Sustainable Agriculture in HondurasSuffering from a severely unequal distribution of income and high underemployment, Honduras is one of the poorest countries in Central America. Especially after Hurricane Mitch in 1998, which caused approximately $2 billion in damage, Honduras has had a long struggle to rebound economically. Agriculture comprises 13.5 percent of the GDP, but it also employs 40 percent of the labor force. With support from other countries, sustainable agriculture in Honduras could lead the country into a healthier, more prosperous period.

Honduras has long relied on U.S. trade and remittances for economic stability. Regarding agriculture specifically, in April 2015 the U.S. and Honduras signed an agreement to support the development of sustainable agriculture in Honduras. It will provide the government of Honduras with a vast amount of U.S. agriculture products valued at $17 million.

By selling these products, the government will then have the money to implement their own projects that focus on job creation and income opportunities for vulnerable citizens such as rural farmers. Similarly, it hopes to build a stronger agricultural sector that can begin to focus on sustainable forms of farming.

TechnoServe, a nonprofit that aims to help the impoverished, recognizes that climate change severely affects Honduras. Its Dry Corridor has had recent issues with flooding and droughts that are wreaking havoc on rural farming. TechnoServe decided to start the Sustainable Agricultural Improvement project (MAS in Spanish) to help build farmers’ resilience to climate change in their bean and coffee farms—two of the country’s major exports. It provides training on sustainable agriculture practices and access to high-quality products.

By learning from TechnoServe, farmers have been able to buy more drought-tolerant seeds than traditional varieties and organic fertilizers that increase water retention, all at a better price thanks to a marketing agreement that MAS facilitated. Similarly, 3,400 bean farmers and 16,000 coffee farmers have increased their incomes by an average of 50 percent.

The project has also helped these farmers access more than $15 million in funding during the past four years, which has allowed over 700 farmers to build solar-powered machinery to reduce regular fuel-based machines that are not as sustainable. As a result of these sustainable practices, participating coffee farmers have sold 14,500 tons directly to exporters.

With help from USAID and smaller programs and groups, sustainable agriculture in Honduras has slowly improved. As climate change increasingly wreaks havoc on poorer nations with droughts, extreme weather and varied agricultural productivity, these projects support Honduran farmers through loans, financing, knowledge and exceptional products.

Slowly, sustainable agricultural in Honduras is gaining ground in a manner that similarly sustains economic growth and stability for farmers. With international support, Honduras as a nation can sustain and improve its agricultural market.

– Nick McGuire

Photo: Flickr

In Honduras, as in many places, gender conceptions influence national prosperity. Reimagining the ways that men and women can contribute to their communities and economies and learning how to share the societal load can stimulate poverty alleviation.

More than 1.7 million people in Honduras live in poverty, and many live on less than $1.25 per day. Many impoverished people live in rural areas. In fact, 46 percent of all Hondurans live in rural areas, where the primary occupation is farming. About 38 percent of all Honduran employment is in agriculture, and many farmers are struggling to make ends meet.

USAID and Feed the Future have made significant strides in assisting the Honduran farming community by improving technologies and management practices to help farmers increase the value of their agricultural products. However, there is still a long way to go, particularly in regard to supporting female farmers.

Income gaps and marginal political representation have crippled Honduran women’s leadership in the agricultural sector, despite the fact that in western Honduras alone, more than 40 percent of farming households are headed by women.

For three years, USAID and Feed the Future have partnered with Lutheran World Relief (LWR) in a project called Gender in Agriculture: From Policy to Practice (GAPP). Aiming to stimulate women’s leadership in Honduran agricultural communities, the program is training female farmers in leadership, public speaking and investing. Its hope is that as female farmers become more involved in local political processes, they will gain access to public funding and loans that tend only to benefit male farmers.

One recent GAPP success is a municipal agreement that part of the civic budget reserved for gender activities be specifically applied to women-led agricultural enterprises.

In addition to empowering female farmers in Honduras to demand their own rights, GAPP also funds programs to educate male leaders about the importance of gender equity in agriculture.

Using the concept of “new masculinities,” GAPP teaches male community members to appreciate women’s crucial role in the agricultural sector. According to one male GAPP advocacy training participant, Maximo Mejía, “Being a man isn’t, as they say, being a big shot, but understanding and seeking equality with your partner.”

While the provision of funding and new technologies does alleviate the difficulties faced by female farmers in Honduras, helping people rethink gender roles and stereotypes will help ensure that economic stagnation dissipates.

Feed the Future continues to train women to grow home gardens, farm fish and utilize the latest farming technologies, while GAPP teaches female farmers in Honduras how to use their voices to gain the civic support they need.

At the same time, Honduran men are relearning not only women’s roles in their economy, but also their own roles in caregiving and family health. This mutual empowerment of men and women will help break the poverty cycle in Honduras.

Robin Lee

Photo: Flickr