Team Nicaragua travels to Siuna y Matagalpa!

Half of Team Nicaragua was heading to Siuna to meet with COOPSIUNA, while half was heading to Mataglapa to meet with Sebaco. Both teams have had an amazing experience thus far and are constantly learning about the farming process for different crops, as well as the ins and outs of these two cooperatives. We’d like to share a little about both experiences…

Team Siuna

Tuesday Morning: Time to head north to Siuna! Brendan, Maurice, and Nicole headed off to the Managua national airport (right next to the international airport) to take an hour flight up north  to Siuna. We were excited to see parts of the Nicaraguan countryside from our window seats, and even more excited to land in Siuna and meet our CRS liaison!


Our plane landed safely on the Siuna runway!

We made it to Siuna and dropped our bags off before heading to the CRS/COOPSIUNA offices a few blocks down from the Siuna airport. We were able to meet with the cooperative President, Treasurer, Financial Advisor, Operations Director, and a few members of the Board of Directors. They were very helpful with their explanation of the cooperative’s origin, its’ current state of operations, and the goals for the future. After our day of meetings, our CRS liaison, Jairo Wong, took us on a tour of Siuna and explained a little of the town’s history before we went to grab some dinner.

Wednesday: We had planned to meet with three different farmers on Wednesday, as well as see the cooperative’s processing plant for cacao and pepper oil. Our first farm visit took us to Justino Armas’ farm. We had a little bit of a hike to get to his farm, including a short boat ride to get across the river. You can see the boat ride first-hand as Brendan took a short video on his journey across the river. Justino spent time explaining his farm, the cacao planting, care, and harvesting process, and his ideas for the future of his farm.

Justino explains the cacao harvesting process

Justino explains the cacao harvesting process

Thursday: We were able to meet with more farmers on Thursday who explained the pepper oil harvesting process, as well as more cacao farmers, including a farmer who currently is working with agriculture studies students who splice cacao plants to ensure good genetic qualities continue.

Maurice listens to a pepper oil farmer explain the harvest process

Maurice listens to a farmer explain the pepper tree growth process

Friday: We fly back to Managua and then drive south to Granada to meet up with our teammates who were in Matagalpa for the week! We can’t wait to hear about their experience and share that with you shortly!

Team Nicaragua: Welcome to Managua

Team Nicaragua is ready to get to work! We’ve been in Managua for a few days now and have had a chance to check out a few local places, get to know the lay of the land, meet some local Nicaraguans, and get ready for our project these next two weeks.

At our Orientation on Sunday morning, it was great to finally put names to faces! We got to meet Kristin Rosenow, Head of Programs for CRS Nicaragua, as well as David, one of our interpreters, and Juan Carlos, Santos, and Jorge who spoke to us about their experiences working with Nicaraguan cooperatives and the microfinance opportunities here. Our conversation was incredibly informative, and we walked away with a new understanding of Nicaraguan cooperatives. When we finished our conversation, we went down to Puerto Salvador Allende for a delicious lunch.

Team Pic Lake




After our group lunch, we headed back to the hotel to talk about our findings from our first day of meetings. We were pretty excited about the information we discussed and were looking forward to our meetings set up for the next day.

Our second day with CRS was extremely insightful. We were able to talk with CRS and Root Capital about the current state of microfinance in Nicaragua, as well as available microfinance opportunities within agriculture. In addition, we spoke with several CRS partner organizations regarding cooperative structures, management, and best practices. The information was helpful in thinking about how to structure our future conversations with cooperative managers, farmer-members, and financial institutions. We’re very excited for the next few days as we head out into the fields. One team is heading northeast to Siuna while the other team is headed north to Matagalpa to meet with cooperatives and farmer-members. We’ll update you soon!!!

Team Nicaragua – Agro Enterprises & Microfinance

Hi All!

Team Nicaragua is heading south in a few days and we’re very excited to land in-country and start working with our CRS partners face-to-face! We were told one thing at the start of Business on the Frontlines – change is the only constant – and that sure has been true! Our project in Nicaragua has evolved over the past few months. Initially it could be described as assessing the feasibility of a microfinance project, The Zaccheus Fund, and whether or not it would work on the ground with Nicaraguan cooperatives.

Once we started working directly with CRS, the scope of the project changed slightly from solely a feasibility analysis of the fund, to a more holistic view of efficiency and productivity of certain cooperatives in Nicaragua. CRS had a few goals for us:

  1. Evaluate the business planning, organizational structures, operational practices, and overall business models and provide concrete recommendations for achievement of business growth and sustainability.
  2. Evaluate the specific credit needs of the producer cooperatives per the revised business model suggested by our team.
  3. Evaluate the specific credit needs of the smallholder member-producers of the cooperatives and consider the farm-level business models and capacity for re-payment. From that information, create an out-of-the-box credit product model that would allow such producers to invest in their farms, improve productivity, quality, and profit while meeting their loan obligations.

From CRS’s goals, we came up with the following hypothesis: “Farmers can be more operationally effective by joining a well-functioning cooperative, which will increase crop yields, decrease costs, and provide access to affordable credit terms, in turn moving the farmers further down the value chain.”

With that hypothesis, Team Nicaragua has spent the last month researching cooperative best practices, reading up on case studies about cooperatives and the effect on individual farmers in different communities, and fully understanding the value chains for both individual farmers, as well as the different tiers of cooperatives.Now that we’ve armed ourselves with an initial understanding of farming and cooperatives, we’re ready to get in-country in Nicaragua and start meeting with individual farmers and cooperative managers to understand where they see issues within the current business models.

We’ll be splitting up into two smaller teams on the ground so we can visit two different cooperatives: COOPESIUNA and CECOOPSEMEIN. Both cooperatives are located in northern Nicaragua near the Honduras border. After we meet directly with the cooperative farmers and managers, we will have a better understanding of the problems they face and we can get to work on meeting the goals that CRS had set out for us. Again, as change is sometimes the only constant, we might find that the problems the farmers and managers face on the ground differ from what we initially thought. However, change is okay with us and we’re ready for any changes in project scope or hypothesis we might run into. And most importantly, we’re all very excited to get to Nicaragua and continue to work on the microfinance feasibility and cooperative analysis with our CRS partners in person!!

Meet Team Nicaragua!

Team Nicaragua is very excited to head out to Managua in just under two weeks! We’d like to take this chance to introduce ourselves, and please, feel free to follow us on Twitter while we are in country (individual Twitter handles below).


jflatley botfl blog Name: Jonathan Flatley
Hometown: Elmhurst, Illinois
ND Program: MBA
Previous Experience: one of my former clients was a large U.S.  based cooperative
Hobby: Traveling is a passion of mine; this is my first trip to Central America
Why BOTFL? Ability to make a difference
Personal Twitter handle: @flats429


acaldwell botfl blogName: Andrea Caldwell
Hometown: Media, PA
ND Program: MBA
Post-Graduation Plans: DuPont (Wilmington, DE)
Previous Experience: I once participated in a 48-hour dance marathon (no sitting, no sleeping for 48 hours)
Why BOTFL? Think/do/be/ask more.


dlamb botfl blogName: David Lamb
Hometown: Pacific Palisades, California
ND Program: Law School
Post-Graduation Plans: New York, NY – Chadbourne & Parke.
Fun fact: I am an avid surfer and have surfed all over the world.
Why BOTFL? An amazing opportunity
Personal Twitter handle: @ddlambo


bkelly botfl blogName: Brendan Kelly
Hometown: Annapolis, MD
ND Program: MBA
Previous Experience: Extensive experience in Frontline problem solving in Iraq
Fun fact / Hobby: Head Coach of the Notre Dame Sailing Team
Why BOTFL? Passion for tackling intransigent problems
Personal Twitter handle: @bkellshc


msikenyi botfl blogName: Maurice Sikenyi
Hometown: Bungoma, Western Kenya
ND Program: Master’s in International Peace Studies
Previous Experience: Capacity Building and Livelihood programs for internally displaced persons
Why BOTFL? Multifaceted approach addressing social concerns
Personal Twitter handle: @mauricesikenyi


ngorski botfl blogName: Nicole Gorski
Hometown: Chicago, IL
ND Program: MBA
Post-Graduation Plans: Intel Finance; Phoenix, AZ
Fun fact / Hobby: Lived in Alicante, Spain for 6 months
Why BOTFL? Proof good business is possible
Personal Twitter handle: @nicoleg17


vbartkus botfl blogFaculty Advisor: Viva Bartkus
Associate Professor
Mendoza College of Business