Community News

Spotlight: Nicaraguan NGO's most ambitious project takes home the Judges' Choice Award


Pia Jensen heard about the Climate CoLab through a friend on Twitter in the UK.  When she later partnered with Cecalli, a community-based organization in Nicaragua, to help them find funding for a reforestation project, she thought that their proposal would make a great entry for the Agriculture and Forestry contest.  Their proposal, Nicaragua: Carbon Sink, Economic Driver & Medicinal Plant Preservation won the Judges’ Choice award.  We reached out to both Cecalli and Pia to hear how it all played out, and here’s what they said:

Cecalli Team: Denis Falcon Rodriguez. Nidia Lopez Arcia. Pia Christina Jensen Alejandra Floripe Parrales Alejandro Floripe Fajardo
Cecalli team:  Denis Falcon Rodriguez, Nidia Lopez Arcia, Pia Christina Jensen, Alejandra Floripe Parrales, and Alejandro Floripe Fajardo

Cecalli: We heard about the MIT Climate CoLab through Pia Jensen, who came to our institution in June to help us find funding for our projects. We had been developing a reforestation project for over three years, but had not progressed due to lack of funding.

Pia: James Greyson (@blindspotting), based in the UK, and I have been friends via Twitter since 2012 and one day in spring of 2013, James suggested I present a proposal in Climate CoLab. When I explored the contents of the site and read the entries I felt a little intimidated by the technical nature of most categories. However, the Shifting Cultures in a Changing Climate category was comfortable for me and I presented my first of what turned out to be five different proposals in four categories.

Cecalli: Reforestation (and stopping deforestation) is a growing need in our country, due to the indiscriminate felling of forests for economic reasons (selling wood, or using it for kitchens or stoves), and lack of environmental awareness (companies that cut down forests to create buildings or crops). While it is important that communities grow, there is the need to constantly replenish the vegetation that is affected by this kind of development. Again, we had been developing this project for over three years but it was on hold because we didn’t have the funding.


The organization and format of the contest submission form helped Cecalli’s original ideas flow logically from concept to fruition.

Pia: Cecalli and I met in June, after I had already submitted my first entry to the Climate CoLab. When I learned they had the reforestation concept in draft form already, I helped adapt their proposal to conform with the Agriculture & Forestry contest’s parameters and to address the recommendations of the contest guidelines, such as “sustainability, ie economic, ecological and social compatibility and considering holistic bioenergy activities.”

Cecalli: The contest requirements helped shape our vision and helped us gain more knowledge on best practices for carbon management and project promotion.

We have carried out other projects to protect the environment across the country, often in small municipalities. Projects like promoting ecological stoves that use coffee or rice waste as fuel.

However, this is a large-scale proposal that connects and addresses issues in all parts of the country: water shortage, deterioration of soils, dried up rivers, wells and natural springs, and hunger crop product, primarily due to the deterioration of the environment in our forests. It also involves new establishing new partnerships (such as with developers) or strengthening our working relationships with state and non-state institutions.

In reading other posts, comments, and questions on the Climate CoLab, I was inspired to further develop the proposal on an almost daily basis.

Pia: The organization and format of the submission form helped Cecalli’s original ideas flow logically from concept to fruition. In reading other posts, comments, and questions I was inspired to further develop the proposal on an almost daily basis. The search for and reading of many news and research articles on carbon sequestration, tropical forests, and biochar provided knowledge that helped me develop the proposal. Referring to the guidelines of Agriculture and Forestry by advisors and fellows helped focus the proposal.

Cecalli: For members of our institution, this has been an exercise in using a new method to find financing that requires a completely different effort, and in the involvement of different actors of the same country or from outside your country who are related to our field. We learned a lot about citizen participation in social networks and their usefulness as a way to establish contacts that generate great benefits for our community.

Pia: On a personal level, I found an outlet through which I could use my knowledge and experience to contribute to the dialogue on climate change and discovered that there are many great ideas from others that are deserving of foundation support and social and political attention. Organizationally, both Cecalli and I learned a lot about developing and promoting ideas from different cultural realities.

Cecalli: By participating in the Climate CoLab, we have been provided the opportunity to meet new potential partners and institutions. But, that potential to connect and discuss the project is limited by time available for research by Internet; access in Nicaragua is very expensive and unreliable.

Though, due to outreach efforts, Cecalli is now connected with Sacred Seeds,, Eco Tourism students and an English Professor at a University (UNAN FAREM, Matagalpa, Nicaragua), a Nicaraguan Musician who supports the project, Gustavo Bucardo, and the people of Nicaragua who would like to see the project’s scope expanded to include tree planting in more areas.

We would also love it if the Climate CoLab could hold an opportunity for the participation of Spanish-speaking people. Not all of our members have the ability to share so much information in English, it would be interesting that Climate CoLab team develop a system to share information for non-English speakers. This is particularly important because developing countries, such as Latin America, are considered high-risk areas for climate change.

From the Climate CoLab team: We have been in conversation with Pia about translating the site into other languages so as to appeal to a wider audience.  Page translation is a very large undertaking, especially with constantly new/updated content; in the meantime, readers who are more comfortable in another language may want to try translating our website using Google Translate.

Pia Jensen is currently the Climate CoLab’s most active user.  Meet her when she presents at our Crowds & Climate Conference, Nov 6-8 #MITcc.  You can also connect with her and Cecalli on Twitter @Cecalli_Helper.