Ecological Battalion Protects Nicaragua’s Natural Resources

In a country with more than seventy nature reserves, clearly the majority of Nicaraguans appreciate their natural heritage and want to protect it. Since January 2012, in Central America’s first initiative using military forces to combat climate change, Nicaragua put Operation Green Gold into action. The newly formed Ecological Battalion (BECO), consisting of 580 soldiers has already had some success in slowing down unlawful logging by confiscating 3,165 cubic meters of lumber felled by illegal loggers in the South Atlantic autonomous region’s Wawashang Reserve.

In addition to government protected reserves, Nicaragua has large areas of dense, primary forest that is targeted by illegal logging or is being cleared by farmers intent on cultivating the land or using it for livestock, being unaware of the long-term consequences of deforestation. Government data indicates that since 1983 Nicaragua’s forests have dropped from 63 percent of total land area to 40 percent and, irrespective of who is responsible, the current rate of deforestation will lead to this figure dropping to 25 percent by 2030, with some reserves being reduced to grass and shrubbery.

Nicaraguan government officials have noted that the country is already suffering the consequences of deforestation. As advisor to President Daniel Ortega on national development policies, and world climate change forums representative for Nicaragua, Dr Paul Oquist noted that annual temperatures in Nicaragua have increased an average of three degrees centigrade in the past 50 years. This has affected rain cycles to the degree that coffee farmers have been moving further up the mountains to find the cooler, shadier conditions favored by coffee plants. With coffee being one of Nicaragua’s primary export products, running out of suitable growing conditions could prove to be disastrous for the country’s economy.

Nicaragua is not in the position to wait on the global community to do something about climate change, it needs immediate action, and this is why the Ecological Battalion has been deployed to protect the country’’s natural resources. Article 750 of Nicaragua’s constitution states: “Any act or action that severely impacts the environment of the country will be considered a threat to national security.” While armed with guns, these eco-warriors also carry shovels as they work toward the nationwide objective of planting 560,000 trees in national reserves that have suffered deforestation. No doubt these efforts at preserving Nicaragua’s natural resources are appreciated by both local and visiting nature-lovers concerned for the welfare of the planet we share.