The main focus of Project Nicaragua at Ohio State is the Rancho Grande Initiative, where we work to develop a destitute region through promoting health, expanding education, creating economic empowerment, and researching nutrition. Rancho Grande is a rural impoverished community in Northeast Nicaragua that was devastated by the recent bankruptcy of local coffee plantations, and now faces high rates of malnutrition, limited career opportunities, and no option for higher education. The Ohio State chapter collaborates with the community-based non-profit Amor en Acción to target these issues through work with Amor en Acción’s agricultural and technical school Tierras Prometidas, two feeding centers for children, and other developing community projects. Tierras Prometidas agricultural and technical school instructs students aged 12 to 19 on how to raise nutritious crops and care for livestock and thus sustainably feed themselves and their families. The Ohio State chapter provides educational tools and farming supplies for the school, and recently sent a team of members to the school to teach basic English and computer skills. Project Nicaragua at Ohio State also works closely with the Rancho Grande and Cerro Verde feeding centers, which provide daily nutritious meals to malnourished children aged a few months through 12 years. The food produced at the farming school is used at the feeding center in a sustainable circular model. In addition, the OSU team works to support and develop markets for handmade products made by the women and girls of a sewing and craft school. The Sewing and Craft Program was recently established in Rancho Grande by Amor en Acción, in hopes of creating opportunities for economic empowerment. This chapter of Project Nicaragua hopes to reduce childhood malnutrition in Rancho Grande by coupling sustainable income opportunities with education on nutrition-promoting behavior.
In the fall of 2010, the OSU chapter donated 12 laptops and 700 packets of seeds, and helped to raise about $38,000 for funds needed for the construction of a permanent agricultural school in Rancho Grande, Nicaragua. During the 2010 trip, an OSU Project Nicaragua team of students spent two weeks in Rancho Grande teaching English and computer lessons to the students of the Tierras Prometidas farming school. Additionally, several students conducted a research study to assess nutrition and food security in Rancho Grande to measure the impact of the feeding centers and agricultural school on the community. Over 80 community mothers were interviewed about barriers in access to nutritious foods for their children, and initial results show that though mothers have some knowledge of the nutritious value of foods, a lack of a stable income source leaves most families unable to purchase such foods. Thus, the Ohio Chapter is currently focusing on creating opportunities for sustainable economic development in the community in addition to increasing access to nutrition education.