What Are The Major Natural Resources Of Nicaragua?

A dairy farm in Nicaragua.
A dairy farm in Nicaragua.

Officially known as the Republic of Nicaragua, Nicaragua is a country found in Central America. The nation has an area of about 50,338 square miles, which makes it the 69th largest country in the world and the largest state in Central America. The capital city, which is also the largest, is Managua while the total population is around six million people. The population shares a wide range of natural resources that play a crucial part in the economy of Nicaragua. These natural resources include metals and minerals (such as gold, copper, silver, tungsten, and others) as well as agricultural products.

Agricultural Land


Agriculture is a major economic sector in Nicaragua, with the country rearing beef cattle and producing things like coffee, sugar, bananas, cotton, and more. One of the most important products among them is coffee, which has been in production since the 1850s. The areas with the most fertile land for coffee growing include the Managua Department, around the Granada Department, Nueva Segovia, and other places. However, the best land for coffee framing is around Jinotega and Matagalpa.

Ever since the nation began producing coffee, the product remained the nation’s chief export for at least a century. The country has a rich volcanic land resource that enables the demanding crop to grow at top levels every year. Despite the rich volcanic land, the country has had several challenges such as transportation difficulties from the mountainous regions that sustain the growth of coffee. After putting in a lot of hard work and capital into the crop, sometimes farmers are unable to secure fast transportation to the coffee plants or markets, which leads to losses. An example of a hilly place that grows coffee is Jinotepe.

While the land used to grow coffee is varied, the country still utilizes a substantial amount for that purpose. For example, 1992 was a unique year since coffee was planted the most compared to any other type of crop. Estimates place the land used in the 1980s for coffee growth at around 810.8145 square miles. Despite the challenges that the country faced, farmers still managed to produce a substantial amount of coffee. For example, in 1989, about 84,000,000 pounds of coffee were produced. However, in recent years, coffee production has experienced a reduction mainly due to the transport challenges from rich mountainous areas. Consequently, people are now making the switch to other cash crops in other parts of the country with decent transportation systems.


An example of such an alternative crop is bananas. Historically, bananas had the potential to be among the top revenue earners for Nicaragua. Unfortunately, political squabbles and a devastating disease destroyed most of the country’s potential. Another reason was that the government of Nicaragua refused to allow American companies to invest in the banana sector of Nicaragua. Eventually, after most of the sector’s potential was lost, the country began making efforts to utilize the rich land for banana production. In 1989, the attempts at the revitalization of the banana sector managed to produce about 264,000,000 pounds of banana produce.


The climate and the land resource of Nicaragua, especially in the lowland areas, is extremely conducive for sugarcane planting. However, just like coffee farming above, the sector is plagued with a number of challenges including the poor transportation system. These problems have discouraged farmers from most areas, which is why most of the sugarcane is grown in the northwest region of the country.

In the 1960s, the demand for sugar went down due to trade embargos placed on Cuban sugar. After the embargo was lifted, the demand for sugar soared to as much as three times. As of 1989, the country managed to produce about 4,600,000 pounds of unrefined sugarcane.

Forest Cover

As of 1950, 60% of Nicaragua’s land was covered by forests. This extensive natural resource has reduced over the years to about half of that in recent years, which is about 4.3 million hectares. Most of these forests are filled with hardwood trees. Most of these forested areas are classified as protected by the government in order to reduce the rapid loss of this precious resource. Most of the forests lie on the two autonomous regions of the Caribbean coast namely the North Caribbean Coast Autonomous Region (RAACN) and the South Caribbean Coast Autonomous Region (RACCS).

The two forests act as the habitats to a wide variety of native flora and fauna, some of which are endangered. Some of these species include the great green macaw, Baird’s tapir, and the jaguar. Unfortunately, massive deforestation threatens to destroy these forests. Data shows that one of the worst periods of deforestation happened between 2000 and 2012 where about 800,000 hectares of forest cover was destroyed. Aside from the obvious negative effects on the environment, deforestation adversely affects a huge chunk of the population who live in rural areas. Almost two million people live in rural areas and largely depend on the forests and the natural resources they contain.


The country produces several precious minerals including gold, copper, aluminum, and others. The contribution of these natural resources has been growing at a steady rate of about 9% for the past ten years. One of the reasons why this growth has been happening is because of an increase in investments. For example, between 2006 and 2016, foreign investment into the sector averaged about $79 million. In that period, the highest level of investment was in 2013 when it got to $178.9 million.

In 2017, the mining sector contributed about $338 million to the nation’s economy. However, this figure represents a drop of about 9% compared to that of the previous year. In 2018, estimates place this figure close to $370 million, which will represent an increase of about 17% compared to 2017.

Between January and March of 2018, Nicaragua was the leading gold producer among the other countries in Central America. In that period, the country’s revenue from gold was about $96 million. Most of this gold was exported to the US while a small portion went to the Netherlands. Previously, between 2012 and 2013, the major export country of Central American gold was Canada although trade has ceased in recent times.


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