Nicaragua is the second poorest country in the Americas, next after Haiti. Almost one out of six Nicaraguans live on less than US$1.25/day. Nicaragua ranks 125 out of 188 countries on the United Nations Development Programme's 2014 human development index.

Most of Nicaragua's rural poor live in the vast, dry central region, where natural resources are limited, land has been overexploited, and water and electricity are scarce. Small-scale farmers and landless farm workers are the most vulnerable. Families live on marginal land. They depend on agriculture for their livelihood and devote two thirds of their meagre income to purchasing food.

The country has experienced some of the highest food price increases in Latin America because of the 2008 global economic crisis and earlier natural disasters.

The administration of public institutions and the management of the economy and the national budget are steadily improving. But the commitment to democracy, human rights and rule of law is being questioned by civil society and the media.

The country is making progress on the Millennium Development Goal targets of achieving universal primary education; promoting gender equality and empowering women and reducing child mortality. It faces challenges, however, in eradicating extreme poverty and hunger and ensuring environmental sustainability. Nicaragua is vulnerable to natural disasters such as floods and hurricanes, which regularly plague the country and jeopardize development gains in poor rural areas.

Find out what Canada is doing to support development in Nicaragua.

Thematic Focus

Canada's international development assistance program in Nicaragua is closely aligned with Nicaragua's National Human Development Plan for the 2009-2011 period. This plan focuses on:

  • Improving health, education and other government services
  • Rebuilding infrastructure, such as roads, ports and energy
  • Stimulating business development, by means of improved financial services, technical assistance and the creation of associations

The goal of Canada's international development program in Nicaragua is to help the country improve sustainable economic growth and increase food security.

Economic growth

Canada supports efforts to help Nicaragua increase the income of the rural poor by improving productivity and competitiveness. This support includes increasing access to electricity and improving sustainable management of resources by local authorities.

Selected examples of expected results
  • Some 100,000 more individuals will have access to electricity through the construction of electrical distribution networks in 7 departments
  • Some 17 municipalities will provide better water services

Food security

Canada focuses on helping Nicaragua increase agricultural productivity to improve food security for rural households. Sound agricultural practices that stabilize the soil and prevent landslides are being integrated into all activities to reduce vulnerability to natural disasters.

Selected examples of expected results
  • Some 105,000 individuals in the dry North area will increase their food security through improved agricultural production techniques
  • Some 1600 young farmers will improve their knowledge of sustainable farming and marketing, leading to increased incomes

Progress on Aid Effectiveness

Nicaragua adheres to the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness (PDF, 317 KB, 23 pages). Donors are harmonizing their efforts—particularly in the education sector, where Canada manages a $45 million contribution from the Netherlands. Canada also manages a $4 million contribution from Denmark in watershed management. The Government of Nicaragua works very closely with donors in demonstrating local ownership, managing for results and ensuring donor alignment with its National Human Development Plan. In particular, Nicaragua's stable and experienced civil service is actively engaged in implementing aid effectiveness principles.

Achievements 2010-2011

Economic growth

  • Provided electricity to 200 communities, reaching 9310 households and 55,860 men, women and children, allowing them to engage in productive activities that support small businesses, agriculture, education and health
  • Supported the development of municipal plans for 5 agricultural drainage systems, 14 water and sanitation approaches, as well as 10 policies that promote equality between men and women, helping municipalities more effectively manage natural resources and to provide better services to rural communities

Food security

  • Trained 1,050 parent groups in nutrition and food preparation and instigated 1,800 school gardens, providing support to families in addition to students receiving meals at school

Achievements 2009-2010

Economic growth

  • Provided electricity to 199 villages in 43 municipalities through 455 kilometers of grid extension or electric lines, reaching about 10,174 households and benefiting 61,000 people
  • Helped five municipalities design and implement sub-watershed plans to help manage their natural resources
  • Trained 2,915 farmers in new conservation practices, including reforestation
  • Helped 1,503 farmers begin to diversify their crops
  • Provided 5,105 homes with new improved stoves

Food security

  • Helped the Ministry of Education's school meals program feed 995,114 children between the ages of 3 and 12 by delivering 114,447,411 food rations in 8,195 schools
  • Helped increase by 227 percent the number of schools participating in the school meals program as the program expanded its coverage to Matagalpa, Jinotega, Nueva Segovia Madriz and North Atlantic Region, the five departments classified as the most vulnerable in food insecurity

By working with Canadian and international partners, Canada is working to improve the health of women and children globally, which includes the country of Nicaragua.

Visit the Canada delivers results for the world’s women and children page for more information.

Map of international development projects in the Americas

Map of international development projects in the Americas

2014-2015 international assistance disbursements to Nicaragua (in millions of dollars)

Global Affairs Canada14.4
Other departments and sources0.33