There are a number of global organizations that have worked on development projects in Panama, and many continue to this day. Partly due to the positive impact of these projects, the poverty level in Panama dropped from 39.9 percent in 2007 to 26.2 percent in 2012.
Here are five development projects in Panama that are making a positive impact.
- The Sustainable Agriculture Systems (SAS) project is working to improve food security among indigenous groups and other marginalized communities in rural Panama. The project exchanges knowledge and skills with farmers in the area to help them succeed in agriculture. SAS provides training in many areas including soil quality improvement, pest control and post-harvest storage techniques.
- The Teaching English, Leadership and Lifeskills (TELLS) program teaches Panamanians the language and leadership skills they need to thrive in their professional careers and become community leaders. Volunteers with the TELLS program work in primary and secondary schools to train teachers, teach workshops and organize after-school activities. They also coach students in important skills like writing resumes or cover letters and preparing for job interviews.
- The Community Environmental Conservation (CEC) Project works in Panama’s watersheds and protected areas. CEC empowers local communities to address their most pressing environmental concerns. Those involved with the project work with schools and local groups to train community members in areas such as resource conservation, waste management and reforestation.
- Another development project in Panama focused on environmental conservation is the Burunga Wastewater Management Project for Panama. The project’s objectives are to improve access to sewage services and strengthen wastewater pollution management. The World Bank has committed $65 million to this project through 2021.
- The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) has been working in Panama since 1982. Their most recent project was the Participative Development and Rural Modernization Project. The project has improved access to financial services among poorer communities in Panama, an important step in reducing inequality and lifting people out of poverty.
These development projects as well as others have played a part in Panama becoming the fastest growing economy in Latin America. The country averaged 7.2 percent growth from 2001-2013. Overall poverty levels have declined significantly, but some marginalized communities have been left behind in the process.
Indigenous groups, in particular, suffer from higher poverty levels than the country as a whole. As development projects in Panama continue, the organizations involved should continue these successful programs while looking for new ways to address the needs of the country’s most vulnerable populations.
– Aaron Childree