Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?
The central problem facing peasant farmers is a low level of organization, which results in poor management of productive activities, reduced earnings, and a consequently lower quality of life. Simply put, peasant farmers do not gain access to the markets which would most benefit their activities. Rural regions of Costa Rica are organized into 48 cantons which occupy 85% of the country's land area. In these areas live 1.9 million people, or slightly over half of Costa Rica's population. The lack of economic dynamism in the rural sector contributes to its relative poverty. In terms of its contribution to the national economy, agricultural exports represented 73% of total exports in 1997; tourism was the second largest source of foreign exchange.Environmental services have been growing rapidly because Costa Rica has significant competitive advantages in areas like bio-diversity, forestry development, and the production of renewable energy. Although much of Costa Rica's wealth comes from the countryside, the lack of attention to rural areas has left a quarter of the population in extreme poverty. Most of the housing deficit is concentrated in rural areas, and unemployment is rising faster than in urban areas. The purchasing power of the rural population is 25% lower that urban dwellers, and there are considerable differences in access to healthcare and education.
Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!
Lidiethe Madden Arias is challenging farmers to take advantage of existing opportunities for commercialization of their produce. She understands that rural improvement strategies must move beyond the status quo of crop enhancement and land management training, to focus instead on effective agricultural business development. To that end, she has designed an approach with two components. The first is a demonstration farm, set up to promote alternative production processes, new uses of natural resources, and marketing techniques. The second is a training and technology transfer center. Through technical assistance, credit, and access to the Costa Rican and international markets, the center helps peasant families to organize themselves and produce outputs that are marketable, of reasonable quality, and ecologically sustainable. Lidiethe has established the demonstration farm and proven the value of the model, identified the reasons for its success, systemized the project for later replication, and increased participation by the peasants benefiting from the farm. Lidiethe has a lively and participatory style of instruction, which she has organized into a set of educational modules. She helps men and women develop new methods of production and management, based on the training and their own experience. She also promotes the values of solidarity, commitment, self-management, and innovation, which are fundamental to the success of community organizations and the coordination of these organizations with their environment.