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Tropical storm EtaIn November 2020, over 250 people from Central American countries were either missing or dead due to tropical storm Eta. Floods and landslides left behind a large number of vulnerable populations. Those who suffered from poverty lost their shelter, food and even loved ones. However, the storm triggered people into action and several non-governmental organizations (NGOs) came to help Honduras. The latter resulted in “Operación Eta.”

How Does It Work?

The campaign’s main goal is to raise funds to support the families affected by tropical storm Eta. Funding comes from crowdsourcing. Thus, Operación Eta has established a Gofundme profile. Behind the profile, a group of non-profit organizations has come together. In addition, Honduran college students who intended to create a social change in their country instituted NGOs. They started as separate initiatives to counteract poverty, hunger and social inequality during the Covid-19 pandemic. However, tropical storm Eta has united them as one effort to look out for their country.

How the Coalition Starts?

  1. Operación frijol: Frijol means bean, which is the primary source of nutrients for Honduran families. College students founded the project during the first months of the Covid-19 health crisis. “A group of friends from school, who were studying abroad, wanted to help their country. When they found out about the initiative, they donated money. Now we reach 110 volunteers,” Hugo Caballero, member of Operación frijol told the Borgen Project. Donations enabled them to provide basic food baskets for people that suffered the economic consequences of the pandemic. Since tropical storm Eta struck Honduras, Operación frijol transformed its platform into a donation site for the victims. They collected food, water, lanterns, clothes, blankets, masks and personal hygiene products. Moreover, they broadcasted the location of shelters. “There are children, pregnant women and disabled people among the victims,” Caballero said.
  1. Abrazos de Plata: Operación frijol joined forces with several NGOs in order to accomplish a higher impact. One of them was Abrazos de Plata. The organization’s name means Silver hugs. It claims to be a “group of young people whose mission is to support elders living in nursing homes.” Abandoned elders, left to their own devices, trapped the NGO member’s attention. They reacted by supporting them in order to prevent social inequality, poor hygiene and malnutrition. Since the Honduran president declared a state of emergency due to the storm, the project focuses on gathering donations and setting up shelters for those who have lost most of their belongings. They recollected donations and provided supplies. “We are amazed by the effective response of our Honduran brothers, everyone donates what they can,” Rocío Pavón, a medical student volunteer told The Borgen Project.

Tropical storm Eta has wrecked homes. However, this has united the Honduran people and increase their generosity and sense of belonging. The natural hazard has triggered college students into action and made them compromised citizens who embody hope for those who lack it.

Paola Arriaza Avilés

Photo: Pixabay

Impacted by HurricanesOn November 2, 2020, Hurricane Eta made landfall in Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua. As a Category 4 hurricane, it was the strongest hurricane to hit the Central American region in many years. Shortly after, Hurricane Iota hit. Thousands have died and many have experienced displacement. Since Central America is one of the poorest areas of Latin America, the U.S. is in a position to help alleviate the crisis by providing foreign aid to those impacted by hurricanes.

Poverty in Central America

Nicaragua is the second-poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere. Moreover, Nicaragua’s poverty rate sits around 15.1%. Geographically, the poorest area of Nicaragua is the Atlantic Coast of the country. Similarly, Honduras is an impoverished nation located north of Nicaragua. Honduras is also one of the poorest countries in Central America. Furthermore, Honduras’ geographical location leaves it exposed to extreme weather such as heavy rainfall and droughts. The most vulnerable, oftentimes rural and coastal populations, are susceptible to these intense weather changes. Neighboring countries of El Salvador and Guatemala are also impoverished nations with vulnerable populations. The increased climate disasters leave these populations at risk of death, poverty and becoming climate refugees.

Hurricane Eta and Hurricane Iota

On the eve of Hurricane Eta’s landfall, the Nicaraguan government evacuated around 3,000 families living in the coastal area. According to UNICEF, more than a million Nicaraguans, which also includes half a million children, were endangered by the hurricane. El Salvador evacuated people as a precaution and many of Guatemala’s departments declared a state of emergency.

Hurricane Eta made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane. The storm destroyed houses, hospitals and businesses. Widespread flooding and mudslides were responsible for the casualties across the region. Unfortunately, Hurricane Eta was not the only storm blasting through Central America.

Weather forecasters predicted another strong storm, Hurricane Iota. Also a Category 4 hurricane, Iota made landfall 15 miles south of where Hurricane Eta did just days prior. The hurricane further stalled the rescue efforts of the region. In Honduras, the hurricanes impacted around 4 million people with more than 2 million losing access to health care. Moreover, Guatemala had more than 200,000 people seeking shelter after the two hurricanes.

Foreign Aid to Central America

The Central American region is impoverished and vulnerable to natural disasters. Furthermore, many Central American nations depend on foreign aid from the United States. The countries of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador (the Northern Triangle) rely on foreign aid from the U.S. to manage rural poverty, violence, food insecurity and natural disasters. Moreover, that aid has been reduced under the Trump administration. Since Donald Trump took office, the aid for these countries has reduced from $750 million to $530 million. In April 2019, Trump froze $450 million of foreign aid to the Northern Triangle, further diminishing the lives of many. Foreign aid keeps Central Americans from plummeting to extreme poverty and also curtails migration to the United States.

Congress Pleads for Foreign Aid

As Hurricane Eta ravaged through Central America, Rep. Norma Torres (CA-35) wrote a letter urging Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, to increase foreign aid to Central America. Torres (CA-35) wrote, “Hurricane Eta was an unavoidable natural disaster, but its aftermath is a preventable humanitarian crisis in the making.” In addition, the Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC), Eliot Engel (NY-16), also showed his support for increased aid to those Hurricane Eta impacted. Engel wrote, “a large-scale U.S. effort is needed to provide much-needed relief to those affected by Eta so that they are not forced to leave their countries and make the perilous journey north.”

USAID Provides Disaster Relief

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has agreed to increase aid by $17 million to the countries impacted by Hurricane Eta and Hurricane Iota. Studies have shown that foreign aid is a successful policy to reduce global poverty. Any aid given to these countries benefits the lives of those impacted by hurricanes in several significant ways.

– Andy Calderon
Photo: Flickr

Blockchain-Based Land Registry in HondurasProof of land ownership is an essential tool to protect the livelihoods of those who depend on livestock and agriculture to feed their families and earn an income. However, in many developing countries such as Honduras, systems of land registry are unreliable and prone to corrupt manipulation, leaving farmers vulnerable to unlawful land seizures. Blockchain-based land registry aims to address this.

Blockchain-Based Land Registry

Despite this, the rise of blockchain technology has brought about a potential solution to undependable land registry systems. Providing a secure system of digitized land titles does more than protect property rights. It also gives farmers the ability to borrow against their land assets to raise capital, which could be used to invest in their businesses and broaden their economic opportunities. Blockchain-based land registries can be used to protect Hondurans’ land ownership rights.

Land Theft in Honduras

In 2015, the government of Honduras reached out to Factom, a U.S.-based blockchain technology company, to develop a nationwide land registry system. This decision came in light of the growing threat of land title fraud in Honduras, which would often occur at the hands of bureaucrats hacking the existing government land title database to steal land for personal use.

In a country with rampant corruption and unsecured land registry systems, Honduran farmers are at risk of falling into poverty and displacement at the hands of government officials or powerful landowners seeking to broaden their commercial agricultural holdings. A secure system of registry built with blockchain technology would provide a solution to this problem.

Stalled Efforts in Implementation

Although Honduras reached out for assistance in building a secure system, by the end of 2015, efforts to develop it stalled due to the government’s unwillingness to continue the effort. Nonetheless, there is still hope for the eventual continuation of the project, as it has the backing of the World Bank and other international donors.

Blockchain-based land registry systems represent an optimal solution for Honduran farmers because of their unique security. These systems track transactions with a timestamped digital signature and store them in a connected, distributed array of computers scattered around the internet. The digital signature tracks the history of ownership, thereby making the land title unsusceptible to tampering. Furthermore, blockchain technologies can utilize GPS coordinates to describe the exact dimensions of each claimed land parcel and pair it with the digital ID of the owner. The result is a secure system that protects farmers’ rights to land ownership.

The Intersection of Tech and Poverty

Innovations in technology and the spread of internet access are crucial in the fight against global poverty. Blockchain-based land registry solutions enable farmers to protect their livelihoods and invest in expanding and diversifying their agricultural yields. As more farmers better their economic situations and poverty levels decline, the demand for consumer goods rises, which bolsters trade and the wider global economy.

Investing in solutions to global poverty thus entails a two-way path of rewards: developing countries are lifted out of poverty and developed countries establish a connection with a new trading partner. When one country is lifted out of poverty, every country benefits.

– John Andrikos
Photo: Flickr

Hurricanes in HondurasIn November 2020, Hurricane Eta and Hurricane Iota made landfall just two weeks apart in northeastern Nicaragua. The hurricanes spread across Central America. Honduras was one of the countries hit with severe destruction. In the wake of these storms, homelessness in Honduras reached all-time highs and an active humanitarian crisis unfolded as humanitarian organizations and policymakers struggled to contend with flooding, displacement and the spread of COVID-19. The aftermath of hurricanes in Honduras requires urgent humanitarian aid.

Poverty in Honduras

Nearly half of Honduras’ population lives in poverty. The poverty rate is higher in rural parts of the country than it is in urban centers. Whereas half of all Hondurans who live in the countryside subsist in varying states of poverty, less than half of all Hondurans who live in urban areas lead lives plagued by poverty,

The disparity between rich Hondurans and poor Hondurans is overwhelmingly large. A robust middle-class has yet to take shape in Honduras so Hondurans filter into one of two polarized class groups. A high rate of violence makes life treacherous for the poor.

Seasonal flooding has a detrimental effect on economic growth. Flooding from Hurricane Eta and Hurricane Iota combined with seasonal flooding make 2020 one of the worst years in Honduras’ history. Livestock and farmlands were swept away and Hondurans have had to search desperately for other means to feed themselves.

Homelessness and Hurricanes in Honduras

In 1998, three million Hondurans were made homeless by Hurricane Mitch and tens of thousands were forced to flee to the United States. The devastation that was unleashed by Hurricane Mitch is the closest analog to the combined effects of Eta and Iota. Reports on the rate of homelessness in Honduras after Eta and Iota remain incomplete, but it is undoubtedly high, similar in scope to the rate of homelessness in Honduras after Hurricane Mitch.

7 Responses to Hurricane Eta and Hurricane Iota

  1. Public Investment in Infrastructure and Social Programs. Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez plans to engage “four times the nation’s annual budget in infrastructure and social programs to help Hondurans recover from devastating storms.” His plan will put thousands of Hondurans to work rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure, so it works on two important levels. First, his plan creates jobs for Hondurans whose livelihoods were lost as a result of the hurricanes. Second, it will lead to necessary rebuilding projects.

  2. USAID Funding. By the beginning of December 2020, USAID had committed close to $50 million for humanitarian aid to meet the needs of Honduras’ relief efforts. Funding goes to securing “emergency food, shelter, urgent medical care, clean water, sanitation and hygiene.”

  3. USAID’s Honduras Emergency WASH and Shelter (HEWS) Program. In mid-December 2020, USAID announced that it will send packs of materials to “select families” through its HEWS program, which families can use to rebuild damaged or destroyed homes. Experts will also be sent to teach families how to use the material that has been sent and to work alongside families during the initial stages of the rebuilding process.

  4. Project HOPE Emergency Medical Teams. In remote villages, where poverty rates tend to be highest, villagers have scarce access to medical services. Project HOPE medical teams focus on these locations because unsanitary water supplies have been identified there. Also, cases of COVID-19 have been reported.

  5. Project HOPE WASH Program. Potable water is provided to 3,000 families through Project HOPE’s WASH program. Additionally, resources for sanitizing water, including chlorine and training materials, are provided to families so that water purification practices can be carried out indefinitely.

  6. AMDA Emergency Relief. Relief supplies, including food, coverings and hygienic supplies, were distributed to several dozen families through a partnership between AMDA and AMDA-Honduras. The rate of homelessness in Honduras is so high that many people have taken shelter in nursing homes. Hondurans who lost their homes as a result of Eta and Iota live side by side with Honduras’ elderly. Similar AMDA relief packs were distributed throughout such facilities.

  7. Distribution of KN95 and Surgical Masks. Concerns about the spread of COVID-19 have accompanied the disastrous effects of Hurricane Eta and Hurricane Iota. Project HOPE distributed hundreds of thousands of KN95 and surgical masks to activists, doctors and frontline workers throughout Honduras to help contain the spread of COVID-19.

Hope on the Horizon for Honduras

Hurricanes in Honduras coupled with COVID-19 created severe consequences for people living there. Long-term concerns include the effect that lack of adequate health services will have on mothers, pregnant women, newborns and young children. Many humanitarian organizations are prioritizing aid to remote parts of the country to mitigate the effects of isolation. The spread of disease is an additional concern. A comprehensive solution to the crisis at hand will involve combined efforts.

– Taylor Pangman
Photo: Flickr

Stopping Gang Violence Success Stories from Within HondurasHonduras is trapped in a cycle of violence and poverty that creates the perfect environment for gangs to thrive. Reports state that gangs and drug traffickers pay off members of the criminal justice system to get away with their crimes. However, despite these injustices, violent crime rates have dropped by half over the last decade as community outreach programs join humanitarian organizations’ efforts in stopping gang violence.

Poverty in Honduras

In 2018, Honduras had a poverty rate of 48.3%. Inequality in the country has led to an extremely small middle class and a large income gap. Gangs feed off of poverty and a lack of government services. Moreover, gangs become the only way young people could get an income and find a semblance of a supportive community.

Honduras has a Corruption Perception Index score of 26 out of 100, which is directly reflected in the fear citizens have of reporting crimes. Gang members can be killed for attempting to leave a gang and many businesses are forced to pay “war taxes” for protection. Luckily, nonprofits and community outreach programs have arisen to intervene in this cycle of violence. Here are a few anti-violence success stories from within Honduras.

The Association For a More Just Society

The Association For a More Just Society (AJS) is a nonprofit that works to create strong community bonds to dissuade violence in Honduras. In terms of working against corruption, AJS investigates and publishes reports about the health care and education sectors. Additionally, they hold youth services in small Honduran communities.

AJS has had remarkable success in terms of reporting cases of corruption by the government and wealthy elites in Honduras. In the public health sector, AJS found that the government purposely overpaid connected businesses for medical supplies and ignored cases of theft. Its reports led to the arrest of 13 officials and increased access to life-saving medication in public hospitals.

The organization also reported corruption in education as teachers who were not showing up to work were being paid and the average student only had 125 school days available to them. The Honduran government had the highest spending budget on education in the region, yet its test scores were still very low. AJS has reduced the percentage of non-working paid teachers from 26% to 1%. Additionally, many schools now hold an average of 200 days of school.

Skate Brothers

Skate Brothers is a community outreach program that was started by the Honduras local, Jessel Edgardo Recinos. He was shot at the age of 16 after being accused of stealing a cell phone from a prominent gang member. This near-death experience inspired Recinos to create a community youth program that taught kids about skateboarding instead of violence.

The group provides a place for Honduran youth to gather after school with friends while learning fun skills like skateboarding, BMX bike riding and rollerskating. Additionally, Slate Brothers provide counseling services to prevent youth from joining gangs. The group performs in parades and street fairs as well as volunteers for the community.

Recinos has convinced members of his youth group to leave gangs and join his community outreach group instead. His goal is to create a supportive community that serves as an alternative to gangs and does not mandate illegal activity. Skate Brothers is one of 64 outreach programs created by USAID’s Honduran Youth Alliance, which now serves 34,000 youth around the country.

Looking Ahead

While gangs in Honduras is still a major issue, nonprofits and community support programs like AJS and Skate Brothers have been instrumental in stopping gang violence. The cycle of violence, poverty and corruption is beginning to break because of the dedication of AJS and the Honduran Youth Alliance. Reciono’s creation of Skate Brothers shows how people in impoverished communities can inspire their peers to join them in stopping gang violence.

– Olivia Welsh
Photo: Flickr

Renewable Energy in HondurasHonduras is one of the many countries in Central and South America that has begun using a variety of different forms of renewable energy. In 2012, the government passed reforms to help the country adopt renewable energy at a faster rate. Before the reformations, 70% of the energy produced in Honduras was from fossil fuels while only 30% came from renewable energy. Now, Honduras believes that by the end of the decade it will be able to use renewable resources for 95% of its energy needs.

Types of Renewable Energy

The two particular renewable energy resources that Honduras will be able to use is its hydropower and solar power. As of 2018, most of the renewable energy being produced in Honduras has been from hydropower—it makes up 34% of country’s renewable energy. The country is estimated to be able to produce 5,000 MW with its hydropower alone.

Solar power is also another dominant form of renewable energy which makes up 10% of energy consumption. Honduras’ solar market is now the second largest in all of Latin America, with Chile being the first. Honduras is also one of the first non-island countries that has been able to use 10% of its solar energy for electric generation.

Other forms of renewable energy include biomass at 10%, wind at 7% and geothermal at 1%.

Honduras has switched to renewable energy as a means of being self-sufficient. This is especially important considering that it was the second poorest country in Central America as of 2017. Thankfully, the country can reach the energy self-sufficiency it desires with its abundant renewable energy sources.

Private Sector

One way renewable energy has helped Honduras has been by allowing private companies to be more efficient with their energy usage. One such company is the Invema Plant. The Invema Plant is the primary plastic recycler in Honduras. The company installed solar panels on its buildings and reduced their electricity usage by 30%. As a result, the company reinvests the monetary electricity savings to further recycle plastic.

Where it Stands

The transition to renewable energy has also been beneficial to impoverished rural communities. These communities are receiving electricity that they previously had no access to. Under the Honduran Renewable Energy Project for Rural Development, solar energy projects have been implemented in rural communities where there is limited access to electricity. The project has already benefited 1,075 communities spreading across Ocotepeque, Lempira, Copan, Intibuca, Santa Barbara and La Paz. This type of improvement in rural communities is especially helpful considering many impoverished Hondurans live in rural communities.

While it is impressive that renewable energy efforts have been made in Honduras to improve people’s quality of life and stimulate the economy, much work remains to be completed. Hondurans still do not have universal access to electricity. Only 87% of the population had access to electricity in 2016, which largely compromised of Hondurans living in urban cities. For citizens to feel the full benefits of renewable energy in Honduras, everyone must have access to electricity.

Regardless of the challenges that still face Honduras, that country has been able to make a good deal of progress in building energy self-sufficiency since the reform implementations.

—Jacob Lee 
Photo: Flickr

Honduras Uses U.S. Foreign AidAs one of the poorest countries in Central America, Honduras is one of the three countries in the region that receives U.S. foreign aid. However, in 2019, U.S. foreign aid to Central America came to a halt. The U.S. government denied foreign aid meant for three countries in the region: El-Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. According to NPR, mass amounts of refugees migrating north caused the U.S. to suspend aid. In April of 2020, Secretary of State Michael Pompeo issued a press statement ensuring the resumption of foreign aid to Central America. Despite the reassurance of continuing U.S. support in the future, the suspension of foreign aid left many programs and people in Honduras without their usual financial support. Honduras alone has requested over $65 million in U.S. foreign aid for 2020. With U.S. lawmakers doubting the effectiveness of this type of financial support, here’s how Honduras uses U.S. foreign aid.

Maintaining Governance

Honduras uses U.S. foreign aid to maintain its governance. In 2018, Honduras spent $55 million on agencies that provide government assistance. These agencies encourage public participation in government and make sure governments maintain checks and balances and separation of powers. In short, these agencies keep the government ethical, honest and accountable to the people. USAID funded this entire sector of Honduras’ U.S. foreign aid. As a U.S. foreign agency, USAID works to strengthen democratic institutions and citizen participation in Honduras.

Human Rights

In 2018, Honduras spent about $6 million on preserving human rights under the law. Honduras uses U.S. foreign aid to fund many agencies that protect international human rights. Partially funded by USAID, Honduras’ human rights agencies ensure that all people find justice and fairness under the law. The U.S.-Honduras Bilateral Human Rights Working Group, a product of USAID, works to strengthen human rights institutions, citizen security and migration issues in Honduras. Without U.S. foreign aid funding human rights groups, vulnerable impoverished Hondurans, who are most susceptible to human rights violations, would have decreased legal resources.

Agriculture

Honduras spent $11 million on its agriculture industry in 2019 and $22 million in 2018. The country’s economy relies heavily on the international trade of its agriculture. The agricultural industry also employs 39% of the population in Honduras. With a large section of the population relying on agriculture as income, investing in agriculture is imperative to the country’s economy. Because of Honduras’ high poverty rate, a large part of the agriculture industry employs impoverished Hondurans. U.S. foreign aid is essential to the poverty-stricken portion of Honduras’ agriculture industry.

Education

Honduras uses U.S. foreign aid for considerable education development. In 2019, Honduras spent $24 million on basic education. This includes improving early childhood, primary and secondary education in Honduras. USAID largely funds this sector of Honduras’ foreign aid. USAID works with Honduras’ education systems on education reform, teacher training and alternative education for many children who can’t afford secondary school. Without U.S. foreign aid, impoverished children in Honduras could lose access to basic education and alternative education.

Minimizing Crime

Crime is a serious problem in Honduras. Honduras has one of the highest murder rates in the world. However, in 2012 Honduras began investing in crime prevention agencies, and investment has been increasing ever since. Honduras spent $25 million of U.S. foreign aid on crime-prevention agencies in 2019 compared to less than $300,000 in 2014. These agencies provide training to combat international crime and corruption while promoting international cooperation. In correlation with investments in crime-prevention agencies, homicide rates in Honduras dropped drastically in 2012. This portion of U.S. aid directly impacts Honduras’ impoverished communities where violence is prevalent.

Conclusion

The suspension of U.S. foreign aid to Central America created some doubt in the usefulness of foreign aid. However, Honduras uses U.S. foreign aid to fund agencies that work to better some of the most serious and significant problems affecting Hondurans. Many of these agencies help the most vulnerable and impoverished populations in Honduras.

– Kaitlyn Gilbert
Photo: Flickr

Women-Owned BusinessesNonprofit organization Mary’s Pence is working towards a world of empowered women making changes in their communities. To get there, Mary’s Pence partners with grassroots organizations in Canada, the U.S. and Central America to provide funding and development programs for women-owned businesses.

Executive director Katherine Wojtan believes Mary’s Pence is different from other nonprofits because the organization not only cares for the individual women, but also oversees the sustainment of their small businesses. Mary’s Pence also values the idea of “accompaniment,” explained by Wojtan as utilizing the abilities of everyone to accomplish a long-term shared vision. This concept is applied to the organization’s execution of both the programs in the states and in Central America, focusing on improving the whole rather than the individual.

ESPERA

The program in Central America called ESPERA, or Economical Systems Providing Equitable Resources for All, was created almost 12 years ago. “Espera” is the Spanish word for hope, a fitting name for the life-changing program working with women in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and El Salvador.

“This is very intentional, it is not about making individual women rich, but about ensuring all women have access to resources and skills to make their way in the world and earn what they need for a good life,” Wojtan said.

ESPERA aids women who were victims of domestic or gang violence or are single mothers struggling to make ends meet. By giving grants to grassroots organizations in struggling communities, Mary’s Pence creates community-lending pools which women can take loans from to start local women-owned businesses that generate income. To ensure success, the staff of Mary’s Pence teach the community loan management and help elect leaders to track the lending.

Gilda Larios, ESPERA team lead, grew up in Guadalajara, Mexico and worked with Central American refugees before starting work with Mary’s Pence. ESPERA funding gives back to the whole community, not just the women receiving aid. Instead of focusing on building credit, women realize the importance of circulating money and products.

“Their confidence grew – first they asked for a very small loan, and over time they asked for larger loans and grew their businesses,” Larios told The Borgen Project. “With their strength, they are role models for new leadership in the community.”

ESPERA and COVID-19

ESPERA has helped develop many small women-owned businesses that create jobs for their communities and generate income for struggling women. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic put many of these businesses at risk as workers feared for their lives, but the ESPERA team responded fast, changing their focus from long-term development to responding immediately to the needs of the women.

As some women panicked about their businesses and the effects of the pandemic, the ESPERA team responded with a 12-week emotional wellness series, delivered via WhatsApp, and supported stores so they could keep reasonable prices for the communities. For women in the midst of paying back loans to the community-lending pool, their status is put on hold until they have the income to continue their payment.

Despite the support network ESPERA provides, the pandemic revealed some gaps in the system. It was challenging to ensure the safety of women experiencing domestic violence. The lack of access to phones and the internet made communication between communities and ESPERA leaders challenging. However, this time of crisis also brought the communities closer and proved the importance of working together through local businesses.

In her interview with The Borgen Project, Larios told of a woman named Aminta, who is in the ESPERA program in San Salvador, El Salvador. She transitioned from working in a “maquila,” or factory, to starting her own business sewing uniforms for local sports teams. During COVID-19, she also began sewing masks to help keep her community healthy. Success stories of women-owned businesses like this one propel communities into further financial security and empower other women to do the same.

Confidence and Creating Futures

Above all, ESPERA and Mary’s Pence hope to give women confidence in their own abilities to create the future they want for themselves and for their families. For Larios, the most rewarding part of working with ESPERA women is the “feeling of satisfaction and joy to see them embrace their possibilities and capacities that before they thought they didn’t have.”

Through ESPERA and their role in the creation of women-owned businesses, Mary’s Pence continues to change women’s lives by showing them the power they already had within themselves.

– Kiyomi Kishaba
Photo: Google Images

Human Rights in Central AmericaCentral America, which includes Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama, has a history of human rights violations. The three northern countries (El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras) are considered the most dangerous countries in the region for vulnerable communities. The United Nations defines human rights as rights thought to be inherent no matter any status. Violations of these rights include violence, discrimination and injustices.

Vulnerable Communities

Members and supporters of the LGBTQ community, women and children are the most prone to violence and discrimination in Central America. Violence against LGBTQ people is severe and spread far throughout the region. In northern Central America between 2014 to 2019, 243 LGBTQ people were murdered.

The northern region is also the most dangerous for women. This is because El Salvador has the highest rate of gender-motivated killing in the world. Guatemala follows closely behind at third-highest while Honduras is sixth. In 2017, 2,559 cases of gender-motivated murders were reported in Latin America and the Caribbean with Central American nations making up a majority of the countries with the highest risk for women. El Salvador, Honduras, Belize, Guatemala and Nicaragua are included within the top 10.

Another highly vulnerable group is children. Children suffer from gangs, sexual violence and poverty. Many are forced to flee from Central America to the United States in the hopes of living safer lives, but this journey is often dangerous due to the drug-trafficking gangs. In addition to violence, poverty is also a significant driving force for children and families fleeing Central America. More than two-thirds of children live in poverty throughout El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. In El Salvador alone, 86.8 percent of children live under the poverty line. However, families who do make it to the U.S. border are detained and often separated.

Human Rights Defenders

There is constant work to expand existing organizations and encourage a public environment that allows human rights defenders, local civil society groups and individuals to carry out their vital work without fear of violence. The people on the ground doing research, providing aid and services and protesting injustice are the foundation of the cause.

OutRight Action International, founded in 1990, works to improve the lives and protect LGBTQ people in Central America. In Guatemala, OutRight hosted a security training for LGBTQ activists in 2016. They document abuse and work towards creating a more tolerant society.

Journalists and activists that carry out such work are often detained or arrested for speaking out against the violation of human rights. 87 human rights activists were murdered or died in detention in Central America in 2016. The Latin America Working Group (LAWG) recognizes the importance of activists in the fight for human rights and has launched many campaigns advocating for laws protecting human rights defenders. In many cases, the violence and crime against activists are ignored by law officials and in response, human rights organizations have implemented devices, such as contact buttons and emergency plans, to keep people from being punished for speaking out.

Furthermore, the Pan American Development Foundation, based in Washington D.C., is currently 4 years into a 5-year plan to strengthen human rights in Central America. The project began in 2016 and has provided help to at-risk communities and has established protection systems for civil society groups and human rights defenders.

Moving Forward

Human rights in Central America are challenged every day. These rights are often abused due to the ineffectiveness of government intervention efforts and gang-related violence. Central America has a long way to go in providing a safe and enriching society for its citizens, but with the continued efforts of activists and community groups, there is a possibility for improved safety and livelihoods.

Taylor Pittman

Photo: Flickr

Farming Methods in Central America
Many Central American countries suffer from droughts and forest fires due to hot temperatures and inconsistent rainfall. Without adequate water, agricultural workers are unable to consistently produce adequate goods each year. They are often forced to rely on crops that don’t need as much water but are less nutrient-rich, such as corn.

Planting crops during the dry season, between December and April, is extremely difficult and even the rainy season between May and July presents a challenge, given inconsistent rainfall patterns. In addition, staple crops like corn do not yield the profits of higher-value crops such as squash, beans, zucchini and watermelon, which not only increase income and quality of life in the region but also improve the diets of farmers, families and locals. Fortunately, a number of local and international organizations are implementing programs aimed at improving farming methods in Central America.

USAID

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has been combating unreliable, inconsistent weather patterns via a Honduras-based rainwater harvest program, aptly named Harvest. This consists of a reservoir that gathers rainfall in the winter, providing farmers with a backup water supply during dry months. Crops are watered through a low-pressure drip irrigation system, enabling farmers to plant and harvest three times a year instead of only once.

As a result, farmers have been able to grow and expand their repertoire of crops. Many other organizations have been involved in this initiative, including Development Innovation Ventures, Global Communities, SAG (Secretaría de Agricultura y Ganadería) and local governments.

AGRI

AGRI is a similar Honduras-based project under development that utilizes small drip irrigation systems spanning roughly 10 hectares. It works by locating surface-water sources that can be used for rainwater harvesting and uses water pipes to share water sources between various groups of farmers.

AGRI is also generating deforestation analyses using its terrain Digital Elevation Model (DEM) and other spatial analysis frameworks that analyze drainage basins and upstream areas. Its remote sensors can collect and predict weather patterns while enabling digital soil mapping and hydrologic analysis to estimate water runoff and water balance.

While AGRI hasn’t been formally introduced to Honduras, invest-H (Investment in Honduras) managers and the government are working to expedite its implementation. AGRI is supported by the U.S. initiative Feed the Future as well as Zamorano University, a Honduran university that is currently researching and refining the field validation of AGRI in preparation for its official launch.

MásRiego

MásRiego, meaning “more irrigation” in Spanish, is a Guatemala-based initiative that works to increase water supplies through drip irrigation, rainwater harvesting, reduced tillage, mulch use and diverse crop rotation. The project team provides training and partnerships to Guatemalan farmers to improve farming methods while offering access to microcredit financing and irrigation equipment. As rainfall patterns become more unpredictable, new methods of farming such as conservation and rainwater harvesting must be introduced. Conservation improves moisture retention, soil structure and soil health, while also reducing weeds, manual watering and preparation time.

MásRiego’s goal is to connect 9,000 rural Guatemalan households through these smarter farming methods. They also plan to use local schools to teach students about these new methods as well as inform them about agricultural job opportunities. As a result of unpredictable rainfall patterns and increased competition, farmers entering the field must be educated on the tools needed for success. MásRiego also focuses on helping women and youth grow high-value crops on smaller plots of land to increase the incomes of Guatemalan farmers and the nation as a whole. The program is supported by the U.S. government’s Feed the Future initiative.

Moving Forward

Using the latest farming methods, these organizations are helping to support Central American farmers’ incomes and improve quality of life. The diets of both the farmers and local communities are already being enriched as improved farming and irrigation methods allow for a broader variety of crops to be planted. The Harvest program has also found that more young people are choosing to remain in their countries as new and improved methods make farming a viable lifestyle.

With the technology that AGRI plans to introduce and the conservation methods that MásRiego is implementing, farming will become less of a financial and physical burden. These organizations and others like them will continue to improve farming methods in Central America, with an eye toward expanding into other arid regions in the future.

Nyssa Jordan

Photo: Flickr