The EEP in Nicaragua/El Salvador has finally begun! PIMCO colleague Scott Argyres and I arrived to Managua on Saturday night (my bags made it one day
later), which gave us a full day on Sunday to get settled in. The regional director at TechnoServe, Ryan Bathrick, was nice enough to personally pick us
up, and he returned to our hotel Sunday morning to show us some of the local sights before staring work on Monday. So admittedly, this first blog entry
(written on Monday) will be more cultural than project-focused, but that balance will soon reverse as we get deep into researching the daunting issues
faced by El Salvador’s coffee farmers and other industry participants.
The first stop on our Sunday excursion was Laguna Apoyo, a geographically stunning crater lake. Laguna Apoyo reflects Nicaragua’s volcanic history – it was
formed by an imploding volcano cone some 20,000 years ago. Today it is popular among both locals and tourists, just 40 minutes outside of Managua.
We then went to meet some of Ryan’s friends in Granada. One of them, Francisco (Frank) was very cordial and explained some key points of Granada’s history.
Granada was the first European-founded city in the mainland Americas, by Spain in 1598. In the mid-1800s, the city (and country) was actually taken over by
an American from Nashville – William Walker – who eventually proclaimed himself President of Nicaragua. Not surprisingly, this wasn’t well received in the
region, and a Central American coalition forcibly removed Walker roughly a year later, but not until Walker had ordered the burning of much of the city,
leaving a sign that read “Here was Managua.” After periods of restoration, Granada is now a very popular destination, offering some of the finest
colonial-era architecture in the country.
From there, Ryan and Frank took our group for a little boat cruise of Lake Nicaragua, which is adjacent to Granada. It’s a massive lake, 19th largest in
the world, and has hundreds of little islands that were created from volcanic eruptions. This picture, with nearby Volcano Mombacho in the background,
looks calm. But 30 minutes later an absolutely torrential thunder storm blew in from across the lake. Yes, August is still the rainy season in Nicaragua!
Monday morning saw our first day in TechnoServe’s Managua office, pictured below. Between Ryan’s introductions and a morning staff meeting, we’ve now met
everyone. All the people have been absolutely welcoming and helpful. The day for me and Scott consisted of continuing our research into El Salvador’s
coffee industry and a 90 minute meeting with a coffee industry expert who laid out key challenges faced by the coffee farmers and his vision for the
future. All signs point to this being a very multi-faceted problem with no apparent “low hanging fruit” solutions, but we’re eager to continue our research
and bring a fresh perspective to the mix.
The coming week entails a lot more “get up to speed” research by me and Scott before we head to El Salvador on Sunday afternoon. I’m expecting continued
advancement in our coffee knowledge and Spanish skills by this time next week!