Nicaragua: Have I Got News For You!

Wednesday, 25th August 2010 - It’s been quite a while since my last entry and have I got news for you!  Where to begin?  Ok, let’s start with the egg business.  Despite the second chicken coop being ready in the middle of June, due to several delays on the supplier’s end, the building stood empty for almost two months without any animals.  However, on 10th August a 1000 baby chicks finally arrived to make La Bastilla their new home.  They should be all grown up and laying eggs by December / January 2010.  In the meantime, we still have 406 hens, though their productivity is steadily decreasing (74% vs. 85% at their peak) as they are getting older.                   


The dairy business has also welcomed a new addition, bringing the total number of cows up to 5.  According to the business plan, the school should have 10 cows by now.  Unfortunately, it has been realised that the $750 budget per cow is unrealistic, and that in the current market a decent cow that is capable of producing 12 litres of milk per day is worth no less than $1000.  In light of this, instead of ending the financial year with 20 cows as planned, the school will only be able to afford to have 15 cows.  On the plus side, the production staff have discovered that the existing cows produce just as much milk when fed pasture as when fed manufactured cow feed, which is supposedly more nutritious.  As a result of this discovery, the dairy business has completely stopped buying cow feed, saving almost US$ 70 per month.

Now if I were superstitious, I’d be convinced that the pig and beekeeping businesses were cursed due to the major setbacks they have repeatedly experienced.  At the beginning of July a third female pig died, meaning that the business only has seven reproducers left (and one male).  The sudden deaths of all three pigs has baffled the production staff here, so we are in the process of arranging for all the pigs to be examined to try to identify if the cause is genetic or viral so that the necessary measures can be taken .

As for the honey business, as in December, once again all the bees decided to abandon us last month.  Whilst the reason is not a hundred percent certain, the two most probable causes are that the location was less than ideal, and / or because the hives had been attacked by moths.  Hence, the business is back to square one.  It’s not all doom and gloom, though.  La Bastilla Agricultural Technical School is receiving much-needed support from Ingemann, a Danish honey exporter, who has agreed to train the top student from Final Year for a month, so that he can pass on his knowledge to the rest of the students and staff.  Their generosity doesn’t end there, though.  They have also agreed to donate two hives and provide technical assistance to help the school re-start the business.  It’s looking like third time lucky!

Despite the beauty and wonders of the eco-lodge, sales have been very disappointing (117 nights sold in the six months from March to August vs. the target of 323).  In an attempt to rectify this, marketing efforts have been stepped up over the last couple of months.  A logo has been designed, the flyers have been re-designed and now include text in English (as well as Spanish), motorway adverts are in the process of being designed, the hotel has been featured on a popular T.V programme, and the eco-lodge’s presence on the internet has increased drastically.  Check us out on Facebook, Twitter, Trip Advisor, Nica Living, Vianica – and of course on the eco-lodge and school’s very own website: www.bastillaecolodge.com.   Whilst failure to launch the website before the (European and North American) summer peak season is likely to have cost the eco-lodge, the feedback from the website and interest generated has been promising.

I’ve saved the best to last.  At the beginning of last month the school’s grant proposal to the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation Central America Department, for the construction of the new school building, was approved!  Now the photo below may not look like much other than a piece of land right now, but this piece of land will be developed into a building with classrooms, a library, a laboratory, dormitories for girls and boys, staff living quarters, a computer room, a dining room, kitchen, security centre and a sports court.  All this is due to be ready by the end of November.  Given the slow progress so far, though, I would estimate that the construction will be complete by January – hopefully before I leave (what a great send-off that would be!).   I will keep posting photos in my remaining blogs so you can follow the progress of the construction efforts.    Until next time!



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