Thursday, December 17, 2015

Dairy and Discovery in Nicaragua

INDE workshop group in Managua 
Written by F2F Volunteer Michael Lofstrom

This assignment was carried out over a two week period in Nicaragua essentially to assist five Nicaraguan entrepreneurs, small businesses and small agricultural entities develop business plans for the production and marketing of cheese, yogurt and other dairy products sold locally.  My business plan scope of work was part of a team approach that paired me with Mike Doherty, an agricultural economist with the Illinois Farm Bureau and who has many years of experience in developing marketing plans for agricultural cooperatives and farmers in general.  Mike and I participated jointly in all of the interviews with the entrepreneurs and enterprises, and we both helped design and carry out on behalf of INDE three, half-day workshops for small entrepreneurs in the cities of Managua, Chinandega and Masaya.  During the course of our work there was a certain amount of overlap and collaboration between the business and marketing plans, with strategies and recommendations for adding product value, improving net incomes, and in some cases new employment opportunities for the small farmer populations in our designated areas.

Lofstrom with cheesemaker Milton
Gonazalez and F2F field staff Moises Guillen
At one of our interviews with entrepreneurs from the dairy sector, one older gentleman asked me if I had been to Nicaragua before.   When I said yes, but 20 years ago, he immediately replied “it’s a completely different country now” (“es un pais completamente diferente, ahora es otro pais”). That was my distinct impression as well.  A new generation of Nicaraguans are now adults, and since Nicas tend to marry and have children early, a significant percentage of the population is under 25 and has no direct connection with the war years of the 80s and political struggles in the 90s.  There appeared to be a strong preference, especially with younger people, for entrepreneurial investments in areas of economic advantage to Nicaragua as a whole – cattle and beef production and exports; dairy products including cheeses and yogurts; environmentally protected areas with tourism development; and shoe and leather goods manufacturing among many other potentially strong economic sectors.  Although yearly inflation based on planned devaluations of the C√≥rdoba tends to offset annual GDP growth of 5%, there is a sense that Nicaragua will continue to progress in both economic and social arenas and provide for a stable private sector for future growth and development. 

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