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Hydroponics to Give Delinquent Youths a Second Chance

Region: Central America, Latin America, Nicaragua
Consortium Member: Centro Nicaraguense de Desarrollo (NDC)
Status: Funded and Ongoing Budget: $1100 Collected: $1100 Needs: $0
Result: To provide juvenile delinquents in custody with work skills (maintaining hydroponic gardens; growing and marketing produce)
Donors: Middlebury Model UN Conference [April 6, 2002]; Dudley Foundation, Washington State
Comment: Your donation will help troubled youths to gain experience and work habits that will prepare them to start a new life

Justification: In Nicaragua, 35% (676,2000) of children younger than 15 years old live in very precarious conditions; crowded houses, lack of basic services. Some children leave their homes and families, exposing themselves to even more dangerous and difficult situations. The social, economic, family and cultural environment of these children make them very vulnerable to macroeconomic and social changes.

Widespread unemployment is a major social problem that directly affects Nicaraguan children. Because of parental unemployment, children frequently become responsible for maintaining themselves and their families. Economic pressure by poor families on their children leads to their involvement in marginal activities that expose them to abuse (cleaning car windows or singing at traffic lights). Such children can also develop harmful survival strategies such as physical agression and prostitution.

Some turn to drugs and alcohol, in search of physical and psychological sensations that will fulfill their unmet needs. Others get involved in illegal and street activities, breaking the law and increasing juvenile delinquency. As a result, the number of Nicaraguan adolescents in detention has increased in recent years. According to legislation, these youths should participate in worrk-study activities while in custody. However, in reality, most of these youths are not getting these opportunities that could teach them the attitude and skills necessary to function in larger society.

Goal: To give juvenile delinquents in custody a chance at a better future, by introducing them to income-generating alternatives that are based on dignity, work and effort.


  1. To teach juvenile delinquents technical skills and work ethics that will generate an income within the custody center.
  2. To prepare them for their release by providing a work alternative that will improve their self-esteem.

Organization: Fundacion Mujer Nicaraguense FUNIC MUJER(Nicaraguan Women Foundation) is a not-for-profit organization created in 1992. Its mission is to promote the participation of women and men in the development of Nicaragua through a higher participation of women in the democratization process, and a decrease in power inequalities between genders. FUNIC MUJER recognizes the equality of rights, responsibilities and opportunities for men and women of all ages.

FUNIC MUJER provides training on various topics to groups of women, families, adolescents and children (adolescents and children at risk or in custody) as well as technical assistance, credit, and support to economic activity of women in rural areas.

Methods of implementation: We will establish a hydroponics garden within the custody center to grow vegetables and ornamental plants. The adolescents will receive training and participate in practical work sessions to maintain the hydroponics garden. Up to four groups of 30 adolescents will be formed to participate in the training and subsequent work in the hydroponics garden. The vegetables will be used by the Center to provide nutritious food to its residents, including the participants themselves. In the medium term, participants will earn an income from the project, which will help them to start a new life upon their re-entry into society.

A note on hydroponics: Hydroponics is a method of growing plants without a soil medium. A substrate like gravel, old rubber tires or peat is generally used, and recirculating water containing dissolved nutrients feeds the plant. The hydroponics system to be used in this project requires little resources and has been proved effective under Nicaraguan climatic conditions. Cultures will be established in a building that that will provide good conditions for growing the plants and vegetables. Artificial light is not necessary in Managua because there is a lot of sunshine all year long. The custody center is located near the Lago de Managua (Managua Lake) and has access to plenty of water to sustain the hydroponics.

In order to ensure the sustainability of the project, part of the first harvest will be set aside to gather seeds to be used during the second growing period. Ornamental plants will be sold, and the income used to buy nutrients. The group is requesting enough nutrients to cover the first and second harvests, after which the income from the sale of the plants will be used to purchase more nutrients for future harvests. The Consejo de Padres y Madres de Familia de adolescentes privados de libertad (Board of Fathers and Mothers of Adolescents deprived of liberty), in coordination and under the supervision of FUNIC MUJER, will be responsible for selling the plants. The members of this Consejo will distribute ornamental plants through networks of friends and families. Three micro-credit cooperatives established by women working in three of the country's markets also agreed to sell the ornamental plants. These women are receiving technical assistance and training in marketing and business management from FUNIC MUJER.

Expected Results

  1. The adolescents will be provided with a work alternative that will provide them with an income in the medium term, within the custody center.
  2. The malnutrition level of the participants will decrease.
  3. Violence and aggressive behavior will decrease, as participants' self-esteem and positive contributions increase.
  4. Participants will be better prepared for the world outside the prison
  5. As a result of all of the above, recividism will be reduced.

Timeline After funds are received, materials will be purchased to establish the gardens. Installation should take 3 weeks, and training will take place in the following weeks.


Local contribution:
The custody center will provide space and water for the hydroponics. The custody center and FUNIC MUJER will also provide some of the materials necessary for establishing the hydroponics garden (rice envelope, volcanic sand, old tires, bags and plastic recipients, cardboard boxes, plastic sheets, etc). They will also coordinate the commercialization of the products with the help of the Board of Fathers and Mothers of Adolescents deprived of liberty.

Metal wheelbarrow $ 50
Vegetable seeds $ 100
Ornamental plants seeds$ 100
Nutrients $ 430
Watering cans (2) $ 15
Fumigation spray $ 50
Technical work for wood frames$ 90
Measurement equipment (for nutrient concentration) $ 50
Stipend for instructor $ 115
Administrative Cost (10%)$ 100

Total Requested

$ 1100