Nicaragua: Nicaragua Sugar Estate Limited-01/León and Chinandega
Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) on behalf of local residents
$25 million (A Loan) & $30 million (B Loan)
Nicaragua Sugar Estates Limited (NSEL) is the owner of an agro-energy complex located northwest of Managua, in the department of Chinandega. This IFC-financed project seeks to expand NSEL’s production and processing of sugarcane. In March 2008, the Center for International Environmental Law lodged a complaint with the CAO on behalf of 673 residents of communities in the departments of León and Chinandega and former NSEL employees. The complaint raised the following concerns:
1. Health impacts on local communities including Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) & respiratory problems as a result of sugarcane burning;
2. Labor and working conditions such as rights of association and restrictions to forming a union;
3. Inappropriate land acquisition in relation to indigenous communities;
4. Offsite environmental impacts including water contamination, air pollution and pesticide effluence;
5. IFC compliance with performance standards, policies and procedures.
Since March 2008, CAO worked with ASOCHIVIDA, an association of 2,000 former sugarcane workers and their families, and Nicaragua Sugar Estates Limited (NSEL) to address concerns related to the health, environmental, and livelihood impacts of sugarcane production on NSEL’s workforce and on local communities. Of particular concern to the local residents and former NSEL workers involved in filing the complaint was a potential linkage between the companies’ sugarcane production activities and a high incidence of Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) in its workforce.
Following CAO’s assessment of the complaint, the parties agreed to work together to address the issues, and a CAO dialogue process commenced in 2009. After three years, a final agreement was reached in 2012 between ASOCHIVIDA and NSEL. The agreement includes provisions relating to improvements in direct medical care and medical facilities for sufferers of CKD; the development of income-generation projects for households impacted by the disease; and continued support for independent research by Boston University School of Public Health into the causes of the disease.
From 2012 to 2015 CAO monitored implementation of the agreement and looked for opportunities to support parties’ efforts to see a transition towards a public policy response according to the scale of the problem and to be led by national and international institutions with the appropriate mandate. In 2013, PAHO took up a decisive role, and now with a regional mandate to address CKD its new representative in Nicaragua has taken an active stance, supporting various initiatives in close coordination with the Ministry of Health and in cooperation with all stakeholders. The results of the dialogue process represented an important milestone for PAHO’s efforts.
After verifying implementation of all action items of the 2012 agreement, CAO’s dispute resolution intervention has come to an end and the case is now closed. While CKD in Central America is becoming a priority for national and international public health institutions, and scientists continue to advance in the search for the causes, NSEL and ASOCHIVIDA representatives continue to meet regularly and work together to devise solutions that can address the severe needs of families affected by CKD.
A detailed Conclusion Report with a summary of the dispute resolution process and all the outcomes achieved, including reports describing the methods, results, and conclusions for each of the studies conducted by Boston University can be found accessed via the “View documents” link below.
After monitoring the agreed actions, CAO released its Conclusion Report in August 2015. The case is now closed.
In 2020, several years after CAO’s intervention concluded, the parties continue to collaborate and designed a joint strategy to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic among ASOCHIVIDA members, staff and their communities. The parties have published a joint statement about this effort which can be viewed at the link below.
Status as of April 30, 2020