Charities Operating in Paraguay
Paraguay is a country located in central South America with a population of 6.7 million people. While its poverty rate has declined in recent years, Paraguay remains one of the poorest nations on the continent, with 26.9% of people living in poverty in 2020. This is particularly prevalent in rural areas, where more than a third of the population lives below the poverty line. As citizens struggle with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, natural disasters and government corruption, charities are stepping up to provide vital aid to those most in need. Below are the five charities operating in Paraguay that are working to improve the lives of its locals.

1. Fundación Paraguaya

Fundación Paraguaya is the first of the five charities operating in Paraguay. It focuses on eliminating poverty, targeting mainly young people and women. It teaches skills to enable impoverished families to improve their financial situations, teaches entrepreneurial skills and strengthens small businesses by providing loans.

Fundación Paraguaya’s Self-Sustainable Agricultural Schools, which teach entrepreneurial skills to young people living in rural areas, have been particularly successful. In 2021, the HundrED Research Report recognized the schools as having a “tremendous’” impact on agricultural communities. So far, the school has enabled 97 graduates to learn real-world skills which have helped them to become financially self-sustainable.

2. Fondo de Mujeres del Sur

Fondo de Mujeres del Sur (FMS) is a nonprofit based across Latin America that aims to empower women and other marginalized communities. FMS fights for the sexual and reproductive rights of women, runs programs to tackle gender and sexuality-based discrimination and promotes economic justice for women in Paraguay.

The work of FMS is especially important due to the highly prevalent gender inequalities and violence against women in Paraguay. The World Bank reports that between 2019 and 2022, there were 143 cases of femicide. The fact that there were reports of 30 cases of femicide between January to September 2022, six more than in the same period the previous year, indicates that violence against women is not going to reduce on its own and that organizations such as FMS should tackle it through its work.

From 2012 to 2015, FMS implemented a program to defend and promote women’s labor rights. The program provided financial and technical support to organizations and unions of female workers in the domestic and sewing industry in Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay. It enabled meetings between organizations in order to allow women to collaborate in advancing their rights. In Paraguay alone, three female worker organizations received support thanks to FMS.

3. Global Infancia

Global Infancia is a Paraguay-based charity that aims to create a culture of respecting children’s and adolescents’ rights. Not only does it lobby the government to enact laws that protect children, but it also engages with and informs the public on issues affecting children’s rights and works with families and children in Paraguay to improve their lives.

Global Infancia’s impact is of particular importance due to the widespread mistreatment of children in Paraguay. The Paraguayan government ran a survey in 2017 involving approximately 8,000 households and found that nearly 50% of those interviewed used violence as a form of discipline against children.

Global Infancia’s community development program works to improve the quality of life for underprivileged children and adolescents in the cities of Remansito and Villeta. It is currently providing over 1,700 under-18s with educational and early developmental services, as well as helping them to develop skills that will prepare them to enter working life.

4. Caritas Paraguay

Caritas Paraguay (locally known as Pastoral Social Nacional) is a nonprofit addressing the needs of what it calls “the new faces of poverty: people deprived of their liberty, the homeless, immigrants and small farmers.” While the charity began as a U.S. aid program, delivering food, clothing and medicines, its role has evolved and it now raises awareness about poverty, promotes grassroots groups and encourages community organization.

Along with Caritas’s yearly Lent campaign, the charity has also launched an emergency appeal in response to the flooding in the region of Chaco. As the majority of those that the yearly foods affect belong to agricultural, indigenous communities facing high levels of poverty, Caritas’s work is vital in helping those who are most in need.

5. Habitat for Humanity

Habitat for Humanity is an international charity fighting global poverty and homelessness, which has helped more than 4,500 families in Paraguay alone. Its branch in Paraguay focuses on tackling the poor housing situation where, according to the Inter-American Development Bank, 39% of families in urban areas live in inadequate housing. The housing situation affects indigenous farming communities even more, as the number of families living in inadequate housing increases to 50% in rural areas.

Habitat is helping Paraguayans by offering assistance in the repairing and building of homes for underprivileged families, allowing them to repay loans through affordable mortgages. It also offers affordable construction materials to locals and grant credits for the construction of houses to families who cannot afford traditional loans.

While Paraguay is yet to overcome the challenges of poverty and inequality, these five charities operating in Paraguay are instrumental in providing aid to the neediest and impoverished. Women, children, the indigenous population and small farmers, groups that the rest of the society often overlooks, benefit greatly from the work of these charities, and hopefully will continue to do so with further donations and support.

– Priya Thakkar
Photo: Flickr

The Bioceanic Road Corridor
Paraguay is a landlocked country with neglected transportation infrastructure. The inner portion of Paraguay in particular contains very few paved roads. In fact, the entirety of Paraguay contains 9,300 miles of paved roads, primarily on the outer edges of the country. For comparison, California, which is roughly the same size as Paraguay, contains 396,540 miles of paved roads.

The inland of Paraguay is incredibly difficult to traverse in its current state, with hundreds of miles of swamp, savannah and scrub, called the Gran Chaco. Traveling through the country with large vehicles, such as semi-trailer trucks, is nearly impossible. One truck driver noted that driving from the industrial city of Loma Plata to Carmelo Peralta, a mere 165 miles away,  could take up to 12 hours, primarily on dirt roads. If it rained, the truck could end up stuck in the mud for days. This made transport across Paraguay a logistical disaster. Export of goods to non-local markets was incredibly difficult and expensive. However, this may soon be a worry of the past. The Paraguay government has constructed 1,864 miles of paved roads since 2018. More importantly, it began construction on its portion of the Bioceanic Road Corridor in 2019.

Bioceanic Road Corridor 

The Bioceanic Road Corridor is a dual-carriage motorway that will stretch east to west from Chile, through Argentina and Paraguay, and end in Brazil. The four countries have long discussed this plan but Paraguay is finally putting it into action. Paraguay’s section of the road will stretch 338 miles. Additionally, this project plans to implement rail and fiber optic connections from Chile to Brazil. Thanks to the corridor, the stretch of road between Loma Plata to Carmelo Peralta now only takes four hours to traverse.

Impact on Paraguay 

The completion of the Bioceanic Road Corridor will revolutionize trade for Paraguay. The primary stretch of road will travel across the country, with a large bridge from Carmelo Peralta to Brazil over the Apa River. Simultaneously, the Trans-Chaco Highway running north to south will widen and improve. Before this project began, shipping goods was very costly. Now, the country will have access to the Pacific ports of Chile and the Atlantic ports of Brazil. The hope is that this corridor will allow Paraguayan goods to enter the booming Asian market. Expectations have determined that, upon the completion of the corridor, agricultural producers in the southern cone of Paraguay will save an average of 14 days and $1,000 per container shipment.

Not only will trade improve but day-to-day life in Paraguay will also see benefits. Getting to the hospital from the Chaco will be far easier with these newly paved roads. In addition, an increase in the transport industry should create hundreds of regional jobs.

Issues

While the Bioceanic Road Corridor will have plenty of benefits, some issues may arise from the construction of such a large road through the Chaco. Of course, there are worries about deforestation in the Chaco leading to the loss of biodiversity. To counter this, the government plans for the corridor to include 15 underpasses for wildlife. Furthermore, some believe this investment would be better placed in the hands of the small agricultural producers that make up 20% of Paraguay’s GDP.

Despite these concerns, Paraguay’s future looks brighter with the implementation of the corridor. The corridor should lead to an increase in trade, the creation of more jobs and the saving of thousands of hours of manpower. Additionally, the quality of life of those living in the Chaco should improve. As of right now, the Bioceanic Road Corridor looks to be the new Silk Road for those in Paraguay.  

 – Benjamin Brown
Photo: Flickr

Foreign Aid to ParaguayWith a national poverty rate of about 24% in 2018, according to World Bank data, increasing foreign aid to Paraguay is vital. Paraguay, a landlocked nation home to 7.13 million people in the heart of South America, has made significant strides to combat poverty, but not without help. Foreign aid is a staple in the country’s infrastructure development, humanitarian assistance and social welfare programs, all of which help to reduce poverty in Paraguay.

7 Facts About Foreign Aid to Paraguay

  1. Based on a poverty line of less than US$5.5 (2011 PPP) per day, foreign aid contributions helped Paraguay’s poverty rate fall to 15.8% in 2019, “less than half of what it was in 2003.” For instance, between 2003 and 2019, Paraguay received at least $13 million each year in U.S. foreign assistance, contributing to many projects designed to improve life for impoverished Paraguayans. One such project is the Paraguay Productivo, which targeted rural poverty by connecting smallholder farmers with “sustainable business opportunities” between 2009 and 2012. With projects like these, foreign aid to Paraguay contributed to a sharp decrease in poverty, improving the quality of life for millions of Paraguayans.
  2. Paraguay received more than $304 million for official development assistance (ODA) in 2020. This large sum of money contributes to hundreds of projects, including those for encouraging democracy, developing infrastructure and eradicating poverty. Projects like the Democracy and Governance Project (U.S.), Paraguay Productivo (U.S.) and the Project for Strengthening Primary Health Care System (Japan) contribute to economic growth and political stability, providing better resources and improving life for impoverished Paraguayans.
  3. The largest single donor to Paraguay is Japan, contributing more than $54 million in 2019 and 2020. The next highest donors of foreign aid to Paraguay are the European Union ($40.07 million), South Korea ($39.84 million), the Inter-American Development Bank ($38.36 million), the Green Climate Fund ($28.07 million), France ($22.44 million) and the United States ($21.52 million). Japan’s priorities in Paraguay are reducing disparities and promoting sustainable economic development, providing a framework for its aid. For instance, Japan’s Agricultural Sector Strengthening Project delivered resources to farmers, increasing their productivity and mitigating rural poverty.
  4. The sector receiving the most ODA is economic infrastructure and services, receiving 34% of foreign aid to Paraguay from 2019 to 2020. The next highest receiving sectors are social infrastructure and services (33%), health and population (17%) and education (5%). Paraguay Okakuaa, a U.S. project lasting from November 2015 to September 2021, developed economic infrastructure to prevent the exploitation of impoverished children, including the development of an electronic case management system to assist the government in executing labor laws.
  5. USAID, the U.S. agency orchestrating the country’s international development plans, leads several noteworthy projects that contribute to the fight against poverty, both directly and indirectly. The Democracy and Governance Project focuses on stemming corruption in the country, with an allotment of almost $4 million in 2018. The Higher Education Partnership received $3 million in 2019 to “strengthen the capacity of local higher education institutions (universities and training centers) to address gaps in the area of rule of law,” the USAID EducationLinks website says. USAID donated $4.9 million for COVID-19 assistance in 2022, bolstering the nation’s response to the pandemic.
  6. Some projects have a narrower focus on improving the well-being of Paraguayans, from improving health care to advancing access to food and water. For example, Japan and the Inter-American Development Bank loaned up to 9.13 million yen for water and sanitation improvements in Ciudad del Este, advancing water and sewage services in Paraguay’s “second largest metropolitan area.” Projects like this one focusing on water quality ensure the health, safety and security of the Paraguayans with the fewest resources.
  7. Foreign assistance does not always come from government sources, as many non-governmental organizations step up to combat poverty. Habitat for Humanity, for instance, served almost 3,500 Paraguayans in 2021 through “new constructions,” home repairs and “incremental building.” This organization contributes to improved living conditions, aiding vulnerable Paraguayans by building durable homes.

Eradicating global poverty is a group effort. As it stands, 8.6% of the world lives in extreme poverty and foreign aid works as a critical tool in the fight to end poverty. Through global action, poverty in Paraguay can diminish.

– Michael Cardamone
Photo: Flickr

Human Trafficking in Paraguay
In the last few decades, human trafficking has become rampant in many Latin American countries. Landlocked by Argentina, Bolivia and Brazil, Paraguay finds itself grappling with this issue, putting many of its citizens at risk of becoming victims of trafficking. For the year 2021, the U.S. State Department ranks Paraguay at Tier 2 in regard to the nation’s handling of human trafficking. This ranking means that Paraguay does not meet the minimum requirements for combating trafficking as outlined in the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 but “is making significant efforts to do so.”

Victims of Trafficking in Paraguay

According to the Trafficking in Persons Report (TIP) of 2021, men, women and children are all susceptible to human trafficking in Paraguay. However, the most prevalent and concerning act of human trafficking in Paraguay involves the exploitation of children under a practice called “criadazgo,” which entails the exploitive labor of children as domestic workers.

A child, usually from an impoverished family, provides domestic work to middle and high-class families in exchange for “varying compensation that includes room, board, money, a small stipend or access to educational opportunities.” Estimates indicate that about 47,000 Paraguayan children work under this practice, often girls. However, this practice is a form of exploitation “similar to slavery.” In fact, many victims of criadazgo experience physical abuse and sexual abuse. Although officially outlawed in Paraguay due to child rights violations, the practice continues.

Barriers to Combating Human Trafficking in Paraguay

Law enforcement officials are often complicit in human trafficking crimes. Allegations include accepting bribes to overlook acts of trafficking in “massage parlors and brothels” and “issuing passports for Paraguayan trafficking victims exploited abroad.” According to the TIP, Paraguay’s national law against human trafficking does not “align with international law.” Furthermore, the official anti-trafficking unit lacks the resources to operate effectively. Considering the significant number of trafficking victims in Paraguay,  the nation does not have adequate services and infrastructure in place to adequately serve victims.

The Good News

Paraguay developed the Ministry of Adolescents and Children (MINNA), which “maintains a unit dedicated to fighting child trafficking and a hotline to report cases of human trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation of children.” This unit also offers “social services” to child victims of trafficking.

MINNA created Program Abrazo (Embrace Program) in 2005 to aid children within exploitative child labor by supplying the children and their family members “with health and education services, food deliveries and cash transfers conditioned on children’s school attendance and withdrawal from work.” In 2020, MINNA collaborated with “local institutions” to “open new Embrace Program attention centers for street children and to strengthen services at existing centers.”

In 2017, Paraguay created a child trafficking awareness initiative to reduce “child commercial sexual exploitation” within the tourism industry. The initiative made use of flyers, banners and stickers “at hotels, airports and places of mass circulation” in Ciudad del Este, the second-largest city in Paraguay, as well as the Paraguay border area.

Looking Ahead

These efforts are placing the country on the right path for Tier 1 categorization as a fully compliant nation. It is important to raise awareness of human trafficking to help eliminate it. Human trafficking can put any one of the 7.6 million people residing in Paraguay at risk. Most importantly, the vulnerable population, such as children and impoverished people, face this risk at a higher proportion than anyone else. Through continued efforts to combat human trafficking in Paraguay, the government can safeguard the well-being of vulnerable Paraguayans.

– Kler Teran
Photo: Unsplash

Yerba MateParaguay experienced an economic boom during the last decade. It is the fourth-largest producer of soybeans and the sixth in beef. However, most of the rural population remains impoverished as the landowners in Paraguay accumulate a large portion of the wealth. Agribusiness is growing and big businesses are taking over the farming land. As a result, indigenous farmers have no means to defend their former livelihood. There is a massive exodus to urban areas, as indigenous people live in poverty, unable to return to farming.

The Hope of Yerba Mate Onoirū

In this grim scenario, there is a sliver of hope through ecological agriculture. Yerba Mate Onoirū, commercialized since 2016 with the aid of the NGO Conamuri, empowers small-scale and subsistence farmers. It focuses on women in indigenous communities whose widescale agribusiness have been marginalized. Conamuri supports sustainable, fair-trade farming in various districts in the department of Itapúa, aiding small-scale Yerba farming in Paraguay since 2011.

History of Yerba Mate and Its Successes

In Paraguay, drinking yerba mate is an ancestral practice dating back to the pre-Columbian era. UNESCO recently declared the drinking practice as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Many South American countries consume the drink, but Paraguay ranks first in consumption per capita. For example, the average Paraguayan consumes 6-8 kilograms of yerba per year. Each region has its own preparation preferences, adapted for cold and hot climates as mate and tereré, respectively.

Small-scale farming under the Conamuri program specializes in ecological farming techniques. They use no pesticides or agrochemicals and produce high-quality yerba mate. Training includes education on soil and treatment, sustainable fertilizers, marketing and commercialization. Then, families are ready to start producing Yerba Mate Onoirū, getting paid more than farmers under widescale yerba mate buyers. “Oñoirũ is part of a movement looking to create a fairer model of society using our natural resources so that our young people can stay in their communities and have decent living and work conditions,” says Pedro Vega, general manager of Yerba Mate Onoirū.

Conamuri denounces the crimes of industrial agriculture toward rural populations in Paraguay, especially that of soybean plantations. The NGO employs more than 100 families in Paraguay, producing around 220 tons of yerba mate per year.

Gender in the Agricultural Sector in Paraguay

Conamuri also runs workshops on gender issues, teaching rural women how to manage their own profit to grow their agricultural produce. Tackling gender issues is a key part of the NGO’s mission. Gender-based violence is rampant in rural Paraguay, mainly through employment inequality. Many rural women work independently or in the household, and often never make an income of their own. Conamuri, through Yerba Mate Onoirū, grants them an opportunity to be independent through sustainable farming.

Looking Forward

The organization grants vulnerable individuals an opportunity to live a more dignified life and learn traditional farming methods. Additionally, they obtain yearly dividends and make democratic decisions about the business. As of 2021, Yerba Mate Onoirū now exports to Argentina, Brazil, Russia and the U.S., as demand for fair-trade yerba increases worldwide.

– Arai Yegros
Photo: Flickr

Soccer Programs Addressing Global PovertySoccer is one of the most popular sports on the international stage, with more than four billion fans. Additionally, roughly 30 billion people watch the FIFA World Cup. This proves that soccer can bring many people together despite different linguistic or cultural backgrounds. With this in mind, soccer programs across the world are harnessing people’s love for the game to help the impoverished. Three particular soccer programs are addressing global poverty and are making the world a better place.

3 Soccer Programs Addressing Global Poverty

  1. Football for Change: Founded by British national team player Trent Alexander-Arnold, Football for Change is a nonprofit organization working to alleviate youth poverty in the United Kingdom. Alexander-Arnold wanted to use his platform to raise awareness for youth poverty, so he launched Football for Change to fund educational programs in low-income neighborhoods. Other professional soccer players, including Conor Coady and Andrè Gomez, have joined the nonprofit to show young people that success is possible despite economic hardship.
  2. Girls Soccer Worldwide: This nonprofit organization was founded by a husband and wife duo to address female poverty around the world. The organization’s mission includes securing equal opportunities for women on and off the field. These opportunities include equal access to soccer leagues, education and politics. To accomplish this goal, Girls Soccer Worldwide establishes all-female recreational soccer teams across the world, and most notably in Paraguay, to uplift women’s voices. Girls Soccer Worldwide also encourages others to contribute by participating in fundraising events such as walkathons and 5k runs. Its most recent 5k run for a cause occurred on July 11, 2021.
  3. Grassroots Soccer: This organization combats global poverty by supporting athletic and academic programs around the world. To date, Grassroots Soccer has helped implement soccer, health and educational programs in 45 countries in Latin America, South America, Africa, Eastern Europe and Asia. The organization raises awareness of both global poverty and health risks associated with HIV/AIDS and malaria. Currently, it is introducing an HIV treatment delivery service program in Zambia to provide people living with HIV medicine and support. Notable supporters of the Grassroots Soccer organization include the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the U.N. and the CDC. However, anyone can support the Grassroots Soccer Foundation by launching personal fundraising campaigns and playing soccer for a cause. Educational institutions including Brown University, Vassar College, Georgetown University and Yale University have launched campaigns to raise money for the organization in the past.

Former U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon states that sports are “increasingly recognized as an important tool” to help “create a better world.” People’s shared admiration for soccer can provide the basis for a common goal of helping the world’s most impoverished people. Soccer programs addressing global poverty, like Football for Change, Girls Soccer Worldwide and Grassroots Soccer, lead the way in using sports to help combat poverty.

– Chloe Young
Photo: Flickr

Natural Disaster Aid in Paraguay
The landlocked Republic of Paraguay is prone to a wide range of natural disasters. Floods and droughts affect the most benighted areas of the country. Fortunately, both national and international agencies are taking action in aiding the local population, working through COVID-19 preventive measures that have delayed the arrival of natural disaster relief packages.

Natural Disasters in Paraguay

Paraguay experienced its worst floods in 2015 and 2019. Since then, the country has confronted subsequent natural disasters in the regions of Boquerón, Presidente Hayes and Alto Paraguay, with more than 2,400 families and 80,000 individuals affected. Even though Paraguay is one of the most humid countries in the region with a fairly high precipitation rate, climate oscillations have been destabilizing already vulnerable communities. As a country relying primarily on crops and cattle raising, fluctuations in climate and natural disasters can prove fatal for the rural population, not only putting the local economy at risk but also increasing the chances of infections through water-borne diseases such as dengue and chikungunya.

As the South American country that has experienced the steepest exponential economic growth in the last thirty years, Paraguay has taken long strides to increase income per capita and reduce inequality. However, most of its economy is commodity-based, which makes it extremely sensitive to fluctuations in climate. Floods tend to be an especially dire calamity since they directly affect the agriculture, animal husbandry and hydroelectric energy industries.

Increasing Climate Resiliency

According to the World Bank, Paraguay ranks 95 out of 181 countries in the 2019 Notre Dame Global Adaptation Initiative. This renders the country fairly vulnerable to climate catastrophe, primarily because of a lack of response and strategic planning. Climate indexes such as this one serve to acquire relevant diagnoses and eventually form sector-specific policies that can aid development outcomes.

It is necessary for the national government to take action to increase climate resiliency by adopting adaptation implementation efforts. Policymaking is crucial in this area, prioritizing investments for more efficient climate mitigation techniques in vulnerable rural areas.

A Four-Part Plan

The Paraguayan government has been taking action against these threats. The Ministry for National Emergencies (SEN) alongside the country’s National System of the Environment (SISAM) have devised a comprehensive plan to diminish natural disaster impact in Paraguay. The plan has been included in Paraguay’s Sustainable Development Goals for disaster risk reduction and consists of four parts:

  1. Understanding the extent of damage that natural disasters may cause. This includes encouraging research for preventive purposes and using ancestral indigenous techniques in farming to reduce the environmental impact that slash-and-burn techniques have on climate catastrophe.
  2. Increase governance in areas prone to natural disasters. The government is committed to creating laws related to aid in cases of floods and droughts, and beginning to build sound infrastructure to easily aid affected areas.
  3. Invest resources in building said infrastructures, such as roads and municipal buildings that can withstand harsh environmental conditions. This goal also expects to increase cooperation between national and regional authorities for quick aid relief.
  4. Ameliorate time of response by authorities and communities. This means not only investing in disaster-proof establishments but also empowering individuals and promoting universal access to reconstruction and rehabilitation.

International Assistance

In addition to the government, international aid organizations are also providing natural disaster relief to Paraguay. For example, USAID has been active in Paraguay since 2004, providing aid in the aftermath of 10 disasters. The World Bank has also been focused on helping Paraguay improve disaster preparedness. The organization has identified research gaps within Paraguay’s climate disaster response, including climate variability and water resources. Additionally, the World Bank has led economic-environmental feasibility studies, which are currently lacking. These efforts are all designed to ensure Paraguay has the resources necessary to overcome natural disasters.

Alongside conscientious data-gathering for the prevention of natural disasters and natural disaster relief, international assistance is crucial: it has not only proven helpful during calamitous environmental instances but also during a yellow fever outbreak, the subsequent seasonal dengue epidemic and COVID-19. Moving forward, USAID, the World Bank and other international organizations must continue to prioritize addressing natural disasters in Paraguay.

Araí Yegros
Photo: Flickr

COVID-19 Research in South America
Innovations for Poverty Action is a nonprofit research and policy organization that is working to establish research projects that address inequalities and discover global poverty solutions across 22 countries. The nonprofit organization continues to work with 830 research projects in eight areas: education, financial inclusion, health, peace and recovery, social protection, agriculture, governance and other enterprises. Today, the IPA continues to perform important research projects to present high-quality evidence to policymakers by analyzing results from studies focusing on the impact of financial education in various countries. This extends to COVID-19 research in South America.

IPA Colombia

IPA Colombia has conducted research addressing topics ranging from early childhood development and education to financial inclusion and gender-based violence. From June to August 2020, four researchers partnered with the IPA, Fundación Capital and The Family Compensation Fund of Antioquia to measure the impact of a COVID-19 WhatsApp intervention program on financial health, women’s empowerment and intimate partner violence of low-income individuals in Antioquia. The program originated from a Fundación Capital, IPA and Colombian government partnership that implemented a LISTA financial education program and survey for cash transfer beneficiaries from 2015 to 2016. Following COVID-19, a WhatsApp intervention program emerged and the IPA evaluated 1,549 women and 784 men in a treatment or control study. The interactive WhatsApp treatment program provided communication services, psychosocial support and a financial education program for participants from June to July 2020.

IPA Colombia and Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) Partnerships

The IADB partnered with IPA Colombia to start a Special Permit of Permanence for the Administrative Registry of Venezuelan migrants (PEP-RAMV) research study in September 2020. The PEP-RAMV permit program became open to census registered Venezuelan migrants for two-year temporary work and residence permits starting in July 2018. Researchers compared 4,000 registered or undocumented migrant homes through research, telephone surveys and 42 interviews to help policymakers understand how the permit impacts migrant healthcare and employment as information to base new Colombia migration policies.

The IPA partnered with two IADB researchers in a COVID-19 mitigation strategy compliance evaluation with 1,300 university students in Bogota as a strategy to support Colombia. The researchers partnered with the IPA and Rosario University to inform students about the participant and public benefits of following COVID-19 mitigation policies or controlled classical music treatment. Moreover, the researchers requested to send a participant opinion survey on COVID-19 mitigation strategy compliance to help determine whether COVID-19 mitigation policies should reduce.

IPA Paraguay

For several years, the IPA has worked on research-based projects in Paraguay addressing education and pension programs. From May to July 2020, IPA researchers conducted telephone surveys with 2,035 women entrepreneurs in rural Paraguay to determine whether microfinance loans for the self-employed can help businesses and households build resilience to overcome the impact of COVID-19.  The IPA telephone surveys asked the entrepreneurs interested in microloans about the impact of COVID-19 on their farms or businesses.

UCONN Agricultural and Resource Economics Professor and IPA Researcher, Nathan Fiala, has worked with a Paraguay microfinance organization since 2018. Fiala told The Borgen Project that a 2019 baseline survey addressed women “who have expressed interest in receiving a microloan” before they accessed loans from the Paraguay microfinance organization in 2019. According to Fiala, the IPA joined the project because the microfinance “research that exists out there is not of good quality and we’re trying to improve on the quality of that research” by 2022. Recently, Fiala found that the Paraguay microfinance organization is “expanding certain programming and doing more close work” with the women entrepreneurs based on participant needs.

IPA COVID-19 Response

In 2020, the IPA started the Research for Effective COVID-19 Responses (RECOVR) program with multiple partner agencies. The initial inter-agency funded RECOVR survey occurred between May and July 2020 in 10 countries while subsequent surveys were conducted between July and December 2020. The initial survey asked participants about the impact of COVID-19, while subsequent surveys focused on child welfare and domestic violence in August and November 2020 as a strategy to support Colombia.

A Look Ahead: COVID-19 Research in South America

The IPA partnered with the National Planning Department (DNP) of Colombia to observe the impact of the VAT Compensation in a telephone survey for 1,730 beneficiaries and 1,732 non-beneficiary households from June to November 2020. The DNP managed the 75,000 Colombian peso cash transfers before the Department of Social Prosperity took over management to reach 1 million social welfare beneficiary households every five to eight weeks starting on March 31, 2020. The survey found that VAT Compensation beneficiaries were more likely to support COVID-19 precautions than non-beneficiaries.

The IPA has developed 80 COVID-19 response evaluations and an International Growth Centre support partnership for COVID-19 Economic Impact surveys. The surveys helped increase COVID-19 research in South America and inform policymakers about how to regulate COVID-19 policies. Fiala continues to analyze the importance of microfinance loans in rural Paraguay. As the IPA continues to analyze results on the PEP-RAMV study, Colombia began to initiate a 10-year Temporary Statute of Protection for Venezuelan Migrants (TSPV) for approximately 1.7 million Venezuelan migrants in February 2021 as a strategy to support Colombia.

Evan Winslow
Photo: Flickr

Microcredits for womenUnlike some of its geographical neighbors, Paraguay adopted quick and strict measures against the COVID-19 pandemic when it first struck the South American nation in early March 2020. The contagion was under control at first and grew at a relatively low rate. However, the quarantine measures affected Paraguayan women in the workforce in particular. Microcredits for women in Paraguay underwent implementation to help small business owners and women working in the agricultural sector who COVID-19 impacted.

Job Loss for Paraguayan Women

For over 200,000 Paraguayan women, following the security measures could mean losing their jobs without the compensation of social security nets. The vast majority of women who work informally (that is, receiving pay daily as laborers, rather than receiving a stable salary) risk getting the COVID-19 virus or getting laid off.

The situation was especially dire for rural and indigenous women, who make up the largest percentage of the informal employment sector. Fortunately, Paraguay has put a lot of fiscal effort in relief for those finding themselves in precarious employment situations. It has allocated over $2.5 billion to mitigate the crisis. It will send economic relief to the communities that the pandemic has affected the most.

Recovery for Paraguay and Microcredits for Women

More than $970 million is going toward the financing of new credits for those working in the informal sector. This plan, Ñapu’ā Paraguay (Recovery for Paraguay), is focussing on granting relief checks. In addition, the plan attends to people who, because of their day laborer conditions, cannot afford to work from home.

This government plan is especially targeting women, under the name of Kuña Katupyry (Skilled Women), where microcredits for women go to small business owners and women working in the agricultural sector. These microcredits offer flexibility for payments and applying for group loans. In this situation, a whole community becomes responsible for paying the loan on time.

What has been remarkable about these loans is that they require little to no paperwork, are accessible and grant women economic independence and empowerment. In some cases, they become free from compromising situations at home where violence towards women is ever more present. The Kuña Katupyry loans benefit women ranging from ages 18 to 75. The loans have been vital in keeping afloat agricultural production. With the COVID-19 crisis, the need to maintain a sturdy local food production became more evident.

Over 1,200 women living in rural Paraguay have already been benefited from this program. It emerged in early 2020 to combat the effects of the pandemic. Many more guilds formed by women have signed up for benefits, including artisans and women working in the tourism sector.

Moving Forward with the Program

Kuña Katupyry plans on expanding to more rural sectors this year so more women can be beneficiaries of this initiative. It is not only relevant for informal individual workers, but also for families and communities in Paraguay. As a country relying heavily on the unorganized labor sector, these types of microcredits for women are not only commendable but essential.

Araí Yegros
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Paraguay
The landlocked country of Paraguay, located in south-central South America, currently faces strict rule and political turbulence. These recent troubles contribute to the long history of poverty in Paraguay. Since the 1860s, the country has participated in three different major wars in South America. It also experienced a civil war in the 1940s, which gave the Paraguayan people a strong sense of fear and unwillingness to express themselves freely. This sentiment has only recently begun to diminish in the early 21st century.

Background

The citizens and inhabitants of Paraguay are less diverse and more ethnically homogenous than in other South American countries. Most are of European and Guarani descent. Rivers are very important to the country’s economy as these water sources support the function of many hydroelectric power plants. Paraguay is one of the best producers of soybeans and many parts of the country flourish where fertile soil allows for diverse diets and high standards of living.

While the country is making great strides in the 21st century in its efforts to combat poverty, economic distress continues to stand as a major issue. Leading up to the year 2017, Paraguay actually noted an increase in poverty rates. Even though the country performed better economically overall, the total poverty rate that year rose from 26.6% to 28.8%. Even extreme poverty, which is defined as living on less than $1.90 a day, increased in this period.

These numbers are tragic because it shows a reversal in the steady decline of poverty rates in Paraguay in the years prior to 2016. To put this into perspective, in the five years prior, the poverty rate declined from 31.37% to 26.58%. This sudden worsening was unexpected as the South American region was collectively making progress in the fight against poverty. However, things have changed since then and poverty in Paraguay is showing signs of improvement.

Path to Progress

Some think that changes in poverty in Paraguay are the result of the government shifting its focus to extreme poverty. People in extreme poverty may not have the most basic necessities, such as food, shelter, sanitation and medical services. The minister of technical planning, Jose Molinas, confirms that there is a goal of reducing the extreme poverty rate to 3%. However, there is no goal to address the total poverty rate, leaving some impoverished people neglected.

Alicia Bárcena, the executive secretary of the U.N. Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), states that a lack of investment, extensive divisions in class structure and limited productivity gains are threatening the region’s ability to reach the poverty reduction goals agreed upon by U.N. members in 2015. Perhaps by addressing these issues, then, and by giving attention and care to the total poverty rate as opposed to only extreme poverty rates, the country can see a decline in poverty rates.

In fact, progress is already visible, with the poverty rate reducing from 24.2% to 23.5% between 2018 and 2019. This is due in part to the ongoing support from other countries and aid organizations.

In 2019, the Australian Embassy initiated the Direct Aid Program (DAP). DAP provides small grants for more than 80 countries worldwide, including Paraguay, funding non-governmental organization initiatives to aid these countries. It supports endeavors like providing education for the youth, including vocational and sex education. Other initiatives include promoting the economic development of women to achieve gender equity as well as infrastructure projects for Indigenous peoples. One such initiative, Poverty Spotlight, helped 30,000 Paraguayan families leave poverty through higher income generation. Continued support of programs and initiatives like these will help maintain the country’s progress and gradually eradicate poverty in Paraguay.

Fahad Saad
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