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Nourishing the Bajo Chaco: A ripple effect

We envision an interconnected and informed Lower Chaco where everyone understands the value and has access to good quality, nutritious food.

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Written by

Lead Applicant Organization Name

Fundación Paraguaya de Cooperación y Desarrollo

Lead Applicant Organization Type

  • Large NGO (over 50 employees)

Website of Legally Registered Entity

http://www.fundacionparaguaya.org.py/v2/ and https://www.povertystoplight.org/

How long have you / your team been working on this Vision?

  • 10+ years

Lead Applicant: In what city or town are you located?

Asunción

Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?

Paraguay

Your Selected Place: what’s the name of the Place you’re developing a Vision for?

Cerrito, Remansito, Mariscal Estigarribia and other Chaco communities in Presidente Hayes and Boquerón departments, Paraguay (82,907 km²).

What country is your selected Place located in?

Paraguay

Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.

In 32 years of operation, Fundación Paraguaya (FP) has worked to change the way the world deals with poverty-related challenges, implementing practical, innovative, and sustainable solutions, with the vision of creating a world without poverty where we all want to live. Through an integrated strategy, FP offers various programs including microfinance products, entrepreneurship education, financially self-sustainable schools, and the Poverty Stoplight, the key to activating the potential of families to eliminate multidimensional poverty.

Quality education is the best path out of poverty, which is why FP incorporated the Self-sustaining schools model in 2003, making available technical / vocational education to young people from chronically poor families. Cerrito Agricultural School, located in the Presidente Hayes Department, in the Occidental or Chaco region of Paraguay, is home to 150 students and serves as a center of knowledge and innovation that opens its doors to the local and international community.  It provides academic instruction according to the government curriculum, but innovatively offers practical education in entrepreneurship in the form of on-campus business such as a working farm and hotel. Students learn practical skills, and graduate with degrees in agricultural management and hospitality and tourism. 

The Chaco, covers 61% of the country’s surface area, yet is home to only 3% of population due to harsh weather and landscape conditions, and difficult accessibility. Climate change and deficient policies that allow unprecedented land use change, result in augmented desertification and more frequent and intense drought and flooding events which have devastating social, economic and environmental consequences. FP's commitment with this region is deeply rooted, which is why it is training the new generation of leaders that will work together to conciliate productive sector interests with sustainable development and conservation. 

Describe the People and Place: Provide information that would be helpful for an outsider who has never been there and may have no context about this Place to better understand the area.

Cerrito is the “innovation hub” where FP has implemented numerous projects and initiatives related to poverty eradication, entrepreneurship, and self-sufficiency. FP has been working closely with the school and the surrounding community  for the past 17 years. Cerrito is based in the Municipality of Benjamín Aceval, which has around 16,000 inhabitants distributed in three companies: Costa, Benjamín Aceval Center and Cerrito. Cerrito is inhabited by 3,771 people, of which 65% are indigenous people belonging to the QOM people, and approximately 35% are non-indigenous population, with a slight majority of women. The majority of women in the QOM community are engaged in the field of handicrafts, and men in agricultural work.

Paraguay has a rich history of diverse indigenous groups. The indigenous population is composed of 19 indigenous peoples that belong to 5 linguistic families, with a total population according to the 2013 Census of 112,848 persons. There are more than 3,000 Toba people, mainly living in Cerrito.  Qom are an important population within the Paraguayan culture, since they belong to one of these 5 linguistic groups, specifically, the Guaicurú. Paraguay is one of the few countries in the world to recognize an indigenous language (Guaraní) as a national official language. While there have been successes for the indigenous movement in Paraguay, much of the cultural preservation of smaller indigenous groups is lacking. Their lands have titles but they reflect very little agricultural activities due to the hunter gatherer culture. Most of Qom do art and textile work that depend on the number of members of the family, the raw material and their time availability.

What is the approximate size of your Place, in square kilometers? (New question, not required)

82907

What is the estimated population (current 2020) in your Place?

110000

Challenges: Describe the current (2020) and the future (2050) challenges that your food system faces.

In Cerrito, 14% of the population lives in extreme poverty, greater than the percentage of extreme poor nationwide; 35% of the population does not carry out any type of economic activity.

Most of the community’s diet is very precarious and lack of nutrients.  The population has historically been a hunter and gatherer culture and when settling in a territory there is a need to learn new tools that guarantee the food security of families. The situation of vulnerability is manifested in an extreme way in the feeding indicator, since 37% of the population has deficits in healthy and nutritious foods, children, pregnant women and the elderly being the most vulnerable. In a recent evaluation of a total of 125 women, the vast majority 2/3 evidenced situations of overweight and obesity.

Likewise, a significant number of families do not access minimum conditions of habitability, with very poor basic health, inadequate treatment of the disposal of garbage and high incidence of flooding in houses due to high rains caused by the increasing deforestation in the Chaco.

Future challenges are mostly related to climate change and desertification.  More frequent and severe rains may cause more damaging seasonal floods. More waterborne disease vectors. Desertification is also a major concern for crops in the area. Access to water may be limited.

Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.

FP promotes sustainable practices to improve the wellbeing of families living in these communities, and will achieve this by connecting key public and private sector stakeholders, using technology and mentorship, as a way to spread consciousness of needs and available resources, maintaining people informed and allowing interconnection between producers, local, regional and international markets. 

The Cerrito Agricultural School seeks to impart students with the tools and technical knowledge necessary for them to discover, develop and use their entrepreneurial spirit through “Learning by doing, selling and earning.” The production areas have vegetable and animal production centers; the students carry out their field practices there and everything that is produced is sold in the community and important food centers, helping to sustain the education of the young students. The didactic-productive units of the School are the Hotel, the Iberian cheese (queso ibérico), yogurt, dulce de leche (caramel), vegetable garden, farm, pigs, dairy cows, goats, quail eggs, broiler chicken, rabbits, tilapia, and bee honey. FP will continue to strengthen the ties with local partners to reproduce the Self-sustaining school model to other agricultural schools in the nation. Cerrito is the hub where other school leaders and directors gather to learn and implement the innovations at their own schools. 

FP has signed strategic alliances with the Benjamin Aceval and Villa Hayes Districts of the department of Presidente Hayes. These alliances have allowed FP to work with different organizations throughout the department. Furthermore, one of the largest meat packing industries and several landowners, have adopted the Poverty Stoplight methodology in Mariscal Estigarribia reaching 1,000 families in the southern city of Loma Plata in the Boquerón department. 

High Level Vision: With these challenges addressed, now provide a high level description of how the Place and the lives of its People will be different than they are now.

The lives of the families living in these communities will change if each one of them takes initiative and has the positive influence to do so. The Chaco region is also a key area for biodiversity conservation which can be used for sustainable tourism activities.

Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?

Our vision is to strengthen, expand and improve our food systems approach currently transforming the way Cerrito and Remansito communities produce, consume, and value food to other underserved rural and indigenous communities in the Presidente Hayes department (72,907 km²), Mariscal Estigarribia in the Boqueron department (10,000 km²). Together, these places comprise a total area of around 82,907 km² in the Republic of Paraguay.


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