Nicaragua: Action-Packed February at La Bastilla!


February was another action packed month at La Bastilla! We welcomed the students back after the long Christmas holidays to start a new academic year. We have 17 new students in 1st year and 4 in 2nd year, and may welcome more as the harvest season comes to an end and more students enrol in classes. The new group is really enthusiastic and has loads of potential so we are happy!  

 School began on the 6th February, a seven days before the start of classes, because we had planned a week of coffee activities with the students which included special talks and classes on coffee and participating in the first task of the new crop cycle, planting seedlings. Once the coffee seeds have germinated they need to be carefully transplanted into containers with special compost, then watered and fertilised and left to grow for 4-5 months until being planted in the ground. It will then be 3-4 years until a crop is produced. Students learn about the whole life cycle of coffee and try their hand at all of the activities, as this is a vital economic activity for the region and the country as a whole.


Classes then began on the 13th February with a new timetable which has the students roughly half the day in classes and half the day in the productive areas. This is a change from our former timetable of 1 week in classes and 1 week in the areas, and should make the links stronger between the theoretical and practical classes. So far it seems to be working fairly well! English Club has also made a welcome return to Tuesday evenings with much hilarity and at least some learning.

One of the first activities of the year was to build a greenhouse on campus so that we can grow vegetables more easily all year round. Once the posts were in, the greenhouse went up surprisingly quickly and is now ready for planting. If this works out well, we should construct more greenhouses in order to produce crops out of season and take advantage of higher market prices.



We also had some volunteers here this month, Harry and Kirsty who were sent by AFID (Accountants for International Development) to help us develop some basic accountancy and business classes for the students. The culmination of their 6 weeks was delivering the accountancy course to our final year students, who actually showed a great aptitude for the subject. We are now doing a case study “The chicken shack” which applies the knowledge in a practical way, in order to consolidate their understanding. We will make the materials available in Spanish and English to all of our schools, so that the maximum number of students possible can benefit. You can check out the great blog they wrote about their stay at: http://kirstyandharry.wordpress.com/    


Towards the end of the month we also participated in a special event to launch a government scheme called the “Ruta de Cafe” or “Coffee Route”, an initiative designed to increase tourism in the coffee producing regions in the north of Nicaragua. The event was held in Jinotega and the school had a stand to promote both the Ecolodge and the school itself. We were interviewed for the local media and sold strawberries, cookies and coffee to those attending.  Additionally the school choir sang the national anthem at the opening ceremony.

The event itself really highlighted the importance that tourism has for Nicaragua; in 2011 the country received 1.1 million tourists and the industry represents 5.8% of GDP, almost as much as coffee!  It is very promising to see the government and donors focussing on developing the north as a destination, as this would be a boost to our own Ecolodge!   We finished the day selling the remaining cookies in the Central Square of Jinotega, a great lesson in direct marketing for the students. “Get your fresh cookies!! Only 20 cordobasper pack!!” 


In other Ecolodge news, we had a visit from the magazine ESCAPE Nicaragua, who will publish a report on the Ecolodge in the nature section of their March edition, which we hope will be a great boost to our Easter marketing. We also ran a Facebook marketing campaign for Valentine’s Day and managed to hugely increase the popularity of the Ecolodge Facebook page, and even get a couple of bookings!   http://www.facebook.com/BastillaEcolodge

So after an action-packed February we have the school anniversary event to look forward to on the 3rd March, with a mini marathon, BBQ and show! We are also looking forward to welcoming a group of volunteers from California, and getting into the swing of the new school year.  It will also be my last month as Project Officer... so watch this space for my last blog, and information about my replacement!  

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