MANAGUA – Using his own money, Nicaragua’s most famous environmentalist last week launched a nature conservancy fund – the first of its kind in the country.
Jaime Incer, who last year was awarded a Leadership Prize in Conservation by the National Geographic Society, created the Nicaraguan Fund for Nature Conservancy with his $25,000 prize money.
The fund’s goal, he says, is environmental recovery, education and preservation. Projects include cleaning the contaminated waters of Lake Nicaragua, reforestation and conservation of protected areas.
So far, the fund has about $50,000 in its coffers, and several private businesses and individuals have promised additional donations.
Incer – a historian, geographer and environmentalist who also heads the Nicaraguan Sustainability Development Fund – said the new fund will bring together similarly minded individuals and organizations.
He aims to collect some $1 million during the next two years from within Nicaragua before seeking international donations from nongovernmental organizations, businesses and individuals.
One of the keys to attracting donations, Incer says, will be to raise public awareness here about the importance of conservation and ecotourism.
“Nobody is going to come here to donate money because we have a pretty country,” Incer said during a recent interview with The Nica Times. “We have to first raise our own consciousness of the social and economic benefits associated with conserving the environment.
Then we can show the world some of the projects we’re working on.”
Another hurdle the fund must overcome is a perception that Nicaragua can’t properly or ethically handle foreign donations, he said.
“We’ve got too many examples in Nicaragua’s history of embezzling or misusing donations,” Incer said.
In recent weeks, for example, communities on the storm-devastated Caribbean coast are complaining that international relief aid sent to Nicaragua in the wake of Hurricane Felix is still not getting to those who need it most.
Incer said the conservation fund will have a board of directors to provide financial oversight. On the board is Vice-President Jaime Morales Carazo, who spoke during the foundation’s Oct. 9 launch of the need to repair damages done by both humans and natural disasters.
“We need to awaken the environmental consciousness of such a fragile and vulnerable country,” said Morales, who added that his administration takes environmental issues seriously.
Incer said he hopes the fund will complement already existing government projects, but that issues like conservation and sustainability have never been any administration’s priority.
“The government sees natural disasters like hurricanes as a matter of circumstance.
After all, it’s just rain, it’s just rain, we always get rain and hurricanes,” Incer said. “But what the government fails to realize is because of deforestation, rain water can’t filter into the ground like it’s supposed to. It causes flooding and damage, then it dries up and we have a water shortage.”
That, he said, is what makes Nicaragua more vulnerable to natural disasters.
“There exists an unreal concept here of how nature functions,” Incer said, pointing to last month’s Hurricane Felix. “Now, environmentalism won’t mean simply gaining economically through conservation or reforestation. Now it’s a matter of public security, a threat to people’s lives.”
One of the fund’s priorities is cleaning Lake Nicaragua. In August, after talks with Iranian authorities, President Daniel Ortega announced a joint project to clean the lake, which is considered the future source of drinking water for Nicaragua and possibly all of Central America.
The status of the Iranian project is unclear, but Incer said he welcomes help from any government, business or individual who is willing to give it.
“We can’t do everything we want tomorrow, even though we’d love to,” he said. “Everything depends on what kind of donations
and resources we can get.”
How to Get Involved
To learn more about the Nicaraguan Fund for Nature Conservancy, call: (505) 276-2554 or (505) 276-2556, or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
To donate, make checks out to Fondo Natura or wire transfers can be deposited at the following bank accounts:
Banco Uno: Fondo Natura. Cta No. 132621 11 2 Bancentro: Fondo Natura Cta No. 300206999 BDF: Fondo Natura Cta No. 103 000456 2