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Project background

Project background

The "Promotion and Training Programme Women's Incorporation in Rural Development" is part of a 10-year long process of integrating rural women's concerns into development planning and project execution in Honduras, an effort spearheaded by UN organizations and supported primarily by the Government of the Netherlands.

Promotion of women's participation in production began in the 1970s with financial assistance offered by the United Nations System to the National Agrarian Institute of the Government of Honduras, with the goal of strengthening organized peasant groups who have benefitted from Agrarian Reform (called the "Reformed Sector"). Agricultural producers not benefitting from Agrarian Reform (the "Non-Reformed Sector") have been provided with services through the Ministry of Natural Resources; since the 1950s this has included activities for women, although these were primarily directed toward activities in the domestic sphere. In any case, rural development policy in Honduras has been oriented toward production, which was traditionally considered to be "men's" work.

The FAO project evolved out of a joint project of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the FAO.2 Directed to female members of families in the Reformed Sector, this women-specific project had a budget of $1,095,000 over three years (1983-1986) to implement technical training and develop a rotating credit fund for small productive projects. However, only five percent of the total budget was allocated to training for women.

2 Project symbol DP/HON/82/007 (1983-86).

The lack of a training component for rural women had a negative impact on the project. First, it allowed women to develop unrealistic expectations of monetary returns that could not be met because of their low level of skills and organizational capacity. Second, despite the modest success of some women's groups in the implementation of productive and marketing activities, the project's overall objectives were not attained. Forfeited loans amounted to 40-60 percent of all loans made, depending on the region. The absence of a good marketing strategy led to market losses that made it impossible to replenish the project's rotating fund.

The specific problems of women in the Reformed Sector were determined to be:

It became clear that the grassroots women's activities in the UNDP/FAO project were not addressing the basic educational and organizational needs of women. National administrators and international development officials proposed a new project, focused solely on training rural women and sensitizing and training extensionists who worked with those women. The fundamental conviction behind the proposed new project was that economic activities could not take place without prior organization, and that training is a necessary tool for group organization. Supported with US$ 698 500 contributed by the Government of the Netherlands, the new project3 got underway in February 1986 and its first phase was completed in September 1989. FAO coordinated the project in collaboration with the two government agencies responsible for extension in Honduras -- the National Agrarian Institute and, later, the Ministry of Natural Resources.

3 Project symbol GCP/HON/013/NET (1986-89), also referred to as "Phase I" of the FAO project.

From the beginning, the FAO project aimed to strengthen rural women's organization, enhance awareness both from the bottom up and from the top down, develop appropriate agricultural training techniques, and train rural women to act as liaisons between the extension system and grassroots women's groups. Six regions were targeted by the project: Comayagua, Copán Choluteca, El Paraíso, Francisco Morazán, Olancho and Santa Barbara.

Four different types of liaisons were trained: 1) Literacy Workers, 2) Housing/Environment Liaisons, 3) Women's Group Organizers, and 4) Food Production Liaisons. The training of rural women was complemented by the simultaneous training of extensionists and other professional staff from the Government extension agencies. Grassroots participation and feedback helped the project to fine-tune its goals and methods, meet the needs of the peasant women and their organizations that were its beneficiaries, and assure project acceptance. This participation has been an important ingredient in success throughout the project.

Course content for the 200 rural women trainees included literacy, housing improvements, group organization and project implementation, and food production for improved household nutrition. The training for the 152 extension workers aimed to sensitize them to the situation that rural women confront, and to promote appropriate technology and organizational techniques for the development of social and productive projects to benefit rural women. The expected impact of the activities in the project area was improved capacity on the part of rural women to plan and execute productive and social projects based upon their own and their communities' felt needs.

To address the needs of women in the Non-Reformed Sector and to strengthen training in nutrition, the FAO project requested that, in addition to the National Agrarian Institute, the Ministry of Natural Resources also participate. Administrative complications, however, limited the Ministry's participation to the last of the four training modules.

The lessons learned in the process of project execution, and the need to consolidate groups that had benefited from it, convinced the FAO to support once the project ends support a six-month interim project4 which would offer continuity while a special FAO/Netherlands Government team developed a full second phase for the project. Phase II5 would span the period from November 1990 to May 1992, with a budget of US$ 410,380. As can be seen in the Chart, Phase I was oriented towards organizing peasant women into groups, training certain group members as extension liaisons, and sensitizing the extension workers who serve rural women. The objectives of the six-month interim project were to organize credit sources, provide follow-up training for some of the women trained in Phase I, more clearly define the training and role of the most successful class of extension liaisons and peasant promoters, and document Phase II of the project.

4 Project symbol TCP/HON/0051 (1990), with a budget of $75,000.

5 Project symbol GCP/HON/015/NET (1990-92).



CODE: GCP/HON/013/NET (1986-89)

BUDGET: $698,479


    1. Train a total of 200 persons, mostly women

      a) Women's Group Organizers

      b) Male and female Literacy Workers

      c) Community Food Liaisons

    2. Train 152 state extension agents and social promoters


    1. Train women Housing/Environment Liaisons

    2. Establish Inputs and Seeds Fund

    3. Follow-up training in family poultry production


CODE: TCP/HON/0051 (1990)

BUDGET: $75,000


    1. Establish pilot credit programme to test family poultry production

    2. Re-activate Rotating Fund for Peasant Women (frozen in 1987)

    3. Write up Phase II of project


CODE: GCP/HON/015/NET (1990-92)

BUDGET: $410,380


    1. Train 60 new Community Food Liaisons and follow up on previously trained CFLs

    2. Train 60 state extensionists and social promoters

    3. Establish poultry credit for all groups with CFLs

    4. Continue Inputs and Seeds Fund

    5. Provide technical assistance for service and productive projects for both subsistence and income generation

    6. Establish and document training methodology

    7. Support efforts to research and produce intermediate technology for grain mills and water supply

    8. Establish network of resources that peasant women can exploit for technical and financial

Phase II, now in progress, is working to consolidate the peasant women's groups, train another 60 women as extension liaisons, provide training for another 60 extensionists, provide further practical training for peasant women, promote the production of intermediate technology for grain mills and water supply, and build a network of technical and financial support to continue beyond the project's end. (See Chart for details.)

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