High in the hills of Southwestern Honduras, at the end of a long road that snakes through lush-green vegetation, lies the municipality of Belen Gualcho. With a population of 17,000 and wealthy in arable land, it is also a place where poverty has stubborn roots.
Upon her arrival in this remote area, Cuso International volunteer Gaetane Danielle Carignan was struck by the extent of the poverty, but also by the community’s potential. Gaetane took a leave from her job as a rangeland agrologist with the British Columbia government to come to Honduras as a Cuso International volunteer to help the community develop sustainable livelihoods and build food security. In collaboration with Canada World Youth and local community umbrella group ASONOG, Cuso International is teaching local farmers how to develop the land to grow crops and raise animals and by-products that they can sell. They’re also learning how to harvest some of the yield to better nourish the people living in the community. In one such initiative, Gaetane and her Honduran co-worker from ASONOG are working with eight young adults who were selected to pilot the first micro-enterprise in the municipality. The group will be given financial and technical assistance to build a small poultry business, which will sell fresh locally produced eggs and chickens in the community. There are few employment opportunities for young people here, and many leave to look for work in larger urban centres. But with little education and few job skills, the cities offer more peril than opportunity.
Livelihood development projects like the poultry micro-enterprise provide sustainable employment locally. But that’s not all. Cuso International volunteer Gaetane believes that — with the training and support they’re receiving — these determined young men and women will become tomorrow’s community leaders. Says Gaetane, “They represent hope for a better future.”