Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?
"Apreciando lo nuestro" was first implemented in the department of Yoro in Honduras, in particular in seven of the eleven municipalities of the department. The territory of Yoro is predominantly mountainous, with beautiful landscapes and lands with particular vocation to agricultural activities and forestry (the latest illegally over exploited during the last 30 years). The cultural diversity is also an asset in the region, as one of the eight ethnic groups in Honduras - the Tolupanes or Jicaque - is based in Yoro, organized in 28 tribes in six municipalities of the department.
Despite its natural and cultural wealth, Yoro is one of the poorest regions of Honduras, with an average monthly income of U.S. $ 80, and in some areas the rates of child malnutrition and illiteracy reach 34% and 32%respectively. Moreover, it is a department with difficult access by road, due to poorly maintenance and to the specific geographic conditions, increasing the isolation of the region which benefits the proliferation of illegal activities, such as drug trafficking.
The population of the Yoro is approximately 480,000 people of which some 30% can be considered to belong to the Economically Active Population (EAP). While the majority of the EAP depends on agricultural activities, at least 45% are unemployed and 23% underemployed. Most formal employment opportunities are found in the municipalities of El Progreso, Olanchito and Santa Rita (all outside of the intervention area), where there is large-scale, intensive agricultural production and several factories.
Consequently, there is a severe migration process in the area of Yoro, towards the urban centres in Honduras and the USA (its emigrants constitute almost 10% of the total Honduran emigrants living in USA), which definitely contributes to the creation of a collective imaginary where foreign products, culture and lifestyle are more appreciated than the ones based in the local resources and culture. In recent studies about people behaviour and attitude, Honduran people considered themselves pessimists (more focused in the country’s problems than in its opportunities) and with few initiative (quite dependant from the national government actions, not being very entrepreneurial).
These perceptions are also materialised in people’s behaviour and attitudes in the region of Yoro. It is quite usual, whenever asking youngsters about how they see their future in Yoro, to hear comments such as there is no future for the youth in Yoro or that the good opportunities are in the big cities or even more in the USA. On the same level, recent experiences with development projects with a strong assistentialist focus resulted in dependency relationships with local communities, influencing negatively people entrepreneurial attitude and behaviour.
These facts are quite illustrative of the urgency to reinvent the approach of economic development strategies in the region and also of the significant challenges that it constitutes.
Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!
We believe that development agencies need to implement innovative models of sustainable economic development, promoting in local people the ability to mobilize diverse resources available in their own communities (resilience), and therefore changing the “common” perception that money is the main determinant factor for an entrepreneurial action.
Against the traditional economic development strategies based in promoting the inflow of financial resources/investment from outside the community, this methodology has a stronger focus in stimulating and maximizing local opportunities to create wealth and improve life standards to people. The idea is that every time money is re-spent or re-invested in a community, it represents new income for local people (which is the same as attracting new money for that area), meaning that a change towards more local spending can positively influence local economy.
Technical assistance, training and credit programs are the main intervention strategies in economic development field. Even considering the fact that these strategies may be demand-driven by the target group of the intervention, the fact is that these are mostly passive strategies, where those in “need” receive support by those that “hold” the knowledge and the financial means. APLN incorporates instruments that break-down passive strategies and dependency from project workers, while encouraging people to take ownership and responsibility for their community. Thus, in APLN, development workers are merely facilitators of the community mobilization, according to people interests.