About Nicaragua


OFFICIAL LANGUAGE: Spanish. Many residents of the Atlantic coast speak English. The Miskito and other dialects are also spoken in indigenous communities.
RELIGION: The majority professes the Catholic religion
TERRITORIAL EXTENSION: 130,373 km2 (50,193 sq mi)
BORDERS: North Honduras, South Costa Rica, East Atlantic Ocean, West Pacific Ocean
DENSITY: 42/km2 (114/sq mi)
TOTAL POPULATION: 6.2 Million (2014)
RURAL POPULATION: 2.5 Million (2014)
LIFE EXPECTANCY: 72.9 Years (2014)
TIME: Same as the U.S.A. Central Zone (-6 hours Greenwich Mean Time)
CLIMATE: Tropical, rain forest
NATIONAL FLOWER: Sacuanjoche (Plimeria Rubia)
NATIONAL BIRD: Guardabarranco (Momotus Momota)
NATIONAL TREE: Madroño (Calycophyllum Candidissimum)


The Big Picture

Nicaragua is considered the second-poorest country in the Western Hemisphere with a GDP of $6.37 billion and a per capita income of $1,123 in 2008. About a third of GDP revolves around agriculture, timber, and fishing. Most agriculture is small-scale and labor intensive. Manufacture accounts for 10% and construction sector 4% of GDP. Services (banking, transportation, trade, retailing, and tourism) account for about half of GDP. About 13% of GDP are remittances from abroad, the majority from the U.S. 

Nicaragua achieved macroeconomic stability, cutting inflation from 33,500% in 1988 to 9.45% in 1996, and dramatic debt reduction through the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative.

About 60% of all workers earn a living in the informal sector, where underemployment is very high. Over 50% of Nicaraguans fall below the poverty line and poverty reduction. Blackouts, water shortages, and high energy prices disproportionately affect the poorest.

Opportunities exist with free trade agreements. As a result, livestock, dairy products, coffee, shrimp, food, and timber processing and preparation have benefited.


Nicaragua's Rural People

The most vulnerable people in rural areas include the families of small-scale farmers and landless farm workers, and families that combine both agricultural and other income-generating activities on the farm.

Households headed by women, young people under 15 years of age, and indigenous people are among the poorest and most disadvantaged groups in rural Nicaragua. About 17% of rural households are managed by women, but only 15% of women hold title to land under their own names, and they receive only 11% of loans.

Most families live on marginal land, where water is scarce. Still, 80% of the rural poor depend upon agriculture for their livelihood, causing a severe strain on the fragile environment. Because of limited employment opportunities and inadequate infrastructure such as roads, water and electricity supplies, the incomes and productivity of poor rural people remain at low levels. In 2001, only one out of five extremely poor rural households had access to electricity. 

Poor people in rural areas face many constraints, including physical isolation, fragile ecosystems, difficult access to land and other natural resources, low productivity of soils, obstacles to market access and lack of public services such as education and health and legal services. Approximately 40% of the population has no access to health services, with the remaining 60% covered by low-quality services. A third of the population still has no access to sustainable sources of drinking water in 2007, a figure that raises to 53% in rural areas.