Honduras’ so-called “Dry Corridor” is greatly affected by climate change. Temperatures are high. People in this infrastructure-poor area must constantly contend with periods of drought. Then storms rage so strongly that devastating floods occur. Here, in the south and southwest of Honduras, half the population lives in extreme poverty.
Most families in the region depend on agriculture for their survival. Many, particularly the poorest, are smallholder subsistence farmers, while others produce cashew nuts, which consumes a lot of resources, for export. To mitigate the high poverty rates in the Dry Corridor, they have to increase their productivity and use available resources more sustainably. Young people need professional alternatives to agriculture, otherwise there is the danger that they will resort to illegal activities or migration.
The Canadian Development Agency has been working in the Dry Corridor for many years and entrusted Swisscontact in 2017 to implement a project to provide opportunities for the rural population and improve their living standards. The project focuses on supporting women and youths, who are at a particular disadvantage, often not owning land, holding an education, or means of production. They often have no access to financial services. This excludes them from economic development, and the project aims to correct this imbalance.
Farmers in 33 regional municipalities can attend training in “Good Agricultural Practices.” By applying these practices, they can increase production and adapt to changed climatic conditions. The goal is for them to earn higher incomes from agricultural production while securing enough nutrition for their families and using resources sustainably.
Additionally, the project is improving the conditions for SMEs in non-agricultural sectors. The region features 13 nature reserves, offering the potential for tourism. This diversification of income sources is key for making the local economy more resilient.
Over the past four years, 576 men and 574 women in Honduras’ Dry Corridor have seen increases in their incomes. On average, they have earned CHF 404 more per year.
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected Honduras deeply. The country was in a hard lockdown for over six months. People living by the Gulf of Fonseca saw their livelihoods threatened. Not even basic nutritional needs were available. Consequently, Swisscontact reacted quickly and supported the planting of basic grains by the local population. Thanks to its activities on the local level up to this point, Swisscontact enjoyed a stable network of farmer organisations and was able to organise the distribution of maize and bean seed quickly and in an unbiased manner. In total, 1,040 cashew farmers benefited, half of them women. They were also taught how to plant maize and beans correctly. In the future, they will be able to make good use of this knowledge. Producer training was conducted via radio programme.
Swisscontact organised remote training for non-agricultural SMEs. The trainings exemplified the adaptation of business models to the situation: for example, how SMEs can use existing online platforms or social media to market their products. In addition, they prepared the SMEs for that point in time when the lockdown will be lifted, provided information on proper hygiene, and helped them draft anti-COVID protection plans.
Women were particularly affected by the lockdown. Their workloads have increased because schools have closed, and in addition to their children they must care for the sick and elderly. The pandemic once more has shown how caring for family members and unpaid housework constitute tremendous barriers for Honduran women in efforts to earn money to survive. Moreover, they are hit harder by the pandemic’s economic consequences, for it is small businesses in particular that are suffering under the economic crisis, and thus women. Nearly 43% of working-age women in Honduras operate their own businesses. The Rural Opportunities project warned of the threat to women’s financial independence and sparked a debate on this subject.