Empowering local communities while protecting natural resources

18 March 2014 | Article

Esperanza Verde Natural Reserve, Nicaragua

Background and History

The Esperanza Verde Natural Reserve is part of a larger Wildlife Refuge, los Guatuzos, a designated wetland of international importance by the Ramsar Convention, and a Biosphere Reserve, the Indio Maíz Biosphere Reserve.

The Reserve used to be a farm belonging to Dictator Anastasio Somoza DeBayle, who used it for raising livestock as well as a military base. During his rule in the 1970s, most of the natural resources were depleted. In 1994, the nonprofit organization Esperanza Verde Foundation was created, signaling a new beginning for the reserve and the recovery of its ecosystems. Today the reserve includes tropical rainforests, forest plantations and wetlands.

Since 1994, several projects have taken place in the reserve, such as reforestation, wildlife reintroductions, and environmental education targeted at the local population. Esperanza Verde is also part of the Protected Areas for Peace Integrated System (SI-A-PAZ) established with the goal of empowering local communities in the protection of the area's natural resources.

View photos of the reserve

 

Size and Location

Esperanza Verde Natural Reserve is located in the community of Río Frío, Municipality of San Carlos, Department of Río San Juan in Southeast Nicaragua, Central America. It comprises an area of 4,000 hectares that lay south of Lake Nicaragua, facing the city of San Carlos on the other side of the San Juan River.

Flora and Fauna

The reserve comprises 16 different vegetation ecosystems, from primary to secondary forests, and evergreen to gallery forests and wetlands, which include 410 registered plant species, of which 40 are rare species and 11 have a restricted distribution range.

Among the area’s flora it is possible to find a variety of orchids, aquatic floating plants, and trees determined to be more than 400 years old.

The park’s fauna is very rich and diverse, comprising around 402 species of birds (58 being migratory), 138 reptiles, 77 amphibians, 75 insects, 55 mammals, and 11 freshwater fish. Jaguars, caimans, tropical gars or alligator fish, and Anhingas (often called Snakebird, Darter or Water Turkey) are among the most representative wildlife species of Esperanza Verde.

Challenges

Currently, the biggest challenges faced by Esperanza Verde come from threatening human-based activities happening around the reserve, such as illegal hunting and annual forest fires originating from nearby Costa Rica.

Another fundamental challenge is the self-sustainability of the reserve itself, and its ability to earn sufficient financial resources from its ecotourism activities to continue to protect and manage its natural resources.