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Lenca Women of Honduras Use Grant to Help Their Communities Thrive

Hundreds of women farmers have improved their yields, as well as their family diets.

In the Intibucá department of Honduras, more than a quarter of residents currently face crisis levels of food insecurity, according to the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification. But a grassroots association of indigenous women farmers there are working to reduce hunger and malnutrition, improving life for themselves, their families and their communities.

Photo of two women in a farming area, holding a basket of harvested crops

Maria Pascuala Garcia Gutierrez (left) has served as AMIR president and is current president of the Siguatas Lencas processing plant established by AMIR. Her daughter, Dunia Isabel Dominguez Garcia (right), is part of the AMIR youth network. She is currently working at the processing plant, an opportunity that will allow her to continue her studies at the university level.

Through a grant from the Inter-American Foundation (IAF), a Feed the Future partner, the Lenca women of the Asociación de Mujeres Intibucanas Renovadas (AMIR) have improved agricultural production and farmer incomes in their area, resulting in better food security and less malnutrition.

Honduras faces high levels of food insecurity, which affects about 25 percent of its population, including indigenous communities like the Lenca. Poverty, natural disasters, limited access to resources and other challenges contribute to food insecurity for an estimated 2.3 million Hondurans.

AMIR consists of 650 Lenca women operating 36 grassroots groups in the municipalities of Intibucá and San Francisco de Opalaca. These women farmers grow potatoes, corn, beans, vegetables and fruit. AMIR trains its members on sustainable farming methods to enrich the soil and improve farm yields. They also support farmers and producers in processing crops and marketing items to sell locally.

Although Lenca women are responsible for nearly half of Intibuca’s agricultural production, their income levels are among the lowest in the region, according to Mary DeLorey, an IAF representative. DeLorey noted that these women are often single mothers and heads of household, most having only a sixth-grade education. Limited farm production, unemployment, low government support, and limited access to credit or markets have kept Lenca women and their families in extreme poverty. The Lenca have historically had limited economic opportunities due to land displacement and discrimination, Lenca women even more so because of gender bias.

“One of the biggest macroeconomic challenges facing the Latin America and the Caribbean region is low productivity, and that can partially be attributed to the limited economic inclusion of women, indigenous people and other marginalized populations. That’s why the IAF strategically targets funding to community organizations led by marginalized populations like the indigenous women farmers of AMIR … associations of indigenous women agricultural producers are uncommon, and we wanted to support their development,” said DeLorey.

AMIR member Maria Avelina Sanchez said the IAF grant has helped them overcome their biggest challenges to increasing productivity. “We [now] work with an investment plan and implement techniques to improve soils, crops and yields. We diversify crops, have access to food in critical times through the reserve of basic grains, we have solar dryers [and] geomembrane reservoirs that allow us to improve the quality and quantity of production.”

The grant also allowed AMIR to create a savings and credit fund with minimum requirements for all members, to assist them with farming costs.

Overall, about 6,400 people in the area have benefitted from the IAF grant. Around 518 farmers improved their yields through sustainable production techniques and use of the grain dryers. AMIR also helped members increase their incomes by providing seed capital to 68 small agricultural enterprises including poultry production, grain reserves, Lenca handicrafts and small general stores. More than 850 participants have improved their diets by consuming a more diverse range of vegetables from 100 kitchen gardens, increasing their access to meat and dairy products and better understanding nutrition to create healthier meals.

IAF support helped AMIR improve its plant used to process beans, strawberries, blackberries, peaches, potatoes and guava, and produce items such as jams to sell at local markets. AMIR was able to remodel the plant to include silos and cold storage for perishable foods along with a generator. Structural upgrades were made to channel rainwater away from the plant to avoid flooding.

From the beginning of its IAF grant in 2015 to just prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, AMIR expanded the volume of sales from its plant by more than 1,000 percent to $41,000 annually, doubling the volume of production for several products each year. Production halted during the pandemic but has rebounded and now exceeds 2019 levels.

In addition, AMIR purchased a collective plot worked by 100 members, to expand production to meet the processing plant’s capacity. The current grant ends in September 2024, but IAF is working with AMIR to continue future sustainability after the grant ends, according to DeLorey.

Photo of two Honduran women standing by a shelf of jam and wine containers

AMIR’s processing plant was upgraded to expand capacity for production of fruit jams and wines to sell, increasing income for members like Maricela Garcia Dominguez (left) and Yeimy Johana Dominguez (right).

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