Nicaragua: Ingenio Montelimar-01/Montelimar Environs
Asociacion Montelimar Bendicion de Dios (AMBED)
Community health & safety, environmental pollution, land tenure, and information disclosure
Consorcio Naviero Nicaraguense (Navinic) owns the smallest of four sugar mills in Nicaragua (Montelimar mill), with a milling capacity of 2,300 tons of sugar cane per day. The project involves an increase in the Company’s sugar annual production and includes the acquisition of 1,628 ha of land to increase planted area, investment in irrigation and other infrastructure in the field, increasing milling capacity, acquiring additional harvesting and transportation equipment and funding incremental working capital needs. Total project cost is estimated at US$38 million, and IFC has provided a US$15 million A Loan for IFC’s own account.
In October 2015, the Asociacion Montelimar Bendicion de Dios (AMBED), a local organization comprised of current and former workers of Montelimar, their families, and members of communities in the Municipality of San Rafael del Sur, filed a complaint with CAO regarding IFC’s Montelimar project. The complaint cites concerns about the high prevalence of Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) in the local communities and the company’s response to the epidemic, environmental impacts due to industrial cultivation of sugarcane, issues related to evictions and land tenure, and lack of information disclosure and community engagement. The complainants also raise questions about IFC’s compliance with its Performance Standards in relation to these issues.
CAO found the complaint eligible for assessment in October 2015. During the assessment, the company and complainants wished to meet to exchange information on the concerns raised in the complaint and engage in a CAO dialogue process. The parties held several meetings to clarify misconceptions and address issues of common interest, and in January 2017, they signed an agreement to work together to provide support to those suffering from CKD. Agreed actions included health and livelihood support to former workers, which encompassed the creation of a cooperative, Textil of Multiple Services Manantial de Agua Viva. The parties also agreed to have AMBED operate as an additional intake channel for the company’s grievance mechanism and to request government support to form a commission to improve access to health care services and pensions.
From January 2017 to October 2019, the parties worked to implement the agreement and address the remaining concerns raised in the complaint. This took place amid an acute political crisis in Nicaragua that commenced in early 2018. Joint meetings were suspended but parties continued to work together. As a result of their sustained effort, the cooperative, which is composed of 144 former workers, including some complainants, started operating in August 2018. The cooperative’s first project is a small textile workshop that is now in its third year of operation and progressing towards financial sustainability. Despite the security challenges faced in 2018 and 2019, CAO continued to support the parties as they worked to address the issues through dialogue, reach agreements, and implement them to their satisfaction.
On October 10, 2019, the parties signed a final mediation agreement in San Rafael del Sur, Nicaragua, which sets out various actions and commitments. These include further commitments by Montelimar to support former workers with temporary, short-term benefits related to health and food, as well as sustainable, medium-term actions to implement employment and income generation projects. Parties also intend to collaborate with national authorities to improve health care services in the neighboring communities and decided to continue engaging in participatory water monitoring. In addition, they will collaborate further regarding community complaints related to the company and agreed on ground rules for their long-term engagement.
The agreement is available under “View Documents” below in English and Spanish. CAO commenced monitoring and implementation of the agreement was well underway when the COVID-19 pandemic reached Nicaragua. The parties have shown their capacity and commitment to adapt to the challenges brought by the pandemic. CAO has helped by equipping AMBED’s leaders with smartphones and internet service and has trained both parties in the use of videoconferencing apps, and the production of short videos to keep their members and employees informed. Since April 2020, the parties have held several joint virtual meetings which have resulted in new agreements and they have continued working together to implement all the commitments from the final mediation agreement signed in 2019.
Recent negotiations have focused mainly on health support initiatives and sustainable income generation projects for the community. A pilot microcredit fund, funded by the company, has been established and will begin operations shortly. Additionally, as a response to the dire economic situation created by the pandemic, and in coordination with additional donors including SOMO, a Dutch NGO, the company agreed to provide exceptional and temporary food supply and hygiene kits to AMBED’s members. Parties have also completed their third participatory round of monitoring water quality and will soon disseminate results to community members.
CAO continues to monitor implementation of agreements and support the parties to navigate the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Status as of November 29, 2020