Why Nicaragua, Why Bluefields: The Rama Language Program
blueEnergy’s foundations began in 1985 with French linguist Dr. Colette Grinevald Craig, mother of blueEnergy co-founders Mathias and Guillaume Craig.
While professor of linguistics at the university of Oregon and president of the Council for Human Rights in Latin America, she received an official request from the national Sandinista government to aid with the revitalisation of the Rama language. This was in the context of discussions of autonomy for the indigenous peoples on the Atlantic coast as part of peace negotiations to end the Contra War.
The Rama people live on the island of Rama Cay in the bay of Bluefields and on the mainland south of Bluefields. They needed to be able to prove they had a language of their own to be recognized officially as one of the ethnic groups of the coast, and be able to claim the recognition of their Rama territory.
Work on the Rama language started officially in 1985, with a National Science Foundation grant to produce a grammar of the Rama language. Colette associated herself with CIDCA (Centro de Documentación de la Costa Atlántica) and started working in the CIDCA office of Bluefields.
Why “blueEnergy": The Beginnings
Guillaume Craig accompanied his linguist mother Colette down to Bluefields, Nicaragua in 1989 when he was 13 years old. It was at his request, saying “I want to go see where you disappear to.” Winter of 1989 was a few months after hurricane Joan had destroyed most of the town of Bluefields.
Mathias Craig then went down to Nicaragua in 1991, when he was 13 too. On sundays, he visited the island of Rama Cay where the largest rama community lives, and where he spent time sitting outside on a bench in the windy north point of the island, next to the church. Hence the idea of installing wind power on the island and the original name of “blueEnergy”. He also visited the isolated mainland community of Rama speakers of Cane Creek, down the coast.
In October of 2002 Mathias Craig came up with the idea for blueEnergy during a class entitled "Entrepreneurship in the Developing World", in the Media Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Mathias worked with two other classmates to develop a business plan for blueEnergy to serve as the deliverable for the class. The class was created by world renowned computer scientist Professor Alex (Sandy) Pentland who saw a need to spur the development of business ideas that would address the needs of the world’s underserved populations. The premise of the class was that the two billion people of the world who are often ignored by private enterprise represent a market that awaits a new wave of entrepreneurship where technologies and products are developed that are low cost enough to be widely accessible.
blueEnergy’s first business plan was created as the deliverable for this course and was submitted to the 2002 MIT $1k business plan competition. Out of the 128 submissions entered into the competition, 10 were selected as winners, with blueEnergy chosen as the winner in the Global Markets category. This victory, while small in terms of prize money, gave blueEnergy considerable momentum and helped propel the idea beyond the classroom.
After graduating in the spring of 2003, Mathias Craig dedicated himself to blueEnergy full-time, eventually incorporating it as a nonprofit on November 19, 2003, in the District of Columbia.
In July 2003, Mathias Craig and co-founder Lâl Marandin--a French engineer and longtime friend and--led the initial feasibility study for the launch of the project on the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua. And by May 2004, Mathias, Lâl, and Guillaume Craig had assembled a dynamic team to form the core of blueEnergy, and began operations in Bluefields, Nicaragua.
In July 2004, a French sister association, blueEnergy France was formed in parallel by Michèle Grégoire–mother of Lâl Marandin–and Colette Grinevald Craig to help facilitate European support for blueEnergy’s projects.
In August 2004, the first Partnership Agreement between blueEnergy and local institutions of the RAAS (Region Aut’onoma Atl’antica Sur) region of Nicaragua (INATEC, BICU and URACCAN) was signed.
From 2005 to 2008, blueEnergy invested extensive human effort and financial resources in infrastructure, human capacity, and administrative capacity. During this period of organizational growth blueEnergy installed 9 energy systems in 6 communities, serving approximately 1,500 direct and indirect beneficiaries.
blueEnergy was officially registered as an international nonprofit organization operating in Nicaragua in 2007, with additional registrations completed in 2008.
blueEnergy has been extensively recognized for its innovative work by CNN Heroes, Larry King Live, the Tech Awards (winner of the 2007 Economic Development Award), the Energy Globe Awards (National Winner for Nicaragua and Finalist for Energy Globe World Award, 2008), and most recently the Ashoka Fellowship.
blueEnergy evolved over the years through constant adaptation to local conditions and an extensive network of partnerships.
In 2008, blueEnergy expanded to include the Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene program, or WaSH program. Principles in renewable energy evolved to prioritize potable water through solar-powered water pumping systems, deep water wells, individual home water filters, among others.
blueEnergy expanded from Bluefields out to Monkey Point, Nicaragua and other communities, developing water filters and wells, greywater treatment, dry latrines (eco-baños).
The next phase of blueEnergy’s evolution was its Food Security and Agroecology program, formed in 2014. The program focuses on agroecology and permaculture techniques within the context of a changing climate, climate justice, and climate change resilience.
Also in 2014, blueEnergy joined forces with local partner in Ethiopia, MCMDO, expanding its impact through solar-powered water pumping, water wells,
In 2018, blueEnergy Nicaragua underwent a restructuring. Now, the office is completely in the hands of local people, and long-time blueEnergy leaders Sandra Pavon and Margarita Ruiz are the Country Director and Adjunct Director, respectively. This was a critical and important step for blueEnergy, as it was one of the original goals to be achieved. We are extremely proud and grateful for our women leaders in the field office.