2021: Solar-powered Family-owned Artisan Businesses in Nicaragua

GRID is bringing solar electricity to families making wood crafts by hand in Mancarron, Rio San Juan, Nicaragua.

Isla Mancarrón is part of the Solentiname islands in Lake Nicaragua, the largest lake in Central America. There are no roads, electricity or running water on the island and residents rely on boats to bring basic supplies to the island. The electrical grid is unlikely to arrive to this last-mile community anytime soon. Despite the challenges, around 150 people currently live on the island relying on subsistence agriculture and fishing to provide for their families.  In 2021, GRID will install 4 off-grid battery-based solar home systems on four homes on Mancarron Island.  The solar system will be used to run electric woodworking equipment while also providing reliable electricity for home use. 

In the 1960s, Ernesto Cardenal (1925-2020), a Nicaraguan poet, priest and activist, came to Mancarrón to start a parish. He lived on the island for more than ten years and ultimately changed the island’s economy. He encouraged the islanders to supplement their income by creating art based on the natural world around them so families started supplementing farming and fishing with woodworking and painting. Artisans on Mancarrón create colorful balsa wood figurines of the island’s native birds as well as paintings of the island’s scenery. They sell their products to tourists who come to the island and in markets in nearby Costa Rica.

Without electricity, artisans power their woodworking tools with diesel-powered generators, an expensive source of energy for their small businesses. The noisy and polluting generators also stand in stark contrast to the island’s natural areas that the artists draw inspiration from. Families use flammable lighting sources to see at night like kerosene, candles or burning wood.  This lack of access to reliable safe electricity means economic growth is limited for businesses and families cannot meet their basic needs.  Solar energy on Isla Mancarrón will help eliminate a large expense for artisans and allow them to use electricity more freely, increasing their output and subsequently their profits. Families will be able to power woodworking tools and basic appliances, use safe lighting and charge cell phones. Installing solar for multiple family-run businesses will make a significant impact on the island’s economic development.

To support this project please make a donation here.

Project Dates: 2021

Location: Mancarron Island, Rio San Juan, Nicaragua

Thank you to the Lamarre Townshend Foundation for supporting this project.