Seven Facts About Girls' Education in Paraguay
The Republic of Paraguay, one of the smaller South American countries, is in the center of the continent, landlocked by Brazil, Argentina and Bolivia. Although the country’s economy has improved in recent years, the poverty rate in Paraguay was 28.8 percent as of 2017. In rural areas, the figure increased to nearly 40 percent. The U.N. states that educating girls, helping them become empowered, enabling them to work and become community leaders are powerful ways to fight poverty. While girls’ access to education in Paraguay is better than in many other countries, the country still displays disparities in opportunity between male and female Paraguayans. These seven facts about girls’ education demonstrate the barriers to education access that girls in Paraguay face and some efforts to remove these barriers.

Seven Facts about Girls’ Education in Paraguay

  1. Girls’ and women’s literacy rates are rising. According to UNESCO, the literacy rate among the female population aged 15 years and older has risen from 75.85 percent in 1982 to 93.84 percent in 2016. The female literacy rate remains below the male rate, which was 81.83 percent in 2016, but the gap between them has narrowed over the past decade.
  2. Illiteracy rates are higher in rural areas than in urban areas. According to the Pan American Health Organization, the illiteracy rate in Paraguay differs between men and women as well as between people living in urban and rural areas. As of 2010, the illiteracy rate was three percent for urban men, 6.8 percent for rural men, 3.9 percent for urban women and 9.5 percent for rural women. While women’s illiteracy rates are higher than men’s in both areas, rural women are at a particular disadvantage.
  3. As of 2012, 42,490 school-aged girls did not attend school. Girls’ school attendance drops sharply from primary school to secondary school. For both male and female students, the percentage of eligible people who attend school is significantly lower for secondary school than for primary school. Based on survey data collected from 2008 to 2012, UNICEF reports that 83.9 percent of eligible girls enrolled in primary school compared with only 63.4 percent enrolled in secondary school.
  4. More girls than boys enrolled in secondary school. Despite the drop off in female school enrollment from primary to secondary school, a slightly larger percentage of eligible girls enroll in secondary school than eligible boys of the same age.
  5. Many girls stop attending school due to marriage and having children. According to UNICEF data from 2017, 18 percent of girls in Paraguay married by the age of 18 and two percent married by the age of 15. This is a particularly prevalent issue for girls living in poverty. According to Girls Not Brides, a global organization with the goal of ending child marriage, rural girls in Paraguay married before age 18 more than 35 percent of the time in 2017. In addition to high marriage rates for girls, UNICEF data from 2006 to 2010 show the adolescent birth rate to have been 63 births per 1,000 adolescent women and girls. In 2002, 12 percent of girls aged 15 to 19 were mothers.
  6. Despite girls having some access to education, Paraguay still has a long way to go in reaching equality for women. In 2018, only 10.4 percent of elected mayors in the country and 15 percent of legislators were women.
  7. The Paraguayan government has presented a plan to advance the cause of gender equality. The plan, called the National Equality Plan, calls for more women in government and a fight against gendered violence. Specifics of the plan include the elimination of gender discrimination in law and the establishment of a governmental body with the intention of preventing and monitoring gendered violence. The plan, which will be supervised by U.N. Women, aims to achieve its goals by 2030.

While these seven facts about girls’ education in Paraguay indicate that gender equality has advanced significantly, girls and women in the country do not yet have opportunities equal to those afforded to boys and men. Some people, however, have worked hard to put a plan in place to work toward a solution. These facts about girls’ education emphasize the work that will be necessary to make further strides toward gender equality in Paraguay.

– Meredith Charney
Photo: Unsplash

10 facts about living conditions in Paraguay
According to the World Bank report in 2017, Paraguay has achieved impressive economic and shared prosperity over the last 15 years. From 2014 to 2017, Paraguay’s economy grew by 4.5 percent per year on average. In 2015, the middle class made up 38 percent of the total population, almost doubling since 2003.

For Paraguay’s poor, though, living conditions have remained difficult. Indeed, the country ranks fourth in extreme poverty, after Honduras, Guatemala and Nicaragua, according to a 2016 ECLAC report. In the article below, top 10 facts about living conditions in Paraguay are presented.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Paraguay

  1. Inequality is widespread. Though the country’s GINI coefficient, that indicates economic inequality, has dropped from 0.51 to 0.47, there is still a significant gap between rich and poor Paraguayans. According to the General Statistics Surveys and Census Bureau (DGEEC), the poorest 40 percent of Paraguayans earn only 12.5 percent of the nation’s revenue, while the richest 10 percent earn 37.1 percent of the total income.
  2. Underemployment is high and working conditions are poor. In 2017, underemployment was recorded at 19 percent, while 20 percent of Paraguayans worked less than 30 hours per week. In the Chaco region of Paraguay, region dominated by large-scale cattle agricultural facilities, some workers characterized their working conditions as a form of slave labor.
  3. Small-scale farmers are losing their jobs due to the big agricultural companies. Almost 90 percent of the land belongs to just 5 percent of landowners. The rural-urban economic gap is the result of large-scale agriculture steadily monopolizing the market in Paraguay. Studies have confirmed that, between 1991 and 2008, when the last National Agricultural Census was conducted, the number of farms and homesteads covering less than 100 hectares has shrunk, while those between 100 and 500 hectares has risen by almost 35 percent, and massive plantations covering more than 500 hectares are up by almost 57 percent. In late March 2017, 1,000 farmers converged on Asunción, country’s capital, in an annual march, demanding agrarian reform.
  4. Paraguayan democracy is lacking in social components. It consists almost exclusively to ensure that institutions function, elections are held regularly and transparently. A steady stream of scandals has revealed widespread fraud and corruption.
  5. One-fifth of the people who live in Asunción live in slums. Although complete official accounting of informal settlements is not available, the National Housing Bureau, SENAVITAT, estimates that there are 1,000 slum areas around the city. Slums along the flood-prone riverbanks of the city sometimes house up to 100,000 people. There has been a dramatic increase in the production of social housing for low-income families living in Asunción. In 2016, the Ministry built more than 10,000 low-income housing units, compared to less than 2,000 units built in 2014.
  6. Paraguayans face hunger and malnutrition. Only 6 percent of agricultural land is available for domestic food production, while 94 percent is used for export crops. According to the Food Security Index, around 10 percent of children under the age of 5 currently suffer from stunting. Nearly 27 percent of pregnant women are underweight, while 30 percent are overweight.
  7. Educational attainment is lacking. The 2016-2017 Global Competitive Index of the World Economic Forum ranked the overall quality of Paraguay’s primary education system at the 136th place out of 138 countries. Around 65 percent of children do not complete secondary education which is one of the highest dropout rates in Latin America. The latest 2017 household survey showed that about 5 percent of the adult population, or roughly 280,000 people, are still illiterate. This number has not decreased over the past decade.
  8. The rates of poverty and extreme poverty among indigenous people are at 75 percent and 60 percent, respectively. Factors such as corruption, the concentration of land ownership and environmental degradation combined with institutional weaknesses hinder progress in alleviating poverty and create obstacles for the indigenous people to maintain access to their fundamental rights, such as water, education and health care. The rate of chronic malnutrition among the indigenous population is 41.7 percent. Some indigenous communities have seen improvements, though, in regards to increased food security. A food-security cash-transfer program, Tekoporã, expanded to cover more indigenous population- from 3 percent in 2013 up to nearly 70 percent in 2018.
  9. Health care is not accessible to everyone. An estimated 40 percent of the population is unable to afford health care of any kind. Around 7 percent have private health coverage and 20 percent are covered by the health services of the social security institute, the Instituto de Previsión Social. The rest depend on the public health system.
  10. Paraguay has made giant leaps in increasing access to clean drinking water. The country triumphantly achieved almost complete access to safe drinking water among its rural population, from 51.6 percent in 2000 to 94 percent in 2017.

These 10 facts about living conditions in Paraguay provide a snapshot of the experience of Paraguay’s poor and exemplify that economic growth does not always translate to improved living conditions for everyone.
Photo: Flickr

Paraguay Successfully Eliminates MalariaParaguay has successfully eliminated malaria, making it the first country in the Americas to accomplish such a feat in nearly 50 years.

Victories Against Malaria

The country’s success has been attributed to its ability to detect malaria cases in a timely manner and discern whether or not the cases had been spread inter or intranationally. Between 1950 and 2011, Paraguay developed and implemented programs and policies meant to both control and eliminate the disease; the country registered its last case of P. Vivax Malaria, the most frequent cause of recurring malaria, in 2011.

After 2011, a five-year program focusing on case management, community engagement and public health education was launched in order to prevent transmission and prepare for official “elimination certification.”

Since the program’s completion in 2016, the Ministry of Health has launched a three-year initiative meant to further train Paraguay’s healthcare workers in regards to malaria. This prioritization will inevitably strengthen the country’s ability to promptly detect, diagnose and treat new malaria cases, as well as address the ongoing threat of “malaria importation.” The country has also prioritized controlling and minimizing mosquito populations within its borders.

New Directions and Prioritizations

The elimination of malaria provides economic leverage for Paraguay’s impoverished population. The significant financial burden of approximately $5 a day per malaria case, according to a study published by the U.S. National Library of Medicine, will no longer plague Paraguayan families. Such relief will help enable them to direct their money towards other essentials, such as food and education.

Poverty affects almost 40 percent of Paraguay’s rural population, as opposed to only 22 percent of its urban population. Peak malaria infection often coincides with harvesting season, severely impacting the amount of food rural families are able to produce.

Malaria cases are typically concentrated in said rural areas, where many lack the resources and public health education to adequately detect or treat the virus. The immediate situation of these rural communities is only impacted by instances of extreme flooding, which act as a breeding ground for mosquitos (potential carriers of the virus).

Points of Impact

Malaria primarily occurs in poor, tropical and sub-tropical regions of the world, most of which don’t have adequate access to primary care facilities – in many of the countries it’s present, malaria is the primary cause of death.

The virus is the result of a parasite carried by mosquitos. The most common symptoms of malaria include chills, fever and other flu-like symptoms. Left untreated, the disease can be fatal.

The groups most vulnerable to high levels of malaria transmission include young children and pregnant women. Malaria caused approximately 216 million clinical cases and over 440,000 deaths in 2016 alone.

Future Goals to Successfully Eliminate Malaria

The success of these programs provides a blueprint for other countries to successfully eliminate malaria themselves. Paraguay’s situation contrasts with those of other countries within the Americas, where the increase in malaria cases is greater than in any other region of the world. In fact, nine different countries reported malaria case increases of at least 20 percent between 2015 and 2016.

As a whole, however, Latin America witnessed over a 60 percent decrease in malaria cases between 2000 and 2015. As treatment and surveillance progress, many other countries will follow Paraguay in eliminating the virus. Argentina is expected to be certified later this year, and other malaria-free Latin American countries include Ecuador, El Salvador and Belize.

Katie Anastas
Photo: Flickr

The global indicator “Doing Business” ranks credit access in Paraguay at a not-too-shabby 122 out of 189 countries. The Western Hemisphere Credit and Loan Reporting Initiative stated that Paraguay’s economy was ‘improving;’ still, the government’s 2014-2018 initiative, National Financial Inclusion Strategy (ENIF), identified two major issues it wishes to mitigate. Namely, it indicated that micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) needed better access to approved loans and that 17 percent of the population had no access to a bank.

What is the ENIF?

The Paraguayan government — working alongside the World Bank and the FIRST Trust Fund Initiative — created the National Financial Inclusion Strategy (ENIF) as part of Paraguay’s National Development Plan. The main goal of this initiative is reducing poverty and promoting economic growth.

The strategy intends to achieve this goal by creating better credit access in Paraguay, as well as access to other financial services for the entire population. The project’s vision explains it best: “Quality and affordable financial services for all people in Paraguay who want them through a diverse and competitive marketplace.”

In order to achieve this vision, the initiative analyzes the issues with Paraguay’s current state of financial inclusiveness by comparing the objectives to the gap of the “current financial profile versus the financial needs of the five primary income groups.”

It then creates a strategy for closing this gap by identifying the end goals — the ‘key performance indicators (KPI)’ — and a list of tasks to help achieve this goal. Working groups under each KPI then focus on completing these tasks.

Bank Access

About 69 of the 224 districts in Paraguay with more than 2000 inhabitants (17 percent of the population) have no access to banks, bank agents or ATMs because financial services simply cannot survive in an area with such a tiny client base.

This makes access to financial services for the population living in these rural areas very difficult, if not impossible, to obtain. For the two-thirds of this population that live in extreme poverty, this can also prove quite dangerous. Without access to credit, savings, or even government subsidies they can run out of money to buy food and are ill-equipped to handle an economic shock such as an illness or a death.

The ENIF proposes increasing the use of mobile phones and the coverage of mobile networks in the 69 “financially excluded” districts (with an emphasis on the 17 vulnerable districts) to provide those in need with access to money through mobile financial services.

By coordinating with the working groups in other KPIs, ENIF also wishes to provide such populations with access to financial services such as credit, insurance and savings. Along with this, the working group plans to create financial literacy courses and to design products and initiatives that encourage these vulnerable populations to save their money.

Loan Access for MSMEs

While 64 percent of 1.1 million MSMEs wish to have access to a loan, only 35 percent of MSMEs have had the ability to borrow in order to fund their operations. One-fifth of these firms reported not even applying for loans because they anticipated outright rejection.

To the ENIF, this indicates issues with business credit access in Paraguay and a need to improve the loan system. Improving such access will not only help businesses gain more capital for the country, but it will also improve job growth and increase access to opportunity for those in need.

The ENIF believes that credit risk systems of Paraguay’s main bank, Banco Central de Paraguay (BCP), and the collective savings and credit cooperative institution Instituto Nacional de Cooperativismo (INCOOP) should communicate with each other in order to create a collective credit information system. This partnership would allow for better monitoring of indebtedness and to ensure responsible credit is given.

ENIF’s Efforts

Along with this, the ENIF will also help in the creation of other regulatory measures such as:

  • Speeding up the provisioning of micro-credit loans
  • Establishing accuracy, timeliness, disclosure and recourse standards for all institutions
  • Exploring the possibility of implementing factoring and leasing products on the market
  • Monitoring, coordinating and implementing the progress of these KPIs through the Executive Secretary and Financial Inclusion Team. Each working group will send annual reports to the Executive Secretary and a measurement and evaluation system will track their progress
  • Issuing a survey every two years to compare the rates at the individual level to those in 2013

Room to Improve

Hopefully, with a great coordinated effort, the ENIF will see the data of financial inclusion improve and with it, will also see a greater reduction in the number of citizens in poverty. Even with the economy resting at a decent place, a good government knows that its country always has room to improve.

– Elizabeth Frerking
Photo: Flickr

girls' education in ParaguayIn eastern Paraguay, both deforestation and poverty continue to run rampant among inhabitants of the Atlantic Forest. An area wherein a majority of the people are uneducated, girls continue to be largely denied access to an adequate education.

Statistics On Girls’ Education in Paraguay

The literacy rate of girls 15-24 years old in Paraguay has risen to 98.62 percent as of 2015. However, while a majority of girls in the country are literate, the retainment rate of girls in schools is low. From completion of primary school to upper secondary school, the participation of girls drops 25 percent, from 86 to 61 percent. Additionally, as of 2012, 42,486 female children and 29,531 female adolescents remain out of school.

Approximately 70 percent of girls in the area are pregnant by age 16, largely due to poor education and impoverished living conditions for women. One school, the Centro Educativo Mbaracayu, is seeking to alleviate these problems and help girls’ education in Paraguay.

The Centro Educativo Mbaracayu

Founded in 2009, the Centro Educativo Mbaracayu is a boarding school exclusively for girls. The school sits on the Mbaracayu Forest Nature Reserve, which protects the largest portion of the remaining Atlantic Forest. Although the Atlantic Forest contains hundreds of native and endangered species, only about 7 percent of the original forest remains. The Centro Educativo Mbaracayu, started by the NGO Fundación Paraguaya, teaches its students to take care of the forest around them while also educating them in other areas.

The school exclusively caters to rural and indigenous girls, a group severely disadvantaged by the Paraguayan education system. One of the benefits of the forest school is the cost accessibility for its students. Tuition is free for indigenous girls and is 100,000 guaraní (approximately $17.50) for non-indigenous girls. Centro Educativo Mbaracayu is able to keep costs low for its students by operating self-sufficiently.

One of the important aspects of the schools’ curriculum is its focus on reproductive and sexual education. The severe lack of reproductive education in Paraguay is arguably one of the main causes of young pregnancies in the country. By promoting reproductive health and sexual education, instructors at Centro Educativo Mbaracayu hope to help their students achieve their degrees — not only as a tool to achieve better socioeconomic standing, but also to instill confidence and self-worth into the girls.

Beyond sexual education, the school teaches the girls techniques for agribusinesses and IT skills. Students can also study differing applied skills specializing in textiles, tourism and environmental management. All classes are taught alongside and in accordance to national Paraguayan educational standards, in order to broaden girls’ education in Paraguay while still complying with national standards.

Graduating from Centro Educativo Mbaracayu

Upon graduating from Centro Educativo Mbaracayu, students receive high school diplomas in Environmental Sciences as technicians and are highly encouraged to pursue higher education.

Since its founding the school has graduated Paraguay’s first female forest ranger, two primary school teachers in the community and a hopeful future president, just to name a few. More importantly, every girl at the school leaves knowing her worth and having learned many invaluable skills.

While living and learning at the school, a community is formed. A community that highly values its female students and its forest environment. The girls are taught to care for the forest and the animal inhabitants within it while gaining skills in sustainable forestry.

The goal of the school is rehabilitation and growth. Rehabilitation for the shrinking forest and growth for Paraguayan girls who have previously been undereducated. By teaching and taking care of the region’s girls, the school is in turn taking care of its forest and starting a movement for better girls’ education in Paraguay.

– Savannah Hawley
Photo: Flickr

How the US Benefits From Foreign Aid to Paraguay
With federal aid, the U.S. has the opportunity to advocate economic and social growth for other countries. This reputation has earned the trust and cooperation of many nations around the world, including Paraguay.

Located in South America, Paraguay is a nation with lush tropical forests and agricultural activity. Paraguay struggles more in comparison with other Latin American countries in several socioeconomic categories such as potable water and secondary school enrollment.

With the assistance of the U.S., Paraguay is progressing in reducing poverty and corruption. As a result of strong production and high global prices, Paraguay’s economy has grown at an average of four percent every year since 2014.

U.S. Assistance to Paraguay

The United States has supported Paraguay’s democracy and economic reform through foreign aid since 1861, just fifty years after Paraguay declared its independence from Spain. For the 2018 fiscal year, $400,000 of the $28 billion foreign aid budget was allocated to Paraguay, a large decrease from 2017’s allocation of $6 million.

In previous years, the money was budgeted for categories including Economic Development and Democracy and Human Rights and Governance; this year’s budget specifically targets Peace and Security.

The U.S. previously aided Paraguay in reducing corruption and creating jobs, and have stressed the significance of supporting groups such as women, indigenous peoples and youth. The aid is intended to strengthen Paraguay’s democracy and increase economic opportunities.

U.S. Benefits of Economic Progress

The U.S. invests aid into other countries to build their economic growth through aspects such as healthcare, education and infrastructure. Providing the opportunity for stability in impoverished countries strengthens the nation’s stability and contributes to ally and trade relations with the U.S.

Investing in other countries means investing in the U.S. Businesses that export goods to other countries account for one in every five American jobs. The U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Paraguay through providing economic benefits in exports and jobs; in fact, in 2015, U.S. exports of goods to Paraguay supported an estimated 7,000 jobs.

The U.S. has several investors in Paraguay as well, including computer, telecommunications and banking firms. About 75 U.S. businesses have employees working in Paraguay.


With $2.1 billion in goods traded in 2016, Paraguay is the U.S.’s 73rd largest goods trading parter. Also in 2016, the U.S. goods trade surplus with Paraguay experienced a 34.8 percent increase from the prior year of 2015.

The U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Paraguay through trade imports and exports. Exports to Paraguay in 2016 were $2 billion, which is a 30.7 percent increase from 2015 and a 117.4 percent increase from 2006.

Exports include a wide range of items such as cell phones, computer accessories and vehicle parts, but the largest export categories in 2016 were electrical machinery ($1 billion), machinery ($1 million) and chocolate and cocoa products ($965,000).

In 2016, U.S. goods imported from Paraguay was $57 million, a 170.1 percent increase since 2006. Top imports include sugar ($60 million), metal and stone ($23 million) and seeds and fruit ($15 million).

Foreign Relations

The U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Paraguay through strengthening foreign relations. The U.S. and Paraguay both are members of international organizations such as the United Nations, Organization of American States, World Bank and the World Trade Organization. The organization also partners with 100,000 Strong in the Americas, an organization that aims to increase the amount of U.S. students that study across the Western Hemisphere to 100,000.

The U.S. aims to improve countries around the world through foreign aid. Countries such as Paraguay have shown that the money provided to them has strengthened their socioeconomic and economic conditions, which in turn benefits the U.S. through economy, trade and relations.

– Anne-Marie Maher

Photo: Flickr

Humanitarian Aid to Paraguay Manifests as Disaster Risk Reduction
Towards the end of 2015, Paraguay experienced the worst flooding in 50 years as a result of the El Niño climate phenomenon. Heavy rains that began in late November 2015 spurred widespread flooding of the Paraguay and the Parana rivers.

On December 12, 2015, the Paraguayan Government’s National Emergency Secretariat (SEN) declared a state of emergency in the capital city of Asunción. By December 30th, 150,000 people were forced to evacuate their homes and the situation in Paraguay became officially declared as a disaster.

The flooding of the Paraguay River (which flows by Asunción) was so severe that many homes were almost completely submerged by flood waters. About 90,000 people had to seek temporary shelter in parks, public spaces, schools and military buildings across Asunción.

Even after the rains had abided in January 2016, more than 65,000 people remained displaced, approximately 41,000 of which remained in the temporary shelters of Asunción. The floods in Asunción caused at least six deaths and damaged houses, schools, roads, various other infrastructure and agricultural land throughout the regions of central and western Paraguay.

What is El Niño?

The El Niño weather phenomenon is part of what is known as the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) cycle, and is the scientific term that describes the fluctuations in temperature between the ocean and the atmosphere.

El Niño is the “warm phase” of ENSO, when sea surface temperatures in the central and east-central Equatorial Pacific rise periodically. This ocean-atmospheric climate interaction along with a weakening of easterly trade winds creates conditions of increased rainfall and flooding in South America as well as Australia and Indonesia. El Niño episodes occur every few years usually around December and typically last between nine and twelve months.

The El Niño episode at the end of 2015 and the resulting climate extremes were the worst in more than 15 years, according to the United Nations weather agency.

Recovering from the Floods

In response to the disaster declaration, the United States’ Agency for International Development’s Office for Disaster Assistance (USAID/OFDA) provided $50,000 of humanitarian aid to Paraguay, directly to its Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) for the local procurement and distribution of emergency relief commodities of hygiene kits, mattresses and shelter supplies. USAID/OFDA provided an additional $600,000 of humanitarian aid to ADRA to expand emergency relief commodities and services, including the implementation of water, sanitation and hygiene programs in areas affected by the floods.

The World Food Programme (WFP) has also provided about $1 million to approximately 6,000 families in the wake of the disaster; however, humanitarian aid to Paraguay has taken forms other than cash assistance. The WFP has furthermore worked to strengthen local and national governments’ capacities for emergency preparedness and response through European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) trainings, simulation exercises and logistics management trainings.

Improving Disaster Risk Reduction and Resilience

One project in particular, implemented by the WFP and the UNDP, is the Disaster Preparedness Program (DIPECHO) Action Plan 2015-2016, which aimed to “build response capacities at the local, community, authorities and public institution levels to face disasters more efficiently in the world’s riskiest regions.”

The plan also aimed to strengthen the SEN’s logistical capabilities to improve agreed protocols for civic-military cooperation for emergency responses.

In the Chaco Central Paraguayo region, didactic material has been developed to integrate disaster risk management strategies with the culture, customs and livelihoods of indigenous populations that are most effected by natural disasters and threats. This approach resulted in a more effective method of articulating disaster risk reduction customized to indigenous culture and customs.

Since the country is particularly prone to seasonal flooding and droughts and hosts an economy heavily dependent on agricultural products, the disaster risk reduction programs like DIPECHO are essential forms of humanitarian aid to Paraguay that will help the country’s overall recovery in the wake of future extreme climate events.

– Sydney Lacey

Photo: Flickr

sustainable agriculture in paraguayParaguay is a small country in South America, bordering Brazil, Argentina and Bolivia. Landlocked and still trying to find its bearings after a draining 35-year dictatorship under Alfredo Stroessner from 1954 to 1989, the Paraguayan economy struggles to grow. Its agriculture sector, which makes up 26 percent of its labor force, and 20 percent of the country’s GDP, has been hindered by out-of-date land reforms implemented by the previous regime and contemporary political corruption.

Roughly 45 percent of Paraguay’s population relies upon subsistence farming. The three most profitable agricultural exports in Paraguay are soy, cotton and beef. Soy is the most controversial of the three products, and is touted by some to be the best product for sustainable agriculture in Paraguay.

With a reputation for government corruption, private foreign investment is considered rare and risky in Paraguay. Until recently, poor infrastructure has hindered the growth of the industrial sector in Paraguay, but low labor costs have attracted Brazilian companies to move factories from Brazil to Paraguay. In 2016, a report by the European Union indicated that the trading bloc saw that the risk was both necessary and advantageous, and funds for projects focusing on sustainable agriculture in Paraguay were issued soon after. The six objectives of these funds are:

  • Improvement of agricultural competitiveness
  • Development of family agriculture and food security
  • Sustainable forestry development and provision of environmental services
  • Livestock and farming development
  • Management of risks associated with climate variability and change
  • Social integration, employability and rural entrepreneurship

Much of the EU funding focuses on improving the sustainability of cattle farming, the most important sector being the exportation of beef. Currently, the cattle population of Paraguay is about 14 million. It is estimated that by 2020 Paraguay will be home to 20 million head of cattle. Only 20 percent of this cattle is consumed in Paraguay. Chile, Russia, and Brazil are Paraguay’s largest beef importers, but the European Union is a growing market. Paraguay also seeks to increase exports to Asia and the Middle East.

Cotton has been an important export in Paraguay since its introduction. Initially, raw cotton was exported to Brazil and Italy, where it was processed and spun. After the fall of the Stroessner regime, Brazilian and Italian companies decided to invest in cotton factories in Paraguay. Processing and spinning the cotton in Paraguay increased the profit margin for both the companies and the Paraguayan farmers, while creating jobs in Paraguay. Unfortunately, increased use of modern mechanized farming equipment may put many farmers out of a job. This is but one of many issues that are debated in the battle for soy in Paraguay.

In Paraguay, approximately 1 percent of the population owns 77 percent of the land. Much of this land is being sold to foreign companies, many of which are Brazilian and European, to produce soy, which is becoming a booming industry in Paraguay. These companies argue that their farms are the way forward for sustainable agriculture in Paraguay. Highly mechanized, these farms efficiently use the land and resources to grow soy, in turn boosting the economic value of Paraguay’s agriculture industry. But it comes at a high social cost.

Reports from the early 2000s suggest that assassinations and false arrests were used to intimidate farmers and indigenous communities into giving up their land to these companies. Environmental diversity in Paraguay has also been hurt by the growing soy fields. Forests once covered 85 percent of eastern Paraguay, but it is estimated that less than 8 percent of the forest is left. The forest has become a green desert of soy.

Sustainable agriculture in Paraguay is both increasing and under threat. The beef industry grows safely due to the guiding hand of the European Union, Paraguay’s expanding cattle markets and many trade partners. Soy threatens to ruin the hard work and way of life of many Paraguayan farmers, along with the environmental and economic impact of mono-cropping. The laissez-faire attitude of the Paraguayan government may have helped to boost the industrial strength of Paraguay, but regulation will be needed to save sustainable agriculture in Paraguay.

– Nick DeMarco

Photo: Flickr

women's empowerment in paraguay

In the year 2017, many countries still face a large difference in societal power between genders. One of these countries is Paraguay, which is located in central South America. Women’s empowerment in Paraguay is on the rise, specifically when it comes to women joining the work force, enacting laws preventing violence against women and increasing access to sexual education.

Paraguayan President Horacio Cartes said in a speech to the U.N., “I make a firm commitment to strengthening the actions needed to speed up the advancement of real and effective equality between men and women in my country.” He supported the Public Policy Law for Rural Women, which aims to help women who live in remote areas gain employment despite scarce resources and few job opportunities. The policy will help provide women with agricultural training. Not only will this help feed families, but it will encourage women to become entrepreneurs. By the end of 2015, this policy had already reached 1,000 women.

Violence against women is an injustice that has been occurring for too many centuries. The president approved the Law for Comprehensive Protection for Women Against Any Kind of Violence in 2016. This law, as well as a commitment to coordinating efforts to fight violence against women and sex trafficking, will help foster women’s empowerment in Paraguay. The law will also help to better punish perpetrators and make sure they actually serve jail time or some other adequate punishment.

Teen pregnancy is a growing issue for women’s empowerment in Paraguay. Due to lack of sex education, nearly one in 20 Paraguayan women have given birth by the age of 20. Becoming pregnant at a young age can complicate completing school and entering the job market. The Mbaracayú Education Center was opened in 2009 to provide the education that young women deserve. The education center is about more than sex ed: it also teaches job skills, including IT skills, textiles, tourism and environmental management. Movements like these show that there are many people dedicated to women’s empowerment in Paraguay.

– Scott Kesselring

Photo: Flickr

Education in ParaguayParaguay is a country located in South America, situated between the northern border of Argentina and the southern border of Brazil. Education in Paraguay is very structurally similar to that of the United States, in which children advance through primary and secondary school before moving on to advanced studies at a university or vocational training facility. Similar to the United States, the education system starts children in primary school at age six, and the children complete grades one through 12.

According to the World Factbook, 95 percent of males and 94 percent of females in Paraguay are defined as being literate. However, literacy is typically not achieved until the final years of primary education, which is normally completed at age 14.

Classbase has reported that education in Paraguay is unique due to the government’s historical political instability. In 2014, the government regained stability after a period of disorganization following the impeachment of President Fernando Lugo.

Following primary school, children have the choice to enter secondary school, as it is not required by law. However, a lot of families typically do not have the money to afford continuing education, and so the families often send their children across the border to Chile. It can be a large hassle for such families to send their children far away in order to attend school, especially if the families do not have the funds to allow their children to learn locally.

Tertiary schools, which are universities or vocational training facilities, exist in Paraguay, but, as mentioned, many children do not have the opportunity to advance greatly in the education system. A reformed education system would potentially greatly help the children Paraguay be able to learn a variety of useful skills, which will help them be able to attend university or vocational training.

Emily Santora

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