Crowdfunding for Independent Media

The Island of Widows
Total Raised of $19,000 goal

  days left


Funding Raised for  : Photography and Video Project on Fatal Chronic Kidney Disease and Nicaragua's Sugarcane Workers
Individual                  : Ed Kashi
Media Profile           : Ed Kashi is a photojournalist, filmmaker and educator dedicated to documenting the social and political issues of our times.
Talking Eyes Media is acting as fiscal agent for The Island of Widows. That means your donation is tax deductible.
Sponsored by          : The Photo Society


All images © Ed Kashi | All rights reserved

The True Cost of Sugar

Candy, cookies, soft drinks, cereal…sugar, sugar, sugar. This sweet additive is everywhere, with an average consumption of 130lbs per year for each American. We’re infatuated with sugar. But where does our beloved sweetener come from? and who tended the crops? More importantly, how does sugar affect them?


In Nicaragua, which exports 40% of its sugar to America, the average life span of men who harvest sugar cane is 49 years. At the root of these early deaths is an epidemic of fatal Chronic Kidney Disease (CKDu). In the town Chichigalpa, often called the “Island of Widows,” 1-in-3 men, mostly cane workers, are in end-stage renal failure. This fatal disease is not only a public health crisis, but also a social injustice. The cause of this epidemic is unknown, which is why we are launching this documentary project. Through our efforts, we can help draw attention and resources that could help save lives.

The Silence Needs to be Broken

A notoriously corrupt government continually mutes this issue by intimidating workers and advocates. This greatly inhibits forward motion on solving the mystery behind the cause of this deadly epidemic. Research on the subject of CKDu by La Isla Foundation has indicated that repeated dehydration, severe heat, and environmental toxins may play a huge part in the rising death toll among cane workers. These clues need further investigation and increased media coverage to find a solution to this critical problem.

Finding a Solution Together

In 2013 I worked for two weeks with La Isla Foundation in Nicaragua documenting this issue and the effects on families impacted by the disease. More work still needs to be done. Using the power of photography and video, my goal is to generate education, support, and community awareness.


Ultimately this material could be utilized in local information and outreach programs to address problems confronting the workers and their families, to stimulate conversation within Nicaragua, to facilitate the development of community-lead solutions, and to expand the network of people willing to take a stand.


Worldwide print and digital media outlets would draw on the work to raise awareness of this growing health issue in an industry whose product is consumed by nearly everyone on earth: sugar. Furthermore, I will make my work (images and film) available to La Isla Foundation, and any other advocates working to raise awareness of the issue, support affected families and eliminate this growing work place hazard.


Help get to the bottom of why Nicaragua’s sugar cane workers are dying in record numbers from kidney failure. I truly believe that with your support this project can make a difference.

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Estimated Budget

Estimated Budget For “CKDu and Nicaragua’s Sugarcane Workers” is based on a 14 day shoot based in Chichigalpa, Nicaragua. You can find the detailed, itemised budget in PDF on Documents part of the project page.


All images © Ed Kashi | All rights reserved