A beautiful land of lakes and volcanoes with a rich cultural heritage, Nicaragua is one of the poorest countries in Latin America and has a long history of exploitation, dictatorship and civil war. The 1979 revolution was followed by almost a decade of bitter conflict and a devastating trade embargo which claimed the lives of over 30,000 and brought the economy to the point of collapse. Since the end of the war in 1990, significant progress has been made towards national reconciliation, but subsequent corruption and disputes over land ownership have caused lingering unrest.
Nicaragua is also a country that has been repeatedly devastated by natural disasters, including the Managua earthquake of 1972 which killed an estimated 10,000 and Hurricane Mitch in 1998 which killed at least 3,500. Many other disasters have not attracted so much international attention as these, and the country is constantly at risk from earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, hurricanes, floods, tsunamis, mudslides, and drought. Not only have the death tolls, mass displacements and human suffering been catastrophic, but the economic effects of these disasters have been profound and long-lasting.
The economy of Nicaragua has been based on a limited range of exports, resulting in dependency, vulnerability to adverse market conditions and concentration of resources and power into the hands of the wealthy elite. The growth and decline of export crops such as cotton consolidated land into huge plantations, dispossessing small farmers, depleting the land of nutrients and contaminating it with pesticides.
Nicaragua was in 125th position in the 2015 Human Development Index (HDI) rankings of the United Nations Development Programme. This composite index was introduced in 1990 as a new way of measuring development by combining indicators of life expectancy, educational attainment and income.
Nuevas Esperanzas serves rural communities in Nicaragua from its base in the historic city of León on the Pacific coastal plain in the west of the country. Whilst the main focus of work is on long-term development programmes in the Department of León, Nuevas Esperanzas also implements short-term projects in other parts of western Nicaragua from Somotillo, near the border with Honduras in the north, to Granada on the shores of Lake Nicaragua in the south. These short-term projects are usually in support of long-term programmes implemented by partner organisations. Nuevas Esperanzas is also committed to supporting emergency relief work in any part of Nicaragua if appropriate and in 2007 undertook emergency water and sanitation work in Rosita in the North Atlantic Autonomous Region (RAAN) after Hurricane Felix.