Extreme Poverty & Disability in the Mountains of Chontales, Nicaragua

By Helen Greene
Development and Communications Associate

This month we wrapped up an 18-month long, groundbreaking pilot project that’s improved the lives of 113 people with disabilities living in extreme poverty in Nicaragua. After more than a year in the program, families saw marked improvement in the quality and number of meals they eat, are now able to send family members to school, and are more financially independent and confident. The successful project paves the way for more effective inclusion of people with disabilities in economic development programs across the Americas.

The project, Economic Inclusion of People with Disabilities in Chontales, supported people with disabilities in five towns in Chontales, Nicaragua. It was the first to test the effectiveness of Trickle Up’s economic development approach, Graduation, with a proven program that effectively integrates people with disabilities into their communities, known as Community-Based Rehabilitation. We worked in partnership with local organization ASOPIECAD, the Nicaraguan government program Todos Con Voz, and the international disability-focused organization CBM.

Who are the participants?

The project reached people with disabilities of various types and severity: 26% of participants were adults with disabilities and 74% were caregivers of family members with disabilities, of which 90% were women.

Among people with disabilities reached in this project, 40 people had an intellectual disability, 38 had a motor disability, 16 had multiple disabilities, 12 had sensory disabilities, and 7 had psychosocial disabilities.

At the outset, one of the biggest challenges our participants faced was a lack of education, hindering their ability to find productive work: over half of people with disabilities over the age of 6 didn’t know how to read or write, and 77% didn’t attend school. With limited access to education, healthcare, and livelihoods, families affected by a disability were more likely to live in extreme poverty and face hunger regularly.

By the end of this intervention, we found that families of people with disabilities are more food secure and increased their consumption of meat, dairy, eggs, and fruit. 77% of participant households now consume meat at least once a week.

97% of households never or rarely face hunger today, compared to 68% at the beginning of the project.

People with disabilities are able to access healthcare and medicine more regularly. By the end of the project, 68 people with disabilities had visited a health center and 96% of those who visited the health center were prescribed medicine. Even with a prescription, many people had been unable to purchase medicine in the past due to high costs, but now 96% of those who need medicine are able to get it. In 108 participant households, we noted improved hygiene and living conditions, particularly for children.

By working to build sustainable businesses, 64 participant households have increased their per capita income on average from just $22 to $34. Participants tell us they reinvest their earnings in their business and can now pay for food, healthcare, education, clothes, and housing. 17 participants have been able to improve their houses, including repairing the roof and constructing or improving walls and floors.

People with disabilities and their families have learned to save and access credit through savings groups. 111 project participants joined a savings group, and on average they had $28 in savings at the end of the project. 29% of participants have already taken a loan from the savings group and 86% decided to continue in the savings group after the end of the project.

People with disabilities are more integrated into their communities and are becoming independent decision-makers. After the project, 106 people with disabilities now report participating in social activities, whether in their family or community. 84% of independent adults with disabilities report being decision-makers in their households, compared to just 53% at the beginning of the project. 44% of children with disabilities or dependent adults with disabilities now have responsibilities related to their families’ businesses after the project.

Of participants who are independent adults with disabilities, 91% administrate their business themselves.

Thanks to our resilient participants, experienced partners, dedicated staff, and generous donors, Trickle Up was able to measure a positive impact on the lives of 113 people with disabilities and their families living in extreme poverty in Chontales, Nicaragua. We don't think that's a small feat, and we certainly couldn't do it alone.