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CASA CONGO: THE CASE FOR A SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT

@casacongoconservation

 

TODAY, CASA CONGO, A CONSERVATION SCHOOL THAT IS POSITIVELY IMPACTING THE LIVES OF HUNDREDS OF NICARAGUANS AS WELL AS THE NATURAL ECOSYSTEM, SHARES WITH STAIY ITS PRINCIPLES ON SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT.

Words By Daria Müller Velasquez

Casa Congo is a non-profit organization founded in 2017, with a mission to empower communities by equipping them with the skills and tools for sustainable development. The name of the school comes from the words “casa”, home, and “congo”, the local howler monkey. Its practice is founded on four pillars: ecology, ocean advocacy, built environments and community. 

“Three years ago we were sitting in the Marsaglia house in Rome talking about a bamboo village and community center on the Pacific Coast of Nicaragua. We had a dream: a big family learning from each other and working with nature to make the world a better place”.

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The impact of the organization in 2019 is impressive: they saved 12,500 turtles, planted 9,000 trees and removed 15 tonnes of waste from beaches. Moreover, they are always open to host and educate volunteers from all over the world, offering them valuable experience in supporting their programs and in turn, inspiring others to travel sustainably.

“Sustainable tourism is more than a holiday, it is an experience in which you give back to the land you are visiting; contributing to either community development or conservation. It encompasses a new trend of responsible tourism, where travelers are making informed decisions and planning trips that support the communities they are visiting. When volunteering, it is critical that travelers choose a volunteer organisation or nonprofit organisation with a proven ethos and philosophy around sustainable and responsible tourism practices” – says Tommaso Bellelli, Co-Founder and Chief Financial Officer at Casa Congo.

“We had a dream: a big family learning from each other and working with nature to make the world a better place.”

So far Casa Congo has undertaken the following programs: 

Ocean Advocacy

Casa Congo runs a school in El Astillero that provides conservation education and ecotourism services. ​El Astillero is a coastal town with most of its economy depending on the ocean. The objective of the ocean advocacy program is to support the town’s livelihoods through the sustainable management of marine resources such as the coastal environment, fisheries and sea turtles. Here, they run research programs, beach cleanups, surf lessons, turtle patrols amongst other activities.

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Ecology

The Brigada Ecologica is a team of young environmentalists who want to inspire their community to protect the local environment. The student group carries out research and conservation of the area’s natural resources, namely at Chacocente beach. They conduct experiments out in the field, bird watching, collecting plant specimens, creating products from recycled plastic. Additionally, they support MARENA (Nicaraguan Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources) by operating a sea turtle nursery.

Agroecology

The Centre of Agroecology is a fertile ground for experimentation and innovation, where one can find the resources required to build soil, restore biodiversity and grow nutritious food for local families. Agroecology team also works with smallholder farmers and farming cooperatives in order to reduce soil erosion through agroforestry, and reduce flooding using integrated watershed management at the landscape level. 

Bioconstruction 

This program aims to provide local communities with skills in bamboo harvesting, design and carpentry as well as other modalities of bioconstruction. The mission is to create a world where everyone has access to sustainable, affordable and beautiful homes.

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Art & Culture 

Thanks to this program, local communities and visitors share stories together, generating impactful change through art, food, sport and events.

From February to April 2019, Casa Congo hosted Francesco Luise, an Italian researcher, who conducted a study of the El Astillero area, gathering a baseline of socio-demographic data in order to better understand the community’s needs. Over 300 people were surveyed, representing 16% of the village. In early 2020, Casa Congo hosted researcher Damiano Duci who conducted an in depth analysis on the town’s water quality, providing the community with valuable insight on the variety and levels of substances in their wells, rivers and in the ocean. 

In the future, Casa Congo hopes that an increasing number of international volunteers as well as local people will join their sustainability projects, and that by 2023 they will become a financially autonomous social enterprise run entirely by local communities.