Visiting Honduras – Micro Credit Unions

A few members of Empresa Campesino Union and Esfuerzo Collective.

In Azabache, we met with the Empresa Campesino Union and Esfuerzo Collective. This micro credit organization was created in order for the

The meeting has begun.

members to be able to receive small loans. As individual farmers it is almost impossible to receive a loan from a bank. Most of the loans that are needed are actually quite small. They are often in order to buy food to help the families get through the dry season when their supplies run out. Sometimes those loans are for home improvements, farm upgrades or business needs.

As an organization they were able to receive an interest free loan from Vecinos Honduras (with the support of Groundswell International). Members could then borrow from that amount. Men pay 2% interest and women pay 1%. The more money they borrow and pay back the greater their share of the profits. Profits stay in the organization. So far, they have paid back their original loan and now have enough money in the bank to fulfill future loans.

This organization was created informally about 5-6 years ago as part of VH’s holistic approach to community development. In the last year and a half, they have become a legal entity, which is a complicated and bureaucratic process that requires ongoing administration and oversight. This was done to ensure the future of the initiative. World Neighbours Canada has been supporting the training of the local

Yessica has been involved in many Vecinos Honduras programs over the years. She in on the health board, a mother guide, and her business making plantain chips now has a number of employees and she is now growing her own plantains.

volunteers to ensure it satisfies its legal requirements.

It was noted that many of the women present had been involved in other Vecinos Honduras initiatives over the past twelve years. One woman expressed that while they would like to keep working with Vecinos Honduras and would like them to stay in the community, they also know that they have the skills and dedication to carry one, not just for themselves but for the entire community.

This February, World Neighbours Canada (WNC) board members Gabriel Newman and Judy Gray along with WNC volunteer Peter Gray visited Honduras to see the work that was being done by our partners there, Vecinos Honduras. They will be sharing stories and information that they have gathered over the next few months. Write up by Gabriel Newman. Photos by Judy Gray.

These women, along with being members of this collective were also mother guides and monitors in the maternal child health program.

Visiting Honduras – Entrepreneur Ever Perez

Ever A Perez -Carpenter

In Azabache we met Ever Perez. He is a 28 year old father of two who started his own wood working company with the support of Vecinos Honduras (VH). After finishing school at grade 9 he wanted to become an engineer but his parents could not afford to send him away to complete high school and attend university. Instead, he worked locally as a labourer. One of his hobbies was woodworking and he would carve keychains. He was selling them at a local fair when he met Manuel Castellanos, the facilitator with VH. VH was looking for young people who might be interested in learning some entrepreneurial skills.

Ever worked with Manuel to create a business proposal and to apply for a small loan from VH (the money was supplied by Groundswell, an American NGO whose methodology is similar to World Neighbours). With his loan he was able to buy a couple power tools as he was previously doing all his work by hand. He paid back the loan and took out another loan to buy a generator and some land to build an actual shop.

Ever Perez and Manuel Castellanos

Ever said his business is very busy. He has hired two employees to help him. His little company builds everything from doors, bedframes, boxes, novelties, and decorations. He says he has plenty of work. His business makes it possible to stay in the community and raise his children here.

Ever Perez’s hand tools. He has added a table saw to his operations.

Vecinos Honduras has worked with communities in Azabache for twelve years and plans to leave by the end of 2023. Towards the end of the project, after working on capacity building, agroecology, water, and maternal/child health, the community was looking for ways to help keep their young people in the area as employment option are limited. Working with the communities, Vecinos Honduras, supported by other agencies, began working with many young adults on how to become entrepreneurs. Various trainings were provided to support the development of business ideas. Small loans were also available to help the participants made key purchases.

Outside funding ended to properly complete supporting these entrepreneurs and community groups (more to come on that later). World Neighbours Canada has stepped in to support VH in these communities to ensure that these enterprises learn proper bookkeeping and other essential administrative skills to help ensure their success. Ever admits that the administrative side of the business is his least favourite but he is proud of what he has been able to build in three years.

This February, World Neighbours Canada (WNC) board members Gabriel Newman and Judy Gray along with WNC volunteer Peter Gray visited Honduras to see the work that was being done by our partners there, Vecinos Honduras. They will be sharing stories and information that they have gathered over the next few months. Write up by Gabriel Newman. Photos by Judy Gray.

The view from Azabache.

Visiting Honduras – New Communities

This February, World Neighbours Canada (WNC) board members Gabriel Newman and Judy Gray along with WNC volunteer Peter Gray visited Honduras to see the work that was being done by our partners there, Vecinos Honduras. They will be sharing stories and information that they have gathered over the next few months. Write up by Gabriel Newman. Photos by Judy Gray.

The meeting is about to begin in El Chaparral.
The farmers group in El Chaparral.

In the community of El Chaparral, outside of the town of Langue, in what is known as the “dry corridor” of Honduras, we met with a group of farmers who recently started working with Vecinos Honduras.

 

One of the first steps is to create a map of their community highlighting the features, houses, strengths and weaknesses. They are showing us their map. The map will be upgraded as things change in the community. We interrupted them as they were digging a new well for the community. They were very happy to show us the locations of the water sources.

The map they created of their community.

This group of farmers have come together to work on a shared plot with the intention of experimenting with seed production. They are cross pollinating to create a bean that is even more productive in their particular ecological area. They recently won “best beans” at a local fair.

This strain of beans they have been working on is very abundant.

They want to continue improving production using natural and organic means. They also hope that they are able to save enough seeds to get them through the dry season, when many farmers run out of their own seeds to eat and have to buy at inflated prices. Their future plans involve buying more silos to store the seeds.

A silo for storing corn kernels.

Visiting Honduras – Community Art

This February, World Neighbours Canada (WNC) board members Gabriel Newman and Judy Gray along with WNC volunteer Peter Gray visited Honduras to see the work that was being done by our partners there, Vecinos Honduras. They will be sharing stories and information that they have gathered over the next few months.

This first posting includes some of the artwork found within the villages, mostly at the Vecinos Honduras offices. Central to the imagery is the power of the connection between corn and life. The first three photographs are from a mural on the offices at Conception de Maria, Choluteca. Vecinos Honduras has been working here for the past eight years. We met with farmers, health volunteers, teachers, students, and community volunteers to hear what they have accomplished, and what their goals are for the future.

The last three photographs are from the walls of the offices at Conception de Maria, Langue. While Vecinos Honduras has worked in the Langue district for a while, we visited communities that are new to VH to find out what they hope for their future.

International Development Week Events

International Development Week is from February 5 to 11, and the BCCIC (BC Council for International Cooperation) is holding a couple events in which we think our members might be interested.

On February 7 @ 12:00-1:30pm, a panel discussion called Fresh Food, Distressed Planet: Women’s Leadership, Food Security, Climate Justice & Peace and will feature three panellists from Cuso International, Oxfam South America, and Grandmothers Advocacy Network. The panellists will “ explore women’s lived realities and leadership in the intersecting areas of food security, gender equality, the climate crisis and peace in different regions of the world.”

On February 9th at 10-11:30am a webinar titled Inside & Out: In Defence of Indigenous Land Rights in Tanzania will feature two Tanzanian activists who are working to advance Indigenous Peoples’ rights and priorities.

For more information and to register click here:

Fresh Food, Distressed Planet Or Inside Out

 

 

Youth Storyteller Film Festival available on YouTube

An American international development organization called Groundswell International (with which we have many connections) has produced an inspiring set of films produced by youth in Burkina Faso, Honduras, Nepal and Ecuador. The films are modest and genuine, not slick and professional. They provide insights into the lives of rural people in each country, and what they are doing to grow more food. It is impressive that the films were made by amateur youth filmmakers.

Please take some time to watch these films. Seldom do we hear stories that come so directly from people in developing countries, without adornment.

Note that the films do not cover programs supported by World Neighbours Canada, but they do reflect the reality and experiences of the people we work with in Burkina Faso, Honduras and Nepal.

Yours,

Bruce Petch

 

Friends,

We are excited to share the recording of Field to Film: Youth Storyteller Film Festival. It was a truly uplifting event, and we wanted to offer you another chance to watch and to share with others.

Young people shared their stories, through their videos, about how they and their communities are creating healthy farming, food systems, and futures from the ground up. Odette (Burkina Faso), Gelder (Honduras),  Champha  (Nepal), and Lenin (Ecuador) joined to share perspectives on their work and what being a Youth Storyteller means to them.

We were thrilled (and a bit surprised) that we were able to overcome technical, language interpretation, and time zone constraints to create this space for young people’s voices.

Please donate today so that we can continue supporting young people to create and share ground up solutions to feed the world and regenerate land and communities.

Steve Brescia
Executive Director

Watch the Films

Perceptions of climate change in Burkina Faso

By Bruce Petch, Executive Director (volunteer) with World Neighbours Canada

World Neighbours Canada is actively engaged with our local partner organization in Burkina Faso to help adapt their farming and other economic activities to cope with a changing climate. Thus, we were interested to learn about work done by Farm Radio International to hear directly from people in the country how they are affected by climate change and what ideas they have for adaptation.

Farm Radio International received input from thousands of people who called into local radio stations in Burkina Faso and Ethiopia. The slides below summarize what was heard. Although the area where we work in Burkina Faso was not included, the information seems relevant to us. We were pleased to see that the situation and potential solutions described by callers are similar to what we described in our recent proposal submitted to Global Affairs Canada on the theme of adaptation to climate change.

(These slides are from a webinar delivered by Farm Radio International. You can watch the full webinar on YouTube at https://youtu.be/iQlpZQstPjA).

Film Fest Opportunity

On December 2nd at 12:00pm EST there will be a virtual Film Festival organized by Groundswell International which will feature the voices of Youth Storytellers from the three countries that World Neighbours supports through our partners. These films bring you examples of empowerment, transformation, and triumph.

Tickets are limited so sign up in advance. You can access tickets here. Tickets.

A first for women farmers – participation in the livestock market!

Suzane and Blandine with Rebeka, APDC coordinator – 2 women who purchased the sheep entirely on their own.

By Judy Gray,

Together with APDC, our partner organization in Burkina Faso, World Neighbours Canada recently completed a 15 month experimental project with funding from FIT (Fund for Innovation and Transformation), an initiative based in Manitoba that is funded, in turn, by Global Affairs Canada.

Over the 15 month term, 110 women from our project villages participated in family based sheep fattening enterprises, in which the women were the leaders of their business, but were supported by other household members. One of the most interesting and innovative aspects of the project, was the women’s participation in the purchase and sale of the sheep.

Although APDC had supported women in the past in sheep-fattening, prior to this project the women had never been involved in the purchase or sale of the animals. In fact, through focus group discussions that were held midway through the project, a number of both women and men mentioned that women who participated in such activities were viewed quite negatively. One person remarked that, “A woman who does this (attends the cattle market) should be banished from the family, she is a rebellious, wicked, witchy, independent woman. She is a woman who has no respect for her husband, who has social difficulties.” On the other hand, some rare men positively appreciate a woman who sells and buys animals on her own and describe her as ‘courageous and a fighter’.”

Fada cattle market.

However, with the extensive training that the women received from the veterinarian, these women felt they had the knowledge and skills to participate in the purchase and sale of their animals. Here is a sample of the women’s comments:

Vet checking the health of newly purchased sheep; and giving vaccinations; village of Tambiga.

Kayaba: “I learned the process, I can’t pay alone but with my son I can. We were very, very tired, very, very tired. I know how expensive animals are, so I was very tired of walking around the market to find the right animals.”

Blandine – “It’s very very tiring, I even have headaches, it’s hard because the sun has hit us a lot, also the animals are very expensive. I chose my animals and negotiated the prices alone.”

Taking the animals home.

Choosing good healthy animals is something the women are now confident with, but negotiating with marketers for a fair price continues to be challenging: “When customers see the women, they raise the price of the animals… When they see the women selling, they lower the prices too much, thinking that the women know nothing about animal prices” (woman from Gnianmanga). The women of Tambiga confirm this by suggesting that they get help from a man because “The traders at the market are thieves, swindlers. They lower the prices of the animals sold by the women too much.”

Rebeka recording the amount paid for the sheep.

Despite these issues, men’s and women’s attitudes changed dramatically over the course of the project and by the end, the men were much more positive about their wives attending the cattle market, thanks in part to the gender sessions offered to the men, women and adolescents. “We appreciate all the women who are able to buy or sell their own animals because it is a proof that they are enlightened. This means that these women get along well with their husbands, these kinds of women are to be encouraged and congratulated because they will help their husbands a lot” (women from Tambiga village).

For the men, the support of APDC has been very beneficial. One man said, “Before, I could not consult my wife for decisions because she could not say anything good to me, but now we do everything together. The woman was like a slave in our families, but today everything has changed”. Another added that “I exchange with my wife before taking a decision. Today, we are aware that women have good ideas that can help in the family and even in the village.” According to the men, the situation has changed in favour of women partly because of their increased financial power. “If the woman has the financial means, her husband listens to her”.

@ women at home with their newly purchased sheep.

The women have suggested further information sessions about how to conduct negotiations to buy and sell sheep. It is challenging for them, especially in light of the male-dominated process and the low literacy and numeracy skills of most women. Despite all the challenges, all of the 110 women who participated in the initiative continue to operate their sheep-fattening businesses.

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Supporting entrepreneurs and small credit groups in Honduras

By Gabriel Newman

Ever Perez’s wood working business

After ten years, Vecinos Honduras will be leaving the Azabache region of Honduras at the end of 2023. World Neighbours has supported Vecinos Honduras’s work building capacity, teaching agroecological techniques, implementing water systems, and for six years, thanks to support from Global Affairs Canada, implementing a maternal child health project. Now that the communities are better equipped to organize and direct their own future it is time for Vecinos Honduras to shift to new regions. Before they leave, however, there is one last program that World Neighbours Canada will support.

One of the consequences of the holistic approach Vecinos Honduras takes with community development is that communities drive many of the activities. One activity that was very popular had to do with entrepreneurship. Migration is a major issue in Honduras with many of the young people leaving the country to look for work. This is particularly detrimental to smaller communities. In Azabache, community members wanted opportunities for their children so they would stay in the community.

Irma Calderon’s pig farming business

Many workshops were conducted, and a number of cooperatives, and private businesses were created. Micro credit lending groups were also created to support local entrepreneurs. Many of the businesses were related to agriculture such as honey or egg production and snacks, yet others were skills based such as woodworking, and auto repairs. Vecinos Honduras provided guidance for establishing these businesses. Groundswell International also provided financial support to start the lending groups.

Now that Vecinos Honduras is leaving the area, they want to ensure that these businesses understand their legal and administrative responsibilities. World Neighbours Canada is supporting training sessions for these small credit groups to become official, legal entities that will continue to operate long after Vecinos Honduras leaves.

Joel Gutierrez’s motorcycle repair business

Workshops are also being held for groups and individuals in business administration such as bookkeeping, billing, receipts, loan management, and taxes.  Vecinos Honduras wants to see these businesses succeed in order for these communities to retain their young people as well as to build resilience within the local community’s economy.

The following videos were created by Groundswell International and give a great glimpse into some of the participants and their businesses.

Income generation

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3wmW8z0lA8w

Youth Local Markets

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ryzaXZD1xT8