Name: Dr. Achim Haeger
Position: Lecturer in Natural Resource Management
Program: Sustainable Development Studies, Costa Rica

We can learn a lot by travelling, as we meet new people and experience different landscapes, cultures, and economic realities. Traveling also teaches us a lot about our own countries, because we start seeing things from a different perspective. After students have spent nearly two months in Costa Rica, we have now crossed the border into Nicaragua.


After a somewhat rough boat ride across Lake Nicaragua we have safely arrived on Ometepe Island, which consists of two cone shaped volcanoes, rising over the water. It is a rural place, where subsistence agriculture remains the way of living for many people, but an increasing number of visitors are discovering the beauty and hospitality of this place, as well. The island has recently been declared an UNESCO Biosphere reserve and represents an ideal “microcosm” for us to study and discuss possible sustainable development pathways into the future.

The contrast between Costa Rica and Nicaragua is drastic in terms of history, economy, social, and environmental issues. On the other hand both countries share a tremendous biological diversity, a wealth of natural resources, and a vast potential for achieving sustainable development. These differences and similarities clearly illustrate how sustainability is dependent on the different potentials, constraints, and priorities of a country in the developing world. At the same time it becomes apparent that no place can really remain an island and the integration of conservation into economic development requires cooperation from all of us and a well-coordinated global effort.