Sustainable production can save a lake in Nicaragua

Sustainable production can save a lake in Nicaragua

Farmers, fishermen, actors in tourism and energy sector work together to find solutions to alleviate the ever-growing pressure on lake Apanás.

Lake Apanás: Integrated Landscape Management

Lake Apanás, situated in Nicaragua's Jinotega department, is an important source of water, energy and income for the surrounding inhabitants. Back in 1964, it was the first man-made lake built for the production of energy. In 2001 it was declared a RAMSAR site ("Wetland of international importance") by UNESCO, for the conservation of fauna and flora, not only of Nicaragua, but of the whole of Central America.

It is located at 944 meters above sea level and has a total surface area of 641 square kilometers, of which 38 square kilometers form a water mirror. The lake is surrounded by 7060 hectares of vegetation, formed by broad-leaved forests, pine trees and fast-growing wood. It has 6 major tributaries, among which the rivers Jiguina, San Gabriel and Tomatoya.

Call to action

  • Lake Apanás is exposed to deforestation and to exploitation of large areas for different uses without so much of a plan for environmental management: this will accelerate erosion and sedimentation in its basin.
  • Each year, the rivers Jiguina, Sisle, San Gabriel and Tomatoya carry an average of 4,000 tons of sediment towards this lake. Deforestation and intensive soil use in the areas around the lake and the rivers are the primary cause of this sedimentation.
  • Annually, 1.24% of the forest rate disappears. This means that some 190.22 hectares of forest are lost each year.
  • The effects of the environmental degradation are countless: climate change, loss of beautiful landscapes, litter, increase of contamination (soil, air, water), consequences for public health, migration, poverty and unemployment. If we don't take action now, environmental degradation will lead to the disappearance of the lake within the next 5 years.

Our strategy: multi-actor group MASLAGO

As good agricultural practices and the care for natural resources are obviously interlinked, Rikolto in Centroamérica "is calling for action" in order to save lake Apanás. This initiative is part of the programme called Sustainable development of the subsectors coffee, cocoa and vegetables in Nicaragua, Honduras and Guatemala for the 2017-2021 period.

We have supported the set-up of a multi-stakeholder group consisting of, among others, the government, NGOs, private enterprises, cooperatives, farmer groups and educational institutions, directly linked to this body of water in order to stimulate the sustainable management of the lake’s sub-basin.

Since its launch, the platform, called Grupo Multiactor MASLAGO, is mapping all actors in the region (Jinotega) and elaborating an Action Plan for the environmental, economic and social sustainability of lake Apanás.

  1. Understanding the landscape

  2. Deciding on the desired results to be achieved for this particular landscape

  3. Designing the interventions and action plan for the landscape programme

  4. Implementing the landscape programme according to the action plan

  5. Evaluating the progress made

What is "integrated landscape management"?

This strategy is based on the «Integrated Landscape Management» approach. According to this approach, a landscape is a socio-ecological system consisting of ecosystems modified by man. In other terms: it is influenced by ecological, historical, economic and sociocultural processes.

Using this "landscape approach" in rural development implies linking actors from different sectors such as agriculture, forestry, energy, fishing, farming and tourism in order to find collaborative and innovative solutions to alleviate the ever growing pressure on global resources threatened by climate change.

Duration of the programme

2017 -2021



The multi-stakeholder group MASLAGO reunites all the actors working and living around lake Apanás, or involved with the lake in some way: local governments, NGOs, private enterprises, cooperatives, educational institutions. Together, they work towards the sustainable landscape management of lake Apanás.

Belgian Directorate General for Development

Guillermo Gutierrez
Guillermo Gutierrez
Project coordinator | Nicaragua