Bordered by Costa Rica to the south and Honduras to the north, Nicaragua is in the lower part of the Central American isthmus. The tropical, Caribbean mosquito coast, east of the central mountain range, takes its name from the word miskito, a reference to the mixed Indian and African blood of the inhabitants. Unlike the western, Pacific coast of Nicaragua, the country's low-lying eastern coast frequently suffers flooding and devastation from Atlantic hurricanes. Most recently in 1999, hurricane Mitch killed over 3800 people in Nicaragua with another 7000 missing after rain filled the crater lake in the dormant Casita volcano causing the mountainside to collapse under the increased hydraulic pressure. Damage from hurricane Mitch was even greater than that recorded after the 1972 Managua earthquake, another type of natural disaster with which Central Americans are all too familiar.
On the Pacific side of the central mountains, the cities of Granada and Leon, founded in 1524, are the oldest colonial cities in Central America. Lake Nicaragua, in Nicaragua's southern region, is the largest fresh water lake in Central America and home to the world's only freshwater sharks. Within Lago de Nicaragua, two volcanoes form the island of Ometepe and are home to about 35,000 residents and considered a spiritual site by Aztec and Mayans predecessors.
Sugar cane was introduced to Nicaragua in 1880, nearly 400 years after sugar cane shoots were brought to the Caribbean. By the end of the 19th century, sugar cane was a significant part of the economy. Today, most of Nicaragua's agriculture is concentrated within a narrow strip of land between the central mountains and the Pacific Ocean. In addition to sugar cane, the hot, humid tropical climate and fertile land produce bananas, cotton, rice, tobacco and other crops while coffee, the leading agricultural export, is cultivated on the higher, cooler mountainsides above the Pacific plains.
After a tumultuous 20th century punctuated by civil war fueled by international intervention, corruption and massive national debt, there is an air of optimism in Nicaragua that the 21st century will bring a new beginning for one of the poorest countries in the Western hemisphere. The Inter-American Development Bank and other international interests have embarked on a number of projects to reduce Nicaragua's dependence on imported oil by using bagasse, spent sugar cane fiber, to generate electricity at the largest of the country's sugar mills during the cane harvest season. During the rest of the year, the highly efficient boilers are fueled with fast-growing eucalyptus wood reducing CO2 by up to 30 times compared to burning fossil fuels. Both of these energy sources generate employment within the country and reduce the energy trade deficit.
Agricultural diversity is another advantage of using bagasse and eucalyptus wood as fuel to generate electricity in this country of 4.5 million people. As the international energy landscape focuses on biofuels, sugar cane will be more important than ever for the production of ethanol with the reduction of green house gases being part of the total energy equation. As more people in Nicaragua connect to the national power grid energy consumption is going to soar in the coming decades. Hopefully this and the other energy options presently being explored will bring employment, prosperity and political stability to this country that has endured so much.
- There is only 1 sugar cane spirit distiller in this database from Nicaragua.
- Compañia Licorera de Nicaragua, SA