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Roughly the size of New York state and with 5.6 million people, Nicaragua is the largest country in Central America and its least densely settled. Paradoxically, it is also one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere. Fifty percent of its population lives below the poverty line, and a third is younger than 15 years old. Nicaragua can be divided into three environmental regions: the tropical, dry Pacific coastal plain, the Central Highlands, and the Caribbean Coastal Plain. These regions share common social and environmental concerns but also have specific problems of their own.

Deforestation is an issue throughout the country. An expanding agricultural frontier east of the more densely settled Pacific region responds to ebbs and flows in markets and governmental priorities. In the ...

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