Elba Rivera Urbina, Nicaragua
OWA Finalist 2012

Elba Rivera Urbina grew up on a typical smallholder‘s farm in Nicaragua. As first born of 8 she had to take care of her siblings and help with the farm work while dreaming to become a secretary. Only at the age of 18 she learned how to read and write and just 5 years later, she graduated with a high-school diploma as the school‘s best student.

She and her German husband founded Finca La Esperanzita, the first Nicaraguan organic farm. Until today, she is teaching various courses at the farm. Elba is the educator of “Sano Y Salvo” (Healthy and Safe Eco-Farmers‘ Association), an organization that she co-founded.


Environmental education curriculum 

Elba Rivera Urbina im Gespräch mit Bauern
Elba Rivera Urbina im Gespräch mit Bauern
Her farmer capacity building strategy is a healthy balance of „learning by doing“ inspired by Paolo Freire and Montessori. The training is based on ecological agroforestry bringing together soil, water, climate, poverty eradication and the whole family‘s role in agriculture and respect for life and diversity.

At the age of 28 she came to Germany and got MA degrees in educational and in political science at Tübingen University. Returning to Nicaragua she founded the school „Jan Amos Comenius“ that became a pioneer school especially due to its extensive environmental education curriculum and child focused Montessori approach.Elba Rivera fights for „education with quality“ confronting one of Latin America‘s worst school systems. She is Vice-President of Nicaragua‘s Forum of Education and Human Development. She is the only Latin American in OXFAM International‘s “Women‘s 8(W8)” group that was formed as a counterpart to the G8 Summit of the most powerful countries.

Die Jan-Amos-Comenius-Schule ist Vorbild für viele Schulen im Land
Die Jan-Amos-Comenius-Schule ist Vorbild für viele Schulen im Land
She traveled around the world to campaign for the right for good education. She met and talked to high-ranking politicians, princesses and queens, media, Northern NGOs etc. and spoke at a number of international conferences. At home she continues her grassroots work.

Committed to the international organic movement she was involved in the IFOAM Latin America - Caribbean Group and the IFOAM Farmers Group (INOFO). She also has been co-founder and Vice-President of the national organic umbrella organization MAONIC.

She considers it important and finds it most satisfying to educate tomorrow‘s leaders, to create and re-enforce environmental awareness among the campesino and indigenous families in the remote countryside. She is dedicated and highly successful in making things work – a fact that is especially difficult under today‘s global conditions and the political situation in Nicaragua, a country that faces tremendous problems such as foreign dependency, corruption and lack of law enforcement. Elba Rivera is an inspiring example for a person who combines two great personal passions for the benefit of people and nature.