opportunities that emphasized the individual family rather than the entire community. In response to this pattern, in mid 2014, Namlo began using an approach that gave individual families the chance to purchase a low-cost greenhouse that they could manage themselves. As we move forward with the greenhouse program, Namlo will circle back to engage the old communities and even new communities in collaborations on community-based projects, but for the time being, our goal is to see the families participating in the program to become successful. By generating improved health and wealth in each community, we believe there will be an increased potential for community members to identify and build resources for their own collective priorities.

Namlo’s three-person team in Nicaragua provides transportation and installation of the greenhouse to participating families. Our agriculture coordinator provides ongoing training in organic vegetable production, composting, producing organic pesticides and fertilizers, as well as monthly monitoring of the progress of each and every family.

 How will this project help build resilience in communities in Nicaragua?

People in the communities will be able to grow enough food to feed their families on an ongoing basis, thereby increasing the food security and resilience of their families and communities. As they receive training and a greenhouse from Namlo, participating families will have knowledge, skills, ability and resources to grow their own organic vegetables, diversify their diets, and improve the health of family members. Families also have been donating and selling their surplus vegetables to friends and family members in the community thereby spreading the benefits of good nutrition. We will monitor the revenue generated by the greenhouses and how it is used, which will give us a basis for working on community projects in the future.

Namlo also plans to team up with the University of Nicaragua (UNAN) to continue the work they started with a nutrition survey they helped us implement in 2015. If funding can be secured, UNAN will provide ongoing education, outreach and training to families in the communities where Namlo is working, which will reinforce for participants how to make use of the vegetables they are growing, and also increase awareness of nutrition issues for families who have not purchased a greenhouse.

This year we hope to link at least fifteen greenhouse families with the organics market in Esteli, which will give them the chance to sell their organic vegetables at a higher price than what they can get in their own communities.

How does NAMLO involve the local community?

Namlo has over ten years of involvement with the initial four communities mentioned above, and has been working with local leaders, school teachers and elected officials to build local action plans for developing the communities. That said, the greenhouse program has been growing by word-of-mouth, from family to family and community to community. Namlo is now providing training and support to families in a wider geographic spread than before, which will give us the personal contacts that will enable us to create new community partnerships in the future. For the greenhouse program, people who are interested in acquiring a greenhouse give a 10% deposit to have “skin in the game” and can repay the greenhouse over time. One of our tasks is to measure the productivity of greenhouse users and how that improves over time in order to establish a realistic repayment plan. Each month, Namlo staff visit every family participating in the program to provide training, problem-solving and monitoring of the growth in the greenhouses.